Everybody is always looking for an edge. How do you earn more money? How do you become more successful? How do you achieve that elusive work-life balance?
You’d do well to ask Ralph Sizemore.
Sizemore, a master franchisor at Stratus Building Solutions, covering South Carolina and parts of North Carolina, including Asheville, won the Franchisee of the Year award at the 2019 Franchisee of the Year Awards, held during the Franchise Action Network Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. The awards recognize extraordinary franchise owner-operators who are International Franchise Association members.
We caught up with Sizemore shortly after he won the Franchisee of the Year award. He was spending some time with his family for a few days at Hilton Head, South Carolina (achieving some work-life balance), and was nice enough to chat with us about his work with Stratus Building Solutions, the nation’s leading green commercial cleaning franchise, and what he is doing right that led to this recognition.
How Sizemore came to work with Stratus.
Sizemore grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, went to college at the University of Kentucky and got his masters at The Ohio State University. He majored in engineering and did engineering “for the bulk of my first career.” But after 25 years in the corporate world, the company he worked for was bought out, and there were several downsizings. Sizemore was able to extract himself with a severance package and decided that he would switch gears and become a Stratus master franchisor.
“I liked the business model,” he says. “I liked that it was environmentally conscious. The green cleaning aspect was important to me, and the support structure that the company had in place seemed to be really good.”
He started with nothing.
That is, Sizemore bought the right to sell franchises to other people, with the idea that he would offer them the support they need to grow their businesses, just as any good master franchisor does. But of course, when you start off doing that, you don’t have any franchisees to oversee. In 2008, when Sizemore became a master Stratus Building Solutions franchisor, he had zero territories he was overseeing.
Now he has 63.
A typical day for Sizemore.
Sizemore says that he has eight employees, including himself and his wife, Derrie, who focuses on the marketing and accounting parts of the business. On an average day in the commercial cleaning service business, Sizemore covers a lot of ground. “We’re dealing with a lot of our clients’ customers, doing the billing and collecting in our office, and handling customer service,” Sizemore says.
So what’s the secret to his success?
Actually, it’s more of a formula. Sizemore says that he thinks his commercial cleaning business has seen a lot of growth over the years because he stays hungry. By hunger, we’re obviously talking ambition and drive, versus the kind where you go to a drive-thru. After buying into the franchise in 2008, he got to work right away; however, in the last two years, he has seen the most growth. He frequently finds prospective franchise owners through referrals (which, of course, helps when you’ve been in business a while), and every day, he wakes up, energized and ready to build his janitorial services franchising business. And he is interested in building it. And that seems to have helped, according to Sizemore.
“I haven’t gotten complacent, I haven’t taken my eye off the ball and God has blessed my business,” Sizemore says.
He has followed the Stratus franchise system. “I’ve utilized the support Stratus has given me, and their support is working,” he says. Sizemore believes that that’s a big reason his master franchise has seen so much growth. He follows the blueprint Stratus gives him — and he is happy to work with the corporate office.
“I’m not afraid to ask for help, and when they offer help, I take it,” Sizemore says. And he adds that Stratus Building Solutions’ corporate office has been growing along with his. “They’ve increased their staff almost every year. They’re really intent on seeing that we succeed, and I take advantage of that help,” he says.
Meanwhile, Sizemore makes sure that the franchise owners he sells to know that they can always rely on him. “The ones who are successful follow our service protocols and those who take the training,” he says.
He is honest. Hey, it can’t hurt. Sizemore says that when he works with prospective franchisees, he doesn’t sugarcoat anything. He doesn’t make it sound like buying a franchise is an easy endeavor requiring no hard work.
“Sometimes when companies try to sell franchises, they’ll give out unrealistic growth projections,” Sizemore says. “We tend to say, ‘This is a business. You’ve got to do your part as well.’”
That’s probably helped — he gets good, driven people in as franchisees, and that helps the green commercial cleaning business grow.
Who is a Stratus Building Solutions franchise right for?
Sizemore says that it’s perfect for people who don’t want to work for someone else.
“If you really want to be your own boss, this is the business for you,” he says, of Stratus Building Solutions. “The hours are very flexible, and it’s a home-based business. You’ve got a lot of independence but a strong support system at the same time, to help you succeed.”