How to survive in business: V.I.P. celebrates 40 years

V.I.P. Home Services notches up its fourth decade in business this year. Bill Vis, the founder and director of the company, says at times he finds it very hard to believe it’s been that long since it all began. 

It all started with selling vacuum cleaners. “It was back in the 1970s and I was selling Electrolux vacuum cleaners door to door when I noticed that my latest potential customer who didn’t want to buy a vacuum cleaner had a lawn that badly needed mowing. I asked if I could mow it for them, and that’s how it all started,” says Bill Vis.  Before long, he was making more money mowing lawns on the weekend than his co-workers were selling vacuum cleaners. Vis started building up lawn mowing rounds and selling them on and realised this was a great opportunity. 

Australia’s first home services franchise company

In 1979, he established V.I.P. Home Services — the first home services franchise company in Australia. After lawn and garden care, more services followed and now V.I.P. offers a whole suite of home services including window cleaning, home cleaning, end of lease cleaning and commercial cleaning.

The company has won multiple awards and today remains a proud family business with Vis still at the helm and a second generation getting on board. 

Siblings Abby, Natasha and Matt all work at V.I.P. today but while the sisters are in the office, Matt loves the great outdoors. He took on a lawn and garden maintenance franchise in 2002 and says that being a ‘lawnie’ suits him just fine.   

Co-founder Rose Vis is still heavily involved with the business and remains on the V.I.P. Board today. 

Long-term staff and franchisees

Many of the V.I.P. staff members have been with the company for more than 10 years and quite a few of the franchisees have clocked up 20, even 30 plus years with the organisation.

“One of the keys to success is surrounding yourself with good people who have skills that you don’t have yourself. It makes a business that much stronger. I’m very thankful that I have such a wonderful team of great people who support me,” says Bill Vis.

He reflects on the changes over the 40 years: lawnmowers, the size of people’s homes and gardens, and perhaps most importantly, the lack of time people have to spend doing it all themselves.

“These days, you turn your head to look twice if you see someone mowing their own lawn! People just don’t have the time or the inclination. With how busy people are, and the technology we have today, it’s just so easy to outsource work around the home that you don’t want to do.”

Embracing the latest technologies

“Being the first in an industry is something to be proud of but it also comes with challenges. At V.I.P. we’ll continue to embrace the latest technologies, continue to innovate, and we remain committed to staying at the forefront of the home services industry,” declares Vis.

Back when the business started in 1979, there was no such thing as the internet, no websites or email or mobile phones. Franchisees had to visit the office to pick up their round of work for the week.

These days, everything is so much faster, and the company has taken full advantage of technology to improve marketing, work allocation and customer response times, with specially designed apps to make life easier and help raise franchisee profit margins. The app allows franchisees to quickly and easily access their lead information and respond to jobs at a much faster rate while out in the field. 

The change in technology has also made it much easier for a national company like V.I.P. to keep everyone communicating regularly; contact between the regional managers and franchisees can now be handled at the touch of a button, gone are the days when they needed to schedule in phone calls every night to keep up to date.

What would V.I.P. have done differently?

“Obviously it’s all worked out brilliantly however, looking back, I think we would have been better off consolidating the business in South Australia for a while longer before expanding interstate. That expansion put a lot of pressure on us, with interstate travel and being away from the family for long periods of time,” says Vis.

“Having said that, I’ve always been a fan of biting off more than I can chew and then chewing like crazy. Being too cautious in business means you could miss out on a fantastic opportunity because you don’t grab it before someone else does!

 “V.I.P. has been around a long time, we’re a trusted name and we’re very happy that our customers continue to choose us. After all, we couldn’t have got to 40 years without them,” he adds.

“Our aim when we began, way back in 1979, was to offer the very best service and treat every single customer as a V.I.P. — and that is one thing that will never, ever change.”