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Who you gonna call?
by Jessica Garcia
Aug 13, 2009 | 1239 views | 3 3 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune/Nathan Orme -
LaDonte Harper of Belfor shows the spot in a Spanish Springs home where a faucet left filling a jug for four days flooded the home and forced the owners to do more than $10,000 in repairs. There was several inches of water below the floor as a result of the incident. Belfor is one of the companies in town that do such work, while another company, PuroClean, is looking for franchisees to start a similar service in the area.
Tribune/Nathan Orme - LaDonte Harper of Belfor shows the spot in a Spanish Springs home where a faucet left filling a jug for four days flooded the home and forced the owners to do more than $10,000 in repairs. There was several inches of water below the floor as a result of the incident. Belfor is one of the companies in town that do such work, while another company, PuroClean, is looking for franchisees to start a similar service in the area.
Everybody knows the feeling: You leave for a vacation and as the plane takes off or three hours in the car pass, suddenly the question comes to mind, “Did I leave the water running?”

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.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
Chelsea Pitts
August 21, 2009
Wow Gary,

When did you say you worked there? I have seen Servpro of Reno Trucks all over the place. Plus I am friends with the office person of Servpro. They have handled much larger jobs than the one on this article. The belvedere fire....150,000 dollar job. Um they were also on the news doing a job for the calderonis on KOLO. I would do some research before you speak again without knowing facts.
Gary Russo
August 18, 2009
MMMM Looking for free advertising Anna? I have have worked for Servpro, & they TOLD ME they were NOT equipped for anything NEARLY as large or intense as article speaks about. In fact, besides carpet cleaning, they do NOT do any reconstruction nor do they have any teams bigger than 2-3 men. So thus, ALL contracts are hired out (subcontractors) & THAT is when my service would be needed & I would be called in to do the rebuild. HMMM....quite the difference I would say. Working with PuroClean technicians on the other hand, has opened my eyes to the proessional world of COMPLETE remediation within a team. Since there is NOT a PuroClean (soon) in Reno, I hope ALL look forward to the professional, complete satisfaction crew of a TEAM of professionals working together to CUT that loss ratio & keep the contract viable. Thank you, Gary Russo
Anna Smith
August 17, 2009
I have used Servpro of Reno Southwest in the past and I have to say that they beat out all the other companies out there. I had a huge water damage that resulted in about 7500.00 worth of work. I had mold in my crawlspace as this is my second home I had not been there in a about a month. Servpro of Reno Southwest came out and performed the dry out, mold removal, cleaned my carpets and did my hvac cleaning. They amazed me at how professional and courteus they were to me and my home. If ever my friends have a disaster they are the first ones that I call.
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