Astrum Commercial Cleaning Services

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Astrum Commercial Cleaning Services's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Astrum Commercial Cleaning Services is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

We are keen that all of our on-
site staff feel part of the team
Directors Simon Jevons and
Finnian Brown
Astrum Commercial Cleaning Services was established in
1995 after Directors Finnian Brown and Simon Jevons
decided they could improve on the standard of service
that many companies provided. A rebrand in 2017 allowed
them to ascertain and focus on the strengths of their business,
with the primary feedback from their customers praising their
responsiveness. As they have expanded, they have endeavoured
to maintain their community feel and have designed a series of
projects to support that. Simon Jevons discusses how they have
expanded and their decision to remain a dedicated cleaning
Cleaning: it doesn’t sound like much and it doesn’t quite have the glamour of
a high-tech start-up in Silicon Valley. However, while our work could never be
described as “life and death”, it really does matter when it goes wrong. How
embarrassed were the Indian government when the furore over filthy living
quarters for the athletes came to light at the Commonwealth Games in 2010? A
government of 1.3 billion people made to look incompetent because somebody
failed to provide a good cleaning service. Our service is invisible and trivial until it’s
done poorly – then it becomes relevant and important.
Why choose cleaning?
There are two of us who run and own the company: Finnian Brown and me.
I started two years after Finnian in 1995. We were attracted to cleaning for a
number of reasons. First, we saw many companies were getting a mediocre service:
»Directors: Simon Jevons and
Finnian Brown
»Established in 1995
»Based in Meriden
»Services: Commercial cleaning,
covering the Midlands
»No. of employees: Nearly 800
»Excluding the two directors, the
management team of 20 have
amassed 217 years of service
between them – an average of
nearly 11 years per person
Astrum Commercial
Cleaning Services
Highlighting best practice
no management visits, telephone
calls never returned, untrained
operatives and a complete absence
of communication. We were certain
that we could do a better job – much
better in fact. We could also see that
there were no economies of scale in
the industry, so we were unlikely to
lose out to the multinationals. They
couldn’t buy labour any cheaper than
we could. The industry is also relatively
technology proof.
We followed our instincts and ran the
two separate companies until 2011,
sharing offices and systems. The
industry had been through significant
changes over this time, and we both
felt that a merger would place us in
the strongest possible position to take
the business forward. It was the right
decision. The merger has allowed
us to focus our efforts on particular
areas of the business, complementing
our different strengths. We currently
employ nearly 800 cleaning staff and a
management team of around 20.
Our main office is based between
Coventry and Birmingham in a
converted farmhouse. The real fire
in the main meeting room is the
highlight and always impresses our
visitors. Wehave decided to keep
our geographical coverage to the
Midlands, so this places us right at the
centre of our territory.
Coventry and Birmingham don’t always
get the best press, but both cities have
a great deal to offer and have become
quietly confident in their identities.
Birmingham city centre has been
transformed over recent years, with
developments such as Grand Central
Station and the new library. HSBC have
relocated their UK headquarters to
Birmingham – an investment of over
£200 million. Coventry has seen Jaguar
Land Rover flourish in recent times,
and Coventry University was ranked
13th best university in the UK in 2019
by The Guardian University Guide.
Changing our name
We rebranded the company in 2017,
using a local marketing agency to
help us. We had to explain to them
at great length what we thought
made us such a good company. They
then insisted on meeting a dozen of
our customers to ask them the same
question. We then had to see how the
responses compared. We were a little
apprehensive, as we had not been
We spend time making
sure our staff are well
trained and well looked
Our service is
invisible and
trivial until it’s
done poorly
– then it
relevant and
allowed to be present at the customer
meetings. However, the results were
both fascinating and positive. There
was a good deal of overlap, but we
had focused on good supervision
and management, great operating
systems, the longevity of service of
our managers and operatives, and
being big enough to cope but small
enough to care. All of the customers
interviewed came back with the
same message – this is what you do
that makes you exceptional: you’re
responsive, local and established, and
you have great people.
Once we thought about it, we were
delighted. In this business, there are
always problems. What matters is how
well you deal with those issues. You
have to be good at listening properly,
doing the right thing in the right
timeframe to fix it and communicating
effectively throughout. Therefore,
“responsiveness” is now top of the list
when people ask us what makes us a
good company.
Being local and established is also
great, but I was most thrilled that
our customers appreciated our hard-
working staff. Since our inception,
we’ve understood that this is truly a
people business. We spend a great
deal of time making sure that our staff
are well trained, well looked after and
properly managed and that, above
all, they feel appreciated. We are by
no means perfect, but our staff do
stay with us for a long time. Even so,
we don’t like to rest on our laurels.
This year, we are introducing a series
of co-ordinated programmes to help
with mental health and ways to reduce
stress levels in the workplace. We
believe this will be of great benefit
to the wellbeing of our staff and
ultimately the performance of the
company: everybody wins.
Our biggest challenge is trying
to juggle our expansion with the
community feel we strive for. We
have instigated a number of projects
to make our employees feel part
of a collective, rather than isolated
members who only ever come into
contact with their line managers. As
this is something that is consistently
highlighted by our customers as one
of our strengths, we are determined to
maintain it.
The other great thing to come from
the rebrand was the decision to
become a dedicated cleaning company
and a real expert in our field. The
past 15 years have seen the growth
of facilities companies, with the
promise of everything under one roof,
improved communication lines, supplier
streamlining and great “strategic
fit”. For a while, we flirted with this
approach to fit the changing market,
as did many of our competitors. My
experience of this fashion was rather
underwhelming. I have seen a real
shift in attitudes over the last couple
of years, moving back towards the
procurement of individual services
from specialist companies. We are
now in a position to accommodate this
requirement as a dedicated cleaning
company and are looking forward to
doing so.
I have seen a real
shift in attitudes
over the last
couple of years,
moving back
towards the
procurement of
services from
Birmingham city centre
has been transformed in
recent years

This article was sponsored by Astrum Commercial Cleaning Services. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Michael Gove.

Rt Hon Michael Gove's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Michael Gove

This year's Parliamentary Review comes at a momentous time for parliament, as we collectively determine the destiny of the United Kingdom. 

On October 31, the UK will leave the European Union. The successful implementation of this process is this government's number-one priority.

Three years after a historic referendum vote, we will deliver on the decisive mandate from the British people. Trust in our democracy depends on it. Until that final hour, we will work determinedly and diligently to negotiate a deal, one that abolishes the backstop and upholds the warm and close relationship we share with our friends, allies and neighbours in the EU. But in the event that the EU refuses to meet us at the table, we must be prepared to leave without a deal.

As the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, it is my job to lead on this government's approach, should that scenario happen. Preparing for Brexit is my department's driving mission. But while I am leading this turbocharged effort, the whole of government is committed to this endeavour.

Ministers across Whitehall are working together to ensure that every possibility is considered, every plan is scrutinised and every provision is made. A daily drumbeat of meetings means that we are holding departments accountable, so that preparations are completed on time.

The chancellor has confirmed that all necessary funding will be made available. And we have mobilised thecivil service, assigning 15,000 of our most talented civil servants to manage our exit from the EU.

We will make sure that on November 1, there is as little disruption to national life as possible. Our trade relationships will continue to thrive, thanks to agreements with countries around the world worth £70 billion. Our country will remain secure, thanks to nearly 1,000 new officers posted at our borders. And the 3.2 million EU nationals now living and working among us can remain confident, with absolute certainty, of their right to remain in the UK.

Above all, our goal is to be transparent. Soon, we will launch a public information campaign so that citizens, communities and businesses are ready and reassured about what will happen in the event of “no deal”.

In my first few weeks in this role, I have travelled to ports and tarmacs, borders and bridges, all across the UK –from the seaside of Dover to the rolling green hills of County Armagh. I have heard from business owners and border officials, farmers and hauliers. They are ready to put an end to uncertainty. And they are ready to embrace the opportunities ahead.

Our departure from the EU will be a once in a lifetime chance to chart a new course for the United Kingdom. Preparing for that new course will be a herculean effort. But this country has made astounding efforts before. We can do it again.
Rt Hon Michael Gove
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster