Charles and Genevieve Rodriquez were leading comfortable lives.
The U.S. Army veterans and Maricopa residents seemed to have it all — a happy marriage, a loving family and successful jobs.
But Charles, who goes by Carlos, recently stepped down from his job with a wealth-management firm and Genevieve will likely give up her bank consultant position soon — to become entrepreneurs and small-business owners.
Carlos, 39, in February capped a 21-year military career that included two tours in Iraq and one tour in Afghanistan. He retired as a chief warrant officer 3rd class.
“I was really lucky to be part of a really small group of people that got to pioneer data science in the Army, so it was really cool,” he said.
A holder of two advanced degrees — a master’s in human resources and an MBA — he has always aspired to start and operate his own business.
Genevieve, who also has a master’s degree in human resources, finished her military career in January 2020 as a major after 12 years of military service before becoming a consultant.
But now they are headed in a new career direction — in a relatively crowded service industry with great potential in a rapidly growing city — as new owners of a Maids residential cleaning franchise.
CHANGE IN PLANS
The Rodriquezes put down stakes in Maricopa in 2017, buying a home in Rancho El Dorado even as they worked at Fort Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina, the Army’s main center for basic combat training.
At Fort Jackson, Carlos worked at the Soldier Support Institute, which trains, educates and grows professional human resource and financial management leaders, while Genevieve served as a reception company commander.
The original plan was to retire from the military sometime in 2022 and bring their family — they have four children ranging in age from 2 to 13 — to Maricopa. They were renting out their home until their move west.
But that timeline shifted, and they moved in November 2019.
Genevieve went on retirement leave and Carlos, with the help of “a lot of amazing people,” was able to get a job at the Army Recruiting Center in Tempe, where he worked for a year before retiring from the Army and taking a job as a knowledge manager for the Advisor Group in Phoenix.
Until recently, Maricopa wasn’t even on the couple’s radar as a place to settle, raise a family and start a business. When Carlos, who grew up in Casa Grande, joined the Army at age 17, the then-little town up the road didn’t figure into his life plans.
“I never would have thought Maricopa would be a place to live when I was older, but it’s a place that I’m excited to live,” he said. “The community here is amazing.
“It was a big decision to leave and to come here, but this was obviously the best choice.”
SATISFACTION — ON TWO FRONTS
Launched about two months ago, The Maids of Maricopa has eight employees — six full-time cleaners, plus Genevieve, who is also out in the field, and Carlos, who handles administration and staffing. They have mostly hired women with families.
Residential cleaning — for the healthy home — is the company’s focus, though Maids also has the flexibility to branch out to small professional offices. Services include windows, steam cleaning of grout, cooktops and ovens, and garage cleaning to deal with the pervasive desert dust.
“We don’t just move the dust,” Genevieve said. “We remove it.”
The Maids use four-member teams to increase efficiency and speed their visits to clean about 8-10 homes a day. And unlike many of their competitors, they will travel out to Hidden Valley for customers, they said.
Part of the reason they went with the Maids franchise was the quality of the equipment and the level of training provided by the Omaha, Nebraska-based corporation, Carlos said. All equipment is sanitized between appointments and a 100% satisfaction guarantee is offered.
“We have the best technology and support of any cleaning company,” Carlos said. “Maids is not the cheapest cleaning franchise to buy, but it feels like the best one to buy. It feels right for us.”
Jamie Smith, a Maricopa resident, decided to try Maids after using other house cleaners in the past. She said she tries to patronize veteran-owned businesses in town.
A major appeal was the use of the four-person team. She said it can take a cleaner working alone most of the day to clean her 3,500-square-foot home.
“They got it done in two hours,” Smith said. “The team was really friendly, and I felt totally comfortable with them being in my home. I was really impressed because they did things I hadn’t even thought of cleaning.”
For example, she said, the team vacuumed dusty vents about 12 feet off the floor. Impressed by their thoroughness, she said she will use Maids again.
Already, Genevieve is focused on ensuring satisfaction to both customers and employees.
“Our customers are incredibly important us,” she said. “We service a lot of people who want to be able to clean their own homes and they just can’t. Either they don’t have the time, or they no longer have the ability. So, it’s really important to us to leave a spotless home that they can enjoy and feel a sense of pride.”
She understands some people may feel funny about hiring help to keep a clean home.
“I think everyone deserves a housekeeper and nobody should ever be embarrassed,” she said. “It is an honor that people invite us into their homes and trust us to clean for their health.”
Happy employees make for happy customers, Genevieve knows.
Building — and working with — a team is the thing she misses most about the military.
“Having people be important to you has probably been the best part so far about building the business,” she said.
She believes strongly in a good work-life balance for employees, including working for a livable wage, which is rare in the industry, health benefits, no nights and weekends and paid time off. In addition, The Maids corporation offers free community college for employees.
Plus, employees can earn bonuses for excellent reviews.
“We’re hoping they can work with us, and if they stay with us forever, that would be great,” Genevieve said. “If we can help them move up, that would be even greater. We’ve been really blessed with six amazing employees. We want to support them and their families. That is a top priority.”
Jessica Pablo of Maricopa, who turns 25 this month, joined the team about a month ago as a stay-at-home mom and has no regrets.
“It’s been a really great experience. This is probably the best job I’ve ever worked,” she said. “They’re really easygoing people. (Genevieve) doesn’t treat you like a worker or an employee, she treats you like family. She understands sometimes things come up and she’s willing to change course and work with us. She really does go above and beyond for all her employees.”
Pablo said she hopes to work with the Maids for a long time.
“I want to grow with this company. I have a lot of faith in them,” she said. “I see all the hard work they’re putting in and it makes me proud and motivates me to want to do something like that in the future. It’s inspiring to see them grow their business.”
“It’s a cheerful work environment,” Carlos acknowledged. “People look forward to coming into work in the morning. That’s always kind of my attitude. I’m not getting ready to deploy, I didn’t just get back from a deployment and I am not on a deployment, so it’s really hard to say anything that you’re doing is that tough. I just try to keep that perspective.”
Before launching The Maids business, Carlos conducted market research ahead of reaching out to potential franchises. He found plenty to inspire confidence about a home-cleaning business.
“My peers understand, especially like the younger generation understands, you can go and make another dollar, but you can’t go and make another hour,” he said. “If you’re spending all your time cleaning, it’s hard, but you can’t make that time up. If you’re working all week and then you’re spending your Saturday or Sunday cleaning, it’s kind of gone.”
His research included a review of demographics and recent census figures, as well as an unrelated project about the California exodus to Arizona.
“If (the exodus) keeps happening, and it still is happening, the market is going to be good and it’s going to continue to grow,” Carlos said, adding many of those new residents to Maricopa and other Arizonan cities are retirees and young professionals, both groups with a need and desire for housecleaning.
With the rapid population growth in the city — and tens of thousands more homes on developers’ drawing boards in the near and distant future — Carlos said ample opportunity for The Maids and other home-cleaning businesses, despite the occasional mean- face emoji they get on their Facebook posts.
“There’s plenty of houses to be cleaned,” he said. “I don’t think we need to fight each other. We just need to provide good services, and I think there’s enough (work) for everybody.
He said The Maids only needs to clean 1% of the homes likely to hire a cleaning service to be successful.
To get the word out about their business, the couple is using a marketing team that works with Maids franchisees to handle its Google ad campaign and social media advertising.
Most of its business so far has come from word of mouth — with a “big boost” from advertising in InMaricopa magazine, Carlos said.
“We both have our masters’ in HR and I have my MBA, but it’s different when you actually know the community. InMaricopa really knows the community.”
Still, the Rodriquezes are well-prepared to run a small business with the organizational skills, ingenuity, determination and ability to take strategic risks gleaned in part during their long military service.
“We’re trying to put our money where our mouth is,” Carlos said. “We’re both leaving pretty comfortable positions.
“Like my wife said, we’re trading all this to clean toilets. I said it just feels right.”
The Maids of Maricopa, 602-805-0300
This story was first published in the November edition of InMaricopa magazine.