Fix-it franchise builds a wider business base

ROB O'NEILL
Last updated 05:00 30/06/2013
Hubby

Growth sector: Logan Sears says Hire a Hubby has changed its image to match its development.

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Maintenance franchise Hire a Hubby is getting serious.

Fifteen years after launching its playful brand to serve the DIY-challenged, franchisees are set to shed their trademark pink shirts and their equally hard-working brand in an image makeover.

The franchise's familiar base was in providing home-repair, renovation and maintenance services "from the front gate to the back fence, and everything in between".

But over time, the business has changed, taking on business clients such as Restaurant Brands and fashion retailer Max and providing scheduled maintenance and project management services for complex projects.

The franchisees also undertake government-subsidised home-insulation projects.

Those changes haven't just changed the brand, but have also broadened the base of potential franchisees, says Hire a Hubby chief executive Logan Sears.

Now, with many franchisees employing other tradespeople and subcontractors, communications and management skills are as important as handyman capabilities.

For example, Hire a Hubby's four Wellington franchisees together employ 30 staff plus contractors. That requires business-management skills, communications and team management skills, Sears says.

There have been two pronounced changes to the business since it was launched in New Zealand in 1998, he says.

First, Hire a Hubby used to be more of a reactionary business, springing into action to fix things that were broken. Now, the company is more about transformation than maintenance.

The most-requested job is landscape gardening, followed by decking and fencing, not simply fixing stuff that is broken.

Second, Hire a Hubby's national reach and network - it has 60 franchisees from the far north to Bluff - has attracted business clients.

"We've become the go-to for corporate organisations to maintain their properties," he says.

That has led the company to rethink its brand and image "to be seen for what we are now as opposed to what we used to be".

The franchise is therefore shifting from its original quirky image to a more commercial brand, uniform and vehicle livery to match its change in market positioning.

Sears describes the new uniform as a "business suit for the professional tradesman", who is engaged in professional maintenance as much as odd jobs.

The company's slogan is now: "From maintenance to makeovers".

Those market changes have also been a boon for franchisees. As they have moved up the value chain and filled their appointment book, income for franchisees is up 45 per cent in the past decade.

Both Hire a Hubby and Green Acres are No 1 in their respective home services and home-maintenance market categories, Sears says.

The brand changes are about backing that up and appealing to a full range of customers, including younger, urban and affluent demographics.

The branding change follows a similar project at Green Acres and used the same agency, &some, part of the Auckland-based Image Centre group.

Hire a Hubby receives more than 18,000 calls each year at its national call centre.

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Group sales are more than $8 million a year.

- Fairfax Media

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