New employee isn’t making an effort. Keep training? Or cut loose?

I recently was asked by a cleaning business owner what to do about an employee who sits on the floor while she cleans. For one thing, this does not look good to the customer if they come home and find their cleaners sitting around. For another, the cleaner is not being as efficient as possible by working from a sitting position.

Your best bet is to have a training program that specifically outlines exactly how to clean. If you don’t have a specific system that you’ve trained your staff, then anything goes. It’s harder to get rid of someone who’s sitting while cleaning if your training program hasn’t outlined exactly how to clean.

If you taught your team how to speed clean, then it’s crystal clear that they’re not following the program because they’d be standing, reaching, and bending over. If someone is sitting down, they’re wasting time. They might not have the stamina for this job, so you can start them with smaller houses while they work up to it. But they must follow your procedures and instructions. It’s probably not a good sign if they can’t physically stand to clean. People will build up more stamina over time, so you could keep their schedule light while they work up to it, but be careful about investing time in the wrong employee.

You’ve got to go with your gut if you need to get rid of someone. They can’t go rogue, they must follow the instructions you give them.

But how long should you wait before you make the call? My philosophy is that if you’re seeing incremental progress and a good attitude, you should keep working with them. If their progress isn’t consistent (they have a good day, then a bad day, then another good day, then a bad day), watch out. I don’t have a problem giving an extra few days of training to someone whose progress continually improves (and has a good attitude). If they can’t learn the job in 2 weeks, then something’s wrong.

I’ve been in this business for 35 years and I’ve seen it all. I’ve seen trainees who hit the ground running doing a fabulous job, quick, efficient, high quality, with a good attitude, and then they slack off and let their guard down. If this happens, you should bring them in and address complaints as they come up. Don’t let issues pile up— talk to them each time one comes in. Let them know that they’re on probation, that they’re no longer earning paid time off, that they must call you to check in and out of each house. Don’t let their behavior slide—stay right on it like a tick on a dog.

Here’s a great example of someone who made consistent progress and who’s still with me 22 years later—my office manager! When she first started out, she was cleaning houses and getting a lot of complaints. Only the complaints weren’t the same each time. Every time one came in, we addressed it, and I never got a complaint again about that particular issue. First it was sticky floors, then it was smeary or streaky floors, then it was complaints about dusting. One by one, we worked through these issues through conversations, coaching, and mentoring. She stopped getting complaints. The main issue there was that we had pretty crummy training back then— maybe a day of training—and she had to basically learn the job as she went along.

But the bottom line is, don’t wait too long to fire someone who isn’t trying or has a bad attitude.

This is just a sample of the kind of help I can offer in my 16 week Cleaning Business Fundamentals course. For a free 30 minute consultation to discuss whether my course is a good fit for you, simply fill out my owner’s survey and I’ll be in touch to set up a time to talk.

Also, spots are filling up fast for my June 23 & 24 Speed Cleaning for the Pros session. Reserve your spot today!

Books I highly recommend for cleaning business owners

If you’ve watched any of my Periscope chats then you’re probably familiar with the row of books I have behind me. I recently sat down with Amar from ZenMaid to talk about the best of these books and wanted to share my list with you as well.

Many of the books on this list are not just for business, but apply to your life as well. If you’re not much of a reader, many of these are also available on audiobook as well, which is where I frequently do my best “reading”—I listen to them while I’m getting ready in the morning and I get excited and pumped for the day!

  • Strategic Thinking by Bill Birnbaum.
  • The Slight Edge by Jeff Olsen.
  • The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy
  • Book Yourself Solid by Michael Port
  • The E-Myth by Michael E. Gerber
  • The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries & Jack Trout
  • The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon
  • Eat that frog! by Brian Tracy
  • Why She Buys by Bridget Brennan
  • The Life changing Magic of Tidying up by Marie Kondo
  • The Big Moo by Seth Godin
  • 4 Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss
  • Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim & Renee Mauborgne
  • The Automatic Customer by John Warrillos
  • Speed Cleaning for the Pros by Jeff Campbell & Debbie Sardone
  • The Fish That Ate The Whale by Rich Cohen

I hope you enjoy these recommendations. Have some books that you recommend as well? Please share them in the comments!

How to hire the best staff for your cleaning service

Photo courtesy of flickr user neetalparekh

The first thing to note before you throw your hands up in the air and wonder why you’re having difficulty hiring is to figure out what the unemployment rate is for your area. Typically you need about a 5% unemployment rate to fuel a decent labor pool—anything below that makes it a struggle to find workers. It’s not impossible, but it’s not easy. You’ll need to compete harder to get the best employees in a low unemployment area.

Approach finding good job candidates the same way you approach finding clients. Adopt a mindset that you’re always advertising your business as an employment opportunity for the best job candidates.

  • It starts with having a good job to offer — if you offer the kind of job that nobody wants (low wages, not enough hours, inconsistent schedule) then you’ll have a hard time attracting good people.
  • Then continually advertise to find good employees. Just as it’s not effective to start and stop marketing for clients, it’s not effective to find employees that way. Looking for employees when you’re desperate is just like looking for clients when you’re about to run out of operating cash for your business—don’t let it come to that! Don’t ever stop looking for great workers. That said, sometimes you’ll turn up the volume when you’re short handed or turn it down when you’re overstaffed.
  • Don’t just list your job on a single job board. Just like your advertising for clients, be in many places — print, social media, networking, hosting events, PR. Spend money on Facebook or Google ads to market to job candidates in your community.
  • Work hard to win a local “best places to work” contest — it’s powerful to get this. We put out an ad saying “thank you for voting us top 3 best places to work in the county” as a way to market ourselves to the best candidates.

Let’s talk about that job posting. Don’t just throw out a post with a bunch of rules— must have this, must do that, listing everything they better do instead of writing an inspiring and compelling ad. Talk about your family-friendly environment, high wages, insurance, whatever you offer that sets you apart. Keep it positive and exciting. At the end of the post, add your caveats of “don’t apply if you won’t pass a background check, etc.” The top of the ad should be about the benefits of working for your company that make your business sound like a desirable place to work.

You must remember, it’s a numbers game— you’ll have to talk to 25 people before you get the handful that sound nice on the phone to get half of those who will show up for the interview. And of those who you give offers to, realize that only half may accept. Work the numbers and keep your top of funnel filled with prospective employees.

Hire slow, fire fast. Don’t hire when you need two people immediately. Always be hiring and looking for best candidate. When you think you find the perfect person, after a week or two you may realize you made a huge mistake— they’re not reliable, uninterested in trying, won’t follow instruction. If you discover that you made a mistake, correct it quickly and get rid of the person. Don’t keep investing more and more of your time, energy, patience, and training in the wrong person. Fix the mistake once you realize it.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket — if you desperately need one person, hire two. Something is bound to happen, whether they can’t handle the job, or something unexpected comes up.

Treat your staff like gold. Give people the respect that you want and that they deserve. Give them the courtesy and compassion that you want. Be compassionate, kind, patient, and nice. Don’t lose your temper— you’ll lose good people if you can’t control yourself. But be firm. If they’re not working out, be firm, show them the door.

Finally, when you find a good worker, keep them busy. Don’t dilute their schedule. If someone proves herself, give her lots of work so she can make a big paycheck. Give her plenty of work.

This is just a sample of the kind of help I can offer in my 16 week Cleaning Business Fundamentals course. My course is a no-holds-barred program to teach you how to get out of the field and what the right way is to add customers and staff quickly. For a free 30 minute consultation to discuss whether my course is a good fit for you, simply fill out my owner’s survey and I’ll be in touch to set up a time to talk.

How do you handle a rude customer or prospect?

Photo courtesy of flickr user vshioshvili

I was recently reviewing a video I made ten years ago that offered advice about how to handle rude prospects and was reminded of an incident from that time in the distant past. I had gone for an in-person quote for cleaning her home and noticed that her husband kept making snide comments about making sure the oven and windows were clean, too. I knew he was going to be a problem child, but I put this out of my mind when I offered up the quote. The email I got back from her really ripped into me, telling me that my prices were ridiculous and who did I think I was to charge more per hour than the client made per hour? They took it as a personal offense that a maid would make more than they made.

Now, your first inclination when you receive an email like this is to immediately reply and put them in their place. But I knew I would regret that, so I took a deep breath and picked up the phone and called her. I told her I got her email and that I wanted to explain further about our services and pricing, about how we thoroughly vet and train our staff, have been in business for over 25 years. I told her that there are a lot of other services out there and that I was sure she’d find someone who could fit her budget. She thanked me for being professional and said she appreciated my advice.

I even offered to be a sounding board in case she got a quote that sounded too good to be true, and left the conversation on a positive note. I was able to take the high road and ignore her rudeness by taking a deep breath and getting over it. A big part of becoming mature in business is learning how to hold your tongue when you know it would feel good to zing someone back, whether it’s an employee or a customer. But you never know who they know or who they network with or where you’ll run into them again later. They may become your biggest fan even if they don’t hire you!

So, here’s what to do when you receive an upsetting email or phone message:

  • Take a deep breath. Wait. Take another.
  • Go ahead and write out your response, but don’t send it! Wait 24 hours before sending or returning the call.
  • The next day, review what you wrote. Almost always, you will end up deleting your reply and responding with something more positive.

This is just a sample of the kind of help I can offer in my 16 week Cleaning Business Fundamentals course. My course is a no-holds-barred program to teach you how to get out of the field and what the right way is to add customers and staff quickly. For a free 30 minute consultation to discuss whether my course is a good fit for you, simply fill out my owner’s survey and I’ll be in touch to set up a time to talk.

Case study: How I got Sandra to stop cleaning and start focusing on her cleaning business

A few weeks ago I posted about trying to get cleaning business owners to move away from doing the actual cleaning and to focus on growing their business. It must have struck a chord, because I immediately heard from Sandra C. As soon as we got on the phone, I could hear the panic in her voice. “I’m never going to be able to get out of the field!” she hollered.

We identified the major issue that she was facing—despite offering an above-minimum wage and fun company add-ons like free lunches once a week, she was having zero luck on finding employees. This is one of the hardest pieces to tackle as a business owner, especially in a market where jobs are plentiful.

During our hour consultation session, I reviewed her employee benefit package and suggested some areas where upgrades could be made economically. I also looked at the help wanted ads she had been running and provided some edits. We brainstormed some other ways that she could attract employees, and she left the call with a clear list of to-do’s.

Yesterday I got an email from her that I wanted to share here:

Thank you, Debbie!! Today I hired two women who look like they will be superstars. I know it’s too early to celebrate completely, but I wanted to let you know that taking the time to tap into your brain was the best thing I could have done. And you left me with words of wisdom that kept echoing in my head until I had to listen to them. You told me that every minute I spent cleaning instead of recruiting would add on to the length of time that I’ll actually be out in the field. For some reason, this really stuck with me, so I ended up spending an entire morning focused on this and it has already netted out results. Thank you again.

If you’re ready to take your business to the next level, I can help you pinpoint your exact next steps. I have a 16 week Cleaning Business Fundamentals course that was designed specifically for getting you out of the field. My course is a no-holds-barred program to teach you how to get out of the field and what the right way is to add customers and staff quickly. For a free 30 minute consultation to discuss whether my course is a good fit for you, simply fill out my owner’s survey and I’ll be in touch to set up a time to talk.

Cleaning business owners! It’s time to stop cleaning.

Tell me if this sounds familiar— you started your cleaning business and planned to go out on a few cleaning jobs to get a feel for how things worked. Then, weeks turned into months, and months turned into years. You’re still stuck out in the field cleaning the accounts instead of working behind the scenes growing the business. You are not alone. This is one of the biggest problems that I help cleaning business owners solve. This is a cheap and easy business to get into but the skills and steps necessary to grow it beyond a cleaning job are more challenging that most people realize.

The best thing that you can do is to recognize that you are stuck and decide to do something about it.

Here are three things you can do now to move you closer to getting out of the field forever:

  • Fix your thinking. The longer you spend cleaning in the field, the more you undermine your opportunity to grow. You’re actually holding yourself back. You are limiting your growth by your own physical ability to service the demand.
  • Stop thinking that your customers will never accept anyone but you. Once you have a plan to grow your business and replace yourself in the field, if handled correctly, most of your customers will accept the changes and allow you to transition your new staff to their home. The key is to have a plan and adequate training and onboarding of quality employees.
  • Abandon perfection! Let’s face it— if you started the business, found and won the clients, nurtured the relationships, and cleaned your heart out to keep them happy, you’ve probably created a standard of near-perfection when it comes to cleaning and providing customer service. If you’ve nuanced your service to the point that nobody can replace you, you’ve created a monster. You’ve created a standard that no one else can deliver and sabotaged your own goal of replacing yourself in the field. As you take on new clients, be careful not to continue to do an unlimited number of “freebies” and bonuses when cleaning because that standard cannot be replicated when you hire and transition the house to your staff.

If you’d like help getting out of the field forever, I have a 16 week Cleaning Business Fundamentals course that was designed specifically for getting the owner out of the field. My course is a no-holds-barred program to teach you how to get out of the field and what the right way is to add customers and staff quickly. For a free 30 minute consultation to discuss whether my course is a good fit for you, simply fill out my owner’s survey and I’ll be in touch to set up a time to talk.

The best part about moving offices is when you’re done!

The Maid Coach has moved to a new physical location! Don’t worry, our digital office is staying put right here at themaidcoach.com, but we recently moved into a larger office space. We’re now next-door neighbors to the good folks at SpeedCleaning—this is great because we’ll have a lot of knowledge sharing between the two offices and get to sample some of their products.

The main goal of the move was for us to get a large training room where we’ll be able to host maid service boot camps and business building field trips. Speaking of which, we are at max capacity for our upcoming boot camp and field trip, but jump on our email list so you can be notified whenever we have another training event.

If you need to reach us in person, our new address is:
496 E Purnell Street, Ste 101
Lewisville, TX 75057

5 reasons to attend cleaning industry conferences like Speed Cleaning for the Pros

You are busy running the day-to-day operations of your cleaning business, so why should you take the time to attend a conference focused on your industry? It’s important for you as a business owner to be more strategic every once in awhile and get the 50,000 foot view of your company and its direction. Join me and a select group of other cleaning business owners for a February 24-25 Speed Cleaning for the Pros conference and put your business on the fast track to success.

In case you need to rationalize taking two days away from your business, here are five benefits of attending industry-specific conferences.

  1. Learn new information. You’ll walk away with your brain filled with useful information that can be put into practice immediately. By going to conferences geared toward cleaning business owners, you can stay up to date with industry trends and innovations.
  2. Meet cleaning industry experts. These are the people who have floated to the top of the cleaning business by implementing successful strategies. You’ll want to rub shoulders with them and pick their brains for tips on how you can join their ranks.
  3. Get answers to specific business questions from experts who have been there and done that. During break times or during specific Q&A sessions, you can bring up questions that have been on your mind. Walk away with the most informed answer from the industry experts at the conference.
  4. Collect presentation material that you can take home to share with your staff and refer to later. You might be overwhelmed by the amount of information being thrown at you, but most conferences will include material you can take away with you to study later or to share with your staff.
  5. Share ideas with others in your shoes. You’ll spend the day with other cleaning business owners who might have a solution for a problem you’re facing. Networking with other owners is a great way to build up a support network in case issues arise in the future, and to have a sounding board to vet your next great idea.

As a bonus, one last benefit you get is motivation. By taking the time to think strategically about your business and invest in a conference to broaden your knowledge, you will absolutely walk away re-energized and motivated for success. Your brain will be bursting with ideas to try and suggestions to put into place as soon as you get home. Simply by carrying this energy back into your office, you’ll motivate your staff as well.

Now that you know all the reasons you should attend, join us February 24 and 25 at the Speed Cleaning for the Pros conference! More details are here.

Sell more maid service gift cards for Valentine’s Day

Cleaning businesses are notorious for not selling a lot of gift cards and this is a huge untapped opportunity for your business to drive more revenue. You have two weeks until Valentine’s Day and you can sell gift cards up until the very last minute to people who have procrastinated about buying a gift for their loved one.

The main reason most cleaning business owners shy away from selling gift cards is because they worry about the experience of redemption. Since gift cards are for a defined amount of money (e.g. $150), and nearly every first time clean requires a variable amount of time to get the job done right, it can be a recipe for disaster. There’s the risk of the staff going way over on the time purchased to insure the customer is happy and then there’s the potential for a bad online review because the job couldn’t be completed.

You can put those worries to rest by making it clear to the recipient that they’ve received a gift of a defined amount of cleaning time, not a complete house cleaning. Let them know that their gift is for a specific block of time, say a three hour cleaning, and if they’d like to add additional hours to the cleaning, they are welcome to do so. Be very clear that the gift card equates to a specific number of “labor hours” for your cleaning staff, and that you can retain their credit card if they’d like to billed for additional time needed. Communication is the key to successful gift card redemption.

Now the issue is how to sell more gift cards. One holiday season from late October through December, I sold $12,000 worth of maid service gift cards by following the tips I outline in my gift card training series. I’ll give you one of the tips for free and you can purchase the rest online.

How to sell more gift cards

This sounds simple, but it’s something you probably haven’t thought of. Turn the abstract idea of a cleaning service into a physical gift. The person buying the gift card is buying a present for someone, not a cleaning service for themselves. So when you sell your gift cards, sell them as a complete gift, not just a piece of paper that you print out with the amount of cleaning hours purchased or dollar value. Start selling gifts instead of cleanings. I suggest making your gift cards as part of a beautiful gift basket, with wine, chocolates, and other goodies inside the basket. This will make for an impressive, tangible gift that the giver will feel proud about giving, not just an emailed certificate or a computer printout of your gift card amount.

Make your gift baskets look sumptuous. Put your company’s swag inside an elegant wicker basket, along with greenery or ribbons. As add-ons, you can include a gift card for a massage or restaurant, add nice wine glasses from the Dollar Store, throw in high-quality chocolates. Offer the gift basket as a bonus if the purchaser buys the gift of maid service for a year. So if someone pays $1200 for a year’s worth of maid service (at $100 each month), they also get this fabulous gift basket with free extras like the massage, wine, restaurant deal, etc.

Maybe you barter with a local spa as a way to get free massages to put into your gift baskets, or you strike up a deal to clean a neighborhood wine shop so you can get a deep discount. The goal here is to fill up your gift baskets so they make the recipient gasp with surprise and pleasure at the luxurious gift that is mostly comprised of your valuable cleaning services, but topped off with physical gifts that make the gift stand out even more. To comply with state and federal alcohol laws, you might want to simply include a gift certificate for wine instead of the actual wine.

Remember: there’s nothing elegant about a spouse printing out a gift card for your cleaning services and handing that over on Valentine’s Day. So focus on making your gift cards the centerpiece of an elegant gift basket and these will fly off your shelves.

For more tips on becoming a powerseller of gift cards, be sure to buy my series. Happy selling, and happy Valentine’s Day!

How To Stop Showing Up Late For Your Cleaning Jobs

How many times have you lost a job, revenue, or a customer because your cleaning staff showed up late?  One good recurring customer is easily worth over $3,000 a year to your business, so being on time is critical if you want to impress a new customer and keep your existing customers happy.

Solve this problem once and for all by approaching the solution differently:

  1. Change the customer’s expectation
  2. Stop committing to a specific time, offer a range
  3. Stand firm, if they press for an exact time, insist on a range, or you set yourself up for failure
  4. Commit to what you know you can succeed at consistently, not to what you’ll probably fail at most of the time
  5. Use a software program that will let you run your business your way, not one that requires that you adjust your business to accommodate the limitations of the software