Expert cites reasons why enterprising women can thrive as home service franchise owners
The strides women have made in the United States in the last few decades are impressive, particularly when considered from a wide lens. For example, there are twice as many women in Congress in 2019 (127) as there were in 1999 (63); female CEOs lead the likes of IBM, GM, Lockheed Martin, Best Buy and Oracle; and two female superhero movies–Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel–have combined to gross $1.95 billion worldwide in the last three years.
Women leaders have resoundingly proven themselves across-the-board, demonstrating that they can do things just as well, or sometimes better, than their male counterparts. However, that confidence-laden representation takes a steady decline when looking at the franchise world in general and certain niche industries in particular, with home services among them.
There’s certainly no shortage of female business owners from coast to coast. As of April 2018, there were 9.9 million female-owned businesses in America compared to 14.4 million male-owned companies. However, when looking at the franchise space, less than even one-third—only 30.6 percent–of business owners are female. The disparity between male and female owners increases when looking at franchises built around traditionally male dominated trades like the home services sector, where women own only about 25 percent of businesses that specialize in personal household repairs and maintenance.
Given the prolonged ownership disparity in male dominated trades like this, and franchising at large, I reached out to Brian Clark, CEO of Service Team of Professionals (STOP)—a well-respected restoration franchise that proffers service after a damaging event like water damage; fire/smoke; mold growth; wind/hail storm damage; and biohazard contamination (whether or not covered by insurance). Given his pedigree in an array of fields where male staffing reigns supreme, like janitorial, automobile detailing and currently as a long-standing executive in the home services field, I urged Clark to speak frankly about what is perpetuating this long-held imbalance—even any thought process purported to actually validate it.
However, when asked about this kind of disproportionate ownership, Clark fervently asserted, “While the actual jobs of remodeling, disaster restoration, electrician, plumber, carpet cleaner and the like seem to attract more men overall for the front-line function, there’s no viable substantiation for a man versus a woman needed to helm the operation to realize notable success.”
Relative to the home services field that I’m upholding here as a representative example, Clark went on to fully illustrate his opinion that company ownership in this trade, and others like it, should be equitable among genders—if not actually skewed in favor of women. With nimble specificity, Clark offered the six reasons detailed below that make a very compelling case that women wouldn’t just aptly compete with men in these types of male dominated franchise industries, but can actually outperform them.
Women can empathize with customers’ pain points better than men
In February 2019, a study revealed that women’s brains are much better at sensing and empathizing with a person’s pain, especially “in the moment.” That kind of connection is a vital component for people when they reach out for home services. In this kind of business, there’s inherently a problem at home requiring a fix, whether it’s a bad carpet stain, a clogged toilet, a deck that needs sanding, an air conditioner on the fritz or other difficulty-causing angst. Being able to readily connect emotionally with prospective and current customers is an enormous component of “speaking human” rather than just regurgitating rote, company-first sales speak. This kind of emotional engagement exudes the kind of customer-centric mindset that lands new accounts more effectively. It also fosters repeat customers who love the way they were treated by your company, who ultimately become incidental brand ambassadors.
Women prevalently possess soft power traits
A woman doesn’t have to learn how to wield a socket wrench or a rotary extractor to run a successful home service business. She does have to make the executive decisions that benefit her employees, her customers, her vendors and herself. A 2018 study found that employees want leaders who have soft power traits like communication, flexibility and patience– three characteristics that women generally outpace men in. Happy employees don’t always guarantee better business success, but when you possess the qualities that inspire them to work harder, while also being transparent about how the business is being run, you’ve got a pretty potent cocktail.
Women business owners aren’t afraid to ask for business advice
We all know the cliché about men that, while driving, they are willing to spend an extra hour or three figuring out where they’re going rather than take a five-minute pit stop to ask for directions. Turns out women are actually a lot more likely to ask for the same help in guiding their business than men are. Reportedly , nearly one-half of all women entrepreneurs (48 percent) will turn to family and friends while just over one-third (35 percent) of men are willing to do the same. That kind of open-mindedness is ideal in the home services industry because the company will be primarily dealing with people just like the owner’s friends and family–people who own homes and require problem-solving solutions from a trustworthy source. Who better to give you honest feedback on things like marketing, advertising, customer service policies and the like?
Women create safer work environments
Safety is a huge deal in certain industries, with home services certainly among them. Plenty of tradesmen are unionized, and attention to detail when it comes to ensuring a safe environment to practice their craft is not just vital, it’s mandatory. One survey shows that almost half of Americans (43 percent) think women are better at creating a safe work environment. Some of this is due to the empathy issue we talked about earlier; women can be more aware of others’ feelings, including issues of safety on the job. Women also tend to exhibit better attention to detail, which can be a critical advantage when complying with specific procedures put forth by labor unions on how their members must be treated, equipped and trained on the job.
Women set reasonable business goal expectations
Perhaps it’s the ingrained bravado that comes from all that testosterone, but some entrepreneurs I have spoken with informally, in casual conversation, believe that male entrepreneurs tend to make bolder claims on what they expect their businesses to do over a month, a quarter or a year. When reality falls short of said claims, they risk finding themselves being held accountable by staffers and vendors who are demanding answers to uncomfortable questions, fielding demands they’re not in a position to deliver on, sliding into debt or, in extreme instances, suffering a business shutdown altogether. Women tend to be more conservative with unfounded assertions and forecasts and less risk-taking, much as they typically are when investing in the stock market. More conservative goal-setting instincts allow women to achieve or exceed said goals more easily and comfortably, with less pressure, and make more prudent decisions—like reinvesting profits into the company for future expansion.
Women are better at setting realistic schedules
Like many other trade-focused businesses, the home service industry is all about scheduling. How many jobs a crew can do in a week, how long each job lasts and how many crew members it takes for each job all have a direct influence on your business’s ROI. Research shows that women can multi-task better than men thanks to their ability and inclination to think and strategize more at the beginning of a multi-task project, while men are more prone to jump right in and try to adjust on-the-fly. This is a crucial advantage for those running a business that has a plethora of moving parts requiring coordination on a daily basis. Particularly when you consider small-and-medium-sized businesses usually have the owner wearing several different hats over the course of weeks, months and years. Having a leader who’s capable of simultaneously guiding various work crews, scheduling supply shipments, getting invoices paid and every other interrelated task while maintaining a high quality result for each is extremely valuable.
“And let’s face it,” Brian Clark humorously added, “women are much better organized than men… just ask my wife.”
Every woman wanting to start her own business is a woman to admire. But, those headed down roads less traveled into a male dominated industry—particularly in the franchise world and, even more specifically, the home restoration space—have the exciting prospect of breaking new ground, giving customers and the marketplace at large a fresh perspective and breaking through gender barriers relatively all at once. There’s presumably no greater career satisfaction than that.
As the Executive Editor and Producer of “The Luxe List,” Merilee Kern is an internationally-regarded brand analyst, strategist and futurist. As a prolific branding and marketplace trends pundit, Merilee spotlights noteworthy industry innovators, change makers, movers and shakers. Experts, brands, products, services, destinations and events across all categories are spotlighted in her exclusive cross-media platform that reaches multi-millions each month through several syndication channels: print and online publications as well as broadcast TV and terrestrial radio. Connect with her at www.TheLuxeList.com / Instagram www.Instagram.com/LuxeListReviews / Twitter www.Twitter.com/LuxeListEditor / Facebook www.Facebook.com/TheLuxeList / LinkedIN www.LinkedIn.com/in/MerileeKern