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Business Observer Friday, Jun. 22, 2018 5 months ago

Entrepreneur creates an Oasis in a franchising desert

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Tim Evankovich applies a different touch to the franchise industry: he cares
by: Andrew Warfield Lee-Collier Editor

Between 1989 and 2014, partners Tim Evankovich and Steve Robinson built The Cleaning Authority from a one-unit company in the Baltimore area into a nationwide operation with more than 185 franchises.

Now on his own as owner and CEO of Bonita Springs-based Oasis Senior Advisors, he’s building a nationwide network of franchises using the same model he created at The Cleaning Authority — methodical expansion and an atypical level of support to his franchisees.

And why not? His 25 years of operating his prior company recently garnered an induction into The Cleaning Authority Hall of Fame — an honor previously reserved only for the highest-performing franchisees.

Success didn’t come easily. The partners’ original plan was to grow The Cleaning Authority following the corporate store model, opening branch locations and putting managers in place to run them. “The problem was they just never grew as quickly or as large without an owner present,” says Evankovich. “That model didn't work well, so we decided to use the franchise model.”

That was in 1996. Even then, growth was slow to come. In the first year the company sold three franchises, the second year six. Continuing the doubling trend, 12 franchises were added the third year, says Evankovich, “and my partner said it’s going to take us 30 years to make money on this.”

“Nobody says, ‘I think I want to own a maid service,’” says Evankovich. “We were not a very sexy concept, but when you looked at the model from a residuals standpoint and growth potential, it became attractive.”

Identifying the problem as placing that information in front of potential franchisees, the partners sought the assistance of a franchising consulting company to help them convey the message. 

“We not only had a good model, but we had some aspects to our system that are unique in the industry,” says Evankovich. “We continued to double in size year-over-year, adding 24 franchises the next year and, in 2002, we actually sold 54 franchises. That put us to just over 100 franchises, and we continued to grow from there.”

When they sold The Cleaning Authority in 2014 to equity firm PNC Riverarch of Pittsburgh, the average franchise was doing more than $1 million in revenue annually. They continued laying the groundwork for Oasis for more than a year before the partners and lifelong friends went their separate ways in 2016, Evankovich to Southwest Florida and Robinson to Texas.

Family approach

Having experienced the effectiveness of franchising consultants, Evankovich and Robinson started their own such business and operated it alongside The Cleaning Authority. They learned about Oasis when a couple came to them for franchising help. 

The concept was to establish franchises in which owners would work with the families of elderly parents to pair them with elder care communities, using proprietary software and leveraging local relationships to match the residents with a community that fits all their needs. 

“We absolutely loved it,” Evankovich says

Lacking the resources to absorb the cost of a full-scale franchising model, the founders of Oasis tried to go it alone. A year later, Evankovich says, they came back, asking if he and Robinson would be interested in buying their concept.

They were.

“Honestly, we could not jump across the table fast enough to shake their hand,” Evankovich says. They not only recognized the potential of Oasis, but also how it fit their penchant for helping franchisees build successful and rewarding businesses. It was a natural extension of what they had created with The Cleaning Authority.

"All we do is help people. It’s very gratifying in what we provide to seniors and their families and, on the franchising side, helping people become successful." Tim Evankovich, Oasis Senior Advisors

“My passion was providing a really good working environment for a segment of the population that was in dire need of it, paying them well and helping them feel good about what they were doing,” says Evankovich of The Cleaning Authority. “Once we started franchising, it was dual purpose, helping them get into business and to go from doing something they don’t like to do to loving what they do and making more money than they ever made before. It was very gratifying.”

They bought Oasis in 2013 with no cash up front, offering instead a long-term share of revenue. In 2014, Evankovich and Robinson sold The Cleaning Authority, closed the franchise consulting business and headed their separate ways. Because Robinson made more money on the sale of the cleaning business — he owned a larger share — he sold his piece of Oasis to Evankovich for a mere $100.

By the end of 2018, Evankovich says Oasis is on track to have 90 franchises and gross revenue of $4.5 to $5 million. That’s up from $2.1 million in 2017 and $1.4 million in 2016.

People helper

The growth is a testament, Evankovich says, to his philosophy of intense support of his franchisees.

“One of the things I have learned in franchising is the better and stronger you support your franchisees, the stronger system you have,” says Evankovich. “The thing that keeps me up at night are the few that are struggling. What are they doing wrong? What am I not doing to support them and get them over the hump? I’m constantly challenging my directors with what else we can do, what are the tools we can give them.”

Support comes in regular training, corporate-level marketing and continuous refining of the software that allows franchisees to efficiently match families’ needs with senior living communities. The database stores specifications for each franchise area’s elder care communities, and analyzes each client’s needs, desires and budgets to generate impartial recommendations. 

From there, franchisees will tour the recommended facilities with the families, not to make recommendations, but to help guide them through the decision-making process.

“The software is unparalleled in the industry,” says Beth Friesen, who owns an Oasis franchise in Lincoln, Neb. “No one has what we've got to help us remain objective and do what is in the best interest of the families we work with.”

Friesen was attracted to Oasis by what she describes is Evankovich’s “servant leadership” style.

“I knew there was something different when I went for my discovery day before I purchased my franchise and after lunch in the break room I observed Tim loading the dishwasher,” says Friesen. “Here is someone who is highly successful doing something that could be seen by even mid management as beneath them, but here is the CEO who was wildly successful in his previous company and who never had to work another day in his life if he didn’t want to, loading the dishwasher.”

“If I didn't know by then that Oasis was the company I wanted to be associated with," Friesen adds, "that did it.”

Rob Weddle, now CEO of The Cleaning Authority, says Evankovich’s approach to franchising goes above and beyond industry norms.

“No franchise agreement ever will say they will support you,” says Weddle. “There is a legal reason for that, but the good ones go out of their way to support their franchisees very heavily."

The service Oasis provides is free to the families. Franchisees earn 70% of the first month’s payment to the senior care facility. The corporate office earns 10% royalties, in addition to the $80,000 to $120,000 franchise fee. Four years into the business, Evankovich expects to be profitable at the end of this year — slightly ahead of the industry standard.

Tim Evankovich with his The Cleaning Authority Hall of Fame plaque.

“I am very conscientious about pace of growth,” Evankovich says. “With my background in franchising, I have seen numerous opportunities that are great concepts, but they implode because they grow too fast and they can’t build the infrastructure to support it. With the sale of The Cleaning Authority, I had the capital that allowed us to take our time and do it right, and to make sure we are selecting the right people to be a part of the organization.”

With the oldest baby boomers nearing 75 years of age, he and his franchisees have plenty of time to clean up.

(This story was updated to reflect the correct projected revenue figure for 2018.)

 

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