TALK to successful entrepreneurs and they will often pinpoint the key moment when they committed to making their business idea a reality.

For Scottish cleaning giant Donald Carslaw, that moment was Christmas 1983.

“I was made redundant just before Christmas at the age of 27,” he recalls. “It’s amazing what you can do when you’re forced into a corner. I decided there and then to become master of my own destiny, so I sold the company car I’d been given as part of my redundancy package and set up a carpet cleaning business.”

It’s fair to say this was a good decision, as 34 years later Complete Cleaning Services is one of Scotland’s biggest independent cleaning companies, employing 450 staff from Inverness to Liverpool, providing more than 6500 cleaning hours a week to offices, schools, universities and a host of other venues.

From his humble roots cleaning carpets in pubs, Mr Carslaw now counts the likes of Arnold Clark and Morrison Construction as customers, and the expanding business has just won major contracts in Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle.

Thanks to a recent restructure that saw Mr Carslaw assume the role of chief executive, while promoting his commercial manager to managing director, turnover has topped £5m, and there are plans to double that by 2020.

It’s clearly an exciting time for the Barrhead-based company, but its 61-year-old owner is keen to focus on the important role customer service has played in that growth.

“We didn’t expand as rapidly as we could have,” he explains. “I was always keen to nurture existing customers and make sure we kept them, rather than going for the hard sell a lot of our competitors prioritise. We never wanted to lose sight of customer retention and this approach has paid dividends. We still have many of the customers we started out with 34 years ago, like Barrhead travel, and we have been cleaning STV’s studios and offices since 2001.

“In many cases our growth has been linked to that of our customers, as they expand and need more support or recommend us to their clients.”

Asked what he enjoys most about running his own business, Me Carslaw says “the people”. Interestingly, he gives the same answer when asked about the attributes that have made his firm so successful.

“You need to hire the right people and we spend a lot of time doing just that,” he says.

“In my industry good people get poached, so it’s important to look after them. We have a great team that look after the business and each other. I feel a real responsibility to all my staff. We’re one of the few companies in the industry that pay people fortnightly, since our workforce is comprised of people that really need their cash once they’ve worked their shift - they can’t wait just till the end of the month. It’s very important to me that we continue to do this, even though it costs us more money.”

And Mr Carslaw takes great pleasure in seeing his staff grow and develop alongside the business.

He adds: “Most of our managers started at grassroots level, while our current commercial director worked his way up after joining us from a completely different sphere. We like to identify talent and work with people to expand their skills.”

As for the advice he’d pass on to others, the businessman, who lives in Ayrshire, encourages those looking to set up and grow their own firm to concentrate on people rather than processes.

“You must always be careful to not get too carried away with selling and forget about the people that really matter - primarily your customers, but also your staff,” explains Mr Carslaw.

“Also, you need to think carefully about the work-life balance. It can be hard to get right when you have a work family and a family at home, both of which deserve time and attention.

“Running your own business is never going to be a nine to five job. And that’s why it’s so important to work hard on striking the right balance.”