The demand for gardeners, movers and cleaners Soaring Since the Covid-19 restrictions began to be relaxed, it has benefited the services business co-founded by Rune Sovndahl, 46, in 2009.
Danish-born Sovndahl, who settled in London in 1999, launched Fantastic Services, a domestic service provider, with entrepreneur Anton Skarlatov after not being able to find a carpet cleaner online. They each saved £ 3,000.
Sales went from £ 800,000 in 2010 to £ 9.5 million in 2020. Currently based near London Bridge, the company offers more than 70 services nationwide, from pest control and waste removal to equipment repairs, locksmiths and wealth management.
It employs 370 people and is directly serviced by 400 franchisees or domestic workers (including cleaners and handymen). Company ownership remains evenly divided between Sovndahl and Skarlatov.
birth: Copenhagen, Denmark, February 1975
education: 1986-89: Ingrid Jespersens Gymnasieskole
1990-94: Østre Borgerdyd Gymnasie Skole in Copenhagen, studying mathematics
1997-99: Copenhagen Business College, Diploma of Innovation and Entrepreneurship
1999-2000: South Bank University: Design and Development of Business Information Systems (BA)
Career: 1995: Danish Navy trainee chef. 1995-98: Apprentice chef at Restaurant L’Alsace in Copenhagen
2000-03: Systems Engineer, British Telecom, London
2009-10: Online Marketing Manager, lastminute.com
2009: Co-founded Fantastic Services with Anton Skarlatov, 44 years old
2012: Franchise model developed
live: Holborn in London, wife Olga, son Alexander, three
Did you think you would reach yourself today?Ever since I was a kid, I always had an inner desire to make things, and I wanted to know how a business works. My father and mother were programmers. I was an only child. By the early 1980s, when I was six, I learned to write small code and small programs. It wasn’t particularly interesting, but I understood it and knew how ATMs work.
I am very surprised at the success of my business. This is my sixth adventure, but no one else has come close to it. One was a mobile phone comparison site and the other was an online music school. I wanted to learn how to play the guitar, but I couldn’t find a teacher.
That was exactly how fantastic service was born. I tried to build a website where people can find specific criteria by searching for local services.
How did the coronavirus pandemic affect your business?
When realization hits people, many move I’m looking for a home in central London that has more space than a garden. Then they spent money on making their extra space more useful. We have refurbished hundreds of garden sheds and [helped with] Conversion to their office. The spare bedroom and attic have also become home offices. Provided a decorator and moved things from the attic to storage.Hundreds of installed Home gym..
Demand for household cleaners halved in a day, but removal and handyman services more than made up for what we lost. By April 2021, profits in 2020 increased by 10%. Retraining and teaching people new skills is a big part of our business. I had to change my approach using video calls and seminars, but in reality I was able to do more group training than before.
Have you ever had a staffing problem in the UK during a labor shortage?
We are actively hiring in all areas of our business.Was hard to find Amount of workers You need to meet the demand. That’s why we’ve launched a £ 1m grant and are offering 200 grants of up to £ 5,000 each to encourage people to start franchising and new employees to be part of the Fantastic Services family.
Brexit is definitely playing a role, and many skilled workers have returned to mainland Europe. This is a challenge for many industries, but thankfully, our business model and technology system allows us to schedule and plan in a way that effectively manages demand. In 2021, we expanded our franchise network by 10%.
Was the first £ 1m a big milestone?
I first saw the numbers around August 2019 and was overwhelmed. That was literally just a few pounds above the £ 1m profit. In the last decade, we were close to £ 1m, but we always reinvested in the company.
I called Anton and said he did. However, we both thought the company was very young and that there was still a long way to go. I had never paid for it before.
Anton and I each bought a property. For the first four years of fantastic service, I rented a place with Anton to save money. He bought an apartment in Chiswick and Olga and I found a more central location in Holborn. It was the first time I was relieved.
What was the most challenging time of your career?The first blockade in March 2020 was the most difficult experience in my life. I had a 2-year-old son. In 2019, we invested heavily in more staff. In December 2019, we heard rumors about the possibility of a blockade and a pandemic. When I got home early from my Christmas holidays in Thailand, I knew from an international competitor that something was going out of our control.
In Europe, some governments were sporadically locked down, but no one really knew what was allowed or a new set of guidelines. I didn’t know if people could hire cleaners, gardeners, handymen, and exactly what kind of work was essential.
We knew we had to act quickly and assess what was going to happen. We have invested more than £ 150,000 in retraining more than 200 franchisees who suddenly lost their jobs. Instead of servicing in people’s homes, they learned how to perform antiviral hygiene and disinfection procedures in commercial facilities.
We have done everything to keep people busy. I called a supermarket chain that offers vans to assist in the delivery of groceries to make sure the franchisee is doing a good job. It was the edge of a cliff. We had to set foot where the government didn’t. I felt stressed because I felt obliged to do this. From March to December last year, I worked 20 hours a day, 7 days a week. There was no break. Our operations staff continued to work full time, but they worked from home.
What did you have to sacrifice to start a business?
I gave up a safe career working for someone else lastminute.com.. Over the last 12 years, I have been repeatedly contacted to work as a marketing director or chief marketing officer. I had other CEO offers, but they were all stable and very well paid.
What is the secret to your success?
Consistency. You have to keep going and focus on where you go. I had to believe that if I reinvested my profits and hired them wisely, it would work.
There is another factor — frugality. We opposed and defeated companies with a UK marketing and development budget of £ 20m. We didn’t have the money to make a mistake.
Our business takes feedback seriously. When you are a chef, you receive immediate feedback like reprimands and compliments. You learn to accept and respond to criticism. We encourage customer feedback. It’s difficult, but it’s the best way to grow.
What was your best preparation for your business?
For me, having to stay in touch with everyone who is a chef and under pressure in the kitchen was one of the best lessons learned from teamwork. When we were growing the company rapidly, I took advantage of the fast pace of working as a chef just before the eaters arrived.
We alone have grown to 300 staff in two years. The whole process was new to us. We had to invent a way to run our business. Sometimes I hired 20 to 30 people a month. There is no manual on this.
What is your basic business philosophy?
I believe in structured growth and the creation of solid assets. I’m trying to create assets through technology platforms and brand value. We also have a feedback system that trains and evaluates staff and shows whether people are doing well or not. One of the reasons we didn’t grow even faster is because our competitors hired everyone, while we scrutinized, trained and hired people very carefully.
The spirit of our company is to be as efficient as possible. We are using technology to reduce our impact on the planet. Good cleaning, maintenance and repair are essentially sustainable. Carpet repair and cleaning is better than putting it in a landfill. I’ve learned that almost everything can be cleaned or repaired, especially as good as kitchen appliances.
Want to continue until you fall?
We have a plan to raise tens of millions of dollars to expand across Europe and the United States. We have one office a month in Europe. This is the first time we have asked for external funding. At the age of 60, I think I still run the company. The industry may be a bit different, but it uses the same software model that we created for Fantastic Services.
Is there a pension payment?
I started a corporate pension at BT when I was 26, but I don’t have much money. My real pension is our company. When you invest in a pension, your money may grow, but it rarely doubles. If you run a company that is growing at 100%, you can double your money in a year.
In addition to domestic and commercial real estate, I like to invest in stocks. I’m primarily focused on the technology sector and I’m tracking the Dow Jones Index. The Dow Jones Index can generate about 7% annual revenue.
Do you believe in giving something back to the community?
We support child safety and community projects. Last year, Fantastic Services provided 4,500 high-visibility vests to preschools and primary schools in London and Manchester for free. In 2017, a 9-year-old girl from Wandsworth Elementary School wrote to us and asked us to “make the garden happy again.” We sent a team of gardeners to work on the remodeling of her school garden.
What do you think you are indulging in?
One of my pleasures is cave scuba diving as I do a lot of work online. I was 35 when I trained on vacation in Mexico. I also bought a dive shop in Tulum, Yucatan. If you own a store, it’s not a very expensive hobby.
My first million: Rune Sovndahl, founder of Fantastic Services
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