For the past 15 years Oliver Johnson and Karen Rook have worked hard to ensure Zenith Washroom Solutions continues to move forward and provide their customers with the highest levels of hygiene products and washroom services. Most of Zenith Washroom Solutions’s customers will have met this hard-working duo as they continually provide support to their business by taking on sales, admin and service roles to support their teams as the business adapts and grows. This month I managed to find time in Ollie’s hectic schedule to interview him about his career, Zenith Washroom Solutions and what the future holds for Zenith Washroom Solutions and its customers:
What ignited the spark in you to start Zenith Washroom Solutions in such a competitive marketplace?
Karen and I met working for a cleaning services and supply business that was bought out by one of the “big 3” cleaning services businesses. Many of our customers expressed their desire to continue sourcing from a more personable hygiene services company and encouraged us to approach our suppliers to continue supplying them.
How did your business name come about?
(Laughs) When we started the business it was all still about local directories and being seen so Zenith Washroom Solutions placed us at the top of the list in our local area. It was also very easy for people to remember.
How do you find people to bring into your business that truly care about the business the way you do?
We have strict criteria as to how we operate. Not just on an administrative level but also on a personal level. We’re still a small firm with under 20 employees so we have to understand each other and be able to deal with each other. Our business value statement confirms this during our employment process.
What are your business values?
Honesty, Professionalism, Reliability, Integrity, Gratitude and Fair Play.
How important have good employees been to the success of Zenith Washroom Solutions?
Vital. They are the face and voice of our business. In most cases our customers are meeting with our employees. They represent our business so we have to exercise trust in our staff and provide them with the training and support they need to help us succeed. The hygiene services industry is very competitive so the provision of excellent tools, processes and marketing allows us to rely on our employees to continue the successes of Zenith Washroom Solutions.
How many hours to you work per day on average?
What does your typical day involve?
A couple of hours of general business administration, marketing, sales and research on ways to improve the Zenith Washroom Solutions solution. I always try to spend some time each day speaking to members of staff to see how we can support their task effectively and help them make a bigger difference. Outside of these responsibilities we are always supporting our staff on their holidays, sickness, etc by taking up their roles. This is a very positive aspect of how we work as we get to see how our business is implemented on a day to day basis allowing us to return to the office to work on ways to continue our strive for service excellence.
How far are you willing to go to succeed?
Pick up feminine hygiene sanitary bins. Install urinal sleeves. Clean up messes that we often find when servicing our customer washrooms. I can’t expect my staff to do something that I haven’t already done for myself.
How do you build a successful customer base?
Referrals, internet marketing, networking and good, old-fashioned, cold-calling.
How did you decide on the location for your business?
When we were ready to open our first office we looked at where our customers were located then we took into consideration our home locations. We found an area roughly equidistant and then looked for good access to the major arteries. We have, as you know, just moved again to a location which fits these criteria even more accurately than before and has provided us with improved facilities to support our service drivers.
Who has been your greatest inspiration? And why?
Richard Branson. He adopts the ideals of building a business on the happiness and motivation of his staff.
What is your favourite aspect of running your own business?
Freedom. When my children have something special at school I can always be there for them.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
Taking on our first member of staff in 2005.
What is the biggest mistake you have made in business?
Not realising early enough that not all business is good business. A good business needs good customers but not every customer is a good customer. We’re in a better position now we’ve learned that lesson.
How can you prevent mistakes or exercise damage control?
We’re fortunate in that our work is covered by numerous legislations that provide us with clear guidelines on how to operate. It is easier to see when a process is failing before it hits a critical stage. This allow us to ensure we can provide the highest levels of washroom services.
What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
A lot of my spare time is spent with sport. I visit the gym regularly, take time to teach children martial arts and play golf. Oddly enough I still find myself thinking of work as I experience the washrooms, changing and shower rooms of these facilities. Not all are of such a high standard! The rest of my time is spent basking in the joy that is family. Nowadays the biggest feelings of success I get aren’t from my work but from seeing my children happy and succeeding at the things that matter to them. I love my work but my family out-ranks that by a long distance.
What makes you happy?
Isn’t that the same question? My children, naturally.
What sacrifices have you had to make to be a successful business owner?
Time, sleepless nights, time with the family and the reassurance of a steady, monthly, income.
What company or business do you admire the most?
What is the greatest difference to your business now compared to when you first started?
The internet. It is becoming the single most important aspect of running a modern business. If you aren’t represented online in our industry then you are behind already. Being seen online isn’t quite as easy as simply choosing ABC in the Yellow Pages! The definition of success online changes constantly and requires constant fostering coupled with continual changes of direction. It is tough but very rewarding.
Where you see yourself and your business in 10 years?
Being 3-4 times the size it is now with an efficient full sales team, management levels employees and director.
If you were conducting this interview, what question would you ask?
“What's your secret to your success?”. Funnily enough this exact question was asked at a mentoring session we attended. The end result was that I called up one of my industry role-models who kindly took the time to talk to me about his success. He simply told me to get good customer service advisors, not to flog yourself to death and remember that not all business is good business.
Finally, what advice would you give your younger self in the moments before you started Zenith Washroom Solutions?
Be prepared for serious hard work and always work to believe in something outside of the financial aspect of running your own business. Have an ideal and remember to enjoy the ride.