Is Your Business Starting To Stall?

19th February 2016

Is Your Business Starting To Stall? | Clean Space Blog

Our MD Charlie Mowat is here to help.

If your business is starting to stall, you’re in the right place.

If you’re anything like me, you have been growing your business for what feels like an age, and have hit a plateau, due to the business growing past the point where you can possibly manage it on your own.

You probably feel a sense of dissatisfaction with your business, a sense of drowning, frustrated by continually getting dragged back into the weeds.

You know you need to spend more time working ‘on’ the business rather than ‘in’ it, but week after week you just can’t find the space.

You know something needs to change, and you may even have a clear vision of what your end goal looks like, but you don’t know how to actually get there.

If the description above is akin to you looking into a mirror, keep reading. I am here to help. I too was frustrated by this plateau, but my determination turned me onto the right path. I’m not there yet but we’re moving in the right direction.

When I reached the second stage and looked for material to help me, I found little. There were hundreds of books and blogs about how to start a business but very little on how to navigate the changes I knew needed to be made. And thus, this blog was born.

Over the coming posts I will share all my learnings in my quest to crack the nut of second stage growth.

What is Second-Stage Growth?

Second stage businesses have reached a turnover of over £1m and want to keep going. Unlike start-up companies, their focus is organised growth and development, rather than chaotic survival. Unlike lifestyle businesses, they invest to reach the next level, rather than coasting with a steady cash flow.

Research referenced by Forbes magazine shows that 55% of business founders who have reached the second stage want to continue.

I am one of those 55%.

My business has been a second stage business for over two years. During that time I have learnt an awful lot about what to do and what not to do for a business to succeed during this phase.

It is these lessons (and new ones yet to be learned) that I will share.

My Story so Far

In April 2003, I started The Clean Space, a UK-based commercial cleaning company.

The cleaning sector is one of the most competitive industries in the UK, contributing over £8 billion pounds to the British economy every year.

Despite being a vital service, a recent report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission found that the half a million staff that make up the cleaning sector are frequently ignored and ill-treated. Cleaners are notoriously badly paid, badly treated, seldom trained and not given the support they need by managers. There is often little or no opportunities for career progression.

I wanted to change things in the sector, so I left a well-paid consulting job to start a cleaning company with a simple core principle: if we look after our cleaners they will look after our clients.

Although a daunting decision, what drove me was the masses of potential and the opportunity to change conditions for the better within the cleaning sector.

The decision paid off.

office space


I started The Clean Space with no clients or cleaners, just me, a laptop and some rubber gloves. Fortunately, what started as one man’s vision and drive to change things for the better, has grown into something special.

Within three years The Clean Space was turning over £600k with a small office based team.  Everybody mucked in with everything, and although we often resembled headless chickens, we managed to stay afloat.

The company steadily grew, moving into other cities and making small acquisitions. To accommodate this the team grew and started to get some structure, although I still controlled everything.

In October 2013, our 10th anniversary year, we were turning over £3.7m with six acquisitions under our belts, providing cleaning services in seven cities across the country.

Despite these achievements, trying to juggle everything was draining, and I recognised something needed to change.

I had reached the second stage.

A lot has changed since then and we have continued to grow to a £4.5m business. I am also lucky that 13 years on I get to work with over 300 like-minded, driven and ambitious members of The Clean Space family, who share my commitment to making our business great.

What We’re trying to Achieve

Having settled (somewhat) into the second stage of business growth, our goal is to achieve £10m turnover by 2022.

Just as important as this financial target, is my goal to create something really special in an industry that is admittedly much maligned and not known for its glamour.

This goal is more than achievable. I have started to evolve into the type of leader who is ready to tackle the second-stage summit, and the business is beginning to see the benefits.

But there is plenty more to change.

What to Expect from this Blog

In short, expect candid accounts of the highs and lows of running a second stage business, with lessons that will hopefully help you in your own personal mission.

As well as advice on business strategy and procedures, expect to hear about the perils of unruly employees; why HR should have been my first, not my last recruit; how to handle inevitable frustration; and how to rally the troops to share one’s vision.

Having encountered many ups and downs over the last 13 years, myself and my team have a lot more lessons to learn.

I invite you to come along for the ride.

Call us on 0870 423 3559