Janice Raycroft meets Rona Tait, managing director of TDS Commercial, to hear all about her thriving commercial laundry in West London.
While there’s plenty of pressing – of the highest standard – going on at the TDS Commercial state-of-the art commercial laundry in Isleworth, West London, you really don’t have to apply any pressure to bubbly managing director Rona Tait and her team to discover why this business is thriving.
Indeed, we suspect that even the Formula One experts who change tyres in a matter of seconds would be impressed by the speedy skills of those handling their kit, and that of big-name drivers, under one of the prestige contracts awarded to TDS. It’s all about teamwork and you can see that while, as in nearly all businesses, there is a basic pecking order (Tait is supported on the office side by operations manager Hayley Blackwell and Lucia Pekarova, and they go back 15 years as colleagues and friends) there is a co-operative air to TDS which spreads to all corners of the laundry floor.
Tait, who lives in nearby Teddington, started in domestic cleaning some 15 years ago: “It all began when I was struggling to find a cleaner for my home and ended up launching a domestic cleaning company, which grew and grew with add-on services and then moved into providing a service for commercial properties. Then I started thinking about domestic laundry services and this developed into the realisation that one day I wanted to have my own laundry.”
By 2008 she had bought a launderette, not simply because it provided ‘entry level’ to her ultimate dream but also a freehold property from which to run her cleaning business.
The thoroughness that Tait had applied to her already successful operations would now be used to ensure that a laundry was viable and could be run in line with her principles of ethical working practices and highest quality personal service. She spent a lot of time researching, wrote a basic business plan to fit her ‘ideal laundry brief’… and then decided to google two words: ‘laundry consultants’.
Her knight in shining armour turned out to be a familiar name to many readers – Ian Hargreaves of Laundry Solutions. Tait recalls: “Ian very kindly offered to take me along to laundries in the north west and was incredibly generous with his time and helpful advice when it came to steering me in the right direction.”
She took on a smallish industrial unit elsewhere in Isleworth and the only major problem she encountered was of the most welcome kind – TDS outgrew its base and it was time to move to what is now a purpose-built laundry capable of handling everything from day-to-day standard flatwork for prestigious hotels and restaurants, to specialist contracts such as the Formula One team. Whether the work was for the most diligent of hotel housekeepers or a school contractor in Richmond, Tait and the team wanted them to be impressed by the personal care given to their garments or linen.
“When it comes down to it, it’s all about building good relationships”
– Rona Tait
It’s a positive outlook shared throughout TDS, where everyone mucks in. With a large proportion of the work being white bedding for hotels across London and into Surrey (both hired and owned linen) all are aware of the demands for swift turnaround. They usually operate two shifts, 6am to 2pm and 2pm until 10pm, with staff switching from one to the other, week by week.
However, staff often swap for the day to fit in with family commitments and respond to the demands of London’s summer tourism season by running nightshifts when needed. It’s a ‘give and take’ approach appreciated by all, including at Christmas when working hours and a day off were agreed by all as for many of the workers Christmas Eve has more importance than Boxing Day.
There’s an impressive pipeline of existing work and new hotel work is set to join those using TDS, who already include facilities and events management companies and hosts of properties offered through Airbnb. There’s a synergy to all this as among the services offered by TDS are cleaning, laundry, concierge and even listings management for the Airbnb market.
Not surprisingly, there’s also an environmental focus, with hybrid dual-fuel LPG vans making collections and deliveries and an emphasis on recycling plastic packaging and hangers. “When it comes down to it, it ’s all about building good relationships,” says Tait. There’s definitely no shortage of positive energy at TDS Commercial, that’s for sure.
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