Time for you’s Paul Barratt and Dan McGarrigle are shining examples of how to run a successful franchise. Trevor Johnson reports
Has Britain become a nation of housework haters? What other explanation can there be for the fact we now happily pay over £3bn a year to have someone else clean our homes, while we spend the time doing something more interesting - or profitable?
To our parents, being houseproud was a positive virtue, but nowadays to many of us, housework is something we’ll happily hand over to someone else. And that’s something Paul Barratt couldn’t be more pleased about. After all, it’s given him a new, and highly profitable, career.
“People want quality time when they’ve got demanding jobs and don’t want to spend their weekends cleaning the bathroom or polishing the kitchen floor,” Paul says, who in partnership with Dan McGarrigle runs the south coast franchise of fast-growing domestic cleaning specialist Time For You. His territory takes in a swathe of the country, including Portsmouth Chichester, Bognor Regis and the Isle of Wight.
Paul admits he hadn’t expected the business to grow so spectacularly. After just three years it now sends over 160 cleaners into nearly 600 homes every week - and the trend shows no sign of slowing down.
“To be honest, when we started I never thought it would take off as it has,” he says. “It’s been a ridiculous rate of growth and we are very busy. Enquiries for new business come in daily, plus plenty of referrals and repeat customers.
“Our plan is to keep on growing and to get as big as we can. We’ve never regretted the decision and it’s changed our lives, although it was a pretty drastic change of direction.”
No one can argue with that. Paul was a police officer in Portsmouth and Dan still is. He leaves the day-to-day running of the business to Paul, who admits a life upholding law and order was beginning to pale.
“I was working all hours, but ended up getting paid the same, no matter how hard I was working,” he says. “For a long time I had a dream of running my own business, but I wasn’t sure where to start.
“I decided franchising would be a good option and when I came across Freddie Rayner, I knew I had found the franchise for us.”
Freddie is the charismatic entrepreneur who started Time For You with his wife Ruth in 1997 and has seen it grow into the UK’s largest domestic cleaning franchise. It currently has 205 franchisees completing 20,000 cleans every week - that’s one million cleans annually.
The business was born out of near tragedy when Ruth, then a secretary, suffered a heart attack and almost died. She recovered and with capital of £20 each the couple started their own house cleaning agency.
It was successful and in 2002 was offered as a franchise with spectacular results. Freddie claims flexibility is the key to the business’ success - it allows franchisees time to organise their lives around the business.
He certainly convinced Paul, who remembers: “He had complete faith in the franchise and at one point said to me: ‘If you don’t make at least £30,000 in the first 18 months, you can have your franchise fee back and walk away.’
“Thank goodness I didn’t do that. But by then I was sold on the idea and could see what potential it had. In fact, we have done better than I ever expected and now the sky’s the limit.”
Paul also appreciated the fact Freddie is a realist, who has said: “Some people think that by owning a franchise they can sit back, watch the business grow and the money come flooding in. In reality, it’s not like that at all. Just as with any new business, you have to be prepared to put in the hard work if you want to see the results.
“The only difference is it costs less to start a franchise and you have ongoing support from the franchisor and the business model is tried and tested for success. In my experience, any failing franchisee only has themselves to blame - I was there myself at the start of my career.”
A Time For You franchise costs around £15,000, for which you get a training and support package that includes a two-day residential course, online mentoring, video conferencing and meetings with other franchisees.
The company points out that as this is a management franchise, the franchisee doesn’t do any cleaning, there is little stock to carry - so no dead money - clients pay in advance, working from home means no commuting and potential earnings are as high as you want to make them.
Time For You quotes one franchisee, who says: “Today we cleaned 17 homes but never left our house and we’ll earn over £65,000 in profits this year.”
Having management experience is certainly an advantage for a new franchisee. You also need to be a people person, according to the company. It’s also important clients feel you will be as careful with their homes as they are.
Paul stresses how important it is to get the right cleaners: “You have to become an expert in advertising for cleaners and picking the ones who will do the job to the highest standards. If that side is right, everything else will follow from there.
“To make sure we get the right people, everyone is interviewed in their own home, required to supply a minimum of two high-quality references and undergo a police check.”
Clients range from double or single-income professionals, working women and bachelors to retirees and estate and letting agents - in fact, anyone who can find something better to do than hoover the carpet on a sunny morning.
Paul has even ventured into show business, cleaning up after TV shows like Channel 5’s Cowboy Builders programme and Channel 4’s Hollywood Me show.
He explains: “We carefully match every client with the most suitable cleaner to ensure their home is cleaned when and exactly how they want it done. This can be anything from ironing, making beds and putting away clothes to spring cleaning. We are always happy to tailor a package to any requirements.
“Cleaners are local and many people like to have the same person each week and build a good relationship and rapport.”
Many successful franchisees are women, who were looking for a flexible home-based business and found Time For You was just what they wanted. “For me, it was the best choice,” Tunbridge Wells franchisee Caroline Kirby says. “It has provided me and my family with an assured future.”
“Time For You changed my life,” Catherine Fitch of Edinburgh says. “It’s a proven formula, which enables me to work around my mum duties at home.”
“I have annual gross profits of over £120,000,” Julie Goodyear of Bury St Edmunds says. “I never imagined the business would work as well as it has.” “I love my work,” Julia Wilkins of Sussex says. “Becoming a franchisee was one of the best things I have ever done.”
Back in Portsmouth, Paul is delighted with his growing collection of testimonials, which range from: “Well done for listening to my needs and providing me with an excellent service” and: “I wouldn’t hesitate for one moment to recommend you” to: “A big thank you for the professional service you always give”.
“Everyone is so busy nowadays that having a cleaner is becoming a necessity rather than a luxury,” Paul says. “On a personal level, I know I couldn’t manage without one.”