From cleaning up his hometown to cleaning up office buildings, one-time mayor loves the commercial cleaning franchise business
Fred Paris is proud of his one-term mayoral stint in Franklin, Ind. He was at the helm during the town’s historic flood of 2008 and oversaw cleanup of the flood damage. He made major improvements to the sewer plant, improved sidewalks and greenways, built police and fire stations. But it was tough being an independent in a heavily partisan town, so a second term was not to be. And that’s okay with Fred, 58. “The Lord will put me where he wants me,” he says. After joining Office Pride in 2012, he now owns two of the commercial cleaning franchises, one in Franklin and the other in Columbus, Ind. Fred talked recently about his Office Pride experience.
What were you doing before Office Pride? I was in real estate and development for 30 years. But I started out 20 years ago as Todd’s Realtor. We owned a corporate office building together at one time. I grew up in my dad’s gas station business. Grandad was a farmer, so I went between the two. In the late ’70s and ’80s, I got into real estate sales and built several houses. I physically relocated 25 historic homes to a new neighborhood for the college in town. I still do a lot of rental property.
How did you find out about Office Pride? I was there and I knew Todd when he first started the company. I didn’t pay a lot of attention to it. When I left office, I knew I didn’t want to go back to selling real estate. Todd asked me if I knew anyone who might be interested in reestablishing a Johnson County franchise. He invited me to come to training and listen to what it takes to run a cleaning business and the potential of what it could be. I knew franchises were much more successful than independent startup companies, and I knew I should look at franchises a little closer. When I was mayor, the neat thing is you get to go through all these different businesses and factories, and it became clearer that having clean facilities was very very important to the facilities.
What’s different about the commercial cleaning franchise business? In the real estate business, you have to go out and find the customer and make the sale, and when that business is finished you have to make another sale. Office Pride is a franchise that allows you to build a customer base, and if you take care of your customers, you could have repeat cash flow month after month after month. I’d never had a business with consistent growth potential with a relatively reasonable investment.
How easy is it to grow with Office Pride? If I want to get bigger in the demolition business, I would have to buy dozers and backhoes. With Office Pride, I could start with a small investment and do the cleaning myself as it grew. As I hired people, the biggest expense was payroll, but payroll can be adjusted to run the business. There’s very few businesses where you can adjust your expenses and not have to worry about continual payments or be committed to those payments long-term. With a part-time employee, it’s much easier to adjust. Most Office Pride employees are part-time. I’m doing about $30,000 a month now and have about 30 people working for me. I have two that work almost full-time. Everybody else works less than 30 hours a week, many less than 10 hours.
Why does having a mostly part-time labor force make a difference? The way I see it, our goal is to provide opportunities for people to make extra money every month. We don’t pay huge salaries or huge hourly wages. We don’t want people to rely on us for a living, but we help people fill the gap. Hopefully someday, as their dreams and goals change, we can help them make their budget work. Some people, once they get their car paid for or their credit cards paid off, they leave.
How much of the cleaning do you do yourself? I did some of the cleaning when I first started, and I still do. When I first started my franchise, I had eight or nine accounts and did the cleaning myself and enjoyed it. I still enjoy it. I go out and help train my new employees and fill in as needed. You’ve got to be willing. As mayor, I was trying to clean up the city, and as an Office Pride franchisee, I clean toilets.
How many contracts/employees do you have? I bought an existing franchise that was $16,000 a month, and I’ve doubled that. I’ve been careful not to outgrow my cash. As you take on new business, sometimes you have to wait for receivables and billables to catch up. And I don’t spend as much time selling as I could if I didn’t have 27 rental properties that I own and manage.
What do you like about the job? I actually enjoy cleaning buildings and knowing it’s clean, and I enjoy the team I’m building. I enjoy the people who work for me. The kind of people we try to attract to work for us are good, down-home people with a lot of dreams, and you get to know them on a personal level as a franchise owner. We’re trying to help them reach their dreams and pay off debts. I also like that Todd has never wavered from his Christian values.
What sets Office Pride apart? I think what makes us different from other franchises are that they take your money, give you a manual and tell you to go do it. Todd is very involved. Office Pride stays involved, and they have tremendous training. The main office does all the billing and collecting. We don’t have to worry about billing and collecting. They’re different because they’re very hands-on and because of the Christian values.
What does your typical day look like? I don’t think in the cleaning business that there is a typical day. I’m up at 7, I go to the coffee shop, meet with my buddies. I make sure we’ve been processing all our paperwork properly. I want to be sure we’ve got supplies. I talk to my managers, make sure all the buildings got clean. Todd has given us good tools online where employees sign in and out so we can see how long they were there. In the evenings, I will sometimes go out and help clean a building.
What kind of person do you think would enjoy owning an Office Pride franchise? I was in the real estate and development business. I think you need to be an entrepreneurial person with a Type A personality. You need to be a person not driven by money necessarily, but by achievement. My goal is to build a successful business. I want to build a business that, when I’m ready, it’s sellable. In Office Pride, if you build a successful franchise, there’s very good evidence you can sell it for so many times the monthly billing.
What does franchise ownership allow you to do in your personal life that you couldn’t before? I’m like a lot of people in the world; I still need to make a living. My wife, Michelle, travels a lot and is out of town a lot, so I can work more. This business does not require 24/7, but I like the flexibility that one day I can do sales calls, the next day I can be out helping with the floor work. I’d be a very poor person to sit at a desk every day. As I build my business, I’m building something that has more and more value every day.
Would you recommend an Office Pride franchise to someone else? I’ve only been in this a year, but the people I meet and the people in my peer group are very helpful. It’s a great opportunity with sustainable cash flow and good profit margin. It takes a small investment and you can build it over time. You don’t have to put your whole life on the line. You can be working another job and start an Office Pride franchise and clean five buildings a week at first. You don’t have to commit to everything immediately; you can just build it over time. The answer is “yes.”
What do you think of the Office Pride leadership? I’ve known Todd for 20 years. I cannot think of a better person to work with and for than Todd. He’s a man of absolute values. There’s always going to be devotional time at the beginning of any meeting. That time sets the tone for rest of the meeting. Actually having a leader that leads that way has been phenomenal. It may sometimes cause the franchise to grow slower, but it grows stronger. Others may make too many promises and not provide the support you need. With this, I’ve seen solid support and a solid foundation.