Brendan Green has grown Hire A Hubby into a 301-strong franchise operation. Photo: Dallas Kilponen
It was one of those throwaway lines.
A man was doing some handy work around the home as his wife and friend watched on.
All of a sudden the friend piped up and said "Gosh, he's handy. Can I hire your hubby?"
So goes the story of how handyman franchise Hire A Hubby got its name.
"The consequence of that little throwaway line was the start of what has become a business that has grown to a fairly significant size," chief executive Brendan Green says.
When Mr Green purchased the company in 1997 it had been running for a year, had just one franchise and the majority of work involved cutting lawns and tending gardens.
Hire a Hubby now has 301 franchises in total, with a $50 million annual turnover in Australia alone. It also has 20 franchises in Britain and another 100 franchises in New Zealand, with tradespeople performing everything from hanging picture frames to painting, tiling and remodelling bathrooms, decks and backyards.
Service industries such as Hire a Hubby are experiencing considerable growth as Australians work longer hours, make more money and have less free time. Mr Green says as our lifestyles change, a growing number of people are outsourcing household chores. He says the franchise has an average annual turnover increase of 30 per cent.
"Australians work as hard as anyone in the world in terms of the number of hours per week. The earning rates are a lot higher than they were a while ago. Because we are time poor and cash rich, the small amount of personal time we have, we want to keep for personal stuff."
He says a shortage of people with handyman skills has also boosted business. Research conducted by the franchise shows that Australians are less handy around the home than ever before.
"Tradesmen are not coming through in the numbers they did in the baby boomer era. If you have a look at statistics, post-baby boomer era, there's only 20 per cent of the trade course intake at TAFEs around the country as there was 20 years ago. There's a shortage of people with this skills, so they call and get someone else to do it for them."
Before buying the national franchise, Mr Green worked in debt collection and had a lawn mowing business, which he started when he was 19.
When he entered people's homes to cut their lawns he was often asked to perform other tasks.
"I saw a pattern emerging with people saying, 'while you are here can you clean the gutters, cut the tree down, take the rubbish to the tip'," he says.
He says Hire a Hubby is almost recession-proof because it picks up extra work from the rental market when the economy is weak. Franchises also pick up work when the housing market is struggling and people decide to renovate rather than move house.
"If the rental market is strong, we will pick up work there. If it's a buoyant economy and people are spending on home gentrification we will pick it up there. It's a horses for courses thing."
The company uses valuable census data to understand its customers and sell franchises around the country. It pays particular interest to census data about the age of the population, the structure of households, whether an area has a large number of blue collar workers and what percentage of houses are owned and rented.
"The census puts a sensible estimate on what we think a franchisee might earn ... The correlation of all that type of information will tell us the propensity to spend on the services we have to offer."