In am fortunate in that, due to all of my consulting, I get to see how many different cleaning businesses work. At this very moment I am working on merging two smaller companies into one new larger company. As we are completing this project we have a check list of systems that we need to have in place. It is interesting to me that while the details of the systems vary from company to company, these processes tend to be the same. For a company to be truly successful in this business, or probably any business, there needs to be a series of systems in place for all of the keys tasks. We break them down into three categories. First, is employee acquisition management. The second is client acquisition and management. The third is support systems, which includes things like vehicle management and accounting. Now this may seem very obvious at first but when we get called in to help a company we almost always find the problems come down to one of two things.
The System that Isn't
The first and most obvious problem is there is a system missing. For example, we often find companies have no real system and plan for recruiting and hiring. What we mean by this is not just your Craig's List advertisement, but how do you formally know when to hire a new person? For us it is every time we have less than 10 open spots on the schedule next week. If that happens, it is time to hire another person. The second and less obvious problem is systems that conflict with each other. We see this all the time from people that hang out in the Facebook groups or attend industry events. They take systems from all over the place from other people and apply them to their company without really thinking through if it will work.
Matching Systems to Company Culture
For example, my attendance policy is this: you are allowed 6 unplanned absences every 6 months. This means if your time off is not pre-approved it counts as one of these 6. We do not do doctor's notes, we do not ask why you were out, we trust you are an adult and as long as it does not happen too often we trust you to make good decisions. This works for us because it matches the total culture of our company which is based on solo cleaners which we expect to be independent problem solvers. If they get to a house and no one answers, we expect them to independently work through a series of steps to resolve the problem before they ever called the office. My attendance policy works because the type of people that can solve problems for themselves also do not want someone telling them whether or not their kid was sick enough to call off work. It also means I have to recruit for a very different kind of employee.
Often people will hear about my policy and like it's simplicity and then try to put it in a company that tightly controls the cleaners and it does not work because the cleaners are not used to making those independent decisions. They are very uncomfortable deciding if it is OK to call off when they are not allowed to make other decisions without checking with the office first. I also want to be clear, I do not think those with tight central control run bad operations. I have seen many that are amazing. They can also hire a much broader group of employees and their training program is often 25% the time and expense of ours because the employees do not need to know and handle as many situations. Everything in their company works together. So by all means ask how others handle things and hire consultants. But think of a company like a machine. That system is a specific gear in their machine. That same system that works so well for them may not work in your company just like the wrong gear could break a machine. Think about how that system fits with all the other systems and culture before you install it.
Setting Up your System for Growth
We will be talking more about the systems you need to run a successful cleaning business at the Spring Growth Event in Indianapolis on April 8th. For more details on this event, watch the video below or click on the More Info button.