From ‘glorified lawn business’ to tech-centric market leader: a chat with Hire A Hubby’s CEO

Hire A hubby

Hire A Hubby CEO Brendan Green (L) with Shane Ross of Franchise Cloud Solutions

With more than 330 active franchisees nationally, Hire A Hubby (HAH) is today the third largest player in Australia’s tradesman and handyman industry, claiming a market share of 5% – and of the big three, it’s reportedly the only one to have gained market share since 2011*.

Under the leadership of CEO and owner Brendan Green, the 23-year-old handyman franchise has expanded into New Zealand and the UK, and enjoyed sustained growth. In addition to onboarding between 15 and 20 franchisees each year for the past ten years, revenue has continued to trend upwards, rising from $32.5 million in 2010/11 to $46.9 million in 2015/16.

According to Green, HAH has been able to establish a strong customer base owing to the variety of jobs HAH caters for. He explained, A couple of odd jobs painting rooms and installing shelves for one customer will often lead to multiple jobs with that customer such as larger jobs like garden landscaping and kitchen renovations.”

Although Green can’t lay claim to being the founder of HAH, in the 17 years he has spent at the company’s helm, it has evolved to reflect his vision for a tech- and customer-centric handyman sector. He spoke with Dynamic Business about his motivation for taking over and transforming HAH as well as the state of the tradesman and handyman industry and what’s next for his company.

DB: How did you come to take the reins of HAH?

Green: I started my own lawn mowing business when I was 19, effectively becoming a part of the service industry. After relocating to Melbourne from Sydney for a role in the credit management field, I was introduced to the HAH franchise by a mutual contact of myself and Hire A Hubby’s founder. While HAH was, in many ways, just a glorified mowing business at the time, the core concept fit into my future vision for the handyman sector.

Consequently, I purchased the master franchise for NSW/ACT in 1997, using equity from my existing property portfolio, and moved back to Sydney to commence operations. In mid-2000, I completed negotiations to buy out the founder, acquiring the intellectual property and trademark for HAH in the process. I achieved this through a combination of conventional finance and secondary investor finance.

DB: How has HAH evolved under your leadership?

Green: Having led HAH since the turn of the century, the business today very much reflects the vision of not just myself and my team. Here are some of the key ways HAH has evolved…

Focus: Thinking back to the early days, the first significant change I spearheaded was making HAH stand out from all the businesses focusing on smaller handyman jobs and the lawns and gardens market, which was already well-catered for. Specifically, we expanded our focus to include all handyman service, from repairs and maintenance through to renovations. As these services were, at the time, untouched in the franchising space, the move worked to our advantage. With no one really to compete with us for ten years, we were able to establish ourselves as the leader in the space.

Technology: Due to a strong belief that robust systems, particularly in the IT space, would enable HAH to become a bigger and better organisation, I have continually invested in layers of technological support infrastructure. Plus, with customers becoming more and more demanding, and expecting rapid responses to their enquiries, we’ve integrated new apps and software to ensure we can deliver quotes as quickly as possible.

Franchisee value proposition: The introduction of an income guarantee of $100,000 in 2007 was a turning point for HAH. It made prospective franchisees realise that a handyman business, such as ours, had the potential to generate great incomes, and we saw an increase in the number of enquiries from people with more management-focused backgrounds. Our franchisee from cairns, Russell Hampton is a great example of someone excelling through HAH, having turned over $1 million earlier this year.

Business development: The 2012 introduction of Hub e-Connect, which provided us with greater insights into individual franchisee performance, also gave rise to our ‘You and Two’ concept – this saw us help franchisees transition to enterprises with two or more employees, enabling them to manage larger workloads. Three years later, we launched an HR support program, providing professional assistance to franchisees in the area of recruitment. Plus, we encourage our Hubbies to continue developing their offering through the completion of courses including Cert III Carpentry, Kitchens, Bathrooms, Laundries renovation qualifications and waterproofing courses through the likes of the Master Builders Association.

Internal efficiencies: Between 2013 and 2016, the business underwent a substantial transformation in terms of its internal processes. The launch of Hub e-Admin in 2013, for example, resulted in franchisees being able to outsource the time-consuming task of putting together a quote. From that time, a Hubby, when inspecting a property, has been able to relay details of the job to an admin professional who then produces a quote for the client as quickly as possible.  We are constantly evolving what we do and how we do it, aiming for the highest levels of efficiency combined with ease of use for our franchisees.

Company culture: Eleven years ago, we began holding an annual conference where franchisees could come together to celebrate great achievement and learn about new skills and opportunities for the year ahead. Meanwhile, raising awareness of – and funds for – men’s health issues has become (and will continue to be) an integral part of what we do at HAH. In 2013, we launched the ManVan initiative in partnership with the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia (PCFA). The initiative, which helps raise much needed awareness of prostate cancer, sees our Hubbies donate $1 from every invoice to the PCFA. We’ve raised $73,900.00 for PCFA in the past 12 months alone. It’s personal for us. We’ve had several Hubbies affected by this disease so we are committed to providing ongoing support in the years to come.

DB: Is your industry booming? If so, why?

Green: IBISWorld’s industry report into Tradesman and Handyman Franchises in Australia indicates the industry has grown by an average of 16.5% over the last five years, with revenue set to hit $1.1 billion by 2021. A contributing factor is the fact that the building boom has pulled many skilled tradies onto large sites, creating real demand for skills handymen such as our Hire A Hubby franchisees.

DB: How do you see the sector evolving?

Green: It will continue to evolve as the needs of customers change. Customers will remain the driving force for change in this industry. As more technologies emerge to help businesses respond to customer enquiries in the fastest way possible and otherwise operate more efficiently, the industry will need to adapt to remain relevant.

Although we can’t talk for other businesses, we do know that technology has been fundamental to our business model, impacting response times to customers, quoting and tracking of invoicing and attracting new Hubbies to franchises. Our Hubbies are not just great handymen, they are also business owners who need to leverage technologies that enable them to deliver a great customer service in the timeliest way. Technology also plays an integral role in how we market to new customers and franchisees, and we use it to identify the most effective ways to connect our Hubbies with customers and potential handyman with the Hire A Hubby model.

DB: What plans do you have for HAH moving forward?

Green: We’re currently in the process of reviewing the possibility of becoming a registered training organisation (RTO) again, which will give us a new opportunity to train existing franchisees and rollout a structured apprenticeship program to assist with future employee and franchisee recruitment.

We’ve also set up a new business called Franchise Cloud Solutions. This has been in development for over five years at HAH and launched this week at the National Franchise Convention on the Gold Coast in October. The Franchise Cloud is a cloud-based franchise management IT solution that oversees compliance processes, on-boarding, training, franchisee launches, and also monitors their trading performance.

*  http://www.franchisebusiness.com.au/news/should-you-buy-a-handyman-franchise