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Clean House

Getting laid off from his corporate job gave this franchisee a fresh start.

After Gary Hanson, now 56, got laid off from his corporate position in 2003, he, his wife, Susan, and his son, John, now 54 and 27, respectively, wanted to do a spot of cleaning. Though they're hard at work, they're not scrubbing floors or washing windows. They're running their very own house-cleaning franchise, The Maids Home Services, which they opened in February 2004.

Gary left his corporate job with sufficient savings, 25 years of experience in operations and the motivation to apply that experience to something of his own. And he says he knew exactly what was most important when it came to running his franchise: "getting the right people to the right houses at the right time and getting the job done [promptly]." Gary points out that buying a franchise like The Maids is a big organizational undertaking that requires good leadership.

When the Hansons are stumped by challenges such as finding and keeping good employees, they turn to The Maids' online bulletin board, where franchisees post helpful tips. Inspired by these tips, the Hansons now hire their employees on a part-time basis initially, and they display their employees' accomplishments and areas for improvement on a wall in their Kansas City, Missouri, office.

With Gary's previous experience, Susan's attention to customer service and sales, and John's expertise in marketing and finance, they run a squeaky-clean operation with more than 20 employees. Sales reached $400,000 in their first year; they plan to hit $600,000 in their second. Though they make a great team, nothing's perfect. "The nice thing is we have something to talk about all the time now," says Gary. "The bad news is that's all we ever talk about."

This story appears in the August 2005 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »