When did you launch your franchise and what did you do prior to franchising?
I joined the Leeds & Wakefield branch of Minster Cleaning Services as Business Development Manager in 2008. I then spent time as an area manager before becoming joint franchisee in 2011. The branch was originally opened in 1994 by my stepfather, John Whyte, after he sold his share in the software company which he founded and ran successfully for 13 years. John's experience in management was the ideal preparation for a career with Minster and, since then, he has been Minster Franchisee of the Year three times whilst building up a large and thriving business. He is now reducing his involvement in the business with a view to full retirement within the next year or two. John and I were also named the 2017 Minster Cleaning Services Franchisee of the Year.
Prior to joining Minster, I had gained management skills over ten years as a Loss Prevention Manager at Asda and then in my own lawn care business which I sold in 2008.
Why did you choose the cleaning sector and why Minster?
I had the benefit of seeing how my stepfather's franchise had progressed over the years and had realised that as an essential commercial service which appeals to such a broad range of organisations, office cleaning was relatively resistant to the effects of a downturn in the economy. I had also seen first-hand that Minster's solid business model and large, exclusive territories allowed franchisees to build substantial, profitable businesses.
How have you found the training and support from the franchisor?
Minster is really proud of the high levels of training and support that it provides for franchisees. As well as helping with the transition from employment to self-employment for new franchisees, there is on-going support in all the main business activities.
Franchisees also benefit from the pool of knowledge available from the franchise network. For example, Minster’s expertise in providing cleaning services for the healthcare sector has been shared amongst all franchisees. This has given us all a real competitive edge and lead to a significant increase in business in this area.
Together with the Operations Manager and four other Minster franchisees, I am a member of the Training and Operations Working Group. We meet regularly to discuss various new ideas with the aim of helping franchisees to maximise their business performance.
What challenges have you faced, if any?
Recruitment is probably one of the biggest challenges. We are always on the lookout for high calibre cleaners and supervisors and as the economy has picked up, recruiting new employees has become more difficult. We have found that traditional channels of recruitment such as job centres are no longer as effective and so we have had to learn how to use online resources to reach the largest number of prospective employees.
Describe a typical day.
I usually get into the office at 9am and meet with my Operations Controller and Contracts Manager to review the previous day's activities and ensure that everything is in place for any new contracts that may be starting that day. Then I would go and see the office manager – my wife, Victoria – to run through any credit control issues with her. I usually have one or two quotations to send out and I like, wherever possible to see the client in person to run through these. I also visit healthcare practice managers on a regular basis. With over 50 clients in the healthcare sector, this is now a very important part of our business.
Would you recommend a cleaning franchise to others?
Without hesitation. Few organisations can claim to be entirely recession-proof but office cleaning appeals to a broad client base – general offices, call centres, accountants, architects, surveyors, solicitors, retail, showrooms, health centres, dentists, opticians, government and local authority, housing associations, unions, charities, etc. It's such a huge market that any ambitious person with leadership and management skills can build a big business; there will always be an opportunity to be successful by providing cleaning services for such a diverse range of organisations.
What are your plans for the future?
I am very positive about the future. We are now exceeding £2million annual turnover but I aim to continue growing the business in terms of both turnover and profitability. According to Leeds City Council, Leeds is the UK’s fastest growing city and is the main driver of a city region with a £64.6 billion economy, a combined population of 3 million and a workforce of 1.37 million. It is the largest centre outside London for financial and business services and, over the next ten years, the economy is forecast to grow by 21%. The market in the Leeds and Wakefield areas alone is massive yet the branch also covers major Yorkshire towns including Harrogate, Horsforth, Morley, Otley, Tadcaster, and Wetherby.