In 1988, Mark Hutchinson had just left his job as a researcher in the psychology department at Hull University when a burst water pipe caused a flood at his home. He called a friend who had recently started up the pilot British franchise of Chem-Dry, a carpet and upholstery cleaning company based in America. Hutchinson was so impressed with the cleaning job that he joined his friend as a partner in the franchise. Today, Hutchinson is chief executive of Chem-Dry UK, which manages claims for damaged carpets and soft furnishings for the insurance industry through its call centre in Beverley, Yorkshire. Fire and flood damaged carpets are repaired by local Chem-Dry franchises and Chem-Dry handles all the paperwork, acting as a one-stop shop for insurers such as Norwich Union and Halifax. Chem-Dry UK’s sales have grown 73% a year, from £2.4m in 1996 to £12.2m in 1999. Hutchinson attributes this growth to the company’s unique, patented cleaning system.
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