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Making a cleen sweep of it: Managing Director, Jean-Henri Beukes, explains the company’s recipe for success

Written by Martin Morris on Monday, 14 September 2020. Posted in Interviews

Commercial cleaning services provider, Ecocleen, does what it says on the tin. In fact, it does it rather well. Managing Director, Jean-Henri Beukes, explains the company’s recipe for success.

Making a cleen sweep of it: Managing Director, Jean-Henri Beukes, explains the company’s recipe for success

Commercial cleaning services provider, Ecocleen, does what it says on the tin. In fact, it does it rather well. Managing Director, Jean-Henri Beukes, explains the company’s recipe for success.

Growing up in Cape Town, moving to Australia at the age of 18, before eventually decamping to the UK, Jean-Henri Beukes could never be accused of not travelling. 

After completing a double degree in Civil Engineering at the University of Technology Sydney and International Business at Queensland University of Technology, Beukes took over the small family business, which manufactured car care products, in 2011.

Having rapidly expanded the business by diversifying its service offering and product range for its vehicle dealership customer base, he eventually sold the business in 2014 to join his father in the UK, who had acquired an Ecocleen franchise in the South West region.

Armed with his Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa, Beukes was then able to buy the underdeveloped Ecocleen franchise in South Wales - a region subsequently combined with its South West counterpart for Beukes to jointly manage with his father. 

So successful was this partnership that by end-2014 the combined South West and South Wales franchise had more than doubled in size to make up 40% of the Ecocleen business in total. 

Renegotiation with the franchisor beckoned, with Beukes and his father eventually taking a 30% stake in the business. Beukes also became Franchise Development Director and in 2016 alone, the overall business grew by more than 35%.

The final piece of the jigsaw, however, fell into place when the two men completed a multi-million management buy-out of Ecocleen in 2017.

As Beuke reflects: “This has meant a new management team (has been) brought in and the central operation (has) moved to a new head office. 

“As Managing Director of the business, I have worked closely with the team to run an underperforming Franchise business into a profitable and future proofed business.”

As Managing Director at Ecocleen, Beukes sees his role as working closely with Regional Directors and Heads of Departments “to ensure that growth, systems, support and compliance are moving in line with the company’s strategic long term goals.” 

Often described by colleagues as the opposite of a micromanager, Beukes regards himself as an ideas generator, giving his team full accountability and ownership of their departments, regions and projects. For Beukes “this will drive motivation and better performance. With regular team check-ins, I can make sure everything is in hand, as well as evaluating their level of engagement with the company.” 

It also ties-in with Beukes’ thoughts regarding leadership and how to measure personal success.

“For me, leadership is all about surrounding yourself with the right people and taking the opportunity to empower them both personally and professionally. 

“It's also important as a leader to have the confidence in letting go, which will ensure you're supporting the team through thick and thin to maintain their engagement in the long run. 

“Leaders should also be honest and up front with their team, making sure everyone knows where they stand at all times and the direction that they are headed,” he further notes. 

Under the Ecocleen business model regional Directors (franchisees) each have their own hub and manage their own business - in effect allowing them to decide on their own operations and location.

Regional Directors are also provided with sales, marketing, operations and compliance support, “to help them hit the ground running from the start of our partnership,” says Beukes. 

“Our franchise model is different to our competitors as we will invoice on behalf of our franchisees, allowing them to focus on the things that matter: customer service and building relationships,” he adds. 

Beukes further notes that when looking at its competitors in the franchise market, Ecocleen focuses on giving Regional Directors geographical borders to ensure there is no overlap and that “we don’t compete with franchisees on both regional and national contracts. Our franchisees run their regions as an SME and have a local interest in the areas that they operate. “

Moreover, in an industry noted for its high management turnover rate the company long been a believer in having a strong and reliable management team that can help build long term relationships with customers and staff. Ongoing provision of franchise support throughout the franchisee period is also seen as important.

Yet as is the case elsewhere, would be franchisees will have to jump through a number of hoops - not least in terms of providing the right fit for both parties.

Other key considerations - in addition to meeting the necessary financial requirements - include having a passion for customers, drive and collaborating with head office.

Beukes is also looking for individuals with an entrepreneurial spirit prepared to contribute to the overall success of the company. He adds: “In our fast paced market they must also be happy to be challenged in their thinking and be risk averse, in order to navigate any difficulties that may arise.”

In addition, not only must franchisees be familiar with the brand, bringing constructive and profitable ideas to the company in order to drive excellence, they must also ensure they consistently drive “great customer experience and build a base of loyal customers for long-term profitability as well as goodwill of the Ecocleen brand.” 

Being comfortable with the role of a franchisee, meaning participating in the programme, attending meetings and engaging with the franchise network, is also a must.

At Ecocleen the franchise fee is £25,000 + VAT for licenses with the minimum investment of £100,000. 

This set-up fee comprises a 6-week training period, as well as ongoing support functions from head office, including the company’s sales teams running central bidding and lead generation training; with help for future strategic planning. 

Marketing and brand help will similarly be given on both a local and national level, according to Beukes, as well as helping create awareness on social media and PR. “New franchisees will also have compliance support with industry standards and accreditations, plus operations training with finance support for invoices and management accounting advisory services,” he adds.

Yet simply becoming a franchisee is only part of the process. As Beukes is quick to point out: “Franchisees must also recognise that there could be problems that may arise in the long term, but should be discussed across networks.

“It’s vital to be aware of where or when these challenges could occur and (to) bear this in mind when making their franchise decision, he says. 

“I would also encourage them to do their homework on the brand of choice, speak with existing franchisees and meet the head office team, not just recruiters,” he adds. 

As a digital-based cleaning company Ecocleen can onboard staff remotely with PDA (personal digital assistant) systems. 

Unsurprisingly, it has also continued to invest in advanced technologies enabling checks from customer sites to be updated in real time and with franchisees having access to all financial information, in order to know where they stand. 

“Our technology also ensures operational compliance with customer monthly audits and staff clocking in and clocking out of sites online to track attendance.” 

Head Office, says Beukes, also uses MS teams to ensure transparency within the workplace. “Not only does this help with the ecological impact of our operations, it also enables seamless communication with customers and franchisees.”

Looking at the company’s metrics, the numbers tell their own story - Ecocleen having grown by 75% since its management buy-out and on target to generate annualised turnover of £17.5 million by end-2020. 

More generally, in a contract cleaning market worth an estimated £5.6 billion - and comprising 32,000 companies - Ecocleen currently employs 1,700 members and is top 60 ranked in that market. Consequently, it’s well positioned to take advantage of a growing market; especially one -in the short to medium term at least - that has seen unprecedented demand for cleaning services, since the emergence of COVID-19.

At the coal face, meanwhile, franchisees are each tasked with achieving 20% annual growth - support set to be provided, moving forwards, by the creation of a central business development team and ongoing lead generation activity, according to Beukes.

The recent appointment of two new business development managers to take advantage of sales opportunities in London, East Anglia and the South West of England, on behalf of the regional franchisees, underscores this.

“By strengthening Ecocleen’s sales capabilities within these key regions, the company will be able to secure new cleaning contracts with a growing range of private and public sector organisations, notes Beukes.

Indeed, forecast record growth this year of 29.6% has come about not only by maintaining high service quality for clients, but also by adopting a consultative approach to ensure customers have peace of mind that every necessary precaution has been taken to ensure their safety during these difficult times, according to Beukes.

He adds: “We are proud to have ISO 31000 Risk Management and OHSAS 18001 Health & Safety Management accreditations, which ensured we were better prepared to navigate the pandemic and could be held accountable for delivering the highest quality level of service for our clients’ requirements.”  

In the meantime, the 2019 acquisition of Regency Cleaning Services - aimed at increasing Ecocleen’s presence within key sectors and expanding the company’s nationwide franchise network with seven new territories - is seen as key. 

That particular deal, worth up to £2.5 million, brought in an extra 130 contracts and 500 new staff, meaning the company now services over 19 million sq feet of office, retail, education, healthcare and industrial space on behalf of a wide range of private and public sector organisations.

As Beukes puts it: “During COVID-19, we appointed Anthony Bonnett as a franchisee for one of these territories. With support and funding from HSBC, Anthony purchased the Oxford region as he was looking for a franchisor that would be strong enough to withstand the imminent economic uncertainty and commercial cleaning proved to be a strong market opportunity.” 

For Beukes though the pandemic has been a huge validation for Ecocleen as a business and for its franchisees. 

“Even with physical barriers and social distancing, we have continued to establish strong relationships with our Regional Directors and stuck together during these turbulent times.”

“As the cleaning sector continues to be an overall attractive market, we have sold a number of regions during COVID and some franchisees are even looking to resell their regions,” he notes.

Yet cleaning sectors such as retail, hospitality and workplaces haven’t fared so well during the pandemic, though even here these sub-markets will be looking to improve as the industry moves towards the so-called ‘new normal’ according to Beukes. 

COVID-19 or not Ecocleen’s five year objective is not only to become ‘the best in class Franchisor in the network’ by continuing to build successful and sustainable growth in the market - as it expands its offering and customer services - but also to grow turnover to £50 million. And of course remain profitable, according to Beukes.

“Not only will we work to achieve these ambitious plans through strong organic growth strategies, but also by the strategic acquisition of smaller and mid-size cleaning companies. At Ecocleen, we will also continue to attract new franchisees and provide ongoing support, especially to those who are looking to resell their region,” he adds.”

Growth strategies though may be less effective if ongoing improvements in the cleaning industry in general and Ecocleen more specifically, aren’t made.

Mindful of this, Beukes argues that guaranteeing the living wage for cleaners - and for this to become the standard rate of pay going forward - is the biggest improvement the cleaning industry could make. 

He adds that it is also critical now for Ecocleen and the industry at large to increase cleaning routines and frequency for customers “to help break the cycle of infection, which will reduce the number of sick days within the whole economy, schools, and businesses.”

“This investment will support the move to limit the risk from future outbreaks and restrict the need for the UK Government to revert back to lockdown measures. Cleaning and hygiene has been a consistent message from our government to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, so it’s critical that the industry steps up to tackle this ongoing challenge,” he says.

By getting these and other business ducks in a row now, there is every expectation Beukes and Ecocleen will reap major benefits later. 

About the Author

Martin Morris

Martin Morris has more than 30 years of experience writing about topics for national and trade papers, ranging from banking and investment through to energy and computer security. Technology is transforming the financial landscape and it is my job, I believe, to both engage with and inform readers about the rapid changes that are underway there and elsewhere.

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