Secrets to Success: Rune Sovndahl, founder of Fantastic Services

What is your start-up story?
I met my business partner, Anton, at a party. I needed a cleaner, and he was running a cleaning business. We quickly realised we shared the vision of a better way to deliver services like cleaning. We wanted to build a service that was simple and made both clients and crews happy so we started to work together to build this service.

Starting with the service was key, making the processes work so that we could scale while still delivering a Fantastic Service was the vital first step. We had little to work with – we even shared a mobile phone! But more importantly we always shared the same goal and that, as well as a lot of hard work, is how we’ve got to where we are today.

What is your turnover, employee numbers etc. compared to previous years?
Fantastic Services continues to grow year on year. In five years the business has taken over one million calls and has grown to regularly serve 100,000 domestic clients in London and the south east, making it the largest domestic cleaning company in London. We will turnover £28million in 2014.

What products or services do you provide?
Fantastic Services provides cleaning, gardening, handyman, removals, pest control and other services to both the domestic and business markets – online, via phone or app.

What problem does your company solve?
We’re here to make people’s everyday lives easier. We provide all sorts of services that people love and that they don’t want to, or don’t have time to do, themselves.

What is your USP?
Fantastic Services is able to provide the best service by utilising a unique set of technologies that work to make the whole process of getting a quote and booking a service simple for customers searching from any device. However, ease of service doesn’t end with the booking process, our teams are equipped with smartphones, enabling them to take instructions remotely from customers.

We offer the largest range of domestic services compared to any other domestic services company in the UK. Most companies only offer domestic cleaning services, some a few others – we offer over 30 services.

For example, if you are moving from a flat in to your first home, we will do your end of tenancy clean, sort all your inventory, move your belongings, clean your new house, do the garden ready for your first BBQ, change the locks and offer our handy man services all while looking after your pets.

Any thoughts on the future of your company?
We want to continue to grow while remaining the best domestic services company in the market. We will continue to explore and move into new areas of services with the aim of becoming a company with the largest market share of the entire domestic services industry.

What have you done to make sure you get the right people with the right skills in place?
The business is committed to making a difference for customers and employees alike, in a sustainable way, for the long term.

Fantastic Services has a team of 1,500 people across its business, all of whom are provided with continuous training and development. That includes ongoing feedback and a scoring system to help improve customer experience at every contact.

In order to have customer satisfaction, you need happy staff. We aim to provide a positive working environment for all Fantastic Services teams, one that engenders a sense of pride and purpose in whatever they do, whether that be cleaning, gardening or answering customer enquiries.

Do you have any tips for managing suppliers and customers effectively?
Part of what makes our service fantastic is that we try very hard to stay one step ahead of our customers’ expectations, however, it’s still important to always seek feedback and learn from it.

Any finance or cash-flow tips?
We have been self-financed since we started, that has meant that we have always had to understand exactly what costs deliver and benefit the business. That is a vital discipline for any business. It has led us in some interesting directions, for example to having our own equipment built for oven cleaning so that our teams can do a better clean at a lower price, which ultimately brings us more revenue because we are more competitive.

Any advice for the Government?
I think there is a huge issue with how entrepreneurs can get funding and assistance. The process they go through in order to receive any monetary assistance seems a bit random to us. We’d like to see a solid set of standards and processes put in place that are uniform across the board.

We would also like to see something similar to the German mini job laws implemented in the UK. These laws allow people to work less hours in more flexible ways helping to manage their own time. This would give more people the ability to return to the labour market.

What is your attitude towards your competitors?
We focus on ensuring we deliver the easiest to use, most reliable, best quality service, from first contact via internet search to the end of the client’s job. The barriers to entry for some of the services we offer appear to be very low, so there are always emerging competitors. Having teams available, whose quality we can trust is key. It means we can guarantee firstly to provide the service when we say we will, and secondly that the quality will be high. That in turn means we need to work constantly to motivate and retain our teams better than our competition can.

Interestingly some of our competitors are spending money on advertising services they can’t deliver which results in customers coming to us, and they stay with us, once they find out Fantastic Services isn’t a small start-up with a front-end website and app but no real background in the service industry.