Dornford 
& Jane
Roberts 

 

"What I enjoy most about being a franchisee is that it enables us to run our own business, but it feels very much like being part of a team. There is support always available with people involved who have considerable experience in the business. You’re supported as part of a family. It’s a size where it doesn’t feel too big, and you don’t feel anonymous, you feel part of the whole set up." Dornford Roberts. 

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Legal eagles’ judgement vindicated as they swap courtrooms for commercial cleaning

 

Solicitors and barristers are famous for cleaning up financially – but how many, like Jane and Dornford Roberts, are just as likely to be cleaning up with a mop and bucket?

The couple, joint owners of a Betterclean franchise covering a huge area from Dawlish in Devon to Penzance in Cornwall, have just won the most prestigious accolade in the franchising world: a Great British Franchisee Award from whichfranchise.com.

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Quite how barrister Jane and solicitor Dornford ended up as cleaners has raised eyebrows among their former colleagues in the legal profession, but their £1million-a-year turnover and the 100 staff they employ suggest they made the right decision.

That success, and their attitude towards their staff and clients, is what secured them the prestigious award and secured their place among the franchise world’s elite.

“The main challenge we faced was moving from the specialist, solution-based, one-case-at- a-time approach required during our legal careers to the multi-layered, fast-moving demands of a business with 60-plus customers requiring a daily service and employing more than 100 staff to deliver it,” says Dornford.

“If the designated cleaner for a site is unable to get to work, even at the last minute, we have a team of mobile cleaners who can cover the shift.

“But if the mobile cleaners can’t cover the clean, Jane and I will step in and do the cleaning ourselves, which we have done on many occasions.”

The legal eagles’ people skills have come to the fore as their business has developed, with the need to keep their workforce happy proving just as important as keeping clients satisfied.

“In recent months, we’ve had to learn how to manage with the recruitment issues the whole economy has been suffering from,” says Dornford.

“We need to recruit and retain a lot of staff in relation to our turnover, so we’ve had to put a lot of thought into how to attract and keep them, not just in terms of their pay, but also forming relationships with them, listening to them, accommodating their needs as much as we can, and making sure they’re coping with their workloads if they’ve taken on extra hours.

“If customers are willing to pay a little more, we pay our staff a little more - and for exceptional staff we pay more and reduce our profit margins if need be.

“We’ve recently given many of our staff larger wage increases than we strictly needed to, to assist with their personal finances in view of rising prices in the economy generally, and to recognise their good work.”

The couple began by buying the Betterclean franchise for Plymouth and Cornwall, followed by Torbay, and are consolidating their success through a cherrypicking approach, shedding unprofitable or unviable contracts to concentrate on the rest.

Five years into their franchise agreement, the suggestions they’ve made for improvements are even being written into future contracts.

And, in the eyes of the award judges, too, they’ve acquitted themselves wonderfully.

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