Running a cleaning business during a pandemic and beyond

Family policies, flexible working and pandemic cleaning with Fantastic Services’ CEO, Rune Sovndahl.

fantastic services working dads

 

Danish entrepreneur Rune Sovndahl is the CEO of Fantastic Services, the number one domestic services franchise in the UK, which also operates in Australia and the US. He tells us how how he did it.

Tell us about setting up the company. Was it tough?

Fantastic Services’ story started way back in 2009, at a time of a global crisis. I met my now-business partner Anton in London. Way back then, he was the owner of a small cleaning firm that was struggling to advance in the domestic services industry. I really enjoyed his views and business ideas, so we took an important decision to invest all of our savings into the foundations of Fantastic Services.

Was it difficult? Oh, you bet! From day one, we decided to be a self-funded business in order to have greater control and flexibility over the direction we wanted the company to go. At the very beginning, we did not have the budget to hire highly-experienced professionals. Our skills and training policy could best be summed up in four words: train fast and test. What we did was to hire young, passionate-to-build-a-career and determined-to-succeed individuals. We then trained them quickly and put their abilities to a test. I believe evaluating results is among the most vital things in any business. My biggest advice would be look inward before you look outward.

How did the company fare during the pandemic?

Luckily, Fantastic Services not only survived, but thrived during those difficult times. And I think it was for a reason. We pivoted operations, developed new services, and because of all the passionate and devoted people we work with, managed to go through the pandemic more smoothly than most of our competitors. This is one of the main reasons why my business partner Anton and I went the franchising route. We wanted to support small businesses and, through franchising – people. And we really do. Our franchise opportunities come with marketing, sales, and operational support. Even though we had a lot of things figured out, during the pandemic this relationship we worked so hard to build was in danger.

We had to change and update our processes. We had to create new services from scratch. It was something that we’ve done before, but never at such speed. And on top of all that, we were facing government restrictions, lockdowns, and everything else.

fantastic services working dads

What kind of family-friendly employment policies do you have in place?

We have a number of family-friendly policies in place at the moment. One being specifically aimed at helping mothers. Fantastic Services has always been keen on employing young parents, and therefore, supporting them in any way possible.

  1. We work closely with HR to better understand and identify where within the organisation are the majority of mothers. We then review if there are any patterns and try to distribute workflow accordingly.
  2. Furthermore, we encourage all parents to take unpaid leave whenever necessary
  3. We provide different resources and programmes aimed at supporting working mothers. We then advertise those to make sure all employees are aware that those benefits are available to them.
  4. We consider ourselves to be great listeners and understanding when it comes to receiving feedback from our working mothers.
  5. We offer flexible and/or reduced hours for the few first months of return to employment
  6. We also have a great Fantastic community. We always try our best to support each other when in need of help.

How does flexible working work within the organisation? Not just the cleaners, but the other employees?

All domestic professionals get access to our own custom CRM system that is also linked to an app called BeFantastic, specifically developed for their ease. Through our easy-to-use mobile app, designed to help each franchisee, they are able to check their daily schedules and availability in real-time, as well as accept or decline the available jobs for their location. They can also communicate with other team teams, clients and with the head office, and manage everything on the go.

We also have a similar system for our office employees, where we are able to check productivity and schedules. Another project management system allows us to communicate the given tasks, their status, and progress.

All of our employees are given the opportunity to choose whether they would prefer to work from home or in the office. When working from home, all employees are given access to a VPN system, that allows them to connect with our main server.

WFH, like any other change, is sometimes difficult to get used to. We also have experiences issues with deadlines when we had to move to work from home, simply because a big percentage of the employees’ productivity drastically decreased. Managers had to focus a bit more on micromanagement and try their best to support their employees during these turbulent times. Many of our employees nowadays, however, have gotten used to the change and prefer working from the comfort of their own home. And I can confidently say that we have actually experienced optimised workflow and an increase in productivity and motivation within the teams. I am extremely happy about this, as I have always been a strong supporter of a better work-life balance.

How would you like to advance that side of the business moving forward, so you keep the best workers?

We are sure that we shouldn’t expect business to go back as usual post-Covid. So many people have gone used to working remotely, so I understand that we need to shape our strategies based on a more hybrid and flexible working environment. To do so, we will find a way to offer multiple flexible work models that differ based on roles, responsibilities, and location.

We are also always looking for different ways to redesign our offices to optimise communication and stimulate teamwork. We also consider different ways to support people that wish to come back to the office and help them adapt to the somewhat new environment.

Read more:

Do you let your job define you and how healthy is it?

How the pandemic changed one man’s idea of how to work





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