Third time lucky with Poppies

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Poppies Cleaning Service

In the UK
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When Andrew Wishart was made redundant for the second time in his career, he’d had enough. On that very day, he vowed to become his own boss.

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In the background of his main career, Andrew had always played a supporting role to his father’s Poppies franchise in the North of England and, with his father’s diminishing health, it was a natural progression for Andrew to step into the company and takeover. In 2000, five years after Poppies Bay & Lakes launched, Andrew lived out his plan of becoming his own boss whilst continuing his father’s legacy. Two decades later, and it’s all he’s dreamt of… and more.

“As I’d played an important role in Poppies for a number of years, I already had an understanding of the day-to-day business. When I was made redundant again, I knew things had to change and my dad was looking at taking a step back from the business. I’d watched it grow from a small office to an important pillar of many local communities. I knew that I would be able to continue that growth trajectory. What makes it so special to me is continuing my dad’s legacy.”

Right from university, Andrew worked in management, supporting teams and their professional development. Unfortunately, redundancy struck, but Andrew was able to find his feet and secure another position. When redundancy reared its head for a second time, Andrew decided enough was enough and he’d find an alternative path where he’d have more control.

During this time, Andrew was happy to support his father and mother in their Poppies business, conducting interviews, scheduling cleans and organising worksheets. When he was considering his next steps, he had a lightbulb moment and consulted his parents on whether stepping into the business would be a good idea. The pair didn’t take much persuading and Andrew got started almost immediately.

“I wanted to be my own boss and what would be better than taking over a business with an existing client base – I would never have the risk of redundancy again. Over the years, I’d learnt the ropes and picked up many of the skills needed to operate a Poppies business. Now I just needed to put it into practise.”

Established in 1980, Poppies was the UK’s first domestic cleaning franchise. Franchisees manage a team of dedicated cleaners who visit clients’ homes and provide a range of top-quality services, from basic housekeeping and laundry to party clear-ups, spring cleans and home-move assistance.

Integral to its best-in-class offering is the Poppies culture, the franchise proudly champions the wellbeing of its cleaners and believes in treating staff with respect and care and creating a fun, enjoyable working environment. Happy, loyal staff go above and beyond for clients and truly make the Poppies brand shine.

Andrew had the comfort of relying on the existing business to allow him breathing space to get up to speed with the ‘Poppies way’. He spent valuable time shadowing his father, whilst also visiting other offices to learn best practice and approaches recommended by the franchisor and long-standing franchisees. With a fantastic base to start from, he could now focus on the growth of the business.

“From the very beginning, we recognised the opportunity to expand. Once the solid foundations had been built in the Bay & Lakes office in Lancaster, it was financially viable to invest in other territories. We opened Poppies offices in Cumbria, South Tyne & Wear and Tyne Central Newcastle after assessing the demand for our cleaning services in the areas. With these four offices, we now simply refer to this area as ‘Poppies North’.”

It wasn’t long before Andrew was seeing the growth that he had envisioned. He focused on sustainability, ensuring all of the territories achieve the same standard as his dad’s original franchise territory. Although he had been involved in the business for a number of years and even after taking full control more recently, Andrew is still reassured by the fact that he can contact his franchisor or any of the other franchisees if he ever needs any help.

“It’s great to have the existing network at the end of the phone. We work together as a unit, celebrating successes and supporting each other when we need it. Twice a year, we have a franchisee meeting to collaborate, as well as bringing forward any issues or challenges we’re facing. What’s great is that there’s almost always someone else who has dealt with a similar problem and can offer a solution. I imagine being a business owner can sometimes be lonely – in Poppies, it’s never been the case.”

The entire Poppies network pride themselves on the brand’s knowledge and heritage. In fact, the first franchise was launched in 1984 and is still going strong! Today, 22 UK offices provide high-quality cleaning to over 6,000 homes on a weekly, fortnightly or monthly basis in line with clients’ individual needs. Generating an impressive combined turnover of more than £5million, the Poppies franchise offers an exciting opportunity for prospective business owners to capitalise on an industry worth £4.7billion.

Over 20 years later, Andrew has matured along with the business. He employs 65 cleaners and services over 270 clients across his four territories – amounting to over 2,000 hours each four-weekly period. Not one to rest on his laurels, he has even more plans for the future with the support of his wife, Lindsay, who recently joined the business.

“The aim is to continue to grow the client numbers in each area. With technology being introduced into the franchise model, especially since the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m looking to close the offices in all but one of the territories to reduce overheads. The managers can easily work from home, supporting our teams and clients seamlessly. With a shift towards a more virtual world and the fantastic options to keep in communication, it seems like a sensible move for the balance sheet, our environment and staff wellbeing.”

Poppies North has allowed Andrew to remove many of the worries he had back when he was employed. As well as removing the risk of being made redundant for the third time, he is in control of his future and gets to spend time with his family.

“We enjoy spending our time together and being my own boss has made our lives so much more flexible. I’ve got Poppies and my team to thank for that. I have complete control over my schedule. I can switch off at the weekends, with the confidence of knowing that the business is still running in the background without me. On a personal level, I’m a keen DIY-er with a passion for property development – in the future, I want more time to spend doing this. Poppies has given me the secure future to be able to make those plans.”

“The independence that comes with being my own boss is a wonderful feeling. I’m finally in control of everything and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m proud of how much Poppies North has grown in the time that I’ve been in the driver’s seat and I’m keen to see where it can go from here!”

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