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Scott Sparkes’ top tips for becoming a Kleenit franchisee

February 13, 2024

Perth, Western Australia was just on the brink of its first Covid-19 lockdowns when Scott Sparkes began his Kleenit franchise in March 2020. Scott had been a private investigator for 35 years, but thankfully a few months prior his son had suggested he look at a Kleenit franchise. With the global pandemic causing overall uncertainty in every market, Kleenit’s services included many deemed essential in the state’s emergency planning.


Still, the jump to running a different business wasn’t immediate for Scott. He gave serious thought to the change; and did his due diligence. But the move into a new industry also required a leap of faith — which has paid dividends over the last four years. Scott’s Kleenit franchise, based in the Fremantle-to-City Beach area has become one of the most successful in the business’s history. An impressive feat, considering the minimum most Kleenit franchisees earn is around $100,000 a year.


Scott offers two main services to customers — Industrial Coatings and High-Pressure Cleaning — but does take on other Kleenit jobs where the opportunity arises. And being able to see opportunities, he says, is all part of being successful in a client-centric business like Kleenit


We ‘investigated’ what else makes Scott Sparkes’ Kleenit franchise work so well, sitting down for a chat over the 2023 holiday period — as busy a time as any for this hard-working hero of commercial asset maintenance.

Take us through a typical day for you as a Kleenit franchisee.

Scott: Some days I might look after one big project or 3-to-4 smaller jobs. Yesterday was pretty typical down at the ports. I hired a scissor lift on Saturday so it was available for Sunday. My wife and I started at 6:30 am to cordon off the areas. We did probably one-fifth of it all in the whole day; she was the spotter and I was up on the boom lift washing down the buildings. 

After about eight or nine hours, we wrapped for the day, then returned the next morning to take the scissor lift and head to the next job. 

I often have to start early to work outside of opening hours, where we might need to clean the footpaths and driveways and for safety reasons can’t have customers walking through all that.

An important part of the job is having your paperwork for these big commercial jobs. Clients want to know you’ll do the job well, but also that you have all the safety stuff right — PPE, SWMS, insurances, rescue plans, tickets, MSDS for your chemicals  — on hand to show you’re going to do it the right way and have your bases covered.

Sometimes you’ll need to do additional training before a job. Often sites will need you to undergo an induction, at least. 

For example, one business I worked with yesterday required me to undergo a half-day workshop for using Elevated Work Platforms on their site. It was pretty basic stuff, but considering these can often be heavily regulated or secure areas, it’s important that all documentation is correct and procedures are followed.  

A lot of keeping work flowing is also about seeing opportunities. Today I’ve removed some line-marking in a factory, but they’ve got painters in for a move-out refurb. I said, “We can do the paint. I could redo the floor, I’ve done the grinding — but we can also help clean the office.” If you look for it there are opportunities for you and your family to be involved like that.


What makes your territory work so well for a Kleenit franchise?


Scott: Being on the coast has its advantages; the salt in the air tends to coat everything and needs to be washed at least bi-annually to mitigate corrosion. Being so close to large boat-building yards and maritime facilities is part of that. Of course, there are plenty of larger ‘prestige’ homes along WA’s coast that also reach out for the odd driveway, patio and pool-side paver clean. We still do some residential stuff, but I just don’t do as much as I used to, it’s more commercial now. 

“I’d say 70% of my work comes from a core commercial client base.”

I’d have a core of big organisations that I regularly deal with, pretty much ringing me daily. I’m busy now and I’ve been busy since I started. As long as you do the right thing, you’re prompt, available and you don’t make mistakes, that’s always the key.

On top of the pressure cleaning and industrial coating, I do a fair few oil spills as well; it’s not my favourite but they can be quite lucrative.

I keep myself fairly open. So, although I’m always busy, I can keep slotting new stuff in and get to it in a reasonable timeframe — so clients aren’t waiting weeks and weeks to get the job done. That’s key for me to keep clients happy and be realistic with prices.


Tell us a bit about quoting for work.


Scott: The main thing about quoting is to be honest with yourself about what it will take to do the job. I don’t really have a ‘system’ but I always work out a rough plan of how long it should take me. Generally speaking, 90% of the people will be fine with the price. No dramas.


The longer you do this, you get better and more realistic about how long it might take you to do it well; and how to value all those hours of improving your skills to do it faster or better than someone else.


A lot of my corporate clients now, they pretty much come to me with their own suggestion of rates. They’ve known me long enough to say, “Here’s a purchase order for $500 for graffiti removal.” It’s usually in the ballpark; we can always negotiate or sharpen the pencil. We’ve built enough rapport now where they’ll send us the work with a reasonable price-point and it takes the pressure off me.


Quotes won’t always win the work, and that’s okay. One service I offer is flake flooring installation. It’s a pretty intensive process that costs a bit — a fair few clients don’t end up going through with it on cost alone. But I’ve yet to do it for a client where we’ve gone ahead and they’re not gobsmacked by just how good the result is. They love it! 


I’d say to any new franchisee: I guarantee you’ll get better at it. You’ll get training, but every time you quote you’ll be learning whether you’re underselling yourself or overvaluing the need for the service by the work you do. 


Can you talk about a memorable moment with a particular client?


I don’t do them as often now, but I’ve worked on a few hoarder houses, where you might be up to your waist in burger wrappers and Uber Eats bags. Some at the bottom might have receipts showing they were bought seven or eight years ago and I’ve found uneaten burgers inside those bags that look brand new!


How do the Kleenit head office and general systems help your day-to-day operations?


Scott: There are so many ways, especially in connecting you with prospects. Kleenit uses SIMPRO Project Management Software to manage jobs coming through to franchisees and SWMS safety documentation. If you were to ‘go it alone’ I think the safety management stuff alone would be a real hurdle for someone without this model taking on the bigger jobs with bigger clients.

There’s a little bit of a learning curve for SIMPRO at the start, like with any software. But it’s actually pretty intuitive and takes the pressure off wondering where you need to be, and which quotes need to go to who. It’s all there on the iPad when I need it.

While some might go into business ‘out on their own’, with a franchise like Kleenit you feel supported on the journey. Yes, you’re responsible for doing the work well, and seeing more opportunities — but the organisation also markets us well so work is coming through pretty consistently. And once you have your first few recurring clients, and have a handle on the tools, it doesn’t seem quite so ‘scary’.


Do you have employees, subcontractors, or work solo?


Scott: When the job calls for it, there are a few people who I hire to subcontract, especially where there’s a tight timeframe. But most of the work I can manage on my own. 

Unlike a lot of the guys, I didn’t come into this with a whole lot of trade skills, beyond some ability with home handiwork. I’ve done training and upskilled as I’ve gone along, as well as training two new employees in how to operate with Kleenit — but they’ve since moved on.


Like I mentioned before, with an EWP, I might need someone as a spotter on the ground to ensure if anything goes badly (such as a fall, injury or heart attack). I occasionally involve the family in the operations of the business; my son or wife might work as a spotter or to assist in equipment set-up for the day.


How do you manage the work-life balance?


Me? Not very well! And that’s my choice — I want to do the work that’s there. My family might say I work too much, but it’s a good reason to get out of bed each day. 

It’s like when I was a private investigator: When the work comes in, you just keep going. If it keeps going, you keep working.

It’s really up to you if you want the work. It’s also within your control to press pause for a couple of days to get some time away. At the end of the day, it’s your business. You represent the Kleenit brand, but your real ‘bosses’ are your customers and conscience. If you serve them well, I don’t see any reason why you won’t be successful.


What’s something people should consider before they start their Kleenit franchise?


Scott: You need to be motivated. You really will get out what you put in. And if you want to get a feel for it, get in touch and come work for me for a bit to see what it’s like.

I’m 59, and I do start to feel it climbing onto boom lifts or walking on my knees to do the cutting-in for painting. But for someone in their thirties or forties, it’s the perfect active and interesting job. Very different to sitting in my car all day as a PI, sedentary.

As much as the work is very physical — and you have to be physically fit to work as much as I do — a big part of getting repeat clients and contracts is your attitude. 

The techniques and processes can be learned. You’ll be taught really well on those and pick up more as you go. But if your attitude is poor; you cut corners, or you can’t have a bit of a chat with a client when they’re on-site, this probably isn’t right for you.

One reason I get as much work as I do, I reckon, apart from doing the job the best I can — is I don’t argue. If you’re very aggressive, you can lose clients quite easily. You might think you’ve done the right thing but are told it’s unsatisfactory. Sometimes you just need to suck it up and rectify it. Everyone will be happier in the long run — including you when you get a referral or repeat work.

For me, it’s not about the money as much as it’s about participating in the community, being useful to others, and being proud of a job well done.  

I also think you’ve got to be cautious and conservative when taking on an unfamiliar job, but by the same token, you can’t be shy.

Lots of the people who are used to working for someone and the ‘guaranteed’ salary have a bit of a psychological roadblock to becoming their own boss; what it means to be a business owner. 

It can seem like a big expense initially, but the work flows in. You don’t need a lot or a big expensive ute. I’ve just upgraded mine, but most people just need to start out with a pretty basic ute and it’s easy to get a hot water high-pressure system on the back.

Invest back in your business as well. I always keep developing my equipment. I’ve got great hot water systems and big high-pressure units including backups. I’m surprised some of the guys don’t invest enough more back in the business, which is maybe why they still take on mostly the smaller jobs. 

You really only need to ask yourself: “Do I want to be in more control of where my life is going?” Some people can do all the research and still not press ‘go’ even if it all looks good. And don’t let the paperwork scare you.

A leap of faith is what’s needed. And more than anything, it’s faith in yourself.


If like Scott, you want to run your own business and are thinking of investing in a franchise, get in touch with our Kleenit franchise team today.