Two decades of corporate experience provided a strong foundation for Molly Maid franchise owners, David and Jennifer Poole

A move to the Charleston, South Carolina-area set in motion a chain of events that changed the course of Molly Maid franchisee David Poole and his wife Jennifer’s professional lives. After long corporate careers, the Pooles, led by their desire to make a life for themselves in their new hometown, discovered an opportunity with a residential cleaning franchise operation that led them to personal growth and professional success in the cleaning industry.

CBT: Tell us about your transition from corporate employees to small business owners.

DP: In February of 2002, as a result of a merger, I took an assignment with a new company that brought us to the Charleston, SC area from the Dayton, Ohio area. Jennifer began to work part time as a trainer on a contract basis and after a couple of years, most of my new role had been implemented. So we were both ready for something new, and it appeared my next role would not allow us to stay in the Charleston area. We decided we wanted to stay here, and began a search for “the next big thing” for us. We realized that given the mix of jobs available in Charleston probably meant opening our own business if we were to maintain our current income.


CBT: Did you look at other business opportunities before deciding on Molly Maid? How did you make the final decision?

DP: We cast a pretty wide net, worked with a local business broker, and looked at existing businesses that were for sale. We really only excluded food, given the hours involved. We looked at auto repair, some retail establishments, home health care, a nursing business, and an existing maid franchise (not Molly Maid). We had no intentions of going into the cleaning business, but we did like the business model presented by the residential cleaning business we looked at — we just didn’t particularly care for the franchisor during our discovery process. So we poked around at most of the other branded maid franchises, and far and away Molly Maid stood out in terms of responsiveness, openness, and in their balance between being aggressive in their sales process and giving us our space to evaluate this opportunity. In October of 2004, we decided to move forward and open our Molly Maid business.


CBT: How did your prior experience influence your current roles in your franchise operation?

DP: My wife and I started our Molly Maid franchise in the Mount Pleasant, SC area in December of 2004. Prior to that, we both enjoyed successful 20-year corporate careers. Jennifer’s prior positions were primarily in training, IT support, and sales roles, so she had a great deal of “front of the house” experience we could draw upon. My background was more research and development, IT and engineering management, business strategy, and executive management roles. I provided more of the “back of the house” experience coming into our Molly Maid experience.


CBT: What were your biggest challenges in the early days?

DP: The biggest challenge of any service business is staffing, especially in today’s political and economic climate. Finding and retaining good people is the core of what we do, and balancing the growth of those employees with their personal situations will probably always be our biggest challenge. Most people who come to us as employees are not naturally great cleaners, so there is training involved. And part of  that training is putting into place a disciplined process for being reliable, first and foremost. There are so many people who could be great employees, but their personal circumstances don’t provide the support or role models they need to be successful. We try to impress upon employees that we’re going to be reliable for them, and that we expect their best efforts to be reliable for us and, in turn, for our customers.


CBT: How has business been for you?

DP: We have grown quite rapidly over the years. In 2006, we were the fastest Molly Maid franchisee to reach $1 million in annual sales. From our original base of our Mount Pleasant office, we have expanded in to the remainder of the greater Charleston, SC market, as well as Hilton Head, SC, and Savannah, GA. In 2011 and 2012, we were the 3rd largest Molly Maid franchisee among the 275+ in the United States. Over the years, we have won most of the awards presented by the Molly Maid franchisor, including the “Shining Star” award in 2007 as the Molly Maid system’s outstanding franchisee.


CBT: Tell us about your decisions to expand. How did you choose your new locations?

DP: Most of our choices to expand were just functions of proximity to where we already were. Our first expansion was to Hilton Head when the existing Molly Maid owner there had a family circumstance that required his family to relocate, so we bought the business from him in 2008. With the Savannah location, the owners had a medical situation and wanted to have more free time, so we bought the business from them in 2010 and combined it with our Hilton Head operation. And in the Charleston area, the long- standing owner of the Summerville area business decided to retire, so we purchased it from her in 2010 and combined it with our Mount Pleasant operation.


CBT: How do you explain your success?

DP: There are a lot of reasons, many of which have nothing to do with us. First, Molly Maid was a great choice for us. The folks we work with as home office employees or fellow franchisees are absolutely the best. I’ve never been around a group so willing to share the good, the bad and the ugly so openly. Second, we had a plan, and, by and large, we’ve followed that plan. We’ve been opportunistic and we’ve not been afraid to fail. We take what we do seriously, but we have fun. Jennifer and I didn’t start this business to go to work every day hating what we do, and we don’t tolerate chronically bad attitudes. We try to create an environment where people can enjoy themselves and each other. That’s important.


CBT: What advice do you have for someone just starting out as a franchisee?

DP: The great benefit of buying a franchise is having a system already in place to conduct business – so follow it! That doesn’t mean that over time you can’t tweak or adjust based upon what you personally learn or on your unique skill set, but when we see other franchisees not reach a certain level of success, it is almost always because they chose not to follow a part of the system.


CBT: Is there any advice you wish someone had shared with you about operating a franchise?

DP: We say this quite a bit to prospective new Molly Maid franchisees – we only wish we had done this sooner! Despite the usual ups and downs of any situation involving people, we really have found our sweet spot in our professional careers here. Jennifer has an undergrad degree in International Business. I have an undergrad in Political Science and an MBA. While that was all helpful, none of it prepares you for the daily ride. Working with your spouse has its own set of challenges and rewards – we both are so passionate about what we do, it is difficult to “turn it off” once we’re home. We just try to enjoy each day, be good role models for our employees and provide a needed service to our customers. It really has drawn us closer as a couple and we’ve both grown considerably as people through this experience.