Venturing into franchising
In 2016, Harlen Suslik, a fellow Schulich graduate with a background in venture capital (VC), joined as vice-president (VP) of operations. With his assistance, the company began franchising in 2017 under a new brand, Aurum.
“We changed the name from Gold Standard because we want to establish a global brand,” says Suslik. “Aurum means gold in Latin, from which many of the world’s languages derive, so it will be more easily recognizable as we expand outside North America into non-English-speaking markets.”
One reason for franchising the concept, rather than continuing the corporate-only management approach, was to further enhance quality control, by encouraging well-established window cleaning staff to become franchisees themselves.
“They became our first pool of franchisee candidates,” says Morozov. “We are big on promoting from within.”
“As we grow quickly into other cities, we can further incentivize our labour to care about our customers by giving them more ‘skin in the game’ as franchisees,” adds Suslik.
Morozov also points to the advantages of working with local franchisees who are invested in their own markets.
“Our first corporate location outside the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) was in Vancouver,” he says. “Not only do they have a different climate, but there is also a different mentality to doing business there, even though it is the same country. This made me realize we need local franchisees, who will understand those mentalities in each market much better than we can as a corporation from far away. As a result, we have now designated area managers to work with each city’s window-cleaning crews, rather than building big corporate offices.”
The advantages of a system
In addition to encouraging window cleaners to buy franchises, Aurum has signed on new franchisees from outside its staff. As such, it has worked to develop a franchise system where no previous industry experience is necessary.
“We provide full training and ongoing support to our franchisees, so they can enjoy the satisfaction of running a successful business,” says Suslik. “We don’t believe you should start a business to work in it. Our franchisees are not expected to do the cleaning themselves. What you do need is the ability to multitask and keep a cool head on your shoulders when working under pressure. You need to be well-organized, someone who wakes up early in the morning and has the entrepreneurial drive, spirit and hunger to succeed.”
When franchisees first sign on, they operate from their homes, to help keep fixed costs low. This is possible because Aurum rents its branded vehicles from Enterprise, rather than maintaining a fully owned fleet, which proved expensive in the past.
“Given the scale of our buying power across North America, renting from Enterprise is an inexpensive option that provides professional, branded, new, shiny vehicles,” Morozov explains. “We can order vehicles as needed. We don’t want to carry the costs of a window cleaning truck in the dead of winter, for example, when there are no jobs for it to fulfil.”
Most of the vehicles are Nissan Frontier trucks, equipped with roof racks. These midsize pickups are well-suited for servicing residential customers. Enterprise wraps them with Aurum’s logo as needed and provides them locally for franchisees.
Aurum has similar buying power with Canada Cleaning Supplies, from which it sources eco-friendly products.
“We get unbeatable prices from them,” says Morozov.
Aurum recommends establishing a bricks-and-mortar location once a franchise has eight window-cleaning crews, along with the corresponding storage needs.
Similarly, once a franchise hits certain benchmarks in the residential window-cleaning market, it can move on to commercial jobs.
“Our database of thousands of residential customers is certainly a massive part of our business, but also having big commercial clients adds a lot of credibility to our operations,” says Morozov. “In particular, we work for the city of Toronto, which represents one of the most heavily regulated markets for office window cleaning anywhere on the planet. If we can work here, we can work anywhere!”
Indeed, this year the company is planning to set up shop in Dubai, U.A.E.
“We look forward to cleaning the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world,” says Morozov. “Once we are in Dubai, we will be the world’s only window cleaning company to operate on more than one continent!”
Franchise fee: $40,000
Additional startup capital required: $5,000 – $10,000
Royalty fee: 14%
Advertising fund: 1%
E-mail: David Polny, head of global franchising, email@example.com