Entrepreneur Of The Fortnight: Cleaning Up A Storm

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Hey there, wee Gazer! Happy weekend to you :) Let’s kick it off with some seriously inspiring pearls of wisdom from London’s, Ed Jonkler, who shares incredibly useful insights about his path to success as CEO of Remora Cleaning.

If you’re ever dreamt of upping sticks from your 9-5 job if you only knew how to channel your skills into a fulfilling, money-making reality, this is for you. Or maybe you’ve wondered how much experience you need in a field before jumping ship and when you should make that jump. And then there’s that golden question – how do you ensure that you’re the leader of a company which makes £100k a year not £10k?

Ed answers all these questions and more with humour and heart, giving incredibly practical tips about his path to entrepreneurial success. And if you’re someone who isn’t sure about your passions and what area you could launch into, you can breathe a sigh of relief. Here’s a man who is making his living from running a highly successful cleaning business with first class flair and panache. A money-making Cinderella in male form, cleaning has never sounded so attractive…

Over to you, Ed…

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Can You Tell Us A Bit About What You Do?

I run a company called Remora Cleaning, which has teams doing deep cleaning during the day (end of tenancy, post works type stuff), cleaning offices at night (it’s open for 21.5 hours a day!) and housekeepers and domestic cleaners working independently, too.

I also do some consulting for other people who are starting businesses, usually in slightly more glamorous fields than mine!

What Was Your Previous Experience Before Starting Your Business?

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When I was 16, I set up my first company from home, Dialaslave (it’s still on companies house, embarrassingly)! I was renting my friends out to do odd jobs for local people and charging a percentage of the cost for arranging everything. I had a huge desk in one corner of my bedroom, with a leather blotter and my own landline that I mainly used to prank call the neighbours – I felt like a proper mini-CEO.

Later on, I started working in the financial world and helped some experienced guys open their own investment fund in London. I did a bit of everything from plugging in monitors, negotiating contracts with banks, trading and making a lot of tea!

I basically had to wing it at first and was very lucky not to make any serious mistakes but the ability to tackle constantly varying tasks is one of the key attributes for going into business. You have to wear many a hat – part lawyer – part accountant – part salesman and part HR manager!

What Inspired You To Start Your Business?

I was a useless employee! That and working 15 hours a day at a computer seemed to lose its shine after a couple of years.

A different sort of pressure comes with running your own business, though – but the upshot is having the freedom to shape things how you choose and to carve a life exactly how you want to. For me, that’s unbeatable.

The only problem is that now I’m so used to the benefits of no longer being an employee, I couldn’t go back to a regular job!

As for my other motivations to start my own business, I come from an entrepreneurial family so I guess it’s a blue-print I’ve grown up with. My grandpa was patenting all sorts of things and my dad went into business at quite a young age so I guess part of that has rubbed off on me!

How Did You Manage To Build Your Business?

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Early on, massive personal involvement with clients is a must. I started by hand writing hundreds of letters and sticking them through people’s doors for 12 hours a day. It can be demoralising but you have to keep going and keep morale up. Eventually being the face of the company isn’t sustainable as things grow but your passion for your business can be passed on to others.

What Has Been The Biggest Highlight?

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Definitely when the business started covering it’s costs after a long slog to get things off the ground and a lot of stress, anxiety and hard work. It felt so exhilarating – something out of nothing!

What’s Been The Biggest Challenge?

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That is an easy one – managing people. As everything has expanded and headcount has grown, I have had to learn how to manage employees. Not just day to day, but keeping people motivated and happy in the workplace and identifying people that should be offered greater opportunities. It has taken a couple of years and is still very much a work in progress but I’m getting there.

The pressure that comes with more people, more fixed costs and increased growth really changes the nature of things – from a fun project that makes a bit of money to managing a larger entity where you are dealing with staff problems, paying suppliers, managing cash-flow, client relationships, stock levels and maintaining a fleet of vehicles constantly, round the clock. It can still be just as rewarding but you certainly feel a heavy burden of responsibility.

What’s Your Favourite Product / Service?

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Technology has been really essential in helping me manage everything. I use an accounting/invoicing program called Freeagent that connects to my bank account, chases overdue invoices, and shows me where we are financially – without that I would be done for!

How Do You Build Your Client Base?

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Entertaining and networking is great early on. You can have a great website, spend a fortune on Search Engine Optimisation and have a ‘sexy’ app, too. But ultimately, just being quick to respond, efficient and doing a better job than your rivals is the secret to long-term sustainable growth. If you get that right, you really don’t need to do much else – there’s no substitute for first class service.

What’s The Best Compliment You’ve Ever Received?

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We get a lot of good feedback but one client sent an obscenely big bottle of champagne to our offices after we worked on his house in Knightsbridge post-refurbishment. That definitely went down very well..

What Advice Would You Give To Budding Entrepreneurs?

1. Take The First Step

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Plan carefully, but also remember that there is a point where nothing will be gained from further research. You have to push ahead and just start trading. So many really smart people I know haven’t taken the first step, probably because they are too smart!

2. Learn To Delegate

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I mentioned this one earlier but it’s worth a repeat. To expand and scale things, you need to be able to give other people responsibility and control, freeing you up to take things forward. This is completely terrifying sometimes! Mastering the balance between divesting control and staying in touch with what’s happening is the main difference between a company with a turnover of £100,000, and £100,000,000. It’s going to be my main challenge from here on out.

3. Know Your Numbers

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Lastly, know where your business is financially, at all times. It’s not exciting, but finances will make or break you, especially early on. More companies go bust in the UK for having too much work, than a lack of work – it’s cash-flow squeezes that usually finish off companies in their infancy. Understand what you can risk, use debt carefully and know what your break-even is at all times.

What’s Next For You?

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I’m expanding the business, increasing management as a precursor to increasing head-count aggressively through the summer. We have been lucky to double turnover every year, for the last three years, but it’s getting harder and needs some innovative thinking to continue.

We are talking to a small rival about buying and assimilating them, so that will also be a new challenge for the company if that goes ahead.

And lastly, we are building an app/booking system that will be ready in the winter, enabling people to book cleans in real time in the same way you can book a hotel or a restaurant. I know there are some apps that do this already but we want to do it with our own dedicated employees rather than subcontracting the jobs out to freelancers (who I don’t think are as accountable in the work they do).

How Can We Contact You?

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Give me a call in the office anytime on 02078218852 or drop me a line via the website.

What’s Your Favourite Quote?

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And if in doubt, wee Gazer, remember..

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