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Exeter cleaning boss sweeps up national award by treating staff decently

Treating staff decently and paying them higher wages has helped Exeter cleaning company boss, Caroline Spiller, build a million-pound business – and win a major industry award.

The owner of Betterclean Services Exeter & Taunton has won a Great British Franchisee Award – the highest honour in the world of franchising – for an approach to business that’s making her clients and cleaners far happier than the industry norm.

“Ever since I took on the Betterclean franchise, I've been working to address the issues of low pay and poor working conditions that typify the sector,” says Caroline.

“Cleaners make up about 5% of the UK workforce, and many employers have historically taken advantage of them, often leaving cleaners in a poverty trap.”

“I’m determined to buck this trend and want to demonstrate to other cleaning providers that treating staff well is now an important facet of business success.”

“From my second year of trading, our cleaners have been paid above both the National Living Wage and the industry average, with three pay increases since that have taken them above the Real Living Wage.”

“Our managers and supervisors go the extra mile to support staff members when they experience personal problems.”

“We helped one staff member who found himself homeless to secure temporary accommodation, we’ve paid transport costs when staff are struggling, supported staff experiencing domestic abuse, and allowed staff in a crisis to take prolonged leave of absence and return when they feel able.”

“That’s enabled us to retain and hire more than our fair share of cleaning staff – and, as a result, we’ve been winning new cleaning contracts while our competitors have struggled to provide a reliable service due to their deep staffing problems.”

Caroline is about to turn her attention to the dormant Taunton part of her territory and intends to double her annual turnover to £2 million by the end of next year.

Her success in building the business from an annual turnover in 2016 of £135,000 with marginal profitability impressed the judges of the whichfranchise-organised awards.

With more than 70 staff and a determination to employ many more when she expands into Taunton, Caroline is tickled pink that most of her new business leads come from referrals.

“Most of our new clients have received very poor service in the past from other contractors, and it’s gratifying to be able to turn that around,” she says.

“When we’re negotiating with new clients, we explain our above-market-pay philosophy for our cleaners and the role it plays in providing a consistent and high quality service.”

“Clients who choose us buy into that philosophy and accept that annual fee increases will be in line with the Real Living Wage.”

“They also appreciate our 100% commitment to delivering all their contracted cleaning hours, which we achieve by having a team of mobile cleaners able to cover any gaps at the last minute.”

Caroline is no stranger to awards. At the last Betterclean awards evening, she walked away with the Investor in People award and was a finalist for Most Improved Franchise Owner.

The Great British Franchisee Awards are run by whichfranchise, supported by Lloyds Bank, BDO, Worldpay from FIS, AMO Consulting and Chantry Group.

IMAGE: Caroline Spiller, Betterclean Services Exeter

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