Derek Ward, Molly Maid, York & Harrogate

I'm really very happy with Molly Maid, it's the best thing I've ever done. After being employed for 30 years, I wanted to work for myself but I wanted the support of a franchise and the security of a proven business.

I visited various franchise exhibitions looking for a business that would match my people management skills, and my experience in sales and administration.
The Molly Maid management franchise fitted my criteria. I liked the brand and the image of the Molly Maid cars, and when I visited the company they came across as being very professional and, equally important, very trustworthy. When I launched the business in 2002 I wanted to put six cars on the road within two years and the business has developed in line with my plan.

In my second year I bought a second territory - Harrogate. In your first year of course you don't make a profit but I can honestly say that we are now starting to reap the benefits. We have 350 customers and 10 cars ready to mop up additional business in 2007.

Within one year, my wife Elaine came on board and the following year my son, also Derek, joined the business. It's now a family business, which I love. I retired from the oil industry at 50 with a nice pension but this is additional income, and with my son in the business it can go on.

I also enjoy working for myself, and managing people. We have two types of customers in this business, those that pay us and those that we pay - our staff. We look after our staff because without them the business doesn't exist. Staffing is very important in the cleaning business and can be the hardest part. It's not just about recruitment but also retention.

This business is hard work but you have the backing of Molly Maid, which is particularly useful for keeping up-to-date with changes in legislation. Molly Maid have delivered more in a way than expected, and the incentives are very good. We've been on holiday to Cuba and Antigua, and in April will be off to the Bahamas - all courtesy of Molly Maid.