MilliCare Textile & Carpet Care franchisees are independent business owners supported by a global network of peers, MilliCare Corporate, and Milliken & Company, a multi-billion dollar textile and chemical corporation. From multi-tenant buildings, healthcare facilities and universities to corporate campuses and Fortune 500 companies, MilliCare franchisees are the go-to source to meet today’s commercial green initiatives in building care.
One such franchisee is Michael Gottlieb, who along with Ryan Afromsky, owns MilliCare by Advanced Green Solutions in Van Nuys, California. We recently spoke with Gottlieb to find out what challenges he faced when opening the franchise, who he sought advice from and where he sees his franchise in the next five years.
How long have you owned a franchise?
We started operating in 2011.
What were you doing before becoming a franchise owner?
I was a journalist for more than 20 years, working for large, publicly held media companies, and my business partner, Ryan, started his own restaurant concept. On paper, it appeared to be a usual partnership but we had very different and complementary skill sets that have proven to be very beneficial in growing our business.
Why did you choose your franchise?
As a journalist, I covered the commercial real estate world for about a decade and I saw the emergence of sustainability into the industry. We had been looking for business opportunities for about a year, when I was introduced to MilliCare Textile & Carpet Care. With MilliCare I saw an opportunity to take advantage of my knowledge of the commercial real estate industry and offer a service that takes the perceived “brain damage” out of going green. We thought MilliCare was perfectly placed to capitalize on the sustainability trend by providing a simple, easy to understand service that can plug into any facility and offer significant benefits to our clients’ operations and bottom line, while measurably reducing their environmental footprint. The opportunity to service Southern California also was striking, not just due to the size of the market and the unlimited growth potential, but because of the generally higher acceptance of sustainability here.
What were some of the challenges you faced when starting your franchise?
We had to learn a new industry, literally from the ground up, and become experts in floor care. We also had to step outside of our comfort zones in many respects and we made plenty of mistakes along the way. In hindsight, this was a valuable learning experience, but in the moment it can be challenging to see that. For example, whereas my business partner focuses more on the operational side of the business, I tend to focus on business development and it took me some time to better understand the needs of prospective clients and to craft a truly compelling message versus simply extolling the benefits of our cleaning system. Once we learned to better refine our messaging, our conversion rate for new prospects to new clients increased significantly.
Where did you research or get advice about starting a franchise?
We consulted with attorneys and accountants. We also had friends and family with substantial business expertise who offered us guidance. I also tapped experts in the real estate field that I had developed relationships with from my past life as a journalist. Lastly, MilliCare made available to us a significant amount of information and internal support as well as to the opportunity to talk to other owners in the network with businesses in various states of maturity. This was the most important advice we received as they gave us the most accurate idea of what we could expect.
What does a typical day look like for you?
There is no typical day. But it is not uncommon for me to start my day checking up on the previous evening’s work and following up with clients to ensure that our services met their expectations and to share information about our clients facilities — we pride ourselves on being an extra set of eyes for our clients. I also travel all over Southern California meeting with prospective and existing clients, running demonstrations and evaluating facilities. When I am in the office, I am often working on proposals, working with our sales team or technicians, doing research and developing new initiatives to better refine and enhance our processes and investigating opportunities to grow our business. I also happen to be the shop mechanic so I make sure that all of our equipment is well maintained. We primarily work after hours, so my days can run very long as I often meet our crews at new or challenging job sites. I believe that I should do anything that I would ask our technicians to do and I also believe in setting a good example, so you will often find me on a piece of equipment instead of being on the sidelines, and I am often the last one to leave a job site late at night. That being said, we’ve put together an excellent team, which enables me to spend time with my family as it is a priority for me to be there for practices, doctor’s appointments and other events in my family’s life that are not just important to me but to my wife and children.
What is your secret to success?
We pride ourselves on providing the highest level of service and value possible. We have attempted to engrain a sense of pride and responsibility in the culture of our company that starts with Ryan and I. That sense of ownership runs through our sales team to our technicians on the ground. In an industry where professionalism, communication and accountability can be lacking, we pride ourselves on always doing what we say we will do and never cutting corners if we think a better result is possible on behalf of our clients. Our pricing is very competitive and fair. As a result, our clients love us and they consistently return to us and because of strong referrals our business continues to feed itself and drive our growth. We also have a tremendous amount of confidence in what we do. We benefit from offering the best service in the industry, not just in terms of MilliCare’s patented carpeted and upholstery care, but in the other complimentary services we provide using the latest technology and industry leading products and equipment. When I walk into a meeting with a prospective client I walk in knowing that we can handle any situation, solve any problem and ultimately take the issue of floor care off of their plate.
What would you do differently if you had to do it all over?
Be fearless. Ryan and I are very careful and deliberative by nature but I think we got in the way of our growth early on by being overly cautious. We learned that we have always been able to meet any challenge or service any client, but it took us surviving our first major growth spurt to understand that and not be afraid of growth. And along with that goes the realization that you can never invest enough in sales, which is the engine of business growth. We are always looking for people who might be a good fit for our sales team and our company.
Where do you see your business in five years?
Much, much bigger. We have been one of the top-10 or top-20 fastest growing MilliCare network providers every month since October 2013. This year, we were recognized by MilliCare with the Sustained Growth Award for having the highest percentage-based growth in the network over the past three years. We plan to win many more awards. We also continue to develop and expand our slate of complimentary services in an effort to ultimately be a one-stop shop for high-quality, sustainable services for Southern California commercial facilities.
What is one trend that really excites you?
Our position as a sustainable company has become more and more valuable to us as the effects of climate change become more stark. Being in California in the middle of a historic drought, offering a carpet cleaning service that uses 99% less water than traditional cleaning methods is compelling. That’s especially true when you can tell a client that they’ve saved thousands of gallons of water while their facility looks better than ever and they’ve probably saved money too. This is much more than good business, however. We are very proud of the fact that we have saved more than 180,000 gallons of water on behalf of our clients and we are going to continue to do our part to conserve this vital natural resource at a time when saving every drop counts.
What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?
Our sales team uses CoStar, which is a commercial building database that provides us with a tremendous amount of market intelligence. Google is an invaluable tool for us to learn more about prospects and their priorities. We also rely heavily on smart phones. Our scheduling, timecards and work orders all are based on mobile technology and apps, which allows us to easily communicate with our workforce and have our finger on the pulse of our business at all times.
Do you (or did you ever) have a mentor?
We have had many mentors, but in my opinion, our best mentors have been family. We are a family business at heart and our parents, who achieved incredible business success during their careers, have a way of helping us see our choices clearly. When our business was at a critical juncture, they were vital in helping us look past the daily challenges of a growing business and to embrace that growth. We haven’t looked back since. We wouldn’t be where we are today without their support.
What advice do you have for others looking to own a franchise?
Do your homework, not just about the franchisor but about the industry as a whole. Also find a franchise doing something that you would like to do, something that you care about. Starting off you have to be prepared to do everything yourself and liking what you do makes that early stage easier. Also, your customers will see your passion and they will want to do business with you.
Would you recommend others be franchisees? Why?
Yes. You can always start something from scratch but having the business support and training that comes with a franchise is incredibly valuable as there are so many things that need to happen correctly in order to operate a business successfully. That is hard to do on your own. Also, having a company or a brand behind you helps you make the case for why someone would want to hire you, buy from you or do business with you.
Where can people get more information on MilliCare franchise opportunities?
Visit the website here.
Where can people find your MilliCare on social media?
RELATED: HOW TO BUY A FRANCHISE