It is coming up for 30 years since I took the plunge and invested in a carpet cleaning business in Ireland, using the well proven franchise route. Having run another sales-based franchise in the UK I knew that just selling things wasn’t for me, I really wanted to work with my hands, solve peoples’ problems and bask in not only the financial reward but in the less tangible but immensely satisfying reward of customer satisfaction.
Although my time cleaning carpets was only marginally longer than that selling tools, what both franchises taught me was that the key to success was training and so it was that having seen so many carpets being replaced by wooden flooring I decided, when my franchise masters got silly, to train in the art of wood flooring installation. So it was that I found myself being trained by a man at least 10 years younger than me but who was an incredibly gifted carpenter in how to batten, level, insulate and fit solid timber in everything from single domestic rooms to thousand square metre sports halls. In those days there was very little pre-finished flooring which meant that once the floor was installed, it had to be sanded and finished.
During the early years of my wood floor career the sanding and finishing aspect was taken care of by my business partner, who also brought the contracts in and managed the finances. After a while I noticed that very little financial reward was being received by myself for my fitting and so I decided to take on the task of finding the work and finishing the floors myself. Initially I started hiring the atrocious (and very dusty) floor sanding equipment found in general hire shops and even with this terrible machinery I very quickly found that the floor sanding business was not only far easier on the body than installation but also more profitable.
With the floor sanding business showing huge potential, myself and my new business partner decided to invest in better machinery and a visit to a trade show had both equipment and training arranged. Using knowledge gained through my time in franchising I started a marketing campaign that pointed out the benefits of using better equipment (people were sick of the dust generated by cheap hire machines, unbelievably those same machines are still on hire!) and the business took another giant leap forward and we recruited our first and very shortly afterwards second member of staff.
Our business was doing so well that it came on the “radar” of a UK based franchise development company that was looking into expanding into the Irish market and so in 2007 our floor sanding business was franchised out and until the collapse of the Irish economy in 2008 was one of the fastest growing franchises in Europe - having gone from zero to 15 franchisees in less than 18 months. With far too few people having any Euros to spend on floor sanding the decision was made to diversify into various forms of floor care, so back to carpet cleaning and also stone care. More training courses in the UK led me into contact with professionals in all forms of floor care EXCEPT wood floor sanding and so it was that I was asked to provide UK floor sanding training courses. The far greater potential in the UK market for product and machine sales and training led to the decision to start Ultimate Floor Care UK selling the excellent Pallmann wood floor products and the equally excellent Nu Life stone care products. Now in 2019 we have had the best start to a year we have ever had, and we are looking forward to new challenges in the supply of innovative floor care products.
So, having bored you with a brief history of the genesis of Ultimate Floor Care what (if anything) can be learnt from this story? This is what I believe.
- Invest in good training, machinery and products, the people who pay the best expect them.
- Do the basics well, turn up on time, treat the customer with courtesy, get them to like you, educate them without being patronising and of course do a good job.
- Mix with the best, surround yourself with like-minded people who want to provide good service and learn from them as well as help them.
- Provide a service (don’t just sand the floor and forget them, offer maintenance plans) and keep in contact with your customers, they are not only customers but your best marketing resource in generating new leads and repeat work.
- Add new services if they dovetail into your existing business and make sure your existing customers know about them.
- Keep in touch with industry developments by reading relevant magazines, manufacturers literature etc.
- Join forums, but learn to sort the wheat from the chaff, there is a lot of good stuff there but equally as much nonsense.
- Build a good website but be very careful who you employ to build it and even more careful who maintains and optimises it.
- Don’t let your ego get in the way, this one limits so many businesses.
- There are many out there who will envy your success and try and undermine it, learn to recognise them and develop techniques to deal with them.
Ten is a good number but I want to add one more, HAVE FUN your business and your life will be so much better if you enjoy them.