“5 years on and exceeding all expectations.”
It was party… and cake time at ServiceMaster Clean North East this month.
This is because the company reached its 5th birthday.
And what a 5-years it has been!
How it all started
Chris Blewitt began trading in March 2018 after purchasing a vacant franchise territory in Durham and Teesside.
He had no staff or contracts but high expectations of building a successful commercial cleaning business from scratch.
Chris had a stretch target of building a profitable £1 million turnover in 5 years but wasn’t sure if this was realistic.
There are naturally nerves and uncertainty with a fresh start.
With his background in operations, Chris says he wasn’t as sure of his ability as a salesman.
But following the training he received as part of a franchise and with time and practice, contracts soon started to build, and Chris realised he was more than capable.
This extended to all aspects of the business, as Chris found that his fresh start gave him a wealth of experience in all areas.
“The great thing about starting from zero is you get to experience doing every job,” he says.
“As well as doing the sales and marketing, I was the Supervisor looking after an increasing team of cleaners.”
Two years in, Chris had built a reasonable-sized business when COVID hit, and the world changed.
“The first few days after the Prime Minister’s announcement were frantic and quite scary, with nearly 50% of our customers shutting their offices,” says Chris.
In a time when other cleaning companies sought to make a fast buck through ‘fogging’ opportunities, Chris prioritised his core business by looking after existing customers and staff.
It’s a strategy that worked, as every customer returned after COVID-19.
“Within two months trading, we were back to 76% of pre-COVID levels, and the introduction of the furlough scheme gave some assurances that the business could at least tread water.”
Chris did use the time in this lull wisely as he started to look for other opportunities to grow.
This culminated with purchasing the neighbouring ServiceMaster Clean franchise, which covers Tyneside and Wearside, at the end of his third year in business.
At this point, the trading name was changed to reflect the entire region it covers – the North East – and Chris set about merging two businesses and teams.
Two management staff came across under the TUPE transfer, which helped make running the Operations side of the business easier.
“When you take over a business, you often focus on the contracts and equipment you are getting. But my experience is that the real value is in the great people you inherit,” says Chris.
Nurturing a healthy growth culture
A vital part of building a business is the development of the culture, and Chris says he is very conscious of the values that run throughout his organisation.
“One of the most satisfying things for me is to look at how we work.”
“We are very dynamic. We treat all stakeholders respectfully, share good practices, and constantly strive to improve.”
“We do things properly and professionally and do what we say we will. Though I say it myself, I think we are very slick,” he says.
“We recently recruited a new experienced Supervisor, and although her previous cleaning company exists within the same market, she can’t believe how easy we make all activities.”
This has not happened by chance, as Chris has greatly emphasised systems and processes.
Chris’ daughter, Jessica, also now works full-time as the Business Process Manager, having always been involved in the business, even when she was at college.
“We didn’t want someone just to operate the systems but to develop them,” Chris says.
“We use market-leading time and attendance software, but what sets us apart is that we have managed to integrate it with our specialist cleaning payroll and invoicing system.”
“Others run one or both of these systems independently but struggle to put in the effort to make integration happen.”
A real success story
At the end of the fifth year, the business achieved a turnover of £1.2 million, serving over 100 loyal customers and employing over 130 staff.
Chris has also been recognised for his business success, having achieved the ServiceMaster Award of Excellence and Great British Franchisee status last year, placing him amongst the top 15 franchise business owners in the country!
With his initial stretch target convincingly beaten, Chris plans to grow the business to £2 million in the next three years.
“I am very proud of the team and what they have achieved. We have solid foundations but still a long way to go on our journey.”
Need a professional cleaner?
To get in touch with Chris and his team and benefit from professional cleaning services from an award-winning business, call 0191 250 5116, 01642 433300 or 01207 297588 today.
Or nationwide, find your nearest ServiceMaster Clean Contract Services business to see how we can help you.