First published on 6th October 2021, ECJ Magazine
Since Covid-19, for the majority of cleaning businesses, it has been extremely challenging – with the need to adapt strategy, operations and customer offerings at an unprecedented pace. Fabien Caqueret at Tudor Group recounts his own experiences and looks ahead to future opportunities for the sector.
Fabien Caqueret is managing director of the Tudor Group, a commercial and industrial cleaning and support services company working with clients across the UK. From offices in Manchester and Cardiff, it offers commercial, specialist and façade cleaning.
Like the majority of cleaning businesses, following the Covid-19 outbreak, have been extremely challenging as it has had to adapt its strategy, operations and customer offerings at an unprecedented pace. Covid-19 saw the vast majority of its contracts within the hospitality and leisure sectors paused overnight.
Following a review of business strategy, this was then offset by looking to commercial office, public transport, residential and healthcare sectors now requiring an increase in services.
Caqueret speaks about the challenges the Tudor Group faced and future opportunities for the cleaning sector as we slowly emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic and offers some pointers for other companies looking to secure their future success.
“Throughout the pandemic, most of our clients’ businesses have faced the need to solve multiple, and often competing, priorities. One of the toughest was how to keep their business operational while at the same time limiting the use of their facilities to protect staff and customers from possible infection.
“As we all know, the hospitality and leisure sectors have been particularly impacted, initially by government-enforced closure, and then with gradual reopening but with ever changing, and restrictive, new guidelines. These companies were a large part of our business and so, along with them, we have had to adapt and evolve.”
The pandemic, and greater awareness of infections in general, will stay with us for many years. Airborne contagions, whether Covid-19 or the next similar virus, will remain a long-term threat. For the cleaning sector, business models have needed to adjust to reflect the changes in attitude and to meet the new demands.
Cleaning is now considered to be a more essential service than it was prior to the pandemic. But with that comes a heightened expectation. For businesses welcoming back employees and customers, or those who have been able to remain open, the range of cleaning services has had to be enhanced and expectations of quality elevated.
Safeguarding a key necessity
Cleaning is no longer just about a brilliantly polished finish but is now a critical function to protect the health and safety of a building’s users. In safeguarding the inhabitants, staff, customers, or clients the building’s owner is also protecting their reputation and the long-term prospects of their business. In direct reflection, the standing and appreciation of a professional cleaning regime has been elevated.
Caqueret notes: “Having a good relationship with our clients has always been important. But during the last 18 months our open and regular communication has been vital in allowing us to understand their changing pressures and subsequent requirements. This led us to modify our services and now many of our cleaning programmes include elements of on-going sanitisation, periodic deep cleans and antiviral fogging sanitisation.
“We have also increased our focus on customer service to make life as easy as possible for our clients. They are facing many new challenges and we can help lessen the time and effort they have to spend on arranging cleaning services and assessing cleaning related risks. Linked to this, and owing to support from our owner Foresight Group, a private equity and infrastructure investment manager, we have invested considerably in our systems to improve our levels of safety and compliance.
“This has involved the transition to ISO 45001, the world’s first global health and safety management system. In addition, we have received accreditation for Covid Secure Cleaning from Safe Contractor and became members of the International Sanitary Supply Association (ISSA), the worldwide cleaning industry association. We have also recently implemented a new cloud-based health, safety, environment and quality (HSEQ) system to manage all our critical safety equipment.”
Prior to the pandemic, cleaning had been more likely to be seen as an ‘invisible’ service and a commodity. Previously cleaning services needed to be discreet and unobtrusive. But now we are not only seeing a greater acceptance by the public that cleaning has to take place alongside other day to day tasks, but that the need for hygiene is of the upmost importance.
Therefore, the simple sight of these tasks being undertaken provides reassurance of a sanitised and safe environment. This is especially the case in high footfall businesses such as retail and hospitality. Observing thorough and frequent cleaning taking place gives a feeling of protection to staff, customers, and members of the public.
Caqueret adds: “In early 2020, to meet these changing needs, we altered our business strategy, accelerated our product development and further developed our specialist cleaning team, following the guidelines set out by both British Institute of Cleaning Science (BICSc) and International Sanitary Supply Association (ISSA). As a result, we launched our specialist cleaning service called Back to Business – a service that can be used as a one-off sanitation or decontamination project or as part of a wider on-going cleaning regime. It is based on the following four-point methodology:
- Assess – we take the time to understand what is required to create an appropriate cleaning and hygiene regime
- Restore – we then execute the cleaning schedule of work and return the client’s facility to them fit for purpose
- Maintain – we offer a follow-up programme and deliver training to teams, so they understand the key risks and have the ability to maintain a safe working environment
- Assurance – we provide a certificate of assurance outlining exact protocols, standards and certification that have been applied to the process
Fair employment of staff
The work of cleaning staff has become essential during the pandemic in preventing the spread of infection and some have argued that they should be seen as key workers. Many cleaning staff have continued working throughout the pandemic, but on contracts where services were paused, the Government’s furlough scheme has provided important support and allowed companies to retain valued employees. Cleaning staff have been through considerable uncertainty and change, and yet many have been willing to undertake increased training as they have adapted to their differing roles and faced new risks.
Caqueret continues: “We want to offer the best service and to make life easier for our customers. Therefore, having a team of experienced and reliable cleaning staff with a can-do attitude, who are responsive, and willing to work at short notice is essential for our business. The fair employment of staff is key to how we operate as a business, and we have become members of the Living Wage Foundation which leads the way for providing a real living wage for all employees. We have also invested in our staff with additional training to meet the ISSA Clean Standards certification.
“While the focus has been on Covid-19, we should not overlook the fact that this greater emphasis on the cleaning of buildings, as well as our individual focus on hand washing and other measures, has seen a reduction in many other airborne illnesses, including the common cold. However, we have been careful to consider new and emerging risks and make sure that staff have the necessary training, protective clothing and take the required precautions.
“Any instances of illness, or even just having to quarantine, are of concern to me and of course our employees, but can also cause resource challenges. Just like the employers we work with, taking care of our staff is good for our business and reducing instances of all types of sickness, not just Covid-19, is a benefit for all. When everyone is under pressure, it’s difficult to keep this in mind, but it is something we are emphasising to our clients.”
When life is disrupted by crisis, it is important that we all learn and adapt. The pandemic obviously presented a number of significant challenges, but opportunities have also been seen. Like all industries, the cleaning sector has needed to adjust and many of the changes will remain with us for the long-term. Out of adversity comes strength.
Caqueret concludes: “We are now seeing our strongest pipeline of all time. Our hospitality clients are gradually returning, and we have now expanded our reach into sectors from property management, education, healthcare, commercial, public sector and construction. This diversification will help protect the business going forward and also allows us to take learnings from one sector to the next. We are also predicting a significant growth in revenue and foresee the creation of more than 100 new roles.
Out of adversity comes strength
“There is no question this has been an extremely challenging time, but an ability to adapt has ensured we have been able to continue to be both operational and profitable. As a business we will continue regular communication with our customers and align our services to their changing needs to ensure that we continually deliver the best service possible.”
The Tudor Group provides commercial cleaning, hygiene and maintenance services. From bases in Manchester and Cardiff, the two companies in the Group – Tudor Contract Cleaning and AQS – deliver services to clients including national hotel chains, sport and leisure venues, educational facilities, and block management companies, and hold public sector contracts for council buildings and transport providers.