Recent data reveals strong demand for residential cleaning services in the U.S., and the small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) tasked with tidying messes have little tolerance for disarray in cash flow management and worker reimbursements.
The market for franchised cleaning services, excluding commercial or janitorial companies, has expanded at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 2.8 percent from 2014 to 2019. The space includes roughly 1,300 SMBs nationwide, employs more than 16,000 professionals and is on track for further expansion.
Home cleaning company Stanley Steemer is comprised of more than 280 independently owned and operated franchises in 49 states that provide myriad services, including air duct, carpet, grout, hardwood floor, tile and upholstery cleaning as well as water damage repair.
The company relies on field-based teams to address the specific needs of its residential customer base. It uses a range of payment solutions to preserve efficient operations, quickly reimbursing workers and fueling its vehicle fleet. In a recent interview, PYMNTS spoke with Dale See, president of Stanley Steemer’s Northern California franchise, about how the company uses spend management solutions and peer-to-peer (P2P) service Venmo to quickly reimburse professionals for on-the-job expenses.
“In today’s world, none of us want to wait for anything, so I think [fast reimbursements make] a big difference in their overall loyalty to the company,” See said.
He also discussed how fuel management and emerging artificial intelligence (AI) tools may introduce cost-saving opportunities for the market’s SMBs.
Eliminating the Out-Of-Pocket Expense
See’s Stanley Steemer operation covers the San Francisco Bay Area, and he said his company might dispatch more than 40 vans and between 40 to 60 workers at any given time.
Those workers might need to buy additional supplies to finish a job, so the firm issues spend management cards to help crew chiefs more seamlessly make work-related purchases. Employees can use the cards to do so and upload photos of receipts via a mobile app.
“They have access to funds they need to get the job done without having to ask two people or three people or 20 people, and they don’t have to wait,” See said.
Firms offering these solutions provide the flexibility to avoid form-filling hassles and needless permission requests, making it easier for workers to do their jobs and feel trusted.
Tapping Venmo for Reimbursements
Stanley Steemer also uses Venmo to reimburse out-of-pocket expenses, See said, noting that workers can snap and submit photos, and the company will quickly reimburse them. He explained that he selected Venmo because many workers are comfortable with the app, even though it is not usually used for business-related payments.
“With all these different technologies, we’re trying to let nature take its course and not get ourselves stuck in a traditional mindset,” he said.
Embracing faster-acting technology like Venmo alleviates professionals’ concerns of slow reimbursement, See said, noting one example in which workers had to spontaneously buy moving boxes to remove items from a water-damaged area before repairing the home.
“[Reimbursement solutions increase workers’] confidence and trust in the company … and will [help them feel like they belong] because [professionals can act] quicker and … instantaneous,” he said. “We want our people to know we care and to be comfortable making their own decisions like it’s their own business.”
A New Era of SMB Spend Solutions
See said the company uses vehicle-tracking and maintenance software solutions that integrate with its CRM system. The business also uses delivery services from Booster Fuels to spare employees from spending additional time refueling, he said.
“We’re starting to see some of the residual benefits of [fuel delivery] and a reduction in labor hours in terms of having to waste time at [gas stations] and getting struck in traffic, adding to the overall grind of the day,” he said.
See envisions AI solutions to be the company’s biggest technology investment opportunity, aside from fuel delivery. Such funding could help Stanley Steemer automate some tasks and better communicate responsibilities to its professionals.
“One of our top goals is [getting] AI into our world,” he said. “I see so many opportunities in this space that AI could help.”
Embracing technological solutions like AI can boost SMBs’ efficiency and help them pull away from a crowded market. The franchise president said Stanley Steemer embraces a technology-centric approach to innovation and repurposed the Facebook motto “move fast and break things” for itself.
“We’re by no means a technology company, but we’re very aware that the world is moving fast,” he said. “We want to move fast and clean things.”
Businesses will need more than the correct cleaning tools to get the job done as the market expands. They will also require the right spend management instruments and a willingness to embrace new technologies to tidy up their business operations.