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aspect.co.uk Management Blog
The latest news about the business from William Davies and Nick Bizley, co-founders of aspect.co.uk.
There will be no end to the transport and parking restrictions during the Olympics, but are London’s home and business owners prepared? And what will some of the consequences of not being prepared be?
As a business responsible for looking after the maintenance needs of thousands of residential and commercial properties across the capital, we’re taking no chances. In fact, we’re doing all we can to make sure our customers are looked after in exactly the same way during the Olympics period. And, we’d urge other companies to follow suit.
We will have dedicated drivers for each of our vehicles on the road, ensuring that our engineers, whether a plumber or electrician, are available to attend a residential of commercial property, particularly in emergency cases. We are also putting additional motorbike cover in place, so if you have a leaky roof, or a blocked drain, you can rest assured that we’ll do all we can to get to you and to solve the problem in the fastest time possible.
But no one can predict just how tricky the driving conditions may be during the Olympics so if you think there could be a potential issue with your property now, then our advice would be to call in an engineer to fix the problem – it’s always better to be safe than sorry, particularly when it comes to your treasured home.
There’s a lot of negative press about the Olympics, but at aspect.co.uk we believe that it’s a unique opportunity for businesses to take advantage of the extra footfall and to boost income. Are you prepared? The main Olympics period will be from 27 July until 12 August and the Paralympics from 29 August to 9 September. And don’t forget the 5 day torch relay through all the London boroughs from 21 July!
There will be an increase in demand, so now is the time to ensure that your business is ready. Already, lots of our commercial clients, including YO! Sushi, Subway, Strada, Gucci and Oxfam, are looking into ways of maintaining and improving their properties in the run up to the big event. Here are some of the areas that you should be looking at now before the last minute rush:
- Is your property refurbished to the highest possible standard? Does it look attractive and appealing to potential customers? Ask yourself: will people want to come and spend time (and money) here?
- Have you checked that all the electrics are in safe and proper working order?
- If you are a restaurant, café, or bar, have you checked that your air conditioning and other appliances are fully serviced and in proper working order? And do you have a back-up, in case your oven, hob, or coffee machines break down?
This is an extraordinary opportunity for London's businesses, and the chance to really boost the bottom line during a difficult economic period. Don’t forget, our team of engineers is here to support you 24/7...
The search is on for our handyman apprentice
For some time now, we have voiced our support for the Coalition Government’s plans to increase the numbers of young people in employment.
This month sees the launch of our first employment boot camp, where we will be asking unemployed youths from across Wandsworth Borough to take part. We’ll be putting a number of long-term unemployed youths (aged between 18-25) through their paces in a variety of physical and mental challenges. We’ll then select six at the end of the task, and this will – eventually – be whittled down to one candidate who we will be offered a full-time handyman apprenticeship. This is their chance to learn a skill, and to find full-time employment.
Today’s youngsters represent tomorrow’s workforce, and I believe businesses need to do all they can to support them. The youth are – in effect – an untapped resource; key to helping the UK pull out of the current economic situation.
aspect.co.uk is also a growing business, and we’re constantly recruiting new talent. At the end of the day, if we find the right person – then everyone is a winner.
Getting on to the property ladder has never been so difficult; the proportion of low and middle income earners under 35 and renting has practically doubled since the late 80s.
But, landlords hoping to fill their properties shouldn’t become too complacent. It is still vital to ensure the property appeals to potential tenants, and that – when occupied – it continues to remain in proper working order. After all, happy tenants are more likely to remain in a property, and you’ll prevent costly void periods from occurring.
If you are a landlord looking to rent a property out, then below are some tips from our refurbishment division on how to keep important rooms, such as the kitchen and bathroom, in tip top condition for as long as possible.
If budgets allow, install a mid-range kitchen and appliances. So often, we see people trying to minimise cost and opting for entry level units and appliances only to see them damage easily or fail. Stone is the best type of work top, but if budget doesn’t permit, then opt for a laminate one, which requires low-level maintenance. And select porcelain floor tiles, which are hard-wearing and durable.
For the same reasons as above, install a mid range bathroom suite and fixtures. If the room doesn’t have a window, then install a good quality, effective extractor fan to remove moisture from the room as this will stop the paint coverings to walls and ceilings flaking and peeling. And, use a good quality bathroom silicone to seal around fixtures and fittings to minimise any risk of leaks.
The majority of tenants aren’t likely to look after your property quite as well as you would. Therefore, always use very durable paint throughout, such as the Dulux Diamond range, which won’t require as much maintenance.
I have to seriously question the scheme launched by Housing Minister, Grant Shapps, whereby council tenants will be paid for doing routine DIY. I am of the firm opinion that the scheme will rebound, and – eventually – increase costs for the tax payer.
Mr. Shapps says that maintenance and repairs cost social landlords £4bn a year, and he believes that the tenants could do work like decorating and fixing plumbing themselves and save councils and housing associations cash.
I concur with our housing minister that the scheme looks attractive on paper... but when you factor in the costs of checking work has been completed correctly or repairs for jobs that have been botched, I believe it is unworkable.
On a daily basis, we are called out to 100’s of private addresses to correct problems that have been created by a previous owner’s DIY.
And, when we look at the tenant cashback scheme, which the Government is looking to introduce, I have to ask how this would be regulated? Who would be responsible for assessing that all the work tenants claimed for was actually necessary or indeed true?
At the end of the day, social landlords will ultimately be responsible for administering the scheme, managing the costs and guarding against fraud.
Being a property owner is a responsible job, and staying on top of those niggling chores is vital.
Homeowners should make the most of the milder weather to finish off any work needed, or to carry out repairs and refurbishments. Doing this now may prevent damage from occurring, or more costly repairs being needed in the harsher winter months.
Here are our top tips on how to maintain some of the elements of your property. Please not that where a job is more complex, or has an element of danger – such as going up onto a property’s roof - we would always recommend calling in an expert to assist.
- Observe your roof for missing tiles, or moss build up.
- Check the brickwork, to make sure it looks intact and no bricks or mortar are crumbling away.
- Check the guttering looks clear with no missing sections.
- Check window sills and drain pipes for rot, or flaking away paintwork.
- Spring clean your drains from inside and do an external check to ensure there aren’t any blockages.
- Get an electric check from a qualified electrician to make sure that your property’s electrics are safe and in a satisfactory condition.
- Replace light bulbs with energy saving light bulbs.
- Get your boiler serviced. Doing this now will make sure it is properly maintained for the year ahead.
- Consider upgrading your boiler to an energy efficient boiler, which can provide up to 30% savings on gas bills.
On Sunday 27th November, I was interviewed for the BBC Business News on the theme of the Chancellor’s announcement around credit easing. The full clip can be seen by clicking on the following link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-15908282
We were keen to convey the fact that banks have been restricting funding to small businesses (like ours) for the last couple of years, and now more than ever from our experience. Even for a profitable, cash generative business like aspect.co.uk, we need access to funding for investment and working capital, particularly if we are to realise our ambitious growth plans.
The news that the Chancellor has allowed a policy for increasing the availability of funding from the high street banks is positive. But it is only REALLY good news if it is implemented in the right way and actually results in more lending. We have heard a lot of talk about it but to date nothing has been done to actually enforce a change in the situation. I truly believe that unless small businesses can get the funding they need this recession will go on and on...
This week is Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week (2011) – http://www.covictim.org/. CO-Awareness is a registered charity that supports the many victims of Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning, their families and friends. The campaign is built around awareness and lobbying for changes in the legislation covering the manufacture, installation and servicing of appliances burning certain fuels and reaching out to government and industry to improve safety and raise awareness.
Carbon Monoxide is the silent killer, and it is always saddening when you hear about people that have lost their lives in such a way – when it could be so easily avoided. It is vital for homeowners and landlords to be made aware of the risks; they should also be checking gas appliances, chimneys and flue systems on a regular basis.
As an approved Gas Safe contractor for the London area, we fully CO Week. And, our gas safety team works tirelessly helping businesses and homeowners across the capital to keep their boilers in safe and proper working order. CO is released during incomplete combustion of fuels. Full and proper servicing of gas appliances goes towards ensuring that the incineration process only produces a minimal amount of the gas. Boilers should be serviced at least once a year.
Regular checking of chimneys and flue systems is also critical – as this is where the products from the combustion of fuels leave a property, and therefore CO may be detected in these areas.
And, very importantly, property owners must install a carbon monoxide alarm – at the end of the day, they save lives.
Last week was Energy Saving Week (24-30 October). In conjunction with that, we announced the findings from an energy poll we ran.
The results were positive – it seems our customers are both cost-conscious and environmentally savvy!
Over half (51 percent) would consider installing solar power in order to save energy in their properties. This was followed by 21 percent of those surveyed who suggested that they would look into water saving tips and 15 percent who would look into installing an energy efficient boiler.
13 percent of respondents suggested that they wouldn’t invest in energy saving techniques, but might consider looking at other ways, which would include making an effort to reduce the amount of energy used in the first instance.
The recent spate of energy prices hikes have been well reported in the news. It therefore seems hardly surprising that homeowners are trying to identify ways of reducing costs.
Equally, people are also becoming much more environmentally aware, and reducing emissions clearly helps to reduce the overall impact on the environment. If the costs relating to installing solar energy seem prohibitive, then I’d urge homeowners to consider the long term cost and environmental benefits.
In September, I was appointed as head of franchising at aspect.co.uk. In this role, I will take what co-founders, William Davies and Nick Bizley, have developed and build this into a franchise network – helping to underpin the company’s national roll out.
Two weeks into the job, and I am thoroughly enjoying the work and the challenges that lie ahead. When it comes to launching a successful franchise, you have to know what the company is about and what it represents. I’ve really got my teeth stuck in and have even spent a day out on the road with Chas, one of the company's gas service engineers. The work these guys do is amazing.
I have more than 25 years’ experience across the franchising sector; both as a franchisee and franchisor – working in the retail and service industries, so I know what it takes to grow and develop a successful franchise business.
Over the next month, I will oversee the launch of our first pilots – managing the smooth running of each from an operational, technical and marketing perspective. It will be about making sure we have the right foundations in place. aspect.co.uk is offering potential franchisees the chance to be their own boss, and to develop a thriving business that will generate a healthy income. Success will be based on hard work and determination, but it will come to those willing to invest their time and energy.
aspect.co.uk franchises will operate under the successful aspect.co.uk brand, and franchisees will be provided with systems, and management support.
Further information can be obtained on the franchise page or by calling 0843 006 2849.
Head of Franchising
This August, we began to notice a new trend emerging amongst London’s homeowners; and with selected businesses also. It seems many of us are beginning to emulate our European counterparts, in terms of choosing to take the majority of August off. Perhaps it’s an outcome of the recession, but this is the first time I have seen this happening since I started working in the property maintenance and refurbishment sectors in the 1990s.
Each year we see European suppliers of products, such as tiles and sanitary ware, shutting their doors for the whole of August. Imports come to a standstill, because manufacturing stops – but we anticipate this, and we allow for it in our planned refurbishment work.
But what we saw in August 2011 was large numbers of homeowners opting to take the whole of the month off. You would have thought that - for larger scale refurbishments - having clients on hand for project sign off and administration is vital. However, this year, we found a new way of working – extensive preliminary meetings covered off the project requirements and left clients feeling secure in the knowledge the work would be completed to the highest standard, while they left the property and holidayed. In effect, they placed absolute trust in aspect.co.uk to ‘get the job done’.
Often it is harder to work in a property when the client is living there, so the very fact they opted to leave during the time the work was being completed worked to everyone’s advantage. Instead, following the agreements made at the preliminary meeting, our project managers liaised with these clients via text, email and daily photographic updates.
We were so pleased by the way these projects worked in August, that we will now add this into type of work into our contingency planning. And, we are also now looking into a full job management system, which can allow the client to log in and see the progress of the labour being undertaken. Pre-project, they can relax in the knowledge that the work will be finished, and that they will be updated along the way. Clearly, this represents a far cry from the days of whether or not you’d choose to trust a tradesmen in your home, let alone giving them the keys and complete access to the property while you are on holiday.
You may have noticed that we recently changed our name from Aspect Maintenance to aspect.co.uk, and – at the same time – we decided to refresh and update our brand.
Every couple of years, we do a full review of our company messaging and brand position. We felt that 2011 was the perfect time to move the brand on. We wanted to make sure our new brand conveyed the message that aspect.co.uk does a lot more than just property maintenance – so we’ve gone with the tagline ‘one call property care’... one place for all your property needs. Customer care is key, and we were keen to reflect this through the brand.
And, as a property maintenance and refurbishment business, one of our core focuses is to make sure people can easily find us online and offline, whether they are returning or new customers. When you have a property emergency, you need to be able to find us quickly. We’ve also opted for a memorable telephone number – ‘0800 one call’.
Our design agency has created a new logo with bright neon colours, and we’ve updated all our stationery and branding. We’re now beginning to roll out the re-brand across all the company uniform, and updating our fleet of vehicles at a rate of two per month.
So far – both employee and customer reaction has been very positive, and we’re looking to completely roll out the re-brand, as we take aspect.co.uk nationwide.
In July we officially launched our franchise operation. Over the last six years, we have built a leading London-based business and are now keen to establish the company as the UK’s the number one national property maintenance and refurbishment operation. Clearly, this is going to take time and effort, but we believe the franchise opportunities will pave the way, and provide us with the opportunity of building the brand. And it will also offer interested parties the chance to build up and manage their own successful business.
We have brought in the expert guidance and support of franchise specialist and guru, Jim Zockoll, who was the first service based UK franchisor with Dyno-Rod in 1963. Both he and the team have been instrumental in setting up the franchise offering, and their advice has proved invaluable.
The franchises will operate under the successful www.aspect.co.uk brand, and we’ll provide franchisees with systems, and management support.
This is such a key time for the company, and we’re excited by the opportunities that lie ahead for both us, and the partners (the franchisees) that we go into business with. Perhaps you have experienced redundancy in the last few years, or you had always hoped to become your own boss. With an aspect.co.uk franchise, you will have the opportunity to establish a flourishing business. And, if it’s not for you, then why not let your friends and relatives know. Hard work and determination are sure to lead to success...
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