Don’t match your business up to the solution; build the technology to match your business model.
While growing a cleaning business is a fun and exciting ride, it’s also extremely complicated and frustrating at times.  As the clientele of Student Maids grew over the past five years, so did the number of new challenges. 

Scheduling became a nightmare.  You know as well as I do how many details cleaning companies have to keep track of: alarm codes, client likes and dislikes, pets, preferred team members, distance between jobs, etc. The DaVinci code is less complicated!  There is so much room for human error and mistakes, some of which could cost you your company.  As my company grew, the stakes and the mistakes grew too.

[EasyDNNnewsToken:Left Justify Embed 300 x 250]A Custom Tech Solution

I couldn’t afford to lose clients. I knew I needed to find a scheduling solution that would streamline the process and reduce the chance of human error, so I turned to technology for an answer.  What if a client requested a certain team member never return to his/her house, and you mistakenly send the same person back? What if an employee is allergic to cats and you mistakenly send him/her to a house that has a cat? How on earth are we supposed to remember all of these details? 

The problem I faced was a limited number of solutions specifically created for the cleaning industry. I tried over 30 applications and found that only a few really addressed our specific needs.  The existing programs didn’t work for me, so instead of adopting a less-than-ideal solution I looked for ways to come up with a more unique one that really fit my company’s needs.  Frustrated but not defeated, I took matters into my own hands and combined my team’s expertise with that of top-notch programmers to create our own system. 

When looking for a solution that fits your business, it is important that you find something that is customizable.  One-size-fits-all applications can be tough to adopt and implement, and it’s harder to scale your business with these types of programs.  Most companies should be able to tailor their scheduling solution toward what will be most efficient and profitable for your unique situation. It’s also important to find an app that is able to be accessed from a mobile device or any computer.  With the way our world is nowadays, desktop-only solutions can make our job more challenging.  

Finding the Funds

Why did my company venture into the tech world? Why not? Just because you and I are in the cleaning industry does not mean we can’t innovate. We can do everything that other industries can do.  Just because you already own a cleaning business doesn’t mean that it has to stop there.  I challenge you to become a serial entrepreneur! 

Plus, it’s not as out of reach as you might think. We were faced with a funding challenge, and after searching for weeks, we found an incredible opportunity: the HBOTT Grant for Gainesville, FL. This federal grant reimburses a company for up to 80% of an employee’s salary for six months if it is creating a job in the technology field. That made it possible to hire a “techie.” Funding opportunities like these exist if we take the time to search for them.  And the coolest part? Creating our own application costs less than outsourcing the project to a firm because of the grant funding.

A Tradition of Innovation

Other cleaning industry-focused companies also have received money for technological applications. For example, HouseCall, which offers simplified access to professional home services, including cleaning, received $1.5 million in seed funding, and Homejoy, which offers a simple web interface for booking cleanings, secured $38 million. If you have an idea that could improve our industry as a whole, there are investors in your town who might “buy in” too. 

When you think about it, the cleaning industry always has been innovative. We introduced the world to professional-grade vacuum cleaners, static cleaning cloths and multi-surface cleaners, just to name a few. Where would we – or our customers – be without these inventions? My guess is that we would be inconvenienced, frustrated and less efficient. Fortunately, technology is available to all of us, and we can embrace it as much as any company in Silicon Valley can. It just seems like the logical next step in our journey of innovation.

Kristen Hadeed started Student Maid™ in 2009 while a junior at the University of Florida. Today she serves residential and commercial clients in Gainesville and Pensacola.