Michael Holt has been an Adept Cleaning Services franchisee since mid-2007. His business, which covers a large territory in the North West of England, currently turns over around £600,000 a year, employs over 100 staff and is continuing to expand.
For most of his working life, Michael was a Facilities Manager, initially within universities before moving into the corporate sector. He managed buildings for the Barclays Group for a number of years and then took up an appointment with Atkins, one of the world's largest engineering and design consultancies, looking after both their corporate and retail properties in the UK and Ireland.
Alan Thomson, Managing Director of Adept Cleaning Services, had already held the office cleaning contract at Atkins for several years when Michael took up the position of Facilities Manager. Over time, Michael grew to appreciate the service Adept provided and built up a good working and personal relationship with Alan.
"Having managed many different premises over the years and dealt with numerous cleaning contractors, I was well aware of what a good service should look like. From the outset, I was very impressed with the operation Alan ran; his staff were reliable and efficient, and if there were any issues, they were handled very quickly and professionally."
It was during a chance conversation one day that Alan mentioned to Michael he was looking to franchise and expand the business. Half-jokingly, he said: "You've seen what our service is like and you know what clients are looking for – why don't you join us?"
The leap into franchising
Michael had always planned to move away from the 'nine to five' routine and work for himself, and this sounded like it might be the perfect opportunity.Michael’s own parents had been self-employed and had offered him the chance to take over the family chain of newsagents when he was just 21. Although he’d decided to finish university instead, he’d remained ambitious and had already begun to look at other franchise opportunities - including McDonald`s and a signage business, when Alan approached him.
One of Michael's key criteria in looking for a franchise had been to find a business that he felt shared his own ethics and attitudes towards corporate and social responsibility. He’d already seen first-hand how well-systemised and effectively the Adept business ran, and he also knew Alan operated with dedication and integrity. Those things, together with the lure of the freedom of being in charge of his own business and working day, gave him the assurance that this was the right step.In June 2007, Michael became Adept's first franchisee, covering a large territory that includes Liverpool, Warrington and Chester. With Alan’s training, support and guidance, Michael has quickly built up the business and, after only a few years, he had moved from his home into serviced offices in the centre of Liverpool. He has also invested in Adept livery for his vehicles, taken on a bookkeeper/administrative assistant and now has two Area Supervisors.
"I am quoting for new contracts week-in, week-out, and enjoy the challenge of making presentations to prospective clients," says Michael. "The IT systems, marketing support and practical back-up I get from the rest of the team at Adept allows me to concentrate on building my client base, without worrying about whether I've got the business basics right. If I have any issues or concerns, Alan is just at the end of the phone and able to offer sound advice, so I never feel alone."
Although he has put in a lot of hard work, Michael has absolutely no regrets about joining Adept. "There were six other new cleaning companies that started up in my area at the same time as I did and I'm the only one still trading, which proves we have the right business model. I have no doubt that being part of a franchise operation and having the backing and expertise of Alan and his team, have made a huge contribution to my success."
Michael puts tremendous focus on quality and several are qualified to NVQ level 2. In the next 12 months, he plans to secure ISO 9001, 14001 and 18001 certification, gaining approval for his business's internal quality management, environmental management and health and safety standards.
With plans to retire before he is 55, once Michael has built up the business to a turnover of £1.5m which he sees as very achievable, given his success to date.
"Running my own business is far more challenging than any job I've had before, but the freedom of being my own boss makes it all worthwhile. Having built up a good reputation in the area, most of my new business comes from referrals and I am now bidding for some sizeable and prestigious contracts. I recently took on a large college cleaning contract worth around £120,000 a year. I know I've only just scratched the surface of the market and there’s a huge amount of untapped potential within my territory. I feel extremely optimistic about the future."