How To Successfully Scale Your Business

By Patricia Canole | Photos Courtesy of Aaron T. Harper

There is an old saying, “Never trust a skinny chef.” While there are plenty of great chefs of all sizes, it offers some caution. In other words, you might not want to be so quick to trust one who doesn’t sample their own recipes.

The same can be true of a franchisor: Beware of one who has never scaled a successful franchise. In other words, the franchisor puts their money where their mouth is and backs up their model.

Aaron Harper, CEO of Rolling Suds Power Washing, is an expert in building relationships and developing brands through franchising. He learned management skills and how to build strong relationships while working in Hollywood’s film and television industry.

Harper achieved his franchising career as Senior Director of Franchise Development for Belfor Franchise Group. In that role, he was integral in rebuilding the infrastructure for training, marketing, and ongoing support for franchisees. While at Belfor, he sold and helped open over 400 territories across two brands in a few short years—an incredible feat—but it was not without its challenges and lessons learned. Successfully scaling a franchise quickly can be a double-edged sword, as rapid expansion can outpace the ability to fully support franchisees. Harper felt that to execute franchising the right way, he needed to build the system from scratch.

Recognizing the importance of ongoing franchisee support from beginning through massive scaling prompted his decision to venture independently and franchise Rolling Suds, a successful family-owned power washing company, with a renewed commitment to responsible practices and unwavering focus on the franchisees.

In just ten months, Harper will finish his first calendar year at Rolling Suds with more than 80 units sold across 22 states and is dedicated to educating people all over the world on responsible franchising.

We met with Aaron T. Harper to learn more about his journey in franchising and his plans in 2024.  

I know our readers would love to learn more about you. How did you get to where you are today?
It’s been quite a journey! My background started in film and television in California. While it was an exciting ride, I felt a calling for something more—a passion to empower others and simplify the path to business ownership. My transition into franchising began at Belfor Franchise Group, where I sold and opened over 400 territories across two brands in just a few years. This experience taught me a lot and fueled my desire to create something of my own, so I took a risk and set my sights on transforming Rolling Suds, a family-owned power-washing business, into a thriving franchise.

My approach to franchising is deeply rooted in Responsible Franchising—emphasizing transparent communication, ongoing comprehensive training and support, and tailored systems for our franchisees. I say it all the time: we are a Franchisee company. I’m also focused on adaptability and a solution-driven mindset in crucial areas like technology, scaling, and marketing support to keep Rolling Suds agile and responsive to the evolving needs of our franchisees. I am also very selective about our franchisee partnerships—I have turned down more than 35 prospective franchisees in 2023. Saying ‘no’ to potential partners who don’t fit our business model or culture is key. Franchising is only successful if everyone works within the parameters of the same system and comes together to make the system work and be profitable. 

By focusing on Responsible Franchising, we’ve seen incredible success. In just ten months, we will finish our first calendar year with 84 units sold across 22 states, and I believe we’re changing the landscape of business ownership in the world of franchising. 

What experiences, failures, setbacks/challenges have been most instrumental in your growth?
Growth often comes from a mix of experiences, failures, and challenges. In the film and TV days, I learned the ropes of a cutthroat industry where everyone was in it for themselves. I wanted to be in an industry and role that helped other people. Moving into franchising, my time at Belfor taught me about scaling quickly, but it also came with its fair share of challenges. We hit the gas on opening territories, thinking faster was better, but opening too many too quickly meant we couldn’t support our franchisees the way they needed, and that hit me hard. But it was also the best kind of wake-up call. That setback was the catalyst for my deep dive into Responsible Franchising. Transparent communication became my north star, and always putting the franchisee first became the backbone of our strategy.

Launching Rolling Suds into a franchise wasn’t all smooth sailing either. There were many times I had to pivot, adapt, and face the reality that only some ideas worked as planned. But each stumble taught me something crucial, and now I am thrilled to be able to share that knowledge with other emerging franchise brands around the world. 

In your experience, what are the critical steps to growing and scaling your business?
Navigating the business growth journey has been quite an adventure. Starting with the basics—mission, values, a solid business model—that is just the groundwork. Crafting a blueprint to hit those goals is the strategic roadmap. And let’s face it, none of this happens without a powerhouse team—the real rockstars of any successful business.  

Flexibility is also essential. Things change, and being able to roll with the punches is crucial. Tech is another vital aspect, making everything run smoother while putting systems in place that allow us to work smarter while maximizing profits. We will find another solution if something is challenging for our team, franchisees, or customers. » 

Teaming up with the right investment partners has been another game-changer, such as franchising veteran David Barr (we recently announced a second round of investment from Barr in November 2023). And responsible scaling is not just about getting bigger; it’s about doing it correctly.

What are the qualities of an effective leader?
Effective leadership is more than having all the answers but the skills to navigate uncertainty confidently and inspire collective success. Firstly, a leader must possess a visionary outlook and be able to articulate a clear path forward for the team. An effective leader must also be decisive and make tough calls even when all the facts aren’t known. 

Empathy, an often-underestimated quality, plays a crucial role in understanding and connecting with team members while fostering a positive work culture. Resilience is another non-negotiable, as leadership invariably encounters challenges that demand a steadfast response. Strategic thinking is another critical component involving anticipating challenges and capitalizing on opportunities while playing the long game. 

Accountability is integral, with influential leaders taking responsibility for decisions, whether they lead to success or setbacks. True leaders inspire, creating a shared sense of purpose and motivation among team members. Lastly, a commitment to continuous learning ensures leaders remain adaptable and informed in an ever-evolving landscape.

What is your best advice on building and leading teams?
In my experience, referrals from mentors and peers within the industry are where I have met rockstar employees. Leveraging relationships, I already have is much more time efficient, and the results are better.

Once the team is built, optimization is paramount, ensuring transparency, clarity, and minimization of misunderstandings. We utilize the EOS Traction system, including L10 meetings, rocks, scorecards, etc., to ensure we all work towards the same goals together. 

Fostering a positive work culture is also crucial. Encouraging collaboration, celebrating achievements, and creating an environment where team members feel valued contribute to a thriving workplace. 

Leading by example is non-negotiable; embodying the values and work ethic expected from the team sets the tone. It is acknowledging and learning from mistakes, celebrating successes, and maintaining genuine connections with the team round out the principles. 

Building and leading teams is a dynamic journey, and these principles have helped me foster a collaborative, high-performing environment. This team not only works well together but thrives individually. 

What are your three best tips applicable to entrepreneurs and business leaders?
· Build Your Network: Attending industry conferences, establishing mentoring relationships, and engaging in social group chats are all active ways to grow your network and will serve you well as you encounter challenges and have questions.

· Cultivate Resilience in the Face of Setbacks:
Entrepreneurship is a rollercoaster with inevitable highs and lows. Building Resilience to navigate setbacks is critical. Embrace failures as learning opportunities, bounce back quickly, and maintain a forward-looking perspective. Resilience helps you get through difficult times and fosters a culture of perseverance within your team.

· Foster a Culture of Innovation: Innovation is a survival tool in a rapidly changing business landscape. Foster an environment where team members feel empowered to share and implement innovative ideas. Staying ahead often involves thinking beyond the conventional and embracing calculated risks.

· Share content across as many social channels as possible. You will meet amazing people who will impact your professional journey and vice versa. 

What is the single best piece of advice you have ever received?
The most impactful advice I’ve received, a guiding principle in my journey, is this: “Surround yourself with the right people.” This has been true at every career stage and even outside my professional life. The “right people” challenge me to do better, do more, and try harder, and they are there when I have questions or encounter challenges. We can lean on each other and learn from one another. I would pass this advice on to anyone.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
My life’s journey has been a series of diverse experiences that have significantly influenced my leadership style. The demands of film/TV and franchise industries taught me to navigate uncertainties with creativity and composure—a skill set that later defined my leadership approach.

The transition to the franchising arena, particularly during my tenure at Patch Boys, was a transformative period. While successfully opening over 400 territories highlighted growth potential, it also unveiled the importance of responsible practices. 

In leading the transformation of Rolling Suds into a thriving franchise, my commitment to Responsible Franchising took center stage. Beyond being a strategic choice, it became a core belief that shaping a successful franchise involves selecting the right partners and prioritizing their individual growth and well-being.  

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure as CEO?
My previous employment experiences have played a pivotal role in shaping my tenure as CEO of Rolling Suds. The challenges and fast-paced nature of the film/TV and franchise industries instilled in me a deep sense of Resilience and adaptability—qualities essential in the leadership role I now occupy. The ability to navigate the uncertainties of those environments has proven invaluable in the dynamic landscape of business ownership. 

Furthermore, my time at Belfor, where I opened over 400 territories quickly, provided hands-on experience in scaling operations and managing an extensive network. However, it also taught me crucial lessons, notably the importance of responsible growth. The setback of opening territories too quickly without adequate support became a guiding principle, leading me to champion Responsible Franchising with a focus on tailored solutions and transparent communication. 

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
 Maintaining a work-life balance is paramount for me. Spending quality time with my family, including my wife and two children, is non-negotiable. At 6 pm daily, I shut down the computer, and my team knows I am unavailable until my kids are asleep. We have a quality family dinner, do baths, read stories, and ensure uninterrupted family time every day.

I’ve also found rejuvenation in activities like triathlons. It’s not just about physical health but also mental well-being. Running provides a space for introspection and a welcome break from the demands of a CEO role. 

Attending industry conferences is another dimension of this balance. While it involves professional engagement, these events often offer opportunities to combine work and leisure. Exploring new places and meeting like-minded professionals not only enriches my business perspective but also serves to unwind with peers. 

The key is conscious prioritization and effective time management. Balancing the demands of a CEO position with personal and family life requires intentionality. By cherishing family moments, incorporating wellness activities, and infusing a bit of leisure into work-related travels, I strive to lead a successful business and cultivate a fulfilling personal life. It’s an ongoing journey; finding that balance is as much an art as a commitment. 

What do you want Rolling Suds Power Washing to accomplish in 2024?
In 2024, I envision Rolling Suds achieving significant milestones that align with our commitment to responsible growth and exceptional franchise support and extending into a broader role as a top franchising educator (both online via social media and offline at crucial industry conferences). Here are some of my fundamental aspirations: 

· We are continuing our measured and sustainable expansion, focusing on quality over quantity. This involves strategically entering new markets while ensuring existing franchisees receive the necessary support for ongoing success.
· Building on our foundation of Responsible Franchising, I intend to introduce and refine support programs that cater to the evolving needs of our franchisees. This includes training, marketing support, technological solutions, and a robust educational component to empower our franchisees with unique knowledge and insights.
· Strengthening our connection with the communities we serve is a priority. I envision Rolling Suds actively participating in local initiatives, fostering a positive impact, and reinforcing our commitment to being more than just a business but a valued community partner. This will also be shared in real-time through our online presence.
· Staying at the forefront of industry trends, I plan to explore and implement innovative power-washing techniques and technologies, ensuring that Rolling Suds remains a leader.  

How do you spend your days off?
Having two energetic kids under three years old is a blessing and a time-grabber. Any time I have off is spent with my amazing wife, who I’d be nothing without, my kids, and the occasional triathlon! 

For more information on Aaron T. Harper and Rolling Suds Power Washing,
visit rollingsudspowerwashing.com