When The Maids needs new ideas, this franchise company knows there's always one place it can turn to for inspiration, brainstorming or testing: its top-performing franchisees. For years, Eagles Air, a group made up of 25 of The Maids' most successful franchises has acted as sounding board for the system and mentor for other franchisees. "We felt if these people were successful with our system, then we certainly could learn from them," explains Dan Bishop, president and founder of the residential cleaning franchise.

When The Maids introduced its mega-market franchise, based on a larger population than the traditional Maids franchise offering, it was Eagles Air franchisees who became an important resource for new investors. "When these [mega-market franchisees] came along, they were looking for models who had walked this path before," Bishop says. "Our Eagles Air group was more than willing to help, to share with them so they could accelerate their growth."

Eagles Air members are accessible to all prospective and current franchisees. But just because mentors are available in The Maids system, that doesn't guarantee the mentoring program is always a success. "Both parties have to absolutely be willing to work together, and sometimes people coming in don't necessarily want that advice," Bishop explains.

Besides acting as mentors, Eagles Air also comes up with and improves new programs for The Maids. Ten years ago, The Maids came up with the Healthy Touch program to make houses cleaner for all customers, particularly those with asthma and other breathing disorders. While the company was focusing on the health angle for customers, Eagles Air was looking to help improve employees' health as well. "They said, 'What about our employees? They come in and they have a Coke and a candy bar in the morning. How about having a breakfast for them?'" Bishop says. "We developed a healthy breakfast of cereal and fruit, so our 4,000 maids nationwide have breakfast in our offices before going to work. It's not something we necessarily make money at, but it helps draw good people to our franchisees."

Eagles Air members also reap special benefits themselves. Once or twice a year, these franchisees get together for a weekend retreat, where they have a brief idea meeting and spend the rest of the time hanging out and relaxing. This group has been on a cruise and a western horse ranch and visited other spots in the United States and Canada.

A certain sales level isn't the only requirement for inclusion in this franchisee group. In fact, dedication to the well-being of the entire system is the most important criterion. "They were mentors, willing to help other people coming along and to share their creative ideas," Bishop says. "Their overall demeanor showed they were interested in everybody being successful, not just themselves."

By bringing together the top performers in his system, Bishop knows The Maids in general is benefiting. "If people are willing to give their time, then the whole gets stronger," he says. "The company stays strong."