Rune Sovndahl, co-founder of Fantastic Services, gives us the lowdown on the company’s progression, how it navigated the pandemic and his aim of having more franchisees join the business’ seven-figure club
Rune Sovndahl is the co-founder of Fantastic Services, an international brand founded 12 years ago that combines technological innovations with bespoke customer care to deliver services for the home and office that range from cleaning, gardening and waste removal to locksmithing and appliance repair.
Rune, who is Danish, moved to London 20 years ago to study for a degree in business information systems design at South Bank University. Following the completion of his degree, he was accepted onto a graduate programme with British Telecom.
In 2003 he established the European Young Professionals committee in London and was involved in the creation of its website, as well as the recruitment of more than 200 new members.
Before establishing Fantastic Services with his partner Anton Skarlatov in 2009, Rune was head of SEO for lastminute.com.
His aim is to help 1,000 Fantastic Services franchisees build million-pound businesses in the next 10 years.
How has the business developed since you founded it in 2009?
We have gone from strength to strength.
Initially, we started by offering cleaning services in London. A short while later we introduced an entirely new way of booking services by developing an online booking form and a customer relationship management platform.
Today, Fantastic Services has grown into a multi-niche service company, providing over 100 services for the home and office with a global network of over 530 franchisees operating on three continents - Europe, Australia and the USA.
Was it always your intention to franchise it?
No. Initially, we set out with the intention of making the best company for finding tradespeople. Our goal was - and still is - to make our customers’ lives easier by finding reliable, trustworthy and professional cleaners. The franchise model followed later.
When we looked at the market and saw how jobs were allocated, we considered franchising and saw the enormous benefits, but also the limitations.
That’s when we designed a new system and called it ServiceOS. It’s operating software for running a profitable service company that enables us to automate thousands of interactions - from bookings and job allocation to marketing and invoicing.
ServiceOS is a key differentiator in our franchise model. Once we had this technology in place, it allowed us to revisit franchising, revolutionising the UK’s service industry for everyone, including customers, tradespeople, employees and the planet.
Fantastic Services has grown significantly since you launched it. How has this been possible?
We followed the principle of always investing more in marketing the actual services than the franchise part itself, as we believe demand will come through promotion and word of mouth.
I have a background in consumer marketing from my days at lastminute.com, where I was in charge of growth and took every step possible in making our business noticeable and recognisable.
While Fantastic Services was growing very fast, at the same time we were developing the operating software to make sure that while we scaled we could also meet the demand for home services. It was a balancing act and we made it work, thanks to our fantastic staff and a lot of tolerance and engineering.
What was the biggest lesson you learnt following the coronavirus outbreak in the UK?
I learned numerous lessons. However, one of the most important ones was about the strength of being a franchise company.
We had several services that dropped in demand and others that grew, but by having a network and a centralised training system we managed to reskill and retrain many of our franchisees. This way, they were able to ride the wave of changing demands.
With a franchise, you have the power to do this. The lesson was not to be afraid of discussing the impacts but to be open and transparent about what was happening.
We decided to open it up, to become more about team spirit and empowerment for our franchisees, many of whom have not only survived but thrived over the past 12 months.
How did you assist your franchisees during this difficult time?
We worked harder than ever at headquarters. We put in more work hours than ever before, developed new services that could fit the new normal and optimised many of the processes.
We let everyone help. Even some of our area development franchisees joined the headquarters for consulting and helped us with some of the management work. All in all, we weathered the storm and it made me believe in the strength of franchising.
Tell us about your aim of making 1,000 millionaires through your franchise business?
When we established Fantastic Services in 2009, our first goal was to reach seven figures and we made it in less than two years.
This success formed the foundation for the Fantastic Academy, where we documented our steps, failures and successes. We wanted to scale this and pass our knowledge to our people, who come from all walks of life.
We’re aiming for career progression within the service industry, allowing people to start out as cleaners and progress to exclusively franchising in an area and ultimately building a seven-figure business.
After announcing our million-pound mission, we’re happy and proud to see more and more motivated people joining the seven-figure club.
What type of franchisees are you looking to recruit?
Our franchise is suitable for people from different backgrounds.
We have three levels of franchise: working franchise, area development franchise and master franchise. Each of them requires different skills. However, our training platform and high-end systems are designed to support each franchisee every step of the way.
The working franchise starts with training on service delivery and equipment use, while the area development and master franchises are focused on recruitment, training and managing people, as well as marketing, investing and growing a successful business.
What do they get for their investment?
First of all, we are a slightly different franchise. All our franchisees get the right to operate under the name of a recognisable brand that attracts clients and uses technology to make it the most accessible place to get a service.
We provide all our franchisees with advanced training and personal coaching. After the onboarding, we continue to invest in our franchisees and their businesses, so it’s a long-term process to help them develop and grow alongside us.
We assist them with marketing, sales, systems and IT development, as well as financing and service design. So there’s a huge amount of infrastructure, support, leads and guidance for all levels of franchisee.
What’s next for the franchise?
We’re proudly founded on the principles of innovation and creativity.
Perceiving the pandemic as an opportunity, we proved that thriving during difficult times is possible by adapting our traditional services and implementing new ones.
We’re currently in the middle of a global expansion. Our business model and innovative technological solutions, which help franchisees run a business smoothly and efficiently, make our franchise an attractive opportunity for many people who want to start a business.
What we’ve been through revealed that being one step ahead and thinking outside the box is necessary in order to remain on top and make your franchise recession-proof.
Fantastic services in numbers
- Founded in 2009.
- Operates on three continents.
- Its 530-plus franchisees and nearly 2,000 experts deliver services to over 50,000 clients globally each month.
- Six of its franchisees currently turn over £1 million-plus.
- The company employs around 500 specialists responsible for web design, mobile applications, online and marketing optimisation, IT solutions and sales.
- In 2019, the business delivered over £40 million-worth of services.