Coping with the crisis

26th of November 2012
Coping with the crisis

French correspondent Christian Bouzols speaks to a number of cleaning companies about how they are coping with the economic difficulties.

Aries Nettoyage Environnement, a cleaning company in Dijon, focuses on small customers. Founded in 1990, this company has a staff of 53 (26 full-time equivalents). "We're working mainly for offices, some industrial sites, and the co-owned buildings market. Most of our work is in the Dijon conurbation," says its founder.

For him, the economic crisis is very much a reality. "Our clients grumble at the charges they have to pay and in particular at the cost of their outsourced services. We've lost some contracts, in particular with national clients. These tend to choose just one supplier for all their sites. We've also been hurt by the competition from sole traders, particularly in the co-owned property market." Competition is fierce in that area. "Fortunately, we've got many small customers and that has helped us to compensate for the loss of business elsewhere."

Also in Dijon, L'Entretien Dijonnais struggles to keep its customer base. The issues of part-time working, tax breaks and legal stability are those that matter most to Frédéric Delhomme. At the head of L'Entretien Dijonnais (455 employees, 190 full time equivalents, and 6.4 million euros turnover) since 1999, he's convinced that the future of his trade is linked to the political choices that will be made in these three areas.

Meanwhile, Delhomme can claim to head the largest independent cleaning company in the Côte-d'Or Département. "Our size is well matched with our market," he says. "This has enabled us, until now, to face the crisis without too many problems." It must be said that the company relies on a diverse market. "We're breaking even because we've worked on preserving our margins, customer loyalty and our networks."

Human concerns are what drive another cleaning company, Petkovic. Michel Brault took over the business in Louhans-Châteaurenaud in 2009. Previously Brault had been a partner in a Paris cleaning business - the 35th largest in the country. One day he attended a company presentation organised by Bresse Initiative and asked its owner whether the Petkovic cleaning company was up for sale.

"It turned out that I had arrived just at the right time, because that owner was beginning to think of retiring," he explained. "A few weeks later, the deal had been closed. I was fascinated by the career and life journey of its founder, Miroslav, but also by the quality of his staff. Human values mean a great deal to me.

"My father was a manual worker and my mother was a charwoman. I would have found it intolerable to see her work not respected and not properly paid."

Since then Brault has been working at developing his business of about 100 employees by concentrating on companies, while at the same time providing cleaning services for common parts of buildings and private households. Last year, his turnover grew by eight per cent to 1.5 million euros.


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