Scots cleaning company Abby Group plans major expansion

03/08/2023
Mr May, Photo by Lesley Martin Photographer

A SCOTTISH cleaning company has embarked on an ambitious acquisition plan with a target of more than doubling turnover within two years.

St Andrews-based ABBY Group has already launched its development programme by acquiring two firms based in Glasgow and Aberdeen.

Now, it has sights set on further expansion as it seeks rapid growth over the next 24 months, backed through a funding package drawn up by external investors.

ABBY was established by husband and wife Robert and Julie May in 2008 after the couple sold their licensed trade interests. They have grown the company from scratch, starting out in domestic cleaning contracts and branching into office cleaning.

They now offer a huge variety of services across a broad spectrum and have become expert specialists in cleaning work for the country’s biggest housebuilders as they prepare new-build properties for handover to their new owners following the completion of construction work.

At present, ABBY carries out around 300 such new-build cleans every week for firms including Cala, Barratt and Persimmon which requires three staff alone to look after the nationwide booking and scheduling of work carried out by 14 teams comprising 70 full-time staff..

ABBY founder and group operations director Robert May (pictures attached) said: “We’re probably the biggest provider of cleaning services in this sector in Scotland at present. A lot of work is involved and there are three thorough and separate cleaning stages involved before each house is ready for its new owner. There’s an initial clean after the build is completed, a second clean after snagging and a final clean the day of or the day before the owner moves in.”

The company has made steady growth since it was launched by the May family just months after the birth of their daughter Abigail – after whom the name ABBY was chosen.

Within the last year they have acquired two leading family-owned concerns.

Glasgow firm Coronet Services, who carry out work for – among others – property management firm Ross + Liddell and Aberdeen-based First Class Cleaning, whose clients include DHL.

Mr May outlined the rationale behind the initial acquisitions and said: “We are strong in construction, new-build and property management.  The opportunity came up at Coronet which is strong in office cleaning, a sector we were not really involved in and it made us strong in that sector – also commercial buildings and car showrooms, offices like St  Vincent Plaza in Glasgow and Quartermile in Edinburgh. In Aberdeen, First Class Cleaning came to our attention and they provide a lot of work in the  construction business, end of tenancy and holiday lets.”

Mr May explained that these are the first building blocks in the planned expansion project which will involve further acquisitions which will help scheduled turnover increase by 150 per cent from £6 million to £15 million in two years.

Further acquisitions are an intrinsic component of the growth strategy and ABBY are presently seeking out new targets which will help account for around 60 per cent of future projected turnover, said Mr May.

The company has come a long way since its first crucial break when Mr May met a painter and decorator at a networking event who introduced him to the owners of a nightclub who needed cleaning work carried out. That resulted in securing a contract with the owners who had a chain of clubs throughout the country, opening the door to £150,000 worth of work.

He said: “That gave us a great platform for growth and within two years turnover was £500,000.”

Some time later he got an unsolicited call from Barratt Homes asking him to tender for a new-build contract in Prestonpans.

He said: “We’d never done anything like it but despite that said we could do it. We submitted a tender and won the work. From there it snowballed, from not knowing what we were doing to hundreds of projects every week – just by meeting the customer’s expectations.” 

More recently, COVID presented new lucrative opportunities for ABBY, especially with building contractor clients who were required to be compliant with a host of new rules and regulations on sanitation and cleaning before they could return their sites to operations.

Mr May said: “At one stage we had teams working on 82 different building sites to get them up and running again.”

The company now offers myriad services including: commercial cleaning, domestic cleaning, offices, factories, rental accommodation, end of tenancies, buy-to-lets, health care facilities, GP and dental surgeries, schools and colleges, car showrooms, managed apartment blocks, hotels and restaurants, care homes, carpet cleaning, waste management, deep cleans, chewing gum and graffiti removal as well as insurance reinstatement work

Mr May said: “If it needs cleaned … we clean it.”

Outlining future strategy Mr May said: “Until now we have grown organically but recently we have established a sales team to bring in additional business.”

Customer service and looking after the workforce are key to the ABBY Group’s principles.

ABBY operates a state-of-the-art audit software system and uses film to thoroughly monitor work that has been carried out to maintain consistently high standards for clients who receive before and after pictures of each job.

Mr May said: “You’ve got to always ask: ‘What would you want for yourself and what does the customer want?’. If you meet those expectations you’re not far away.”

Another important element in the service is continuity of staff on individual contracts with the same personnel providing the same services to the same clients on a regular basis, wherever possible..

Mr May explained: “In this way relationships are built. Customers look after the clients and vice versa. All staff are interviewed, vetted and trained. They’re expert, professional, honest, hardworking and reliable.”

The company pays the living wage of £11 an hour and Mr May added: “The most important people in this company are the cleaners. Everyone else is here to support them.”

Now, with its first acquisitions bedded in, ABBY is preparing for the next phase of its expansion programme with sights firmly fixed on further takeover targets to generate the expected growth planned for the next couple of years.

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