Sheffield-based dream team cleaning firm's joy at £6m turnover

It's a dirty job, but John Chidlaw and his team are doing it - and are on target to turnover £6 million in only their fourth year of trading.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 6th July 2016, 7:00 am
Directors Lee Summerscales, John Chidlaw and Emma Chidlaw.
Directors Lee Summerscales, John Chidlaw and Emma Chidlaw.

Handsworth-based Unita Maintain Ltd claims to be one of Sheffield’s most rapidly growing companies and is pulling in six-figure contracts across the country and now employing 442 staff.

Former Sheffield nightclub doorman John launched the facilities management company in 2012 with just £5,000 from the sale of his wife Emma’s coffee shop.

Managing director John Chidlaw.

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He left a successful career as a national accounts director for a major support service company, he and Emma hired 15 part time cleaners and pitched in themselves as work came in from a city toolmaker and a shopfitting company.

Turnover in their first year was £81,000 and had reached £326,693 by 2014.

A year later, facilities management specialist Lee Summerscales came onboard as a third director and, Unita Maintain won a major cleaning contract at a supermarket chain abattoir in Scotland.

The company found its forte, began specialising in maintaining strict hygiene conditions in abattoirs and food production plants and hit a £2.2 million turnover last year.

Managing director John Chidlaw.

Thanks to recent industrial contract wins, next year’s accounts are due to show a minimum turnover of £6 million - a growth of 250 per cent in 12 months.

John, who grew up in Shiregreen, said: “Our turning point came last May when we won the Scottish abattoir contract.

“It was so big we didn’t expect to get it but they were impressed by our work and we now have three larger contracts with the supermarket chain.

“Our area of specialism is in taking on the dirtiest of jobs on sites where hygiene and decontamination is paramount.

“One of our contracts is with the largest meat-packing house in Europe.

“Another is with the largest three-species abattoir in the UK, which requires 60 staff and is worth over £1 million per year.”

The company also provides buildings and grounds maintenance services and works nationwide.

Clients include major supermarket chains and the 24-site Manheim Car Auction Group, a Midlands shopping centre, a building society headquarters and a string of supermarkets across the North.

It is now aiming to bring in Sheffield City Region clients and create hundreds of local jobs.

John added: “Every £500, 000 contract we win creates up to 30 positions.

“We employ hundreds of people from the Scottish Highlands down to Plymouth; we very much want to do that on our own doorsteps.

“We aim to be the biggest facilities management company in Sheffield and a major local employer within the next few years and are currently recruiting a sales director to drive that ambition to reality.”

Sheffield-based project management services firm the Barlow Group is a client of Units and Claire Morewood, buildings manager, was full of praise for the company.

She said: “We have worked with Unita for several years now and I would have no problems recommending them to anyone.

“Our cleaners are reliable and friendly. Both John and Ben are friendly and are always contactable if any issues arise.

“If any issues do arise, John and Ben are both very proactive and issues are closed out within 24 hours. Two big thumbs up from me.”

Bradford-based Kings Security are also impressed with the service.

Tony Goldstein, head of sales, said: “In order to gauge their capabilities, our business initially awarded a small contract to Unita in Leeds city centre.

“Having been impressed with their capabilities on this project we felt that Unita was a business we could develop and expand with and as such, we awarded a larger contract, circa £115,000 per annum for a period of three years, to them again in West Yorkshire.

“Within a two month period our organisation was delighted with our decision to change.

“The standard of cleanliness at our client’s site improved dramatically, the appearance of the site cleaning team had improved, cleaning staff are better managed and the Unita management team is approachable, contactable, capable and more than willing to help at all times. Unita introduced a much more efficient and intelligent way of working.

“Our experience with Unita continues to be positive and on this basis I would have no hesitation in recommending them to other organisations.”

In addition to large-scale cleaning, the company also offers a grounds maintenance service, ensuring green areas outside private homes, businesses, housing associations and other large businesses are kept pristine. In addition, Unita provides a call-out handyman service to tackle smaller jobs.

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