The Covid-19 outbreak has given each and every one of us a unique opportunity to slow things down and re-evaluate our approach to business. We’ve been busy digging out some fascinating insights as part of our Business Leader Series, highlighting some of our favourite pre-lockdown interviews that give us cause to be hopeful for the future.
In this post, we revisit our sit-down with Pat Ryan, where we discussed business growth, the challenges of Brexit and the evolution of the recycling sector. Check it out and browse our recent blog posts for more pre-Covid highlights in our award-winning collection!
Kicking off an interview that was originally recorded in March last year, Pat Ryan starts off by taking us on a brief walkthrough of his journey in setting up one of Ireland’s largest event cleaning specialist companies. “We started many years ago, and we were working in office cleaning for around 10 years.
We started the events business around 1992, and we started off at a festival called Trip to Trip, which is now part of the Feile,” he remembers. “We got the job of looking after the toilets in the stadium, and by the time it finished, we were cleaning the stadium; the pitch, the campsites, the racecourse – the whole lot.”
Table of Contents
Scaling a Service Company
Pat grew his business when deep cleaning on such a scale was relatively unheard of. Whilst his company was relatively inexperienced, it quickly lost its innocence: “Times changed. We reinvested in equipment, manpower and everything that would help make the job easier. We also took lessons from other companies in the UK, and learnt that we were actually doing things better than them. By the year 2000 arrived, we were in a considerably stronger position than our competitors.”
From that point, Ryans’ Cleaning went from strength to strength, accepting contracts at a Robbie Williams concert in 1996, before getting their “big break” with Fairyhouse racetrack in 2000. For Pat, a highlight was in accepting a contract for the Special Olympics in 2003. “After that, we had the Ryder Cup in 2006, Eminem in Punchestown, the London Olympics in 2012, the Queen’s Jubilee and more. These were all amazing moments for us, but personally, the Special Olympics was that single, stand-out moment.”
Whilst the company has moved from success to success, Pat does admit that B2B selling poses a number of challenges. “A lot of the challenges of B2B selling are around pricing. However, we’ve also seen challenges around staffing, and we are still unsure how Brexit could possibly impact this,” shares the Managing Director. “There’s always something coming around the corner, and Brexit is no different. It is what it is and we just have to deal with it. In my view, the worst thing that could happen is more paperwork!” he laughs.
An increased public awareness of litter, pollution and the negative impacts of poor environmental hygiene has transformed how the team at Ryans’ Cleaning do business. “Over the years, we’ve even had to change some of our own mindsets and our general approach to doing things. Everything is going green, but we need to be realistic about what can be green and what can’t be. 90% of the time, we don’t send to landfill and we do recycle a lot on sites, including cardboard, cans and glass. Unfortunately, a lot is left behind, particularly in campsites, that can’t be recycled. We try to reuse and forward those items on to charitable organisations wherever we can.”
Adapting to the Green Economy
Despite the paradigm shift towards eco-awareness, Pat suggests that many businesses and organisations underestimate the challenges faced by specialist cleaning companies like his. “For instance, a contract may have us working under severe time restrictions. At the end of the day, it’s all down to the punter coming through that gate. They normally like to recycle and dispose of their waste – but after a few pints, it’s often a different story. Kids today are learning about it in school – but those attending events now weren’t. So, there’s a bit of catching up to do,” he adds.
The cleaning specialist highlights how business’ approach to the environment has inspired some of the organisations he has worked with, including Dublin’s premier sporting stadium, Croke Park. Pat highlights his company’s introduction of a three-pronged approach to waste disposal after matches, where three rounds of litter picking separately collect recycles, general waste and compostable waste. He also shares his company’s introduction of scrubber dryers to clean benches and seats – a huge reduction in water usage compared with the stadium’s previous approach in using power washers.
Ryans’ Cleaning has picked up rafts of industry awards – something that has been made possible by the strength of its staff and team, says Pat. “Earlier in the year, we won Best Supervisor in Ireland, which was a brilliant achievement. Then we got the Tipperary Family-Run Firm award, which was really pleasing. Two weeks ago, we won Best Cleaner at Facilities Management Ireland. That was really good, and recognition that we were doing something right. We’ve invested a lot of time and money into the business, including our teams and supervisors. Some have been here for donkey’s years!”
But what comes next for Pat Ryan and the team at Ryans’ Cleaning? The founder highlights that his firm will continue to invest in the latest ISOs, continuously improving the management structure of his business. He also shares that the firm will be investing heavily in IT, including collaborative tools such as Microsoft Sharepoint. “We’ve never received a penny in government grants, support schemes or investments. We’ve gone out and done this completely on our own out of our own pocket, and we’ve just got on with it.
“Our advice is to just get out there and work hard at it. Fail once, fail twice, but just be willing to get back up again and stick at it. Do the courses, take the advice and you’ll go far.”
**Those wishing to learn more about Ryans’ Cleaning and their full range of specialist cleaning services are invited to do so by visiting the company’s official website. Interested parties are also invited to reach out to Pat Ryan directly via LinkedIn.**
Ciaran Connolly’s interview with Pat Ryan joins ProfileTree’s award-winning Business Leader Series, recently recognised with the Best Content Marketing Award for a Video Series at the inaugural Irish Content Marketing Awards. To register your interest in taking part in the series or to discover the power of content marketing in Belfast and beyond, get in touch with our expert team today. Please note that all scheduled interviews will take place on a remote basis until public health guidelines allow meetings at our Belfast-based studios.
Pat Ryan’s Approach to Scaling with Systems and Automation: Deep Dive
1. Breaking Down the Concept:
- Imagine this: You and your team are juggling client calls, emails, project deliverables, and administrative tasks, all happening simultaneously. It’s chaotic, prone to errors, and unsustainable as your service company grows. This is where systems and automation come in as the superheroes of scaling.
- Systems: Define clear processes, workflows, and protocols for how things get done within your company. Think of them as a detailed roadmap for every aspect of your work, from onboarding clients to invoicing and project delivery.
- Automation: Leverage technology to automate repetitive tasks, eliminate manual data entry, and streamline time-consuming processes. Imagine scheduling, follow-up emails, data analysis, and even client communication handled automatically, freeing you and your team for higher-level work.
Benefits of Systems and Automation:
- Increased Efficiency: Say goodbye to redundant tasks and wasted time. Streamlined systems and automation boost productivity, allowing you to accomplish more in less time.
- Reduced Errors: Human error is inevitable, but by automating repetitive tasks and standardizing processes, you significantly minimize mistakes and ensure consistent quality in your work.
- Scalability: As your client base grows, a strong system allows you to handle increased volume without feeling overwhelmed. Standardized processes and automated tasks ensure smooth operations even with a larger team.
- Improved Team Focus: Free your team from the mundane and empower them to focus on strategic tasks, client relationships, and innovative solutions. This fosters a happier, more engaged workforce.
- Data-Driven Decisions: Systems and automation generate valuable data about your operations, allowing you to make informed decisions based on real-time insights.
2. Connecting with Common Pain Points:
- Inconsistent Processes: Do you find yourself reinventing the wheel for each new client or project? Standardized systems eliminate inconsistencies and ensure everyone follows the same proven path.
- Disorganized Workflows: Is your team drowning in scattered emails, unfinished tasks, and lost information? Well-defined systems create a clear, organized flow of work, improving communication and collaboration.
- Reliance on Manual Tasks: Are you bogged down by repetitive data entry, scheduling, and follow-up emails? Automation liberates you and your team from these time-consuming chores, increasing your overall capacity.
3. Actionable Insights from Pat’s Approach:
- Standardization: Identify your most common processes and develop standardized procedures for how things get done. Document these procedures and make them easily accessible to everyone.
- Documentation: Every system needs a manual! Take the time to document your processes, workflow steps, and best practices. This ensures clarity, consistency, and smooth onboarding for new team members.
- Continuous Improvement: Scaling is an ongoing journey, not a destination. Embrace a culture of continuous improvement by regularly reviewing your systems, identifying areas for optimization, and making data-driven adjustments.
- Start Small: Don’t try to automate everything at once. Begin with the most impactful areas or common pain points, and gradually scale your automation efforts as you gain confidence and experience.
- Invest in the Right Tools: Explore and invest in suitable technology solutions like project management software, workflow automation tools, and communication platforms. The right tools can significantly enhance your systems and automation efforts.
Remember, Pat Ryan’s approach is about empowering your service company to grow with purpose and intention. By implementing robust systems and embracing automation, you pave the way for a sustainable, efficient, and thriving business, ready to conquer the challenges and opportunities of scaling to new heights.
Implementing Systems for Key Areas: Your Roadmap to Scale
Scaling your service company requires focusing on strategic areas that directly impact efficiency, quality, and client satisfaction. Let’s explore four vital areas where implementing systems and automation can revolutionize your operations:
1. Proposal & Contract Creation:
- Pain Point: Inconsistent proposals, manual editing, and delays in sending out offers.
- System: Standardized proposal template: Design a polished template with customizable sections for project scope, timelines, and pricing. Include pre-defined clauses and boilerplate language.
- Automation: Proposal generation software: Tools like Proposify or PandaDoc automatically populate your template with client information and project details, creating professional proposals in minutes.
- Case Study: A consulting firm used a standardized proposal template with automation to reduce proposal creation time by 75%, allowing them to take on more clients without sacrificing quality.
2. Client Communication:
- Pain Point: Missed emails, slow response times, and inconsistent communication methods.
- System: Client portal & communication platform: Establish a central hub for all client communication, including project updates, file sharing, and discussions.
- Automation: Email scheduling & follow-up tools: Tools like Boomerang or FollowUp Boss let you schedule emails in advance, set reminders for open tasks, and automate gentle follow-ups for unanswered messages.
- Before/After: A marketing agency implemented a client portal and automated follow-ups, reducing client response times by 40% and improving project collaboration significantly.
3. Time Tracking & Project Management:
- Pain Point: Inaccurate time recording, unclear project timelines, and lack of task visibility.
- System: Project management software: Tools like Asana or Trello provide centralized workflows, task assignments, due dates, and time tracking functionality.
- Automation: Integration with time tracking apps: Tools like Harvest or Toggl seamlessly integrate with project management software, automatically logging time spent on specific tasks and projects.
- Case Study: A software development team used a project management platform with time tracking to increase project completion rates by 20% by improving task visibility and accountability.
4. Invoicing & Payments:
- Pain Point: Manual invoicing, late payments, and inefficient payment processing.
- System: Automated invoicing software: Tools like FreshBooks or Wave automatically generate invoices based on project milestones or time tracked, send reminders, and offer integrated payment processing.
- Automation: Recurring billing & subscriptions: Set up recurring invoices for retainer clients or subscription-based services, eliminating manual work and ensuring timely payments.
- Before/After: A design agency implemented automated invoicing and recurring billing, reducing their invoicing time by 80% and increasing on-time payments by 35%.
Leveraging Automation Tools for Efficiency: Unleash Your Hidden Superhero
Remember those repetitive tasks that drain your time and energy? Enter the world of automation tools, your new hidden superheroes ready to revolutionize your service company’s efficiency. Let’s explore how these tools can superpower your workflows in key areas:
1. Repetitive Task Superheroes:
- Zapier: This master connector links your favorite tools like Gmail, Slack, and project management platforms, automating repetitive tasks like data entry, sending follow-up emails, and triggering workflows based on specific actions.
- IFTTT (If This Then That): Another versatile champion, IFTTT automates simple tasks between various services. Imagine automatically updating client records in your CRM when a proposal is accepted, or notifying designers when new project briefs arrive.
2. Scheduling Samurai:
- Calendly: Eliminate endless email chains and schedule meetings seamlessly with Calendly. Clients can self-book appointments based on your availability, saving you time and ensuring smooth scheduling coordination.
- Later: Say goodbye to manually posting social media content. Tools like Later let you schedule and publish captivating posts across platforms, streamlining your marketing efforts and freeing up your schedule for other priorities.
3. Workflow Management Wizards:
- Asana: This organizational champion helps you create and manage project workflows, assign tasks, track progress, and collaborate with your team in real-time. Automated notifications and deadlines keep everyone on track, ensuring projects stay on time and within budget.
- Airtable: Imagine a hybrid spreadsheet-database on steroids. Airtable lets you design custom workflows, automate data collection and analysis, and collaborate on projects in a flexible and visual interface.
4. Data Analysis Oracles:
- Google Analytics & Facebook Insights: These platforms unlock valuable insights into your website traffic, social media engagement, and marketing campaign performance. Automate reports and track key metrics to make data-driven decisions and optimize your strategies.
- QuickBooks Online: Keep your financials on autopilot with QuickBooks Online. Automated data entry, invoicing, and expense tracking give you real-time financial visibility and let you focus on strategic financial decisions.
Showcasing Synergy: The Integration Powerhouse:
Imagine this: A new client signs up through your website. Zapier automatically captures their information and adds them to your CRM. Calendly sends them a welcome email with a booking link. Asana creates a project workspace with pre-assigned tasks. Later schedules automated social media posts introducing them to your audience. This seamless integration between tools is the true magic of automation, creating a powerful system that works behind the scenes to keep your operations running smoothly.
Addressing Job Displacement Fears:
Rest assured, automation is not here to steal your employees’ jobs, but to empower them! By removing the burden of repetitive tasks, these tools free up your team to focus on what they do best: strategic thinking, client relationships, and creative problem-solving. Automation becomes a valuable partner, allowing your team to leverage their skills and expertise for higher-level work, creating a more fulfilling and impactful work environment.
Leveraging the right automation tools is a strategic investment in your service company’s future. By embracing these technological companions, you can unlock greater efficiency, boost productivity, and empower your team to reach new heights.
Remember, automation is not a one-size-fits-all solution, but a powerful toolset to be customized and explored for maximum impact in your specific business context. So, unleash your inner automation superhero and watch your service company soar to new heights of efficiency and success!
Q: How do I know if my current team structure is suitable for scaling?
A: Analyze your team size, workload distribution, and decision-making flow. If there are bottlenecks, information silos, or limited cross-functional collaboration, consider restructuring for increased efficiency and adaptability.
Q: What are some tools I can use to manage performance and accountability?
A: Project management platforms like Asana and Trello offer built-in task tracking, goal setting, and feedback features. Performance management software like BambooHR and Lattice can streamline reviews, feedback delivery, and development goal tracking.
Q: How can I ensure employee well-being while scaling and increasing workload?
A: Encourage open communication about workload concerns, promote flexible work arrangements where possible, prioritize breaks and vacations, and offer employee wellness programs like fitness initiatives or mental health resources.
Q: What if I can’t afford to hire additional team members right now?
A: Leverage automation tools to free up employee time for higher-level tasks. Optimize your existing workflow, explore outsourcing specific tasks, and consider temporary help for seasonal workload spikes.
Conclusion: Building Your Dream Team for Scaled Success
Your service company’s success is directly tied to the dedication and talent of your team. Building a high-performing team doesn’t happen overnight, but by focusing on structure, skills, accountability, and well-being, you can create a foundation for sustainable growth. Remember, your team is not just a cost; they are an investment in your future. Invest in their success, and they will become the engine that propels your service company to reach new heights.
Take the first step today. Assess your current team structure, identify your strengths and weaknesses, and implement actionable strategies to build a team that thrives in an environment of growth. Remember, the sky’s the limit – with the right team by your side, your service company’s scaling journey can be both challenging and incredibly rewarding. Embrace the process, build your dream team, and watch your business soar!