Custard Interview: Ted Walker

By Lesley Whyte

Fresh back from their appearance and gold sponsor support of the 25th Hotel General Managers’ Conference, this month we catch up with CLEAN’s head of group marketing, Ted Walker.

The leading independent laundry provider prides itself in offering high-quality products and service to its portfolio of more than 5,500 businesses, ranging from independently-run organisations to leading global brands. Each week the award-winning company produces and deliverers more than 130,000 workwear items and five million linen items to its customers.

What inspires you?
I love reading about business and marketing. Companies with a real purpose to do good in the world inspire me. I have recently read ‘Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman’ by Yvon Chouinard the founder of clothing Brand Patagonia.  His story and how Patagonia gives 1% of its turnover away to environment projects and causes no matter how profitable they are, is inspirational.

What enticed you to work for CLEAN?
The fact that CLEAN is a pioneering force in the world of textile rental and laundry service provision. What sold the company to me was their quest to modernise the industry and provide customers with the best possible service.

What is a typical day like as the head of group marketing of CLEAN?
No one day is the same at CLEAN. What I enjoy about marketing is the variety of tasks and projects that we get involved with.  We have recently implemented a marketing automation system therefore I am very hands on improving this at the moment and creating new content for our website.

Tell us something people would never guess about you?
It may not be obvious when you meet me but I am from a farming background and grew up on a farm at the foot of the Chiltern Hills.  I think this is why I don’t mind getting muddy and love the outdoors especially mountain biking.

What are your predictions for the commercial laundry sector in 2018?
Sustainability is going to be even more of a focus for hospitality businesses in 2018 as Savills World Research Travel Megatrends report illustrates 73% of the Millennials and Generation Z travellers are looking for and willing to pay more for sustainable brands.

Laundry service provision is a critical issue for hotels, so while commercial laundries need to continually invest in their processes, technology and systems to ensure that continuity of service is maintained at all times, it needs to be without costing the earth.

Sustainable practices are an integral part of CLEAN’s ethos, which have seen us reduce our overall carbon footprint by 39%. The one-site operators who aren’t making that investment or continuing to make changes to their operations to benefit the environment around them, simply can’t compete.

What are the main challenges to CLEAN at the moment?
Every day CLEAN delivers almost one million pieces of linen to customers located across the UK, so transportation logistics are key to ensure we continually offer an excellent and efficient service. However, due to the combined impact of an ageing professional HGV driver workforce and the lack of new entrants, there’s a shortage that’s affecting many businesses across the UK in an economy that are reliant on the movement of heavy goods.

As part of our commitment to combatting this crisis, we have developed a three-stage plan that will not only eliminate many of the challenges and obstacles that have led to this shortage, such as the financial costs of becoming a HGV driver, but also provide high-quality training that will upskill our drivers to benefit the wider economy and the British transportation industry as a whole.

What exciting new development is on the cards for CLEAN in 2018?
We will continue to support our customers with new products and make further enhancements to our services in 2018.  Later this year we are looking forward to relaunching our Special Occasion Linen temporary table linen hire service for hotels and venues that organise events.

What’s the future vision for CLEAN?
Our company vision is focussed on becoming the best textile services provider in the UK and beyond. We have ambitions to increase our revenues from £74milion to £100million by 2020.This will be achieved through organic growth, although as the market place is currently going through a process of consolidation, future growth through acquisition may also be considered.