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A Smart way to clean

Gary Singh always wanted to have his own business. Gary and his family moved to Hawke’s Bay in 2008 and he started to work for a local commercial cleaning business.

He worked hard but wasn’t sure if an opportunity to buy into a commercial cleaning business would eventuate. So he left and went to work at BP Bayview as a café manager. While there, the opportunity came up to buy a café in Hastings, but Gary realised that although he loved making lattes and flat whites, he wasn’t so confident in the kitchen making food.

It was around the same time that the owner of the cleaning business he had worked for was ready to ease into retirement and asked Gary if he was interested in buying the business.

“We looked at the books and decided to give it a go.”

But two weeks out from settlement, the cleaning business’s largest client and over 50 percent of revenue decided to go elsewhere. This was a huge setback and as the sale transaction had already commenced, there was no chance to renegotiate.

Gary and wife Deepti decided that they would give it a go and Gary hit the streets looking for new cleaning contracts as well as building a reputation for quality cleaning.

Through sheer determination and hard work, that initial setback has been the springboard to creating a successful business and it’s Gary’s optimism and planning that will also get the business through the COVID-19 setback.

Over the last 18 months Gary has invested significantly in technology. Although commercial cleaning is labour intensive, Gary is set to launch app-based technology that will enable artificial intelligence (AI) cleaning audits.

The app is currently being fine-tuned via a trial with some of his team and some local clients.

Presently the business undertakes manual cleaning audits every 45 days, but AI will enable technology-based daily audits.

The technology ensures consistency of the quality of the cleaning job as well as improving processes and communications with the client.

During the COVID-19 lockdown, Gary’s business was significantly impacted, with many commercial businesses closed and not requiring daily cleaning services.

However, rather than dwell on the pending lockdown, Gary started to look at what opportunities would arise.

Two days out from lockdown he had worked with his cleaning chemical supplier and they were ready to launch a new service offering that would immediately cater for the businesses classed as essential services.

“Ninety percent of the businesses that we clean were closed but we needed to provide a service to those that were regarded as essential service businesses.”

He researched both the Ministry of Health requirements as well as the World Health Organisation’s recommendations and could see a higher level of santisation would become mandatory.

“We knew it was not going to be normal going forward. A few things would change and we needed to adapt to these scenarios. We realised that santisation service provisions were going to be big going forward so we were working harder to ensure we grabbed the most of these circumstances.”

It was hard work to find the right equipment but Gary purchased two santisation cleaning machines to capture the new evolving market.

“It was hard to find the resources but it was also important not to rush and then get caught buying too much of something that might not work – it was important we made good decisions and got the right products.

“We were lucky, we’ve got a good team and we found the right product just before we went into lockdown, so it was fortunate that we had a little bit of cashflow coming in.”

Gary says that as a business owner, he needs to lead from the front, no matter how hard the storm is and not let negativity set you back.

“It’s important to keep yourself positive. There’s a lot of negativity out there and rather than thinking about what’s going to happen, think about what you have at the moment and just keep going.

“My wife was fantastic. Sometimes my face would show the story and the worry, but she would say ‘don’t worry, it will be ok’. Those little words and that support around you make a difference to your mindset and when your mindset is clear, nothing is going to stop you.”

Gary is now in the final preparations for rolling out his new AI- based cleaning app. Watch this space.