East Anglia: How Monthind is cleaning up across the region
A cleaning company established in north Essex nearly 40 years ago is now operating across East Anglia and beyond. DUNCAN BRODIE reports on how the trend towards the outsourcing of non-core activities has enabled Monthind Clean to expand.
From small beginnings, Monthind Clean has grown to become one of the leading contract cleaning companies in East Anglia.
The business was originally established in 1975 by Essex entrepreneur Christine Beedle who built it into a substantial operation before selling its 2000 to Tony Clarke.
Today, Monthind Clean is structured at a limited liability partnership, with operations director Simon Biggs and finance director Tong Felgate in charge of day-to-day operations, although Mr Clarke remains on the board.
Monthind is still based at Copford, near Colchester, but now also has a second office, at Horsham St Faith, near Norwich
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The past year as been a period of particularly rapid expansion, with a growing number of businesses looking to outsource their cleaning operations, in order to focus on their own key operations and avoid the costs of recruiting and training their own cleaning teams, while consolidation within the cleaning sector itself has also seen Monthind expand through acquisition
As a result, the firm now operates not just across East Anglia and also in counties as far afield as Leicestershire and Northamptonshire.
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“In such a growing market, Monthind’s horizons are always expanding,” says Simon Biggs, a director at Monthind. “In the last year, we’ve acquired two Norfolk based businesses, which involved the transfer of 45 employees to Monthind.
“Geographically, we’ve expanded our operations in Cambridgeshire too, which has brought our company total to almost 1,000 employees, from specialist biohazard and forensic cleaners to IT and high tech environmentalists.
“We’ve also been able to invest in some great new tools. Anyone who thinks cleaning is a simple, unskilled trade is mistaken – new technologies are always emerging to make specialist jobs easier and typical jobs more efficient.”
Innovative tools and equipment, new technology and even chemistry are all now involved in contract cleaning. As organisations with more diverse needs began outsourcing their cleaning, from paint manufacturers to universities, innovation had to accelerate to meet their more complex demands. As a consequence, companies such as Monthind now keep everything from hydraulic cherry pickers to telescopic cleaning poles in their toolboxes, expensive equipment which smaller organisations and individuals are often unwilling or unable to invest in.
A lack of expertise can also prevent companies with specialist needs from getting the most out of their in-house team. Few business owners, for example, would know that the chemical make-up of a water supply can make a significant difference to the finished look of freshly cleaned windows. Monthind, however, produces its own pure water in Colchester and Norwich to achieve the optimum result.
“Science really is a big part of the cleaning process now,” continues Simon. “Our window cleaning team can work on everything from a single shop window in Colchester to the 70ft high glass frontage of the University of East Anglia’s Teaching Wall.
“If you used impure water on those surfaces they’d dry covered in spots, but a bit of R&D means that you can pump pure water straight up the telescopic poles and onto the windows, which gives a really great finish. We’re always looking out for new products and techniques which can help push the horizons of cleaning, but most businesses keep their R&D budget for their own output, rather than maintenance, so they tend to miss out.”
Although Monthind is always looking toward new options, whether in the form of technology or contracts, it aims to be a loyal employer. Despite the company’s expansion throughout East Anglia, the core team at Monthind Clean has been involved in the business for more than 15 years, and the directors’ colleagues from earlier in their careers have often been known to move across to Monthind and stay.
“Our business has a strong focus on bringing something new to the table,” says Simon, “but we’re also extremely committed to training and managing our staff. Across every division, we encourage individuals to develop their skills with great training options, and as a result we have a staff retention rate which we can be really proud of.
“Cleaning necessitates a strong focus on health and safety so in some cases, we literally train employees from the bottom up. The window cleaning team, for example, start by getting new employees used to working with the carbon fibre poles on the ground, then gradually they learn to use short ladders with the three points of contact rule, climbing higher as their experience grows. Eventually they become qualified to use scaffold towers, Mobile Elevated Work Platforms, and other types of access equipment, working at great heights to clean buildings.”
With the ideal balance of investment in staff and technology, Monthind continues to clean up when it comes to winning contracts and acquiring businesses throughout East Anglia and beyond.
And ss organisations in both the public and private sectors remain consistent in their efforts to keep costs low and efficiency at a maximum, the team at Monthind believe there is plenty of room for further expansion in the coming year.