Rob Wilson spent 20 years running his own retail business before joining Minster Cleaning Services, the highly successful commercial cleaning company.
Declining markets and the prospect of even greater dominance by the multiple retailers persuaded him to look for an alternative to his frozen food and video rental stores and he set out to find a business proposition which offered ample opportunities to satisfy his personal ambitions in a more stable marketplace. He identified franchising as the best option and then spent over twelve months planning his career change, visiting exhibitions and franchise companies.
It was after meeting Minster's founder and now chairman, Alan Haigh that he decided to take on their vacant Essex territory. He liked Alan's open approach and felt that Minster's targets for growth were realistic. Furthermore, Minster had a proven business model where systems were in place and all the groundwork had already been completed; and large territories offered virtually unlimited potential.
Rob started his Essex franchise in July 1992 when the UK was in the middle of a recession, so he knows a thing or two about running a business in difficult trading times. He says that the first couple of years were the hardest, "Starting your own business is not for anyone who is afraid of hard work and, despite what you may read in some adverts, there is no magical 'get rich quick' formula. But, the support I have had from the team at Minster has been superb and, whatever problems you may encounter, help is always available, either from head office or from another franchisee."
Now, over 21 years later, annual turnover at his Essex branch is around £1.4 million from an excellent portfolio of clients. Chelmsford and Colchester are the two biggest towns in his area which also includes such large conurbations as Basildon, Harlow, Grays, Brentwood, Braintree and Southend-on-Sea.
Rob says that Minster is better placed to weather any downturn than many other types of business, "With around 300 contracts drawn from a broad spread of commercial sectors, we're not as vulnerable as businesses that have to rely on a small customer base. Office cleaning is an essential service which many companies prefer to outsource, especially when they are looking to cut expenditure - we've just got to make sure that the service we give is second-to-none and that it offers real value for money.
"Maintaining quality standards is key to building long-term client relationships and by offering a comprehensive range of complementary services such as washroom and sanitary services, we can provide all clients' cleaning needs from one reliable and trusted source."
His branch has also benefitted from Minster Cleaning Services' expertise in the healthcare sector where Care Quality Commission registration has become mandatory for primary medical and dental providers. Healthcare premises must now meet a number of 'Essential Standards of Quality and Safety' and by helping practice managers to implement rigorous cleaning regimes to maintain appropriate levels of cleanliness and hygiene, Minster has gained significant numbers of clients in this sector; healthcare now makes up around 15% of the Essex branch's clientele.
Rob, one of Minster's longest serving franchisees, was named 'Franchisee of the Year' for the third time in 2008; the award is based on performance criteria which are assessed throughout the year including sales, profitability, new business acquisition and customer retention. Now 61, he has no thoughts of immediate retirement and still enjoys the challenge of running a growing business. He is optimistic about the future and sees signs of increasing levels of confidence in businesses in the area. If and when he decides that it's time to take it easier, he will be able to rely on the skills of the experienced and long-serving management team that he has built up to keep the business running smoothly.