LCN: Russell, please explain what Chores does?

Russell O’Connell: Chores Homecare Services provides a cleaning service to the residential market, which aims to do all the “chores” in the house that people don’t want to do themselves, including domestic cleaning, carpet cleaning, curtain cleaning and the cleaning of soft furnishings. Chores also provides a pick up and delivery laundry and drycleaning service. Chores focuses solely on the residential market and does no commercial work.

LCN: It’s an American idea isn’t it?

RO’C: Domestic cleaning services have been around for a long time; in fact at the turn of the century in the UK nearly 30% of the working population was involved in domestic services. In the US and Australia there is a far more widespread culture of outsourcing domestic chores to specialist companies than is the case in the UK. This is what provides a wonderful opportunity for Chores.

LCN: You’ll be offering laundry and drycleaning services. How will you operate this?

RO’C: Our research indicates that there is a high demand for this service, but it is not economical for existing laundry and drycleaning companies to pick up and deliver on a mass scale. However, because we are already in the home as a trusted service provider holding the customer’s key, we can therefore provide the laundry and drycleaning service economically and efficiently as part of our range of services.

LCN: What first got you interested in the business?

RO’C: I spent a considerable amount of time in Australia in the 1990s, when I saw a number of domestic service type operations flourishing and could see the potential for such a business in the UK, especially with the large population and the high number of geographic conurbations. When we researched the UK market more closely we saw an industry inadequately serviced by mostly small one-man-band operations, and this confirmed our belief that there was an opportunity for us to provide a whole range of services and build a brand.

LCN: How does myhome Services, the business you acquired from Unilever, fit into your plans?

RO’C: After we started the Chores business, Unilever announced that they were entering the domestic services market under the “myhome” banner. At the time I saw this as a validation of our decision to go into the market and we watched them eagerly for any developments that could improve our business. By the time Unilever made the decision to seek someone else to run the myhome business we already had four offices and were looking to develop our infrastructure to expand our business further. The acquisition of myhome instantly gave us the infrastructure we needed especially in our 120 line call centre, customised service software package and extensive training programmes which instantly allowed us to jump ahead of our own plan by two years, with the result that we are now geared for rapid expansion.

LCN: How big is the market now and how do you think it will expand in terms of geography and services?

RO’C: Our demographic research shows that demand in the market is growing rapidly and is worth around £4billion. Our current focus is on the market in south west London, and we plan to roll the Chores brand out on a London-wide basis. This will involve opening some 50 new locations within the M25.

LCN: To what extent is the high street drycleaner competition to your business?

RO’C: We tend to specialise in a more upmarket, high-end service. Customers buy from us for quality, convenience and, most importantly, for ease of service. Our typical customer, in most cases, currently uses high street drycleaners because they have no other choice. However, we believe that our proposition will give customers a convenient and hassle-free alternative. To that extent, Chores will provide considerable competition to the high street drycleaner.

LCN: As the business gets bigger, will you consider establishing your own laundry and drycleaning centre or centres? Or will you be seeking new partners?

RO’C: Each office will accept walk-in trade, and outlets will be refitted to be drycleaning pick-up points in their own right. We are always interested in setting up strategic alliances with existing businesses who share our corporate values and could benefit from our input.

LCN: Will the internet be an important marketing tool for you? Will your customers deal with you via the internet?

RO’C: The internet is a good communication tool, and if it is convenient for our customers to deal with us via the internet then we will of course cater to that need. However, we do not rely on the internet as a major revenue source.

LCN: What’s your background?

RO’C: Before setting up Chores I spent 10 years providing strategic management and marketing consultancy for small to medium-sized companies in Australia, ranging from fast food and publishing to telecommunications. I also organised management seminars for organisations and worked with internationally well-known guest management consultants such as Tom Peters, Steven Covey and Peter Drucker. I then returned to the UK with the intention of founding and building a business and after researching the market in the United States and Australia I saw the growing trend towards complete household management businesses aimed at cash-rich, time-poor clients living in high-value properties and accordingly set up the Chores group of companies.

LCN: Who else is in the management team?

RO’C: The Chores management team is drawn form a variety of backgrounds. Steve Clemo, our head of operations, whose background is a fabric care operation, provides extensive technical knowledge. Anthony Hoskinson, a director, is a graduate of the Unilever Management Training Scheme, and provides long City experience. Arif Virani, the company secretary, is responsible for overseeing the present accounting and financial systems and has been with the group since its inception. Henry Visconti, the director of franchising, recently sold his own cleaning business having been involved in direct sales and marketing for the past 25 years. He has a thorough knowledge of the fabric care industry and has been actively involved in franchising carpet cleaning for the last 12 years. Roy Grundy is director of sales and training. Shaji Nadesam, heads IT development, Floyd Case looks after customer service, and Hayley Crease manages HR and training. Other specialist functions, such as marketing and PR, are outsourced.

LCN: What do you hope to achieve over the coming 12 months?

RO’C: Our financial objectives are laid out in the Ofex information memorandum. On a day-to-day basis we are always looking to improve our service offering. We will also be developing new and improved training programmes and cleaning processes and implementing a sophisticated, tailor-made IT system. We are also aiming to open at least one new office every month next year to give us total geographic coverage in London.