Helping businesses clean-up in a pandemic – with a clear conscience
You might think that at the moment anyone whose business is an expert in keeping things sanitary would be, well, cleaning up. If only it was so simple.
Businessman Si Payne has experienced both side of the pandemic – the blow which shut one of his businesses and pushed staff into furlough is the familiar downside many will relate to.
But then there has also been the rapid increase in demand for the other arm of his operation, which has brought its own challenges – and seem him thrive by making a strategic decision to think long-term over quick wins.
Pictured: Si Payne with Julie Kent, vice chair of Pied Piper, chair of Chelt Open Door, trustee and an ambassador of Goals beyond Grass
One arm of his business, Into Cleaning, usually keeps the county’s offices and workplaces clean, while the other - Simple Hygiene Solutions, Janitorial Supplies - specialises in the supply of cleaning products and toiletries for the aforementioned.
“Business at Into Cleaning went down by 40 to 50 per cent for two and a half to three months. It has been hard,” said Mr Payne, whose father, Desmond, started the company as a one-man band a quarter of a century ago – a business which has grown to a £1 million turnover.
The operation - which has a team of cleaners on its books – is also a family affair, with sister Sarah Little and cousin Ziad Haroun also key to the success, playing major roles in the company.
Despite The Raikes Journal throwing the turnover figure into the article early on, his strategy has always been to seek sustainable over short term growth. It is one he has decided not to let go of, despite temptation, and which has seen him in an unusual position of late.
As demand at Simple Hygiene Solutions has gone into overdrive he has been advising customers to think and think again before they rush to buy. Call it ‘buy less’, if you like, he might call it ‘buy smarter’.
There was, he said, such huge demand and a lack of knowledge that many in the market place were taking advantage of. And you can tell from the way he said it, that he does not approve.
Prices for some of the supplies have, he said, gone crazy.
“The prices of gloves have gone up at least 60 per cent. I used to be able to buy a box of 100 for between £2 and £10. They might be as much as £18 now,” he said, adding that he made a conscious decision early on to avoid what he sees as short termism.
“I could have been charging much higher rates and advising people to buy all sorts of things, but I want customers to stay with us for the next 10 years and have confidence in what we sell them.”
With an eye on positioning itself for the future, and apart from others, the firm has also launched a new’ eco stop and refill cleaning chemical drop-in shop’ where customers can bring their own cleaning spray bottles along for refill.
“For 20 pence we will provide one shot of our cleaning chemical that will make 750ml which is the standard size trigger bottle.
“For a business buying our products in one litre disposable bottles that will reduce the landfill by 50 plastic trigger bottles.”
After discovering a manufacturer and supplier, Clover Chemicals, some years ago, whose products he really rated – he also found they delivered training and duly embraced it, becoming infection and viral control trained. What was then decidedly unsexy has suddenly given him near-guru status.
It is training he also passes on to customers.
But as well as trying to take advantage of the market while not becoming blinded by the pound signs (he admits he could be selling much, much more – but of what he would consider the wrong choices for customers) - he admits has been left aghast at some of what is going on.
“Businesses seem to be buying products and dispensers and all sorts because they think they need to get something quickly and the way to solve it is to buy as much as they can,” said Mr Payne, who is also working on a consultancy basis advising customers so they avoid wasting money – another strategy he hopes will benefit his business longer term as well.
“We provide clear advice on mainly coronavirus right now on not just opening back up but doing that safely and with cost in mind based on the information provided to us by HSE.
“I think many companies are very busy opening, but they must consider what to do if there is a covid-19 confirmed case within the business and how they would deal with it.
“Businesses need to understand what the changes and expectations are for opening safely and staying open.
“The plan needs to be well executed and practiced with clear instructions on what to do if the outbreak occurs so that business can continue as usual. This need some certain measures and products ready for the risk to happen and it very likely will.”
One of his other in-house rules is that charitable organisations only ever pay for products, the support is free.