Cleaning franchise Bright & Beautiful has come a long way since 2007 when founder Rachel Ray started it up.
The franchise, which won the Top Overall Franchise Award at the first Workingmums.co.uk’s Top Franchise Awards as well as the Continuous Improvement Award, was praised by the judges for being “a model for other franchise businesses” and “a franchise that would work for anyone from any background”.
Rachel says that, as a former chartered accountant and business consultant advising business owners with their structure and organisation, she has always put a heavy emphasis on finances, structure and delegation and this organisation has been the secret of the franchise’s success.
For instance, at Bright & Beautiful’s head office there is a franchise director, a franchise recruitment manager, a quality manager, a marketing manager and four franchise development consultants with relevant experience in franchises and business growth. “That has meant I can take more of a strategic role as director, building the team and focusing on plans for year on year growth and clear strategic plans,” says Rachel, who works three days in the office and two from home.
She has always had big ambitions for Bright & Beautiful, driven by her initial instinct which suggested there was a growing market for the kind of ethical, high quality domestic cleaning service the business provides. The increase in the number of mums who work means many are looking to delegate tasks like cleaning so they can free up time with their families. She says: “I was a busy working mum with two young children when I got the idea for the business. My husband ran his own business. I wanted to spend time with my family, not on housework.”
Rachel adds that surveys show it still tends to be women who do most of the housework and that this can cause tension in a relationship. Offering a service which outsources that housework can ease the tension, she says.
Bright & Beautiful now has 55 franchisees, who stretch from Edinburgh to Plymouth, employing around 500 housekeepers, but Rachel says there are many more areas where she is keen to extend to. The business doesn’t yet have much coverage in the south west of England, for instance. “We are still recruiting all over the place,” she says. The business has also explored opportunities in other European countries.
One of Rachel’s first major strategic decisions, given her background in accountancy, was to secure regular customers on standing orders so the business could grow incrementally. “The accountant in me wanted to secure a regular cash flow,” she says.
She was also keen to be an ethical employer so when she set up the business and recruited her housekeepers she hired them as employees rather than agency workers, which is the norm in the cleaning industry. “We want to build the business step by step and person by person,” says Rachel. “One of our core values is that people matter. That is an underlying ethic for me as a Christian. For me, people are the most important thing and business success is linked to looking after your employees well.”
Other core values include peace of mind and trust. “If you are given the keys to someone’s home then you have to have their trust,” says Rachel.
In recent years, Rachel has continued to grow the business, which has an annual turnover of £5 million, through creating proper structures for feedback. The business has always been strong on feedback, but has harnessed the power of technology as the number of franchisees has grown. Initially feedback was done over the phone. Now it is done automatically through text messages and in regular online client and team surveys which lead to action plans. Two years ago Bright & Beautiful created innovation panels to ensure it was continually innovating. “We were conscious we had fantastic, intelligent franchisees, including former police officers, lawyers and teachers. We wanted to tap into the collective brain power of those people who were running the same business in different locations to harness their good ideas and creativity and make sure we listened to what they had to say,” says Rachel.
“With franchising the main thing is consistency. You pilot your business idea and prove that it can work. As we continue to innovate we make sure that new ideas are tested and piloted so that franchisees can be confident in following the new procedures. When we started I felt that the domestic cleaning industry was out of date and unprofessional. We don’t want to rest on our laurels and stagnate. We want to always be cutting edge. That is part of our branding.”
That innovation extends to all aspects of the business, for instance, Bright & Beautiful has developed a web-based management system which allows franchisees to manage their clients and accounts online and to access up to date statistics in an accessible way.
One of the main challenges facing Bright & Beautiful and other growing franchises is maintaining the business’ original core values and culture. Rachel feels this is down to regularly communicating them. The franchise has regular national conferences, there are regional networking events, quarterly franchise network events, one on one visits and franchisees visit Head Office. Each franchisee has a dedicated franchise development consultant with whom they are in constant contact. They are also buddied up with neighbouring franchisees. “There’s a lot of peer to peer support and, although we have annual and quarterly awards to recognise progress, everyone is very supportive of each other,” says Rachel.
Franchisees – who pay £17,995 + VAT for a franchise – also have their own Facebook pages and Twitter feeds and can access content that is centrally produced which they can share.
From recruitment onwards, the values of the business are at the forefront. Bright & Beautiful puts a heavy emphasis on the franchise recruitment process and has recently introduced psychometric testing. Rachel says she has grown increasingly selective about the franchisees she takes on based on her greater knowledge and experience of the skills they will need.
Management skills are number one. Franchisees will not be cleaning themselves, but managing a team of professional housekeepers. They need to have a caring, nurturing approach, says Rachel, be confident and have business drive and acumen. They need to be able to handle stress, have good time management skills, be self managers and be able to delegate to others. “This is not a hobby; it’s a proper business career,” she states. The psychometric test results are used to open up discussions about people’s strengths and what the franchise development consultant needs to work on.
After initial training at Head Office and at their homes, new franchisees have regular daily and weekly contact with their franchise development consultant for the first three months. They then have a regular scheduled call once a month for the first year, but Rachel emphasises that this is for support – franchisees need to have their own business plan and vision. Training is ongoing and recently Bright & Beautiful launched online workshops in addition to its face to face workshops. Although face to face training is highly valued, says Rachel, not all franchisees can always attend.
All this innovation and development has brought the business recognition. Rachel has been invited to speak about best practice by the British Franchise Association, to which Bright & Beautiful is accredited. She has also been asked for advice from other franchisors and has won several awards, including the Northern Power Women Award.
She says the team were very excited to win the Workingmums.co.uk award. Bright & Beautiful has recruited many of its franchisees from the site, although not all its franchisees are mums or indeed women.
Rachel, whose daughters are now aged 14 and 11, says: “I feel the awards are a tribute to working mums. We are all trying to build successful careers while bringing up our children in the best way we can. I am really proud that our franchise provides the kind of flexible business that enables women to do that.”
*Picture credit: Recent Bright & Beautiful franchisees at a new starter training session with franchise recruitment manager Jo Vorwerg top left and Rachel Ray third from left on the back row.