For a couple in Spanish Springs, that nightmare came true when they left a jug filling in the sink and left town for four days. When they returned, their house was completely flooded with several inches of water and more than $10,000 in damages.
Cleaning up after disasters is more than an inconvenience – it’s also a business. There are several companies in the area to choose from in such events, and one more is looking to get a slice of the unwanted water and mold market.
PuroClean, a company that specializes in property damage restoration, has done research and chosen the Reno-Sparks area as an ideal market to expand its services. Monty Smith, vice president of franchise development, said the company will be looking for a few good people in Reno and Sparks to begin franchises.
“This business is a necessity business,” Smith said. “When these claims happen and the insurance won’t settle their claim, people won’t have the expertise to settle. Where most companies have suffered in this economy, we have flourished. We are growing faster than ever before. Our year-over-year store sales are up.”
The hard economic times have created one more type of clean-up market for businesses like PuroClean. Smith said foreclosed and vacant homes are especially in need of maintenance, which most banks don’t provide in the sales process.
“We get calls all the time for closed-up, abandoned houses and there’s no telling what kinds of things can go wrong,” he said. “We see its physical manifestation, with mold growing up and all that mold goes into the air and makes it tens of thousands of times worse than when it was undisturbed. … We have homes that weren’t maintained very well because people didn’t have money to do things.”
PuroClean, originally known as PuroSystems when it was first founded in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. in 1990, now has 285 franchises in the United States and Canada. The company is highly regarded by the Franchise Research Institute, as it was recognized with the 2008 World-Class Franchise Designation for its fourth year in a row. Its Maui franchise achieved “Rookie of the Year” status this year, Smith said.
The company now is becoming aggressive about breaking into Reno and Sparks, having completed some research of similar businesses in the local market.
“My research shows 21 companies say they do water damage and typically they’re carpet cleaners that try to add this stuff on top of the other things they do,” Smith said. “What would be lacking is training in these specific areas. Any carpet guy can claim they can do water damage.”
But according to Smith and Darren Foote, general manager at the Reno office of Belfor, an international clean-up company, it takes specialized training to restore a home after being engulfed in water or flames.
Smith calls the industry “recession-proof” because even if floods don’t create the damage, it’s inevitable that a broken washing machine hose or leaky pipe will.
But Foote is not as certain that water extraction and fire damage restoration companies can overcome financial challenges just because the need will always be there. Foote started in northern Nevada 20 years ago with his firm Water Extraction Technologies, which integrated with Belfor in October 2007. Even being certified with the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC), Foote said with a poor economy, it could be difficult to find an abundant amount of business.
“We’re strong because we’ve got 20-plus years in the local matter,” Foote said. “I haven’t seen anything quite like this. If you’re able to adjust and hunker down and see what services you can offer, it’s what’s best for your client. I’ve seen these business cycles and it’s probably what you hear from every small business: It’s all about customer service and honesty and integrity and we’ve had that base.
“There really is a lot of training,” Foote continued. “It’s not just your vacuum and carpet-cleaning business; there’s a lot more to it than that.”
Belfor water supervisor LaDonte Harper talked about the “more” as he stood in the Spanish Springs home that he helped clean after the unfortunate jug-filling incident. Belfor attempts to offer more by working with contractors to help people fix damage caused in a disaster. In this case, the homeowner decided to redo some bathrooms and install a new bay window since the floors and walls were being ripped up and replaced anyway. Most companies just do clean-up, he said, which is the core of the business. Offering the repair is an added service that has been a bit of a decline with the tumbling economy, Harper said.
“You’ve got to be good at what you do to stay in business,” Harper said, mentioning several businesses he worked with that have closed recently.
PuroClean, meanwhile, will seek out franchisees who have excellent people skills and are comfortable with talking to insurance agents, Smith said.
“Our franchisees don’t have to do the work themselves, but they’ll manage in an executive model type of business,” he said, elaborating that both of his sons are also franchisees of PuroClean and oversee 15 to 20 employees.
Start-up costs range between $68,000 and $93,000, Smith said, and 100 percent financing is offered for equipment.
“We don’t sell franchises in the traditional sense that anyone with money buys it,” he said. “We award our licenses to anyone who’s qualified.”
Smith said PuroClean could have a franchisee candidate in its next training class in September. Training is four weeks long, with three weeks spent at its academy in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., and one week spent at the office location with company employees helping them through the process.