Kanso - simplicity, ethics and sustainability in the 21st century

1st of November 2019
Kanso - simplicity, ethics and sustainability in the 21st century

Kanso is a new London-based cleaning services company with simplicity, ethics and sustainability at the core of its values. ECJ’s Michelle Marshall spoke to founder and managing director Chris Parkes, who believes these elements are essential for 21st century businesses to prosper.

Kanso is a Zen principle meaning ‘simplicity’. Eliminate what doesn’t matter to make room for what does. It was around this principle that Chris Parkes developed his simple, uncluttered and transparent approach to starting a facilities management business at the beginning of this year.
“Simply, we allow our clients to thrive and be productive by creating clean and great environments that promote collaboration, engagement and wellbeing for all.”

Parkes has worked in the FM and contract cleaning sector for over 10 years, the last six of them exclusively in London. Prior to that he held a commission in the British Army for 10 years. When he was planning to start his own company he looked around at the other businesses in the sector and decided he wanted to do things differently.

Form partnerships

“Many companies have very high overheads because they have been adding processes as they’ve grown, for example,” he explains. “I worked out that I could form partnerships with other specialists in FM services – waste management and pest control  – and co-locate certain aspects of the business. Just one of the benefits of that approach has been fewer journeys by our vehicles, for example.”

Kanso offers daily office cleaning, window cleaning, specialist floor care, washroom services, pest management, waste management, consumables & supplies, maintenance and security. It operates on a very simple model. “We deliver what we promise and we are transparent about our costs,” Parkes explains. “Our business is not about saving money. Our clients want to demonstrate to their staff that they care about their experience when they’re at work – they’re simply being ethical. Certain sectors are price-driven of course but we can work around that too.

“We are flipping the traditional model on its head. We say to clients, ‘you tell us what your budget is and we will formulate a solution’.”

Reinvest profit

Kanso’s ethos is based on total transparency with its clients about its own costs too. “Our customers know everything,” continues Parkes. “If we have a better year than we predicted, we would ask our clients if they would like the profit reinvested into the contract or into social enterprise.

“Why can’t we be more open as an industry about costs, about making a living?” he asks.

The company has social enterprise at its core. “The fundamental principle on which Kanso is built is to create a vehicle that offers opportunities for people - that is 100 per cent ethical, agile, quick-moving, with low overheads. A long-term journey for people who may have been marginalised – ex-prisoners or the homeless for example.”

How do you get such a diverse group of people to do a good job to a deadline, to be engaged with their day-to-day work? Here Parkes’ military background serves him well. “If you treat people with respect, they will go to the ends of the earth for you,” he says.

“This industry can truly change lives,” he believes. “Our cleaners are a range of different nationalities, as is typical of London. They have been through training and upskilling with us to give them relevant qualifications. We value mutual respect and care for our workforce.”

“All our operatives have an interest in and a knowledge about the core business of the client they work for. They take ownership of our clients’ core values and that empowers them.”

Social media strategy

A consolidation of the SME market within the cleaning sector is happening and the older generation – the people who founded many of the successful businesses – is now retiring. “Who are the new breed of managers?” he asks. “We now need to have people in our industry who can meet the needs of the new generation of purchasers.”

By 2025 75 per cent of the workforce will be millennials and the workplace of the future will change. “Modern workspaces are more and more experience-driven and hygiene solutions are increasingly health and hygiene focused. Clients are changing, the demographics are changing. Priorities are different – buyers now have a social conscience, they care about the environment.

“What is our industry doing to adapt?”

And now, he says, Kanso has more chance of getting a recommendation via social media from someone they don’t know than from a personal connection. “That makes a social media strategy vital. It’s absolutely essential to create engagement where your target clients are present.” Kanso plans to create video content for its YouTube channel, for example.

“Understand your client, engage them – we are in a service business after all,” Parkes concludes.



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