Simon and Liz Baker were looking for a franchise that gave them a good income, was ethical and offered them a good work life balance.
After years of working long hours while bringing up their two children – their son is working for an online sports-goods company after completing a Business Degree at university and their daughter is taking her A Levels – they wanted more work life balance.
They have worked together for many years so decided to go into franchising together and opted for the professional housekeeping franchise Bright & Beautiful, which recently won the Workingmums.co.uk Top Franchise Award.
Although they only launched this April, after signing up in September, they are very happy with their decision and with the level of support they have been given and are excited about the future.
They came across Bright & Beautiful after Simon sold the family business, a chain of nurseries, in 2014. He had done a few employed jobs in between, but none really appealed to him. “The thing I enjoy about running my own business is that it is all down to me to make decisions,” he says. “If I take a decision that doesn’t work then I can learn from that. When I was working for other people’s businesses, I could see where I would do things differently based on my own experience, but the businesses seemed set in their ways. They weren’t interested in any sort of innovation.”
He came to the conclusion that he couldn’t be employed by anyone else so he decided to explore his options. Initially he and Liz thought about setting up a bed and breakfast, but then hit on the idea of a franchise. Franchises offered a tried and tested business model with back-up. “You get the best of both worlds,” says Simon.
He and Liz went to a franchise exhibition to get some inspiration and Simon was initially considering a management franchise which matched his skills. A domestic cleaning franchise’s stand caught his eye. It got him thinking and he started researching. One of the first domestic cleaning franchises he came across was Bright & Beautiful, but they seemed to have someone covering the area he and Liz lived in. He visited two other franchises, but they didn’t tick all the boxes he was looking for. He returned to the Bright & Beautiful website. “It had stayed with me. It was bright and vibrant and definitely the most professional franchise I had looked at. I decided to pick up the phone and call them. From then on I was hooked,” he says.
He loved their enthusiasm and found out that there was an area adjacent to where he lived covering Sutton Coldfield where he was brought up which was available. Simon and Liz attended some introductory meetings and met Rachel Ray, MD of Bright & Beautiful, and her team. They were impressed. “I could listen to Rachel all day long,” says Liz. “She is so enthusiastic, but very down to earth. She inspires all of us.” Simon compares Sue Moore, Bright & Beautiful’s Franchise Director, to his sister who mentors senior managers of multinationals across Europe. “They are the most professional people I know,” he says.
Simon and Liz enjoy working together and, in fact, met through work. “We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses,” says Liz. They divide most tasks up according to those strengths and have a couple of areas where they cross over.
Simon handles the administrative and financial side of the business. Liz, whose background is as a nursery nurse and who still works a couple of days a week at a nursery, is more hands on, doing interviews with potential cleaners and training and supporting them. “Recruiting staff is very important,” says Liz. “We want the best people so we can offer the best service. Offering a professional housekeeping service is hard work and we are looking for a high level of quality. It’s a lot more than dusting, mopping and hoovering. We want five star hotel quality cleaning.”
Staff have a professional image [they wear a uniform] and they are all employees to ensure consistency – Bright & Beautiful doesn’t use agency staff. Simon and Liz have had three people drop out so far because the job wasn’t what they thought it would be, but they have learned from that in terms of their recruitment process. “We want people who take pride in their work and we want to recognise people for doing a good job,” says Liz. “I rang one of our cleaners to tell her that a client was really happy with her work. She had never received praise, from her managers, for the job she had done before and was over the moon.”
Simon and Liz have been spreading the word about their business by networking, particularly at women in business events, and sending out flyers. “For businesswomen a cleaner is not a luxury, but a necessity,” says Liz. “They want to spend more time with their families and we can help with that.”
They plan to build the business organically so that they can ensure the quality of their service. “We need to train our staff and make sure they understand our vision. Doing a super job will ensure we keep our customers. We want long term sales, not a quick fix and that is about building relationships,” says Simon.
He adds: “Bright & Beautiful is like a big family. There is a lot of support from Head Office and there is a lot of family support. It fits with what we are looking for. It is a very ethical business. If I could bottle Rachel Ray I would.”
*Workingmums.co.uk will be producing a free Best Practice Report in the summer based on the Top Franchise Awards, highlighting some of the best flexible business models.