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Maltese bedroom start-up wins European Business Awards
With 12 companies, a training college and 2,500 staff servicing the cleaning, hospitality, care, property, security, call centre and logistics sectors, Ozo Group is Malta's leading outsourcing company with a reputation for excellence across industry. Turnover this year is expected to be €18,000,000 and with a new European Business Award under its belt, it is hard to imagine that the company started life from anyone's bedroom - yet that is exactly what happened.
"It was 1996 and I was just one-year-old at the time," explains Fabio Muscat, the group's CEO. "The cleaning industry was starting to get some hype and my father, Mario Muscat, began by upholstering carpets. Back then, he did all the cleaning himself and ran the business out of my bedroom!"
Fast-forward 22 years and Ozo Group is now Malta's largest private sector employer. Ozo Malta, the group's original company was joined by OzoAcademy in 2014 before Fabio and his father decided, a year later, that the time was right to diversify into several other sectors.
"Malta was going through a huge growth period and there was a great demand for staff, with the care sector in particular booming," explains Fabio. "So we decided the time was right to expand beyond cleaning."
With neither father nor son having the necessary expertise in the care, property or security sectors, 10 new companies were formed with their own management structures. New staff were trained at the OzoAcademy before joining one of the new firms - sparking an explosive growth period and the formation of Ozo Group.
While Mario no longer upholsters any carpets himself, he remains actively involved with the group as chairman, showing little sign of slowing down - let alone retiring.
"He's still the first person in the office every day!" remarks Fabio, who first began working for his father's company as an attendant when he was 16, before leaving to study for a diploma at the Cambridge International University. "It's very much a family-run business. After gaining my Diploma in Business Administration I joined the company as a clerk and worked my way up through the ranks, it was very important that I earned my position within the company."
Ozo Group is a family-run people business in every sense: with Fabio and his father doing all they can to ensure the people they employ are happy in their outsourced roles.
"It's part of our fundamental values that all our employees are happy. We do everything we can to employ family members and operate an open-door policy," explains Fabio. "This means we're always available if an employee needs to speak to us and we do everything we can to maintain a family culture."
This personal touch starts at the very beginning of an employee's tenure. All new staff members are met personally by either Fabio or Mario as part of the induction process, and receive dedicated training at the OzoAcademy before being going on to work in their respective roles.
This high-level of training helps set the Ozo companies apart believes Fabio: Ozo's clients can rely on the group to provide educated and engaged workers. Despite its rapid expansion to 12 companies, the Group has maintained a 99% customer retention rate - something it is proud of and works hard to maintain. "Quality control across all sectors plays an integral role in the business," says Fabio.
With Malta's economy booming and unemployment rates as low as 3%, Fabio and the team mostly recruit from outside of the country. To do so, recruitment open days are held around the world, particularly in Asia and Eastern Europe, which Fabio attends personally.
As a result, Ozo Group now employs more than 2,500 people from 45 different nationalities - and this multiculturalism is fundamental to the business, as Fabio explains:
"We're incredibly proud of how diverse our workforce is, and we have a celebrated track record of providing fair and equal opportunities across the group."
In 2017 Ozo Group put its money where its mouth is by becoming the first company of its kind to actively encourage Malta's largest union to recruit members from the Ozo Group. What's more, in 2018 all salaries were raised to higher than the industry's national minimum wage.
"We strive to be at the forefront of employment standards and conditions," adds Fabio.
Since diversifying its structure in 2014, Ozo Group has gone on to pick up a host of awards. The group was crowned champions by the European Business Awards for Growth Strategy of the Year in 2015/16, and named a National Public Champion for Malta.
In 2016, the group was included in the London Stock Exchange Group's 1,000 Companies to Inspire Europe report - the only Maltese Company to be included in the landmark report.
"Each year the report identifies 1,000 fast growth companies that have not only grown their revenue, but also outperformed their industry peers," explains Fabio. "The report is a celebration of the most exciting and dynamic businesses in Europe."
Ozo Group has made it into the London Stock Exchange Group's international business support and capital raising programme, Elite, too. Designed to help ambitious and fast-growing companies, Elite's international platform is deeply rooted in domestic markets thanks to partnerships with local institutions.
"Elite provides the opportunity to access international support and advice," adds Fabio.
"It's a community of excellence that supports companies, advisers, investors and stakeholders with an interest in supporting companies. The larger the community, the wider the range of business and growth opportunities."
Fabio and his father now have their sights set firmly on international expansion, and hope to enter new markets in north Africa when the moment is right.
"We have lots of new projects, we're overgrowing! But our first project is to become number one in all the sectors we currently operate in. Once we're number one in Malta, we'll start looking to expand internationally."
Determined to provide employees with the best possible training, Ozo Group built the OzoAcademy in 2014. "Since our formation we've always believed that investing in employees should be top priority," says Fabio. "This is why we opened the first private hospitality and care school on the island, the OzoAcademy."
A pioneering spirit lies at the heart of Ozo Group, demonstrated by the group's use of cutting edge technologies, but also its approach to looking after staff. "To be the best, you always have to be better," says Fabio. "We believe in innovation when it comes to our workforce too, which is why our new centre is the result of a €2m investment."
Part of what drives this employee engagement is the knowledge that Ozo supports its people, a factor that was acutely demonstrated a few years ago when an employee fell tragically ill with terminal cancer.
"We wanted her to enjoy the last few years she had left with her family, so we decided to keep paying her on her full salary whilst she stayed at home," says Fabio. "It was the least we could do to reward her commitment to us an excellent employee."
13th December 2018