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ServiceMaster Clean Newbury MD retires after 30 years

IT started with one man driving around Newbury in a van and has grown to become a business that employs more than 350 people with a multi-million pound turnover.

Now, 30 years later, the man who started it all is leaving the future of the company in the hands of his employees.

Nick Dee Shapland took on the franchise for ServiceMaster Clean Newbury in 1991 as a sole proprietor – and hasn’t looked back.

Nick, pictured in 1991 with his van
Nick, pictured in 1991 with his van

It started as a ServiceMaster Contract Services franchise for Newbury and Reading, carrying out daily office cleaning services, and in 1998 the business became a limited business – Deeland Limited.

The first 15 years was dedicated to commercial office cleaning, during which time the company gained considerable experience servicing corporate companies such as Vodafone in the early 1990s.

This enabled ServiceMaster Clean Newbury to attract a wide range of commercial customers, from large financial institutions to Formula 1.

Nick Dee Shapland
Nick Dee Shapland

As the business grew, so did the area it covered. In addition to Newbury and Reading, it expanded to cover Basingstoke and Andover, then added Marlborough, Swindon and Oxford to the list.

Its operations now extend across Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Hampshire.

Now, coming to the age of 70, Nick has put in place plans for Deeland Limited to move over to an Employee Ownership Trust (EOT) going forward.

He said the move, which was finalised last week, will “place the future of the business in the hands of the people who have helped it grow over the last 10 years”.

ServiceMaster Clean Newbury communal housing quality assurance management meeting
ServiceMaster Clean Newbury communal housing quality assurance management meeting

"We have a great business and a great team in place,” said Nick. “Most of the staff have got an average of 10 years’ service so there is a really good foundation there to work from.

“It is my wish for the employees to benefit from the great knowledge and teamwork that has been developed over many years by allowing them to have control over the future of the business.”

The transfer to the EOT means that 80 per cent of Nick’s shares in the company have been sold to the trust, which represents all the employees of Deeland Limited.

Other than that, it is business as usual – the actual trading name of the company won’t change and neither will the contracts.

The trust will be managed and operated for the benefit of all the employees of Deeland Limited t/a ServiceMaster.

ServiceMaster Clean Newbury senior management team
ServiceMaster Clean Newbury senior management team

A senior management team of three, comprising of two directors, has been set up to run operations, while the trust will have a chairman, employee representative and independent business executive.

Nick acknowledges that moving to an EOT would not have been possible without the knowledge and expertise of Postlethwaite’s of London, in particular David Reuben and Toby Locke, who helped to meet the stringent measures laid down by franchisor ServiceMaster.

Following the EOT completion, Nick received a call from Alan Lewin, the MD for ServiceMaster Limited, congratulating him on being a pioneer.

Looking back over the past 30 years, Nick said the turning point for the business came in 2003, when it won the countrywide cleaning contract for Sovereign Housing association.

He said: “The first 10 to 15 years it was very much a reactive business, (possibly Nick learning his trade) with me dashing all over the place.

“The journey really started when Sovereign asked us to take on the communal cleaning contract."

The company now has a dedicated communal contract services division that has been servicing various housing associations, including Sovereign, for the past 17 years.

In fact, Nick said that “communal cleaning now accounts for around 50 per cent of all of our business and we have 50 vehicles for communal cleaning contracts alone”.

Looking back over the last 16 months, Nick said the Covid-19 pandemic had been a "strange experience" for the team.

“We have the products and methods to meet all cleaning, sanitising and disinfection requirements, which has obviously been really important, particularly in this last year or so.

"During the pandemic, for example, we carried out disinfection cleans for social housing, schools, doctors surgeries, NHS test stations and commercial offices.

“However, at the same time around 50 per cent of the business had to close down because a lot of offices were closed and didn’t need cleaning, so we had to furlough a percentage of our staff.

“If it wasn’t for the Government’s furlough scheme we would have been in a challenging time, but were lucky we were in the right line of business.”

Nick moved to Newbury in 1977 to take on a new role as an area sales manager for Vicon Farm Machinery, a Dutch company that manufactured and distributed farm equipment to a retail dealer network such as Oakes Bros Hungerford and John Wilder Wallingford.

He did that for 16 years, before briefly moving to Mid-West America in 1985.

It was a short time later, when he returned to Newbury, that ServiceMaster Clean was first brought to his attention.

In 1989, one of Nick’s colleagues bought the ServiceMaster Cleaning franchise for Leeds and it appealed to him, to have his own business.

“I saw the Newbury franchise was available and at the age of 39 I thought ‘I’ve got to go for this’, said Nick.

“I spoke to my wife and managed to convince her and the rest, as they say, is history.”

He added: “When I started as a man in a van if you asked me if I would end up having an HR department I would have laughed at you. It has been quite a journey.”

ServiceMaster Clean is one of the largest residential and commercial cleaning businesses in the world, with more than 3,500 franchises across the UK, US and Europe.

The company offers contract cleaning services for both commercial businesses and social housing, professional cleaning of soft and hard furnishings for domestic and commercial properties and fire and flood restoration services for the domestic market.

Nick and the ServiceMaster Clean Newbury team are planning a party later this year, Covid-19 restrictions permitting, to celebrate the company's 30th anniversary and the Employee Ownership.

For more details about ServiceMaster Clean Newbury, visit www.servicemasternewbury.co.uk

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