Graduate entrepreneur: Simon Hempenstall, co-founder of Why Bother Cleaning
This article is one of a series of interviews with graduate entrepreneurs. beepurple is the university’s entrepreneurship support service.
Name: Simon Hempenstall
Subject studied: BSC Technology Management
Year of graduation: 1999
Business name: Why Bother Cleaning Ltd
Describe your business
Founded in 2006 as a domestic cleaning company we now offer both office and domestic cleaning services. We have over 50 cleaners looking after an average of 200 clients each week. We are now attracting 100% for potential customers than last year and have noticed an increase in the demand for office cleaning.
How did you get your idea for the business?
Our own experience of using cleaning companies to clean our flat, where in most cases the service was dreadful with unreliable cleaners who lacked the right skills and attitude. We knew we could offer a superior service and slowly but surely build a name in Brighton & Hove as a leading cleaning company.
What makes your business unique?
We first focus on employing the right staff, then by fully understanding each client’s specific needs we are able to carefully select the right cleaner for each individual client. Each cleaner has specific skills and types of home they are going to be better suited to. By getting the right cleaner for the client, we can retain clients longer than our competition. We also understand the importance of security, so cleaners double-check they have properly locked up after each clean, we have made this a fundamental must for each and every one of our cleaners.
How do you market your business?
Google Adwords, spending money on SEO to improve organic google visibility, and flyer distribution. SEO is allowing us to target specific search terms such an ‘end of tenancy cleaning’ where there is a high demand, as well as more obvious terms such as ‘cleaning company Brighton’ and ‘cleaners Brighton’ and the many variations of these terms.
Exactly how did you get started with no funding?
Minimised initial overheads by starting my business from home. Found a friend to help with creating a good website. Made sure the roof over my head was paid for the first 6 months and gave up all luxuries for first three years from going out with friends to holidays. In building the business this way we have retained the full share of the company and grew at a pace that allowed us to slowly refine our service and brand.
What has been your biggest business challenge and how have you overcome it?
The recession back in 2009. As a luxury business that people can live without, many domestic cleaning clients gave us notice to cancel, but through good cashflow, and word of mouth, new business came and we survived when many of our competitors didn’t.
To what do you attribute your business success?
Focusing on your core business and not being afraid to turn away business that does not suit your business model that short term gain will often hurt you long term. And the ability to learn from each mistake you make and adapt accordingly. Know what your clients really want from a service and what has caused them to change supplier. You will likely find a pattern to the issues reported.
What are your business plans for the future?
Expand our commercial cleaning further and form a management structure so our business can operate even if I was not around.
What one piece of advice would you offer to someone starting up?
Remember that cash is king, invoice your clients at the first opportunity then ensure any monies overdue are chased continually until payment received. Don’t assume everyone will simply pay as you have invoiced them, many wont pay in a timely fashion without many reminders.
What skills are the most important for an entrepreneur to develop?
- Know your numbers! You might not be pitching on Dragons Den but you still need to know what your sales, costs and profits are looking like to succeed;
- Planning ahead, without this you will stagnate and most likely fail;
- Keep an eye on your competitors and marketplace so that you can regularly review how you can improve and adapt your business;
- Know which marketing activity offers the highest ROI and then hone in on it. If you can afford Google advertising to the business generating income then do it, but don’t solely rely on this as a form of customer acquisition.
Any tools, resources or books you recommend?
- Write a proper business plan as if you were looking to get funding, get honest feedback from anyone you know in business then once finalised use it as your initial framework and update it as your business progresses.
- Become a member of the FSB (Federation of Small Businesses) – free legal helpline in itself is worth the £150 annual fee.
- E-myth revisited – Get the book or download the audio book