Based on a real Cincinnati-based cleaning company, The Dream Manager triples revenue and doubles the workforce!

It is not very often that there is a best-selling business book that is about the cleaning industry. The Dream Manager tells the story of a fictional commercial cleaning company with a huge employee turn over problem. Based on the challenges faced by a Cincinnati-based company, this true-to-life story opens with the company experiencing 400% employee turn over and all the problems that come with it. The new General Manager stumbles across the idea that the way to reduce employee turn over is to listen to the employees and to help them achieve their dreams. He accepts the basic premise that for most people a janitorial job is not a life long career but it can be a stepping stone to something better. However what the “something” is varies by employee.

[EasyDNNnewsToken:Left Justify Embed 300 x 250]To deal with this problem, the General Manager creates a Dream Manager position in his company. This dream manager acts as a coach to the employees to help them achieve their dreams. Some employees want to learn English. Others want to buy a car. A few want to own their own home. In all cases, the company does not just give them what they dream of but helps them make a plan to achieve their dreams on their own. Once the program takes effect, employee turn over drops to 12%, saving huge amounts of money and increasing client satisfaction. During this period of time, revenue triples and the company doubles its workforce to 800 employees.

There is a lot we can learn from The Dream Manager to apply to our own companies. I have had a lot of luck helping my employees to outgrow our company and move on to better jobs with another firm. These employees would have left on their own, but this way my employees, like those in the The Dream Manager, share with their friends and family that my company is a great place to learn the skills to move to somewhere even better in the future.  Helping people see a future that is better with your company is key to long term retention.  

While the overall strategy is sound, I find myself struggling with the style of book: a fictionalized event told as a story or fable. This is a great technique for introducing children to difficult concepts, but it leaves me craving a grown up book about a real company, with facts and real numbers to support the assertions. 

Beyond the style of presentation, though, my biggest problem with The Dream Manager is that while this is a good idea, it is not a fix all. After reading this book, you will think you found the single greatest business idea of all time. This book makes it seems like this idea alone made this janitorial company a huge success.

Well don’t always believe what you read. This entire book and Mr. Miller’s now-large consulting practice is based on a company here in Cincinnati called Jancoa and their “Dream Engineer” program. However, despite this program to help employees achieve their dreams, in 2006 Jancoa was was unionized. Evidently some employees did not feel that their dreams were being fulfilled since they picketed their employer for two years. Jancoa lost 20 – 25% of their revenue from protests outside client buildings; in addition, Jancoa ran up $500,000 in legal bills, and the owner said the stress led to his divorce.

I think this is a good book and a good system that would help many companies.   However, remember when reading a book or listening to a consultant (even me), they are selling you an idea just like anyone else. There are no easy fixes in any business. Take the good ideas as you find them, but never expect a single magic bullet.


Read the story on Mr. Kelly’s inspiration for “The Dream Manager” being Jancoa.

Read the story on Jancoa becoming unionized.

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  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 Marvelous Maids and Castle Keepers.