From reducing costs to taking advantage of more efficient procedures, businesses are outsourcing in-office cleaning services for a growing number of reasons. And the aggressive growth of the commercial cleaning franchises on this list help illustrates that movement. Even though the recession put a halt to industry-wide 10 percent annual sales gains, the niche is still among the fast-growing businesses in the U.S. All rank in the top 200 on list, and many are among the fastest-growing franchises.
Here's a look at how the top 10 commercial cleaning franchises are growing, thriving and standing out from the competition.
1. Vanguard Cleaning Systems
Number of U.S franchises: 1,734
Franchising since: 1984
Startup costs: $8,200 - $38,100
2011 Franchise 500 rank: No. 7
2010 Franchise 500 rank: No. 30
Promoting the benefits of environmentally-friendly cleaning is a top priority at Vanguard Cleaning Systems. The Vanguard team uses microfiber cloths and mops, high-filtration vacuums and chemical dilution systems to minimize the environmental impact of cleaning while also improving indoor air quality. Vanguard ranks No. 1 on two other Entrepreneur franchise lists: Low-Cost Franchises and Home-based Franchises.
2. Jan-Pro Franchising International Inc.
Number of U.S. franchises: 10,266
Franchising since: 1992
Startup costs: $3,145 - $50,405
2011 Franchise 500 rank: No. 11
2010 Franchise 500 rank: No. 11
With more than 10,000 units throughout the U.S. and Canada, Jan-Pro was recently recognized as one of the top 50 franchises for military veterans. Its stable of eco-friendly services includes what it calls "EnviroShield," a sprayer system that uses a disinfectant that has been registered with the Environment Protection Agency as safe for both the cleaning staff and their customers. Jan-Pro updates customers and franchisees on its latest innovations and news through a company Twitter page, Facebook page, LinkedIn profile and YouTube channel.
3. Stratus Building Solutions
Number of U.S. franchises: 3,512
Franchising since: 2005
Startup costs: $3,450 - $57,750
2011 Franchise 500 rank: No.20
2010 Franchise 500 rank: No. 13
Searching for a recession resistant franchise opportunity? Eco-friendly commercial cleaning company Stratus Building Solutions may be the answer. Its franchises in the U.S. have grown 329 percent over the past three years, the company says. This aggressive growth inspired Stratus of Philadelphia owner and CEO Tom Weiss and fellow master franchise owners John and Bonnie Coleman to give away a free Stratus franchise (which they value at $12,000). The contest was open to Philadelphia-area "unemployed and under-employed." Stratus is ranked No. 1 on Entrepreneur's 2011 Fastest-Growing Franchises list.
4. CleanNet USA Inc.
Number of U.S. franchises: 4,745
Franchising since: 1988
Startup costs: $6,655 - $92,950
2011 Franchise 500 rank: No. 25
2010 Franchise 500 rank: No. 79
What stands out about CleanNet USA is that it advises the businesses it works with on ways to use environmentally-friendly solutions to reduce operational costs and create a safer environment for employees. The company offers Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified green cleaning services, meaning it uses products that can save energy, improve indoor air quality and reduce water use.
5. Bonus Building Care
Number of U.S. franchises: 1,711
Franchising since: 1996
Startup costs: $9,020 - $41,919
2011 Franchise 500 rank: No. 36
2010 Franchise 500 rank: No. 32
Bonus Building Care was started by Arleen Cavanaugh, a co-founder of commercial cleaning franchise Jani-King. Bonus Building Care has expanded nationwide with a concentration of locations in the Midwest. Bonus is also the official cleaning company for Philips Arena in Atlanta (home to the National Hockey League's Atlanta Thrashers and National Basketball Association's Atlanta Hawks) and has helped the arena become the first-ever LEED-certified green NBA or NHL arena of its kind.
Number of U.S. franchises: 1,190
Franchising since: 2003
Startup costs: $5,460 - $37,750
2011 Franchise 500 rank: No. 41
2010 Franchise 500 rank: No. 58
Commercial cleaning franchise System4 is the result of two entrepreneurs sharing and learning from past business experiences. Partners Phil Kubec and Ed Hammer combined their accumulated knowledge (Kubec from the commercial cleaning industry, Hammer from the car rental industry) to build a cleaning franchise that allows franchisees freedom while offering them training, technical assistance and operations support. Their systemized approach to the cleaning business includes the use of proprietary software which integrates inside and outside sales operations and management functions into one web-based application.
7. ServiceMaster Clean
Number of U.S. franchises: 3,043
Franchising since: 1952
Startup costs: $47,072 - $141,303
2011 Franchise 500 rank: No. 42
2010 Franchise 500 rank: No. 31
ServiceMaster Clean got its start in 1945 when Marion Wade had a chemical accident that left him temporarily blind. ServiceMaster Clean is now part of the ServiceMaster family of brands, which includes Furniture Medic, Merry Maids, Terminix and others. It offers commercial cleaning services and disaster restoration. Former U.S. Small Business Administration administrator Steve Preston formerly served as the company's executive vice president of strategic services.
8. Anago Cleaning Systems
Number of U.S. franchises: 2,196
Franchising since: 1991
Startup costs: $8,543 - $65,406
2011 Franchise 500 rank: No. 110
2010 Franchise 500 rank: No. 49
In its 20th year of franchising, Anago Cleaning Systems was recently recognized as one of the 50 top franchises for minorities. The business was founded in 1989 by David Povlitz, who previously owned a cleaning business in Detroit for 15 years. It is ranked No. 5 on Entrepreneur's 2011 Fastest-Growing Franchises list.
9. BuildingStars Inc.
Number of U.S. franchises: 309
Franchising since: 2000
Startup costs: $2,195 - $52,795
2011 Franchise 500 rank: No. 154
2010 Franchise 500 rank: No. 161
Innovation is king at commercial cleaning franchise BuildingStars. Through its Green Star cleaning program -- which aims to create efficiencies in the workplace -- BuildingStars offers options such as touch-free restrooms and programmable thermostats. The company also offers a "Rising Star" program to help train and develop advancement paths for franchise managers.
10. Steamatic Inc.
Number of U.S. franchises: 270
Franchising since: 1967
Startup costs: $96,600 - $166,960
2011 Franchise 500 rank: No. 189
2010 Franchise 500 rank: No. 146
In addition to offering general commercial and residential cleaning services, international franchise system Steamatic Inc. specializes in restoration services -- cleaning up fire, smoke and water damage. Steamatic will also work with its customers to develop a disaster recovery plan to help increase response time in case a fire, storm, earthquake or other type of accident strikes. Through its company blog, Steamatic offers cleaning tips for customers as well as advice for franchisees.