The boss of Fantastic Services has bold ambitions to a create 1,000 millionaire franchisees in the next decade.
Rune Sovndahl, chief executive and co-founder of the home services firm says there are currently six franchisees on the platform who have achieved £1million in turnover, specialising in general cleaning, removals and carpet cleaning.
This means they are well on their way to creating their own fortune, after expenses and costs are deducted.
The business was founded 12 years ago after Rune ran into difficulties finding someone to clean his carpet.
Rune Sovndahl (right) founded Fantastic Services with business parter Anton Skarlatov (left) after he needed a cleaner for himself and found it frustrating
‘I looked online and I couldn’t really get an online booking. You had to make a phone call and it was really frustrating.’
He met Anton Skarlatov not long after his online attempt went awry. Anton ran a cleaning business and promised to help him with his dilemma.
From this spawned a business idea to create a one-stop shop for all home services and led to a partnership that is successfully running today more than a decade on.
Rune explains: ‘I think it took us about one week or less from talking to each other to set it all up. I said “let me try and build you a website”.’
Launching in the financial crisis, the idea was to create a website which would bring all services together that the average person would need but couldn’t access immediately.
As well as cleaning, it now offers gardening, tradesmen, locksmiths, pest control and waste disposal, among a range of other services.
Rune explains: ‘Back then, the cleaning industry had no real structure and everything was cash in hand.’
It was his experience as group search engine optimisation manager at Lastminute that he drew on in building the Fantastic Services website and it wasn’t long after that he left the online travel and leisure retailer to start out with his business partner.
The partnership worked, not because Rune and Anton thought the same but because both men were able to bring something different to the table.
Rune explains: ‘I was able to draw on my skill set to build the website. Anton had the connections.
‘One of my principles is “do what you’re good at” and let others do what you’re not good at. Synergy is always better. If both of you come from a same background you’ll make both of you redundant.’
Rune Sovndahl believes the Fantastic Services business can weather the Covid-19 storm. He says he’s seen an increase in the number of franchise enquiries since the pandemic started
‘We started with just £3,000 each’
The business has benefited from the funds they were able to generate themselves.
Rune says: ‘We made some rules about investing profits into building technology as we were up against some guys with really good marketing budgets.
‘We had no choice but to deliver a better service. Anyone can spend £40million on marketing but not everyone can make a business out of it. He adds that it was this philosophy that led to the name “Fantastic Services” and the franchise model.’
Rune says it’s the investment in technology that sets his business apart from similar businesses. ‘The comparison sites are one of the reasons I got so frustrated. You get three people calling you and none turn up.
‘With Fantastic Services have real time availability and you can see what the price is upfront.
‘You make a booking based on your postcode. But everywhere else you make a request.’
Rune admits he wasn’t always a fan of the franchise model, but he’s found a way to make it work.
‘I think the reason is that there are so many out there that just give you a package and training. They don’t do joint marketing efforts.
‘We know there are levels of franchising. It’s very hard to get things working if you’re a single worker to owning four to five plumbing cars. I’m a fan of the Fantastic model but skeptical over the franchising model which just sells a training framework.
A basic Fantastic Services franchise starts at £1,900. But if you want more, such as rights to purchase an area franchise, which allows you to ‘own’ postcodes and sell your own smaller franchise you have to investment of at least £15,000.
The franchise with Fantastic Services will not include the vehicles or professional equipment – if you start a business with it you have to provide your own.
The initial investment figure can increase if you want to cover larger areas. Franchisees will also pay Fantastic Services a percentage from their profits but this all depends on the services that they are getting from them.
Rune adds: ‘We sell our franchisees teamwork. For the £15,000 payment they get marketing, complete software systems, training, operations support and even coaching on business management. You can sell that on. Whereas if you’re just on a network you’re just getting leads.’
Rune stands in front of a van with Fantastic Services branding. He’s on a mission to create 1,000 millionaires through his franchise business
The 1,000 millionaire mission
More than a decade on, Rune is now on a mission to create 1,000 franchisees on the platform that can turn over £1million within in the Fantastic Services family.
Rune explains that it will take a certain personality to achieve this within the business: ‘They are good at organising staff, winning contracts and recruitments and chasing opportunities when they are there.’
He assures that this opportunity is for anyone – even if they don’t have a university degree.
He says: ‘After we’d been running for two years, I was chatting to some of our cleaners. I asked “what made you become a cleaner?”
‘They said they didn’t have other opportunities because they didn’t go to university and didn’t speak other languages.
‘But I believe it doesn’t matter what your background is, where you were educated and who your parents are. I don’t think you need to go to university to become a millionaire.’
Twelve years on, Fantastic Services enjoys a turnover of just under £40million and services an average of 15,000 clients each month. But when asked, about its profits Rune refuses to divulge the figures, saying its market sensitive information.
Rune’s post-Covid growth plans include buying more small businesses and expanding the company’s portfolio to become the Uber of home services.
We created a Fantastic Services master franchise in Reading
Lucy and Julian Fernando bought into Fantastic Services master franchise and based themselves in Reading
Lucy and Julian Fernando bought into Fantastic Services master franchise for an undisclosed sum with their own money in Reading.
The business, which is called J&L Fernando Services Limited has been trading since July last year.
Fantastic Services allow franchise owners to retain their own business names.
Rune points out: ‘Such business owners are not employees but are still part of the Fantastic Services family and will receive support such as marketing, software systems, training and operations support.’
J&L Fernando Services offer regular, one off and multi-cleaning services (carpets, ovens, windows) and gardening.
The couple have four active franchises that operate under their master franchise. While they don’t engage in cleaning themselves, they handle the recruitment, training and business relationships.
When asked why they chose Fantastic Services above other franchises, Lucy says: ‘For us it was a lot about people. Every person we spoke to from the beginning of the process – even up to now – was really passionate about our business. They really care and are very supportive of us. There is a lot of support behind what we were doing.’
Julian adds: ‘What helped to make us the decision was the training and development. The start-up costs were reasonable.
Lucy’s top tip in choosing a franchise is to ask lots of questions: ‘Really talk to that business that you’re trying to start a franchise partnership with. If there is resistance and there is no support in the beginning, then don’t carry on with that journey.
Julian adds: ‘If you’re not going to get that initial support then you won’t get it later. Make sure you partner with someone who has you in mind.’
More interest during Covid-19
He appears unperturbed about the financial impact of coronavirus. When you consider Fantastic Services beginnings you can understand why he’s not concerned as he’s used to achieving a lot with very little.
Fantastic Services was bootstrapped from the beginning. Rune explains: ‘With about £6,000 we started in 2008 during the biggest recession. We’re quite excited about going in a recession now.’
He points out that anyone with money can go bust, adding: ‘One of our competitors was Google backed and spent $50million and then went away.’
The business started with four franchisees but now boasts over 530 franchisees and has over 2,000 professionals operating globally under the brand name with a presence in Australia and the US.
There were plans to expand further geographically but that was scuppered by Covid-19.
But this has allowed Fantastic Services to deal with the demand for franchises in the UK.
According to a survey they conducted themselves, more than 3.5million Britons have opened up a side hustle since the beginning of lockdown.
The company surveyed 2,000 UK adults – seven per cent of which said they had found a way to create an alternative income stream.
The trend, they found, is particularly prominent among millennials aged 24-34 with one in six (16 per cent) claiming to have started a side-hustle.
Rune says: ‘Different people have been impacted in very different ways by coronavirus and lockdown, but one common thread across the UK has been the desire to launch side hustles.
‘There are lots of potential reasons for this, and contrary to popular belief, a recession can actually be a great time to start a business.
‘At Fantastic Services, we’ve also seen a spike in entrepreneurial people wanting to open franchises with us rather than starting a new business completely on their own.
‘This makes sense in that new franchisees get the benefits of running their own business, while being protected from a lot of costs and uncertainty.’