James Lofthouse, franchise owner of Minster Cleaning Services in Sheffield, has been shortlisted in the Customer Focus Franchisee of the Year category in the prestigious annual bfa HSBC Franchise Awards 2018.
Run by the British Franchise Association (bfa), these widely-respected awards recognise both franchisees and franchisors who have demonstrated outstanding business acumen, innovation and achievement. Franchising is the granting of a licence by one person (the franchisor) to another (the franchisee), which entitles the franchisee to trade under the brand, taking advantage of the systems and support offered by the franchisor.
James joins three others on the shortlist for the Customer Focus Franchisee of the Year Award category which recognises franchisees that go above and beyond to deliver the best customer experience in both B2B and B2C businesses.
James Lofthouse was inspired to become a Minster franchisee in 2005, because he could be his own boss, whilst having the support and backing of a large franchisor with a tried and tested business model offering potential for growth. Minster’s model appealed in particular, as it focuses on SMEs across multiple sectors with repeat business emphasis. The commercial cleaning marketplace is highly competitive with low barriers to entry. There is therefore often a client expectation of poor service from cleaning contractors. Given Minster’s position in the marketplace, James felt their franchise would allow him to build a stable business with high returns, by offering a local, quality, value-added service.
Another key growth factor is James’s belief that success is predominantly about people. He is proud to offer security of long-term employment to hundreds of people and of the positive impact this has on the local community. He recruits and retains great cleaners who are brand ambassadors and make an enormous difference. To support his core team, he also has a team of mobile operatives providing cover for holidays and absence. They also assist with training new cleaners, starting contracts and ‘wowing’ clients.
Each client is assigned an Area Manager and these business professionals take ownership of their contracts, building rapport and strengthening relationships with clients and cleaners. Service consistency is a pre-requisite to retention for daily office cleaning companies. This includes providing quality cover when the regular cleaner is absent. Avoiding missed cleans is vital, as it is one of the main reasons a company would look to change its contractor. James has worked hard to avoid losing customers to poor service at all costs. He employs a dedicated member of staff to plan and organise cover, whilst keeping the client informed of any changes. The success of the role is measured on the number of missed cleans relative to the number of cleaning hours provided. Currently they are running at 99% consistency.
James also believes it is important to maintain visibility by making himself directly available to clients. He sees himself as personally responsible for delivering the promises he makes to prospective clients, i.e. that they won’t be disappointed with the service that he and his team provides. Whatever it takes is what will be done – if this means putting his hands down someone’s toilet at 5am then that is what he will do!
He received the Minster Cleaning Services Franchisee of the Year 2016 award and is the first Minster branch to achieve the £2 million turnover milestone.
Pip Wilkins, CEO of the bfa, said "It’s over forty years since the bfa was launched specifically to develop ethical franchising in the UK, and I am proud of the way the sector has grown in that time, with the industry's turnover exceeding £15bn – that's 1% of the UK's GDP! “I am delighted to see such a strong field of people in the Customer Focus category of the awards. Businesses can flourish or fail depending on the quality of their customer care and focus and all the businesses shortlisted demonstrate how getting it right can really drive business growth. I would like to congratulate all four shortlisted finalists in this category and wish them the best of luck at the Awards ceremony at the ICC Birmingham on 28th of June!"
Andrew Brattesani, UK Head of Franchising for award sponsor HSBC, said, “HSBC is delighted to be once again supporting these franchise awards. Franchise businesses are often the hidden engine of business growth in the UK and it is essential to highlight the important contribution both large and small businesses make to our economy. It is also important to showcase to people that they can run their own businesses and if you don’t want to go it alone, or haven’t got a strong business idea of your own, you can still be successful and become your own boss.”
All the bfa HSBC Franchise Award category winners will be named at an exclusive black-tie ceremony held between day one and two of the bfa Annual Conference, on 28thJune 2018 at the ICC in Birmingham.