When Darren Williams, his younger brother Michael, and longtime friend Roscoe Hamilton purchased the master franchise rights to the Anago commercial cleaning franchise in Washington, D.C., in 2002, they knew the one thing they could count on was each other. Partnering up to open a business certainly has its challenges, but if you pick the right partners not only can it relieve some of the financial stress but it can help the business grow in unexpected ways and allow owners to focus on the parts of the business that they are strongest at.
Darren shared with me that the partnership they put together felt like “divine intervention” because they all work so well together. They each had a set of skills and experiences that enabled them to fall into the right role within the business. Michael had an engineering background and migrated to the financial part of the business within the office, focusing on the Accounts Receivable and working with business attorneys. Roscoe came from an operations background and manages the day-to-day operations of the business and the cleaning staff, and Darren, a former stockbroker, handles sales and business development.
Together, these partners have built a successful business. As master franchise owners, they have 54 franchisees in the D.C. area, servicing large accounts such as Amtrak, Zipcar, Bowl America and a number of restaurants. This has resulted in revenues of more than $4 million in 2017, with projections to exceed that in 2018.
The team has learned a lot over the last 10 years of the business. They never see themselves at the finish line. They approach every day of the business as an opportunity to learn and grow, with a long-term vision. With each year, they anticipate issues that may arise, and the experience has armed them with the tools they need to address those quickly. Darren noted that while there’s a relatively low investment bar to get into commercial cleaning, to stay in it is not easy. This business “separates the adults from the children.” The fact that it’s not a sexy business turns a lot of people off, but for those who understand how critical the service is, it can be very lucrative. It’s an extremely stable business as almost every business with a commercial space requires some level of cleaning. The stability is what’s sexy.
So, what advice do these very successful business owners have?
- Treat all clients EQUALLY! Every client is important and has value.
- Take a long-term perspective on your business and determine where you want to be in the future.
- Always be on the lookout for your next account/customer. Don’t become complacent. For example, in commercial cleaning, it’s rare that a client will be retained for 15 years. Eighty to 100% of the accounts are new, therefore you must continue to grow.
Darren has had an incredible ride with the business and is looking forward to transitioning away from the day to day to spend more time with his family. That’s one of the benefits to having such great partners.