Lasting the long run in the cleaning sector

4th of December 2019 Article by Carly Bishop
Lasting the long run in the cleaning sector

The average lifespan of a U.S. S&P 500 company has fallen by 80 per cent in the last 80 years (from 67 to 15 years). In the UK, a massive 76 per cent of UK FTSE 100 companies have disappeared in the last 30 years.

It seems that the modern business world is changing more rapidly than ever before - however, there are still some organisations who have celebrated their 100th birthday and are continuing to go from strength to strength. Carly Bishop of LaCerta Marketing looks at how companies can last the long run in the cleaning sector.

The latest from the high street is that the UK's most treasured baby brands - Mothercare and Mamas and Papas - have gone into administration. Bosses have blamed dwindling sales on a ‘challenging marketplace' and the fact that customers are choosing to shop online.

So what does it take to succeed these days? Of course, selling online is key to many businesses, but what about Dublin-born Primark, who doesn't sell online? Primark currently sells more items of clothing than any other retailer, and is expected to account for £1 out of every £14 spent on clothing in the UK this year (according to market analysts GlobalData).

Interestingly, many of the companies who have thrived for more than 100 years feed our most basic needs, such as food and drink. We will always need to eat and drink, and in many ways cleaning is the same - things will always need to be cleaned, for our comfort and most importantly for our health and wellbeing. This means that companies in the cleaning sector have a fantastic opportunity to last the distance.

One example of a food company which has celebrated its centenary is Rowntree's, founded in 1862 in York. Right from the start, it was one of the major players in the country's cocoa, chocolate and confectionary manufacturing industry. In 1988 it was acquired by Nestle. As for a drinks business, Twinings is Britain's oldest tea company, opening its first tea room at 206 Strand in London in 1706. Interestingly, the company still operates from the same premises to this day.

So how have companies like these succeeded the changing times, and how can cleaning companies do the same?

Firstly, these organisations tend to focus on getting better, not bigger. They look both inwards and outwards. Expansion happens slowly so that the company has the time to grow. They will look years ahead and work out where they need to be - not just in terms of their own company but also in terms of their place in society.

Most importantly, their focus is on branding, and how they can cement their brand within society by helping to shape and evolve it. The longest lasting companies concentrate on innovation but they will always stay true to their core brand.

Clarks shoes is the perfect example. They had very humble beginnings, with James Clark making the first pair of Clarks in 1825 using offcuts from his brother Cyrus's tannery to create a sheepskin slipper. At the time it was ground-breaking; a combination of invention and craftsmanship. Within a year, the brothers were selling 1,000 pairs a month. Now, C & J Clark International Limited has over 1,000 stores around the world. Eighty-four per cent of Clarks is owned by the Clark family.

Its success has come from the fact that to this day, every pair of Clark shoes begins with a last (a foot-shaped form) carved by hand from a single block of hornbeam. In other words, their focus is on a business that still innovates and keeps ahead of the times, but one that still stays true to its roots.

Engaging the next generation is something hundred-year-old businesses do well. Many of them work with schools, to tap into the next generation and to learn from them. They hold competitions, run educational programmes and even create games. These are great ideas to capture the attention of young people who in the future could be potential customers.

Many of the commercial cleaning professionals I speak to aren't sure about how to use all the new technologies and social media platforms out there, and so there is a lot to learn from the younger generation on how we might incorporate these into our businesses.

Having a diverse range of staff who can all learn from one another is another way these businesses go the distance. They will often recruit from outside their sector, and have teams working on cross-programme projects. When it comes to your next company leader, don't always look outside of your business though. There could be a fantastic candidate sitting right there in front of you, who knows the company inside out and who would relish the chance of a promotion.
HSBC has only appointed one external ceo in the last 150 years.

A valuable staff exercise to try and get people talking and sharing ideas is to experiment with hot desking - having workers move around between different work stations so they aren't static - or by creating nice spaces for them to share lunch or coffee together. Can you believe, that Google has 170 cafes in its New York office!

From a marketing perspective, asking your customers to share their experiences is also really valuable, both to you in terms of feedback, and to help generate new business. Creating amazing case studies is well worth it, as people want to hear how great you are from your customers, not just from you. People also love to know what is going on behind the scenes of a business, as it makes them feel part of it - that's why people love social media so much.

Long-lasting companies remain an open-book. Perhaps invite people in to see what you do - this could be by creating a video to showcase your manufacturing abilities, or by actually inviting people to your factory for a tour. Think about what you believe in, and create a blog from your ceo so people can really get to know him or her.

Don't spend all your time planning projects, and then once they are over, move straight onto the next one. The longest running companies spend a lot of their time taking apart the projects that they've already completed and working out what worked and what didn't. NASA, which was founded 61 years ago in 1958, spends two years debriefing a mission, to really understand what happened.

Ultimately, it seems that businesses that last the long run are those that move with the times technologically, but that stay true to their founding principles. With a useful product, a consistent marketing message and a strong brand, there is no stopping them!


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