CEO Interview - How Ismael Martinez grew 3 home service brands under 3 yrs

Ismael Martinez has experienced success by following his curiosity and being resourceful for the past decade. As a result, he now owns three different companies backed by abundant knowledge and experience.

ย min. read
March 7, 2023

๐Ÿ“น Watch the whole interview here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TgltNRJajz8

- Follow Ismael:
๐Ÿ‘‰ https://zebracleaning.com/

โ€Panda Pest Control:
๐Ÿ‘‰ https://hellopandapest.com/

โ€Ismael's Linked in page:
๐Ÿ‘‰ https://www.linkedin.com/in/ismael-martinez-30080076/

Interview Transcript:

Juan Chaparro (00:05):

Man. Well, thank you for, for coming. This is really, uh, um, I don't know. I came across your brand somewhere online and, and I really like what you're doing. I think, uh, these brands that you're creating for home services are really different and, uh, kind of this interview. So I'm trying to reach, you know, people that are doing different things, that are doing cool companies that are innovating in this space. because home services is always kind of been boring and I see a lot of new things going on. So I wanted to get started with the first question. You tell me how you got started in home cleaning.

Ismael Martinez (00:43):

So, I, I spent, uh, the first 10 years of my professional career, professional life, I was doing pest control. Uh, okay. And I spent 10 years with a very large company doing, uh, on the sales side most of it. So, uh, on my 10th year I started to part waste and then become an entrepreneur, do my own thing. And, uh, I had a very harsh non-compete that I couldn't break, or this company is known for, uh, uh, you know, being very threatening to employees that live and break their are non-compete. Okay. So what I did while my non-compete was up, I just, um, I just, all I know is home services. I don't know much of any other industry. So I picked up home cleaning. I started to see that there is a big gap. Uh, it it's a very underserved industry and a very underserved sector. So I started to think of, of ways I could, you know, improve some of, uh, the traditional ways of doing home cleaning. And I just literally for it, I decided one day and I think a month later I had started my company. Wow. It was, it was, it was a fast transition. And, and I essentially, I just jump out of the plane and then build the, uh, the parachute on the way down <laugh>. So I have no

Juan Chaparro (01:54):

Previous, that's the best way sometimes to get started,

Ismael Martinez (01:57):

I think. So I, and that was for me, definitely was. Um, so I literally just got, got started. Um, I still remember the first clean we ever did. The first client we ever did. We had no clue what the heck we were doing <laugh>. Um, and we figured it out quick. And then from there, you know, the, the focus always has been, you know, improving systems, processes, our marketing, our branding. But yeah, the beginning we were just brand new to the industry, brand new to the space.

Juan Chaparro (02:25):

Wow. Definitely. Yes. I kind of got started this, you know, out of just having number more options. I, that's how I started my cleaning company too. Now let's chat about those flaws or those improvements that you noticed the industry lacked. What was the first thing that caught your attentions? Like, I can do that better?

Ismael Martinez (02:47):

Well, I realized, um, so before we, I launched the business, I spent, I don't know, I would say between four to maybe six weeks doing some research on it. Yeah. So I, I started meeting with home cleaners, with home cleaning management, with home cleaning owners, and I realized that the majority of them are not business people. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And that's, that's still the reality to this day. I probably already met two, 300 home cleaning business owners and commercial cleaning owners. Right. And the majority of them are not business people. They don't, they don't have a very, uh, strong sense of business and, and of business foundation. Right. So I realized that if all of, I mean, here in Arizona there is a competitor of mine. She's just old school. She does everything cash. No. Oh my gosh. No software and lady is like pulling $120K a month.

(03:36):

Gosh. You know, I was like, Hey, this is that you can run like that much revenue Yeah. Out like in a pen, right? So I realized that if there's all these business owners that can run a somewhat profitable and somewhat successful business with, you know, these very old practices, if I could get some of my learning from marketing, from using the internet marketing, branding, social media, crm, improving, um, just some of the things that you learned over the years about operations, right? I figure it could be very, very, um, disrupting in the industry if I can just come in and use all of these more sharp tools and sharp knowledge. Um, right. And, and yeah. I mean, lo and behold, I think, I think it did work. Um, that's what kind of gave us a jumpstart. That, that we had a pretty good sense of, uh, of business practices.

Juan Chaparro (04:26):

Definitely. I, I believe that what you're saying is completely true because I see a lot of, still 2023, a lot of people still running, uh, with a book and a pen, the whole business. And they're desperate. They, have revenue coming in, but their operations is a chaos. And the owner is at the point of almost breaking, uh, just too much stress, too much chaos. Now, um, tell me about your brands. I know you have Zebra and Panda. Uh, how do you came up with these concepts and kind of what are you taking these, uh, brands? And I'm sure you probably have a third brand in mind, <laugh> with animals. Why don't you tell me about your branding strategy? Cuz I really like it.

Ismael Martinez (05:13):

Well, so I started doing some research on, uh, cobecausetition, right? And I started to real, and, and my background. So I went to school for marketing. Um, although I, I, um, I mean it was, it was a good foundation, but most of the marketing, effective marketing that I've learned, I learned it on the field doing things right. So, uh, I, I think I had a pretty good understanding of it. And, and when I was doing my research, I realized that, I don't know, I would say probably 90% of the companies, they are number one and just right off the bat floor in, in, uh, you know, uh, weakness is their brand, their brand, their brand, their name. Um, I, I pull out, you know, about a hundred competitors in the Phoenix area, which is where I'm at in Arizona. Yeah. Uh, and most of the cleaning companies are Rosa's cleaning, Maria's cleaning, uh, base home cleaning, Jennifer's home cleaning, uh, perfect home cleaning, uh, all of these very generic names. Right. Net is like, at some point the business needed to pivot. They can't do it because they're just so confined to a box of home cleaning. Right. They're so confined. Uh, while it's so important to have a brand and the recognition that you are a local business, you also don't want to be the one person attached to your business because the second Rosa grows and she's no longer in the field. Now the customers are gonna kick back and say, whoa, I hired Rosa's cleaning because I wanted to develop a relationship with Rosa

Juan Chaparro (06:37):

<laugh>. Yeah.

Ismael Martinez (06:38):

So I, I I, I started to analyze that and, and I said, I don't wanna put myself in a position to where people hire Ishmael's cleaning because they want to meet and interact and have trust with Ishmael. I want them to be trusting of my brand and of the business of my team. So using some of my branding background, I, I wanted a name that was short, less than five letters.

Juan Chaparro (06:59):

Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, uh,

Ismael Martinez (07:02):

I started with a very low budget. So I, I wanted to be efficient with even my printing materials and my uniforms. So I chose a black and white color. I can always get uniforms, I can always get cards, I can always get card wraps because my name, my colors are so generic. In fact, half of my fleet of cars are white, the other half are black. I walk into a dealership. If they don't have enough white cars, I'll take the, the rest of them black. Right. So it makes it so,

Juan Chaparro (07:25):

So easy. Yeah.

Ismael Martinez (07:27):

Uh, I have a competitor that, uh, talking to him, he's spending about $3,000 on his rap because his color is so custom. It's so, it's a beautiful color, but it's just so hard to find it. Uh, mikes cost me $250 bucks. Right. <laugh>. Cause it's one sticker on the side of the car and it's so easy. Um, I, God said, yeah. Um, and, and I thought of the zebra because a zebra, no matter your, uh, ethnicity, no matter your age, no matter your gender, no matter your political views, the second you word zebra, you don't think of the word, you think of the animal and you don't actually think of the animal. You think of the print. The print. So if, if a car drives by in front of you and it says, uh, five star premium cleaning services, like you will never remember that name.

Juan Chaparro (08:08):

Never.

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Ismael Martinez (08:09):

If a car drives by and says Zebra cleaning, you can never see the car again. And you will always remember that. So that's helped us a lot with brand recognition. So in fact, all of our branding is pretty simple. It's just, uh, zebra and everywhere. If you look at our billboards, if you look at our flyers, our cars, our vans, um, everything is just simple zebra cleaning and, um, yeah.

Juan Chaparro (08:30):

It's unforgettable. It's like a purple cow, just

Ismael Martinez (08:33):

Correct.

Juan Chaparro (08:33):

You always remember it

Ismael Martinez (08:35):

<laugh>. Yeah. Yeah. It's, it's really hard. And, and when you think of it, you don't even have to think of the name. You just think of the image. Right. That's true. So, uh, there's people that have been here in the valley for way longer than us that are, um, they may argue that they're way better than us at the job, but nobody can find them on the internet. Nobody can remember who they are. So that is the one thing that we are very, very powerful here in Phoenix that we uh, we're easy to remember, we're easy to reach. You just type zebra and then we pop right up.

Juan Chaparro (09:02):

There you go. That's the way to do it. And, um, that's why I said, uh, I need to talk to you because I see a lot of flaw in the market and, uh, of just those ro those Rosas cleaning and all those cleanings are just going nowhere.

Ismael Martinez (09:17):

And that's how I build the other businesses. So our commercial arm of our business is Orca Cleaning. So I wanted to create a business that, like we grew our commercial division organically from all of our residential customers that had businesses. They started hiring us for it. So I wanted to make sure that if in the event that, uh, we underperform in a residential service, we didn't lose the commercial account.

Juan Chaparro (09:41):

Oh wow.

Ismael Martinez (09:41):

So I, uh, that's smart. A brand that unifies the companies, but that also gives them individuality. So if somebody's not very happy with my commercial service, they don't cancel my pest control. If they're not happy with my pest control, something happens because mistakes happen. Uh, they don't. Also my residential cleaning. Right. So we, we design 'em to be in unison because they're all black and white animals. The mother comes

Juan Chaparro (10:02):

In <laugh>. Yeah, I noticed that. Beautiful.

Ismael Martinez (10:05):

Yeah. So orcas are black and white. Pandas are black, black and white. Zebra are black and white. So they're pretty uniform. But also they're very individual and they're very, they have their own unique identity. They have their unique, um, presence. And we let them grow individually, but they also help each other. They fuel each other's, uh, pool of,

Juan Chaparro (10:23):

Of customer. Oh, totally. That was my next question is like, how, how do you handle all these three operations? Is the kind of same location managing everyone or different offices with different teams running, operating, how, how that works behind the scenes?

Ismael Martinez (10:39):

So we have probably one of the best investments we did last year was hire a, uh, a person that is, I mean, top-notch when it comes to customer service in, in the back end of the business. So we outsource that. We have a team of people that, uh, handles that for us in Mexico.

Juan Chaparro (10:55):

Okay. People

Ismael Martinez (10:56):

You call and then they pick up the phone in Mexico and they put it on the route for us here in the US. And then every business, every company has a service manager mm-hmm. <affirmative>, uh, slash scheduling manager. So we were able to downsize the number of people we have in-house. And then they run pretty much all the billing, sales, uh, scheduling, customer service. Uh, I think that's about it. Yeah. So that's what Mexico does. And, uh, awesome. Our guy, he's the chief of customer service, Jeremy. He oversees them down there in Mexico. Right. And then with an operations manager in each one of our businesses and each one of our locations, we have a location in Utah as well.

Juan Chaparro (11:34):

Oh wow. Amazing. Yeah. Beautiful. Um, now tell me about how do you, how does your hiring and recruiting process works for these brands?

Ismael Martinez (11:46):

Yeah. We, I mean we've gone, we go, it's ups and downs. I think that's the, the hardest part of our industry. Yeah. Um, we've gone from literally hunting them down, uh, around strip malls, <laugh>, um, to hiring platforms like Indeed and, oh, I can't remember the other, I I don't do the hiring anymore, so I don't know what platforms they use, but we do some postings online. But, um, with the current employee base that we have, we have found that the best way to do it is referrals. We give 'em a bonus to go and then we send them to hunt the next recruit.

Juan Chaparro (12:23):

Okay. Yes.

Ismael Martinez (12:24):

And it, it's great because then we're hiring a new employee. It's a new hire that immediately has a friend within our business. Totally. So they're welcome from day one, even if, you know, because personalities are different. We try to train our, uh, our management to be personable and for people to like them and feel comfortable with them. But at some point we fail because people have different personalities. But the beautiful thing is if we are able to get a, a current employee to bring one of their friends, to be an employee, that gives us an immediate, uh, retention tool.

Juan Chaparro (12:53):

Totally.

Ismael Martinez (12:55):

And, uh, it's so interesting, just, uh, what was it? I think the end of quarter three of last year, we were struggling for people. Uh, we were ramping up. That's the business time of the year, quarter four, uh, for us. Yeah. And we were trying to get people in, which just couldn't, we spent about $1,400 in, uh, online postings. And nothing, literally nothing. Bunch of interviews came through, but we just couldn't lock anybody down and must have been something we did wrong. But, um, on our weekly meeting we told our team, Hey guys, if, if you bring a friend, we'll give you guys, uh, a date night for you and your friend. You can go out to dinner, you can go in, you can go to top golf, you can go grab some things, whatever you wanna do, and you will not believe it. Within three days we had si six new hires.

Juan Chaparro (13:38):

Wow. At, at a minimum cost

Ismael Martinez (13:41):

<laugh>. Yeah. It cost us way less. Like I can totally, I was trying to set a budget for their night out and I was like, you know what, just go do what? I just wasted $1,400 in online postings.

Juan Chaparro (13:51):

Yeah.

Ismael Martinez (13:52):

I mean, you, you're gonna laugh at this. Like, there were, you know, employees that came back with a receipt for $24 <laugh> we reimbursed. And I was like, what do you do? It's like, oh, we just wanna grab a beer <laugh>. That was a pretty cheap Right. So, uh,

Juan Chaparro (14:07):

Totally.

Ismael Martinez (14:08):

That's worked really well for us. And, uh, so far we don't have a, a, a more comprehensive system behind

Juan Chaparro (14:16):

It. Okay, cool. Uh, yeah, I do the same. I pay 'em about $400 per referral, uh, when somebody's 20, 120 days working with us. Okay. I found that that number is good. Makes sense. Uh, enough to motivate them. And below that I found it hard for them to really make the extra effort of kind of recruit for you. Yeah. Uh, but I haven't thought on that day, night out. I think that's a genius idea because you know, it's an experience versus cash and people love experiences. Right.

Ismael Martinez (14:47):

And I've learned over the years, uh, managing that, um, well, money's super important and people want money. Sure. Uh, people like to do things that are different. So going out to eat, um, you know, doing a trip, things like that always, always, uh, resonate with people.

Juan Chaparro (15:04):

Definitely. Cool. I love that. Um, tell me about your, uh, retention strategies. How do you keep people working for you, being loyal to you? The longer you can, uh, for these different brands because you attract people to do pest control is a different than somebody that's cleaning houses than somebody that's doing janitorial work at an office, three different type of people. But I'm sure you have some strategies, things you've done to retain those people to kind of keep growing these brands.

Ismael Martinez (15:40):

Yeah. Look, I, I'll, I'll tell you kind of where, where my mindset comes from. When I worked with the control company, it's, uh, about a $70-75 million pest control company. Oh wow. For a, for a long time while I was there, they were outstanding at recruiting top-notch talent. I mean, just, you would not believe you can see that quality, the caliber of guys in the same table, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative> one was so interesting and, and so, uh, just so damaging to those great individuals is that the company was incredibly toxic and they were just micromanaging people and they had you by the neck. And we had more meetings, uh, for these stupid reports than actually productive time. Right. More, uh, managing numbers than actually results. So you had these great caliber guys that will come in, they were excited to get to work, but they couldn't get to work and use their talents because we were just micromanaged and it was just a toxic environment where numbers were needed to be reported mm-hmm. <affirmative>

(16:41):

Where needed to happen. Where you had, it was just, it was incredibly painful. Now, when I step away from the business, I always kept my relationships there and, and kept an eye on it. And, uh, by now, like the majority of those great guys, they're, they all have gone. They're just, they left the business. Right. Um, so one of the things that we've gone at CBRA is we try to empower them and give them as much trust and, and bug them the least amount we learned that if, if we just let 'em do their thing, especially with ladies, one thing that it was new for me mm-hmm. <affirmative> and it's great, is working with women. Yeah. Women are so resourceful. You don't need to micromanage women. They, they know how to do this the majority of the times. They know how to do it better than I do. So if I am too focused on micromanaging them and telling them what, what to do, they get sick of it, feel, uh, trapped. And I'm actually prohibiting them from becoming creative and being problem solvers, which they naturally are. You know, the majority of my

Juan Chaparro (17:34):

Definitely are.

Ismael Martinez (17:35):

Yeah. So one thing that we, that we've done is we give them a ton of trust. They come in and after three, four days of training, they're on their own. We don't have to micromanage them, we don't have to be watching, you know, what they do or how they do it. It, and what we do is we have serious conversations when there is an offense, um, you know, either a lack of quality, lack of consistency, lack of reliability. We sit down with them and we say, we, we don't want to micromanage you. You don't want to be micromanaged either. So Right. Either you change that and you manage yourself and, and you use the trust that we've given you or it's just not gonna work out. We're gonna get tired of you, you're gonna get tired of us. It's not gonna be a good relationship. So, I mean, we are a three year old business and we have employees that have been with us for two and a half years.

Juan Chaparro (18:20):

That's amazing. And that is usually more than the average now, which is Oh yeah. The turnover is very high. So I'm happy if I can get nowadays after the pandemic two years is, it's pretty good. <laugh>.

Ismael Martinez (18:37):

So which, which you think, uh, you know, I go back and, and look in time and gosh, if I can show you a, a timeline, the first year was full of, uh, inexperience. So we were learning year two. Yeah. It was, I thought I knew and I didn't know anything. So I had so many mistakes in year two. I, I just, I'm so grateful for our employees in year two because it was a circus. I mean, every day I would come and try to change things and uh, I was no longer in the field, so I kind of forgot what it is to be day in and day out and the trenches. Um, right. So year three things started to level up a little bit better. I got better management some help, and our, um, employees really embraced their freedom. So we, we really don't manage them.

(19:19):

And, um, we have employees that have left because of a more appealing offer and they come right back within two months saying, oh, we hate it over there. They, we we're cracking a whip on us and, and watching everything we do and requesting so much. And with you, we just show up, we get our work done and we go home. And, and I realized that our demographic, uh, female and then most of them moms, they want to come, wanna take their job done. They, they take pride in getting their job done Right. And they just wanna go home to their families. So we've tried to, uh, keep up the lifestyle for them and it seems to be working so far.

Juan Chaparro (19:55):

Yeah. Amazing. Love that. Cool. Um, what about any favorite podcasts or blog or somebody that you're following online? What kind of, you know, content you consume in the home service space?

Ismael Martinez (20:12):

I have a few. Um, I'm in a, in a men's coaching group. Um, it's called, uh, we are the today, so the leader of that Jimmy Rex, that's a podcast that I follow on a weekly basis. Uh, I'm also part of RT Syndicate with, uh, Andy Fela and Ed Mylet. So I follow both of their podcasts pretty closely.

Juan Chaparro (20:33):

Okay. And

Ismael Martinez (20:34):

Then, um, I think the other other one that i, I listen to regularly is, uh, the Real Business Owners podcast. So those three, three podcasts are four podcasts. Those, those are probably my most, uh, listen to.

Juan Chaparro (20:49):

Okay. Awesome. And what plans do you have for the next few years? I mean, do you want to take these franchises, you wanna just keep operating, you know, the locations yourself? What do you have in plans for the next years for your brands?

Ismael Martinez (21:06):

Um, right now we are, um, this year we we're gonna start, start making a little pivot, that transition from residential cleaning to focus more on the multi-family space. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, uh, our carpet cleaning. So about what, 10 months ago we started the carpet cleaning and tile cleaning arm of our business. Right. And we opened a new location in Utah and Utah's killing it. They are just, I dare to say, and of course I'm a little biased. We are the best in the solid area. I mean the, the, my business partner up there, he's killing it. There's nobody better. Um, so we wanna use his expertise in the operational side, uh, combined with some of my marketing and, and see if we can take the carpet cleaning to more states. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> more. We have a couple cities in mind and then we want to start taking our efforts from home cleaning. We'll keep it probably about the size that we have it at right now. Right. Growth efforts into the multifamily.

Juan Chaparro (22:00):

So that's a smart Yeah. You're like binding bulk pretty much.

Ismael Martinez (22:03):

Correct. And uh, and it's uh, it's recession proof. Um, you know, yeah. Apartments never stop working. Uh, we've noticed as the economy is, uh, having some challenges, we, we start getting phone calls from clients ca canceling their service, keeping a service. Yeah. And that's when it kind of set off of a bunch of alarms for me that I don't want to depend on economy. I don't want to be depending on people's income or if they go let go from their jobs. I wanna have the independence to, uh, to grow in a more secure, um, sector, which the multifamily is a great, great place to go.

Juan Chaparro (22:35):

Definitely. Perfect, man. And last question. Where can people find about you, your brands? Uh, can they follow you somewhere online?

Ismael Martinez (22:43):

Yeah, I mean, Instagram is where we, uh, where we make the most noise. Um, Instagram is@zebra.cleaning, that's for our cleaning business. And then for our pest control company is at Panda Pest Control. And that's essentially where people can find us, where they can see some of the, the stuff we do, some of the fun videos we upload there. Some of the, we like to do some photo shoots every now and then and keep everybody involved and, and seeing online. So that's usually where you can find us on website, zebra cleaning.com, panda pest control.com. Um, and then they, people can find me on LinkedIn. Um, I don't personally do social media. Um, okay. I don't have Instagram, I don't do Facebook, but uh, they can find me on LinkedIn, Martinez. And uh, yeah, I'm always happy to connect and to get in touch with other business owners, uh, people thinking about starting a business. Yeah,

Juan Chaparro (23:33):

Definitely have to, uh, check your, your, I'm gonna check your social media for your companies, because I really like what you're doing and you know, I've been in this, uh, for 18 years and I never seen somebody in three years got three different brands. Uh, it's so different, so different services. So I really admire what you're doing and I appreciate you for coming today. And thank you so much Ismail, for, for this time. It was amazing. Awesome. Well, let's, let's chat soon again. Yeah. Thank you sir Wan talk soon. Thanks. See you chat. Bye.

Speaker 3 (24:10):

Bye. Hey, don't forget to like, subscribe and comment on this video and tell us what was your biggest takeaway of the interview.

Also, follow us on Instagram at Pipehire HRM and join our Facebook group so you can learn how to hire, manage, and retain more employees in your home service business.

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