In any business, owners face a huge challenge in matching supply to demand. Luckily as a service business, we do not have to invest a lot of capital in physical inventory; but we still have a supply problem when it comes to the people we hire.
The challenge: making sure you have enough cleaners on staff, but not so many cleaners that you do not have enough work to keep everyone busy.
After a few years of trying to find the right balance, I finally decided it is impossible to ever get the balance perfect. One of the secrets to my success is that I have always attempted to be slightly over staffed. At My Maid Service, we are always hiring, and we always like to have at least one person in training, even if we do not think we will need them right away. There are three main reasons.
1) People Leave When You Least Expect It
Employees can leave at any time, and often do when you least expect it: the week before convention, the week before a major holiday, the week before you leave on vacation, the week before a major family event.
Recently I had two cleaners leave for medical reasons the week of Thanksgiving. I would have never been able to predict two employees with good attendance and client relationships should leave right before the chaotic holiday cleaning rush when they were expecting to collect some sizeable Christmas tips. However they both had medical issues arise in their families that required them to resign, one immediately without even giving two weeks’ notice.
Because I had people in training, this was not a crisis. I could just slide the more senior trainee into the spot left with no notice, and the other trainee was immediately moved to work for two weeks with the other cleaner she would be replacing. We of course also began advertising to hire more trainees on the spot as well.
2) Being Slightly Overstaffed Makes You Hustle in Sales
When you are understaffed and a client cancels an appointment or even on-going service, you often feel relief. You really did not know how you were going to get them cleaned anyway.
I never want my people or myself to be happy when we lose business. Being overstaffed avoids this and creates the opposite pressure to follow up on every lead, to try to please every client, and to fight to save every client because we have openings on our schedule we need to fill at all times.
Having cleaners available with no work to do creates a culture of hustling and doing what it takes in sales and customer service to get and keep the client.
3) You Can Upgrade Your Team
The worst case scenario is that you find yourself slightly over-staffed. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Now you can look at your team and decide who really should be working somewhere else.
When you’re slightly over-staffed, you no longer have to settle for someone who is not really a good fit. You are now in the enviable position of having a choice in who stays working for you. This is not a bad thing. This is how you build a great company, by constantly upgrading your team. Sometimes that means training and developing people you have, but sometimes it means cutting some weaker people to make space for stronger team members.
As a result, even when we are happy with our current team, we are always scouting for great people to bring onto the team. You never know when you may need to replace someone without notice, or you may get a big new account requiring extra staff, or you could just find a new rock star that may make you reevaluate how great your current team really is.
Derek Christian is the owner of My Maid Service with locations in Cincinnati, OH and Dallas, TX, as well as a business coach through Cleaning Business Builders and publisher of CleaningBusinessToday.com. Derek is now an investor in several cleaning companies including My Maid Service Dayton and Real World Services Columbus. Derek is also a consultant for industry leaders Blue Skies Services and Castle Keepers.