A Minster commercial cleaning franchise has proved a shrewd investment for former banker Damon Brown. Trevor Johnson reports
Commercial cleaning has made a pretty drastic clean sweep in the last decade or so. Today it’s a massive business-to-business industry currently turning over more than £7 billion a year in the UK - and looking forward to the day when ‘robots’ take over some of the donkey work.
“We are seriously looking at robotic technology that scrubs and cleans and have already done feasibility trials,” says Damon Brown, who took over the Bristol franchise of Minster Cleaning Services two years ago and has already increased turnover by nearly 30 per cent.
“Robots haven’t made the human element obsolete just yet,” he says. “But we’re looking closely at the latest developments, particularly how they might be applied to large scale cleaning operations. In the long term, this is the way things will probably go.”
An executive with Lloyds Bank financial services for 30 years, Damon decided he wanted a career away from a regulated environment and looked at numerous franchises before choosing Minster.
“People ask me why I went from banking to cleaning and at the end of the day it’s all about the customer,” he says. “Giving a really good service can be challenging but rewarding.
“I was attracted to Minster because it was a highly professional, established business. With commercial cleaning booming, Minster’s current target of at least 50 UK franchises with a group turnover of £50 million is by no means the limit of its potential.”
Minster chairman Alan Haigh started the business in 1982, sparked off by the difficulties he’d had in finding reliable and efficient cleaners in his previous job and convinced there was a huge potential market waiting to be tapped.
And so it proved. By 1990 the company had three successful and profitable branches and Alan decided to franchise the brand in 1992.
Today, more than 40 management franchises provide commercial cleaning services to over 6,000 clients. Larger branches employ upwards of 200 people and many achieve annual sales of over £1 million.
Indeed, according to the latest figures, Minster’s top 10 branches are averaging annual sales of more than £1.7 million, two have reached £2 million and group annual turnover is approaching £40 million.
As the company says: “Minster’s large territories give franchisees virtually unlimited scope for expansion.
“Office cleaning is an essential commercial service that appeals to a broad client base and which helps to protect franchisees from the peaks and troughs experienced by so many businesses.”
The Bristol franchise’s 120 staff regularly service 175 businesses, which include offices, schools, gyms, recycling centres, dentists and 25 medical practices.
Damon admits that he knew virtually nothing about the cleaning industry before buying his franchise, but Minster doesn’t worry about a lack of experience as its comprehensive induction training provides the knowledge needed to start running a Minster franchise.
Minster looks for franchisees who have a track record of successfully managing groups of people.
Initial start-up costs for a Minster franchise is around £28,000 (plus VAT), which covers training, computer software and hardware, machinery, equipment and materials. In addition, between £40,000 and £60,000 working capital is needed.
As well as benefiting from a highly developed marketing strategy, franchise newcomers also get training in operational management, administration, bookkeeping, IT and professional advice on employment law, health and safety and environmental legislation.
The package includes initial training with head office staff and field-based training with existing franchisees, plus ongoing training and support.
But, like Damon, many recent Minster franchisees have bought an established branch. As the company explains: “Buying an existing business has many advantages, including cash flow, customers and staff from day one.”
“It also provides evidence of what can and has been achieved and can show how the business is likely to perform in various market conditions.”
Damon is delighted with his Bristol purchase. “I have an excellent team and the branch runs very smoothly, with plenty of scope for future growth,” he says.
“Bristol is thriving, continues to attract investment and the city’s economy is now worth £13.6 billion. “By also concentrating on the M5 corridor south of Bristol, we have been successful in gaining customers from the South Somerset region.
Growth has been predominantly in the manufacturing and service sectors, but Minster’s expertise in healthcare has also helped expand this important area.”
In addition to daily office cleaning, Damon also offers carpet cleaning, floor treatments, window cleaning, janitorial supplies and washroom services.
Looking back on the last two years, Damon admits it has been hard work but rewarding and if you get it right you can significantly increase the size of the business and reap the rewards that come with it.
“I moved from commercial TV looking for a new challenge. I wanted to control my own destiny and now have built the business to a size and level of profitability that will provide a comfortable income and pension for me and my family.”
“After 16 years in the RAF, I wanted to go into business on my own. I love the tremendous variety that comes with working with so many business professionals - there’s no such thing as a typical day.”
“Before deciding to join Minster, they encouraged me to speak to any of their franchisees. Time has confirmed the Minster model to be successful and has provided the security I was looking for. After buying an existing branch, I achieved over 50 per cent growth in my first year of trading.”
“I was a research biochemist who changed careers because Minster was a business with a solid foundation and a highly successful network. We aim to give clients a service that’s second to none - vital when building long-term relationships.”
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