TC Cleaning Services has been trading for 50 years as of 2012, and has grown to become one of the UK’s top cleaning service providers, cleaning around 1,500 retail sites, with clients including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, New Look, Budgen’s and Greene King. TC offers a first class service on a nationwide basis, using a highly skilled workforce and best of breed equipment, and employing nearly 5,000 staff.

TC’s long history working alongside leaders in this sector has produced an incomparable level of experience and understanding. TC can service any size or number of retail outlets, no matter what the layouts or design and with little or no impact on the day-to-day operations of the business. Whilst the retail sector continues to be the heart of the business, TC are constantly expanding into new and emerging markets.

To capitalise on their strength in the multiple grocery retail sector, TC recently appointed Mick Beck as Chief Operating Officer (COO). Mick’s background is in retail management, having spent many years in senior positions with Musgrave, Tesco and Asda. Mick Beck spoke to The Grocery Trader.

The Grocery Trader – First of all, Mick, when did you join TC Cleaning Services?

I joined in February 2011, after having worked for Asda.

GT – As COO, what does your role involve day to day?

We’ve launched a new strategy this year, and as part of my role I think it is important for me to visit as many sites as I can with my field team to ensure our operational delivery meets my expectation. I spend Mondays and Tuesdays in the office, generally catching up with my team on one to ones as well as board meetings. This leaves the remainder of the week free for store visits.

GT – How are TC organised in terms of a national operations team to service the multiple grocers?

We’re organised into a number of divisions, and I have six Divisional Controllers covering Tesco, Sainsburys and Budgens stores, with responsibility for 13 Regional Managers, who in turn manage 52 Area Managers.

GT – What do you see as the most exciting challenges of your role?

I enjoy working with major retailers and helping provide the level of service they require. The retail sector is demanding and requires very high standards of cleaning and I of course understand this, after spending 23 years in food retail prior to joining TC Cleaning Services.

GT – Who else is in your senior management team?

The TC executive board consists of myself, CEO Paul Kennedy, formerly Tesco CEO Central Europe, HR Director Liz Orford, and Finance Director Steve Burgess. Reporting to us we have an operating board, which includes the six Divisional Controllers and Paul Faulkner, Sales & Marketing Director, and Kevin Meighan, Key Accounts Director.

GT – You were originally called TC Contractors. When was TC Contractors founded, and who by?

This year, 2012, is our fiftieth anniversary. Our founder was Trevor Cripps, therefore he named the company ‘TC’. Trevor is well known in the business and still owns the company. His son Simon Cripps is the Chairman.

GT – When did you change name, and why?

We changed the name in May/June 2011. The name change was after the Exec team had a three-day strategy meeting and came up with a BHAG – ‘Big Hairy Audacious Goal’ – to address the fact that everyone knew us, but our existing name TC Contractors didn’t explain what we did. We wanted to highlight our proposition clearly and simply. Our ‘BHAG’ is “to be a leading provider of cleaning services, engaging non core strategic partners to meet our customers’ needs.”

GT – Where are your headquarters?

We’re based at Walton-on-the-Hill, near Tadworth in Surrey.

GT – What proportion of your turnover is retail? Which other industrial markets are you in? Do you have any overseas customers?

Some 70% of our turnover is retail. We’re also involved in leisure, with Greene King, pharmaceuticals, with a large industrial pharmaceutical company, and in non-food retailing, with shopping centres and commercial premises. All our contracts at present are in the UK and Ireland.

GT – What proportion of UK supermarkets outsource their cleaning these days?

Most supermarkets outsource their cleaning, but there are still a few that choose not to.

GT – What about cleaning convenience store chains?

We service over 600 Tesco Express convenience stores, as well as a number of Budgens stores of a similar size, and the convenience market is where the growth has been for the last few years, due to planning restrictions on large supermarket sites.

GT – What are the benefits of outsourcing this activity to TC?

We’re nationwide and have the expertise, knowledge and know how to deliver a consistent daily clean to the retailer’s specification and quality, leaving them to focus on what they do best, serving the customer.

GT – How do you deliver against the major supermarkets’ store cleaning objectives?

There is an weekly/monthly audit conducted by the store management team along with ourselves to review the cleaning standards against the specification, and we always deliver in excess of our target KPI’s.

GT – What does a daily store clean from TC Cleaning Services comprise?

We clean the stores from car park to entrance, fascia, vestibule, shop floor, customer toilets and back of house at various frequencies, all done by our staff. We also have a housekeeping service in Tesco and Sainsbury’s, with a janitor on site to prevent slips and trips, and ensure any spillages are swiftly dealt with.

GT – What added value services do you offer?

We offer such added value services as deep cleans, window cleaning, graffiti and chewing gum removal, high level ducting and external cladding, specialist deep cleans for washrooms, diamond grinding and floor sealing, and emergency cleans. Some of these are quite specialised, like diamond grinding for sales floors, for example, which provides a glass finish with no slippage.

GT – What are the minimum and maximum sizes of outlets that you clean?

The minimum size is a pub and office with 200-300 sq ft of space, and the maximum is probably a 200,000 sq ft warehouse, but we’d always be very happy to clean bigger areas if required.

GT – What about providing waste management and facilities management services?

Yes, we can provide those as part of the service. As previously mentioned, we don’t do this non-core work ourselves, but we engage strategic partners who do it brilliantly well. Doing everything ‘brilliantly well’ is one of our core values. Most cleaning companies don’t think the same way we do: we have strong relationships with our strategic partners, and like to find strategic partners with similar strategic pillars to us.

GT – Do you also clean office areas? What about cleaning external areas – car parks, delivery areas and forecourts? Can you clean up fuel and oil spills?

We offer periodic cleaning for all these areas and have a number of forecourts that we clean monthly, three monthly or six monthly depending on the agreed service level.

GT – If you can summarise them, what are the key issues and concerns in cleaning different store formats – superstores, convenience format stores and forecourts?

Convenience is where the growth is. The superstores are fighting for trade, so perception is reality – meaning that stores must not only be clean, they must be seen to be clean. Shoppers judge on their first impressions, so the car park, the entrance mat and toilets must be first class as often we create the first and last impression for a customer.

Convenience stores are more of a challenge in terms of cleaning. Some stores are in difficult locations, and we ensure there are no missed cleans by having a regular team in place. In forecourts the challenge is staying up to the mark from a health and safety perspective.

GT – Do you also clean distribution centres and warehouses?

We clean both warehouses and distribution centres, and do high level cleaning including racking, ceilings and windows. As many of these locations work 24/7, it’s often hard to achieve efficiencies and work around the customer. Health and safety is even more apparent here too. We work closely with the client to schedule our operations to tie in with their downtime so they can achieve maximum productivity.

GT – Can you tell us about your major grocery retail customers?

For Tesco and Sainsburys we carry out a daily clean and periodical cleans in forecourt. We’re involved in their Refresh & Remodel programme, which covered over 100 stores in 2011, and included diamond grinding, and also in their new store fit outs and clean outs.

GT – What do you do for your pharmaceutical client?

For our pharmaceutical client NAPP we’re looking at some totally innovative cleaning assignments. It’s totally different from our retail work: we work in sensitive areas, including bottling plants and sterile areas, where cleaning is of absolutely paramount importance.

GT – Do you cover the whole UK? What about Ireland? What about overseas?

We cover the UK and Ireland. We’re not operating overseas.

GT – Do you have links with any particular machinery suppliers?

Yes, we have links with a number of different vendors. The machinery we use in Tesco Express was originally built for us by one of our suppliers, and is now their biggest selling product.

GT – Are you taking on more customers? How much extra capacity do you have?

We’re always looking to take on new business: there’s no limit to our capacity, it comes down to recruiting new teams and winning contracts.

GT – How do you sum up your approach to cleaning contracts?

Once appointed we reliably service clients’ daily cleaning requirements, placing professional staff in the right place, with the correct equipment. Our ongoing management and training ensure that the retailer’s highest standards are maintained, with great emphasis placed on creating the correct environment for their customers to enjoy their shopping experience.

GT – Do you employ your own staff, or are they agency or subcontracted?

We only use our own staff.

GT – What do you see as your USP – why appoint TC Cleaning Services?

We have a continued commitment to service delivery, value and ensuring that our customers’ shoppers have a safe and pleasurable shopping experience. Our professional, ground level personnel management is key to us flourishing in this industry, and our customers benefit from our unique ability to adapt quickly to new challenges. TC’s power to be pro-active, invest in the future and constantly improve and innovate has kept us in front. To this day we continue to be independently owned, and we believe in maintaining our traditional values whilst evolving modern techniques. We have developed and embraced new technologies and working practices.

The other point is that we have a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG), along with our five strategic pillars – we clean brilliantly well, we grow our business brilliantly well, we manage our people brilliantly well, we behave brilliantly well and we manage our costs brilliantly well.

GT – How long do your contract periods last?

It varies. Some are rolling contracts, some are for three years and others are for five.

GT – How do you go about quoting for cleaning services for a particular site?

Our nationwide operations team will assess the site to be cleaned, and along with appropriate Health & Safety input will create a suitably tailored proposal. It’s what we do – we will work with the customer to create a specification that works for them.

GT – How long do you take to come back with a quote? How long after go ahead can you go live?

We have a very quick turn round, and can quote within a week if needed. We generally go live within 30 days. We can also do emergency clean ups: in fact, I first came across TC after one of the stores in my area burnt down when I worked for Tesco. I was very impressed indeed by how TC helped in my hour of need.

GT – What industry standards do you work to?

The main standard we work to is the British Institute of Cleaning Science (BICSc) standard. And we are also members of the Cleaning & Support Services Association (CSSA).

GT – What staff training do you carry out?

It depends on the complexity of the particular operation. We carry out full induction and training. Most of our in store cleaning managers and a number of our area managers are ex-cleaners or ex-housekeepers.

GT – What are the Health & Safety factors in cleaning retail sites?

There is a high level of machinery involved, and with 24-hour trading in many stores, it means cleaning when the shoppers are around, and working to minimise trips and slips. There are also the inherent risks of high level cleaning, including external windows.

GT – In the current economic climate, are retailers sacrificing cleaning quality for cost savings?

No, I wouldn’t say so – if anything, there’s a higher demand than ever for companies like us who deliver exceptional standards. People are maintaining their frequency of clean, and don’t want to sacrifice cleaning quality.

GT – Finally, where do you see TC Cleaning Services going from here?

We’re looking to broaden our customer base: from a cleaning point of view, there are still so many councils, hospitals, schools and so on where we can win business. Even with the current cuts in the public sector these still present opportunities for profitable growth. In 2012 we’ll be at all the major cleaning shows, and we’ll also be at the Food & Drink Expo at the NEC. Going forward, we remain focused on an ambitious future growth strategy. Our combination of a dynamic senior management team, highly skilled cleaning operatives and ‘can-do,’ flexible approach makes us ideally placed for further expansion. We’ll continue to grow and carry on with our clear, honest, open trading strategy, which has brought us so much success.

TC Cleaning Contractors

Tel: 01737 819115

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