After all the fuss and excitement of the Connect Awards we chat to Breeda Hurley recipient of Connect Kerry Lifetime Achievement Award , one that is not given out lightly, it’s an award to recognise the achievements of one lady who like many others in attendance has worked hard to build her business, Her business is a tough industry and she relies heavily on her staff to deliver standards that her clients will accept and want to repeat business with, but she seems to have created and bottled the formula for success and she has already won national awards to prove this. She’s an excellent mentor, leader and role model, she employed even more during the recessionary times and she deals with small medium and large businesses, she is involved in the business at every level personally and has grown her business through the most powerful tool… word of mouth, she now has branding everywhere, She has excellent staff recruitment and staff retention and professionalism is the core of her business, She is a lady to the back bone, and has never forgotten her roots, her family and friends are her number one priority in her life. She is celebrating 21years in business this year and we are looking forward to bringing you exclusive first excerpts from her eagerly awaited book which she is working on at present.
Breeda tell us a little bit about how you began in business
I started ABC Cleaning Services and supplies in 1995 having spent 5 years in London. I saw a niche in the market for a cleaning service here as the building boom was just beginning. Ned O Shea builders gave me the first job and we eventually worked for all the main building contractors in Tralee. The business expanded gradually and I was eventually able to create employment and start hiring more people.
What obstacles do you see as a major problem when starting out in business?
Getting money from the banks is a massive problem. The cost of insurance for our industry is especially high and getting your name out there and having the brand recognised without a budget and is very hard work. Always remember there is no such thing as a 35 hours week when you are self-employed. When I started the business I worked every day of the week for 4 years. Some of the time I had to survive without any income for myself. It is a fact of business that you are the last to be paid after looking after the bills, staff wages and the revenue.
Your mum to a big family too, have you any advice for our readers on juggling it all successfully. You are a large employer now do you find the recruitment process difficult and what do you look for in staff?
I have 8 children 6 boys and 2 girls. Of course being self-employed and raising a family is nearly impossible. At the start my husband and I would share the responsibility, if one of us was working the other would stay at home. Throughout the history of ABC Cleaning each of our 8 children worked with us as we developed the family business. It is a tough juggling act and you are always conscious of the fact mixing family life with work life is a constant battle. The guilt is enormous but for me there was no choice as all we wanted is some financial stability and a better future for our children. The kids learned some valuable life lessons by being part of a tough industry as they developed a strong work ethic and acknowledging that some of the world’s hardest workers are cleaners. My daughter Mairead is still part of the business and has the best work ethic I have ever seen.
We employ 115 people mainly on a part-time capacity. It is difficult to get staff because of the work we do and the unsociable hours, early mornings and late evenings. The contract cleaning industry as a whole tends to have a high volume of staff turnover. We are pretty lucky as some of my employees are with me for nearly 2 decades. Without good employees you will not survive, you cannot be everywhere and they represent you and your business every day. It takes time to develop a team of people and yes there have been times where I have had to make the toughest decisions, but it is never personal, its business and that’s always a challenge.
You have won other awards can you tell us about those?
In 2014 we won two awards, one for best cleaned premises by a small company in recognition of our work at the Institute of Technology, Tralee. These awards are presented by the Irish Contract Cleaning Association which recognises excellence in the industry. My daughter Mairead was also recognised by the association when she was awarded the prestigious Supervisor of the Year award.
What does it mean to you to be our lifetime achievement award recipient?
Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to win this prestigious lifetime award. I am honoured and humbled to receive this accolade. It makes all the long hours sweat and tears worthwhile. It is the pinnacle of my career.
What does Breeda do to relax?
Being honest I don’t get a lot of time to relax. A nice meal and a glass of wine with my family or friends are always nice. I am currently writing a book, it is going on a good few years at this stage. No better time to put the finishing touches to it now. I have a lot of it written, it is all about my business ventures, the ups and downs, trials and tribulations. I am enjoying doing this at the moment and winning the award has incentivised me to complete it and have it on the book shelves of all good bookstores by February 2017.
Well Breeda we look forward to giving our listeners an insight into the book when it’s complete and we wish you and all your family in ABC continued success. If you would like a quote from ABC for your cleaning requirements contact them on 066 7122674 or email