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Commerce and Industry

The Journal For Business to Business Marketing

Window-cleaning barrow boy plans handover of hygiene empire

An entrepreneur who turned a window cleaning round into a £3 million specialist cleaning company employing more than 200 people has completed a restructuring of the family firm after opting for succession over sale.

John O’Brien will continue as chairman of Doncaster-based Trustclean Limited, but at the age of 76 he has begun the process of transferring the shares to his two daughters, Jackie O’Brien and Andrea Nesbitt.

The modern Trustclean Group operates nationwide and the change will bring a sharper focus to the activities of Trustclean Food Hygiene & Consultancy Services Ltd, led by Andrea, and Trustclean Commercial Contract Cleaning Services Ltd, under the direction of Jackie.

John launched the business when he left school at 14, unable to read or write very well but already with a track record of making money from cleaning coal sheds, selling marbles and conkers, and the produce of his seven breeding sows and 200 hens.

He joined his father’s window cleaning round but then decided there was enough work to support healthy competition, so he set up his own business, wheeling his own barrow around Doncaster town centre, recruiting more window cleaners and targeting bigger properties.

An entrepreneur who turned a window cleaning round into a £3 million specialist cleaning company employing more than 200 people has completed a restructuring of the family firm after opting for succession over sale.
Pictured with John at his desk are Andrea Nesbitt (left) and Jackie O’Brien.

They included global manufacturer International Harvester, British Rail’s plant works, engineering company Pegler, various pit buildings and National Coal Board offices around Doncaster and British Steel sites in Rotherham and Sheffield.

After privatisation under Margaret Thatcher stripped £0.75 million from Trustclean’s turnover in 18 months, John moved into cleaning food sites. A contract with Rank Hovis contract enabled him to earn and learn, setting new standards for best practice in food hygiene which is at the forefront of the company’s strategy today.  

John said:

Trustclean has progressed into a serious and respected specialist company, market leading in tackling critical challenges of hygiene management in such areas as food production and processing, medical ward and surgery cleaning, the dangerous world of cleaning confined spaces and the bustle of schools, offices, showroom and leisure facilities.

Our teams demonstrate a deep understanding of the standards of cleanliness demanded to ensure the highest levels of hygiene, protecting our clients’ staff and members of the public in a wide range of business environments.

A new Total Care package is currently being rolled out by Andrea with her contacts and experience gained from three spells at Trustclean as well as senior roles at Cooplands Bakery, Kerry Foods and Greencore.

Jackie took a different route and has been with Trustclean for 35 years, working her way up from cleaning responsibilities to supervisory roles, developing the contract cleaning side of the business with offices, schools and car showrooms and providing specialist services for doctors and dentists

John remains chairman of Trustclean and the two subsidiaries. Andrea and Jackie become managing director of their own companies. Over the next five years they will take over full control of Trustclean from the man who became known as Doncaster’s “Mr Clean-it”.

John said:

We have looked at selling the business in the past, and we nearly sold it once but we pulled back. There is a high value on it but I didn’t want to let it go, so we started the succession process about 12 months ago because we recognised we had a good fit with Jackie and Andrea committed to building on Trustclean’s founding principles of unrivalled service, quality, good value and hard work for all our customers.

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