February 17, 2015

2014 Franchisee of the Year

Essential Cleaning Concepts, LLC, a Vanguard Cleaning Systems of Dallas – Fort Worth franchise, has been named the Vanguard® franchise organization’s 2014 Franchisee of the Year.

Darrell and Tracy Starks, owners of Essential, first learned about the Vanguard Cleaning Systems® brand when they were doing a detailed investigation of business opportunities in the Dallas – Fort Worth area of Texas. They looked at opportunities to start up a janitorial business, as the commercial cleaning industry allowed them to satisfy several important considerations: flexible schedules, the ability to remain at their jobs during the initial start-up phase of their business, low start-up costs, and the chance to eventually devote themselves to their business, and still be able to spend more time with family. They thoroughly investigated the various commercial cleaning franchises in the area before ultimately deciding that the Vanguard Cleaning Systems franchise was the one they felt most comfortable with.

Darrell and Tracy started out by purchasing a smaller franchise plan, but they knew from the beginning that they would need to grow their business substantially in order to achieve their goals. At the same time, they wanted their growth to be smartly planned. They carefully evaluated hiring and staffing requirements, equipment purchase needs, and management requirements, to ensure they could provide service that met their standards. As Darrell says, “we didn’t want to swell, we wanted to grow.” Despite their deliberate approach, the growth of Essential has been more rapid than they had initially assumed when they bought the franchise.

Their business received a big boost when Essential closed a $5000/month account entirely through their own selling efforts – a sports facility in the city where their own son was actively involved with basketball functions. By inquiring with the facility’s staff, they were able to win the opportunity to bid for the contract. Although the bid they submitted was not the lowest bid, they were able to persuade the client that the superior quality they would provide would be worth the extra cost.

Currently, Essential services 14 accounts, totaling over $16,000 in gross monthly revenues, plus additional special service revenues. With the success and growth they have enjoyed, Darrell was able to leave his job of over 20 years to focus his attention on the business. Then, with further growth, Tracy was able to leave her job of 15 years so that she, too, could expand her commitment to the franchise.

The Starks believe in treating their employees “like part of the family”, and maintain an open-door policy to discuss any concerns. “When we sit down with our employees, we stress to them how important these customers are to us. If you take care of people, they’ll take care of you. We know that this applies between us and our employees, and we hope to help them see that it also applies between them and our clients”. The result of the Starks’ careful employment practices has been little turnover, which saves the Starks money by reducing recruiting, hiring, and education costs.

They utilize team cleaning concepts at their largest accounts in order to achieve maximum cleaning efficiency. And they have adapted concepts from the quadrant system to customizing daily plans at each account. They have also become expert providers of special services like hard-surface floor care and carpet cleaning.

They are diligent when it comes to communicating with their clients to develop strong, loyal relationships. They carefully question clients to learn the specific, unique concerns of multiple key contacts at each account, and then craft a customized plan for their cleaning teams to ensure each client’s hot button issues are addressed consistently and reliably.

In order to ensure that their cleaning crews stay on top of the plan for each account, both Tracy and Darrell visit and work with cleaning crews in the evenings on a regular basis, and either visit or call each account during regular business hours every week. They remind their crews consistently to pay attention to the “little things”. As Tracy says, “small things, over time, build up to something big. We don’t let things fester”. They also instruct their crews to do a final, post-cleaning walk-through of each account before they leave, to be sure that they haven’t overlooked anything.

When asked about the support they have received from the staff of Vanguard Cleaning Systems of Dallas – Ft. Worth, there is no hesitation: “In one word, they’ve been – awesome!” In particular the Starks give credit to Master Franchise Owner Chris Gilliam, and Office Manager Susan Wilkinson. “Chris held true to his word. He did exactly what he said he would do. And Susan – she knows so much about this business; she’s been an invaluable resource for our franchise. I don’t think there’s ever been a time when we called up the office, asked for something, and we didn’t get the support or the follow up that we needed.”