Amy Thomas of Eastside Housecleaning on getting business done when you’re short-staffed and down for the count

I might be dying, I thought, as I wakened from my influenza-fueled grogginess and heard the ding of my phone going off.  The little knot of anxiety that I always get when I hear my text messages going off early in the morning hit my gut less hard than usual. I simply didn’t have the energy today – I was way too sick to fret.  With an effort I rolled over to see who was disturbing me, fingers crossed that it was my sister-in-law on the East Coast who had forgotten the time and just wanted to say hello.

It wasn’t.  It was the new girl. Letting me know that she would not be in for the third time in five weeks. No daycare for her boyfriend’s daughter or something. Sigh. I pulled myself up in bed so that I could attempt to get some oxygen into my plugged up brain.  I’d been sick already almost two weeks, and I was not getting better. The only good thing, I reflected, was that I didn’t have the energy to obsess about how I was barely staffed and why I therefore couldn’t just fire the offending employee. The bad news is I wasn’t out beating the streets for replacements either due to my current diseased condition, but I quickly put that thought out of my mind.  Today it wouldn’t help.

I sighed, and set about rearranging the schedule. Considering which clients we had already moved recently because of the holidays, who could we lean on this time? I contacted the other employees to let them know what was going on, reshuffling the teams to make the day work. In the end, I only had to move one house, and the crisis was averted, but the annoyance of having to make the adjustment still niggled in the back of my mind. 

Around noon, after two cups of coffee, a round of Dayquil and an hour of breaking my fever, my brain finally kicked into first gear. I began to test out the concept of actually doing a bit of work in spite of my illness. I set up the current day’s invoices, charged my payments from the prior day, and then fell back exhausted. Two people had emailed asking for dates to start service, but frankly, I had nowhere to put them and no voice with which to call and explain. Therefore, they would have to wait until I regathered my strength with a nap.

“This New Year came in with a whimper more than a bang,” I reflected wryly as I lay back down on the couch and closed my eyes. It was true, I’d lost a husband and wife team unexpectedly over the holiday, and the one replacement I’d managed to hire before I fell ill was turning out to be a bit flaky. But in spite of these stresses, I had to admit that I felt optimistic.

The company had just posted its best year ever. Although I was currently short-staffed, we had found an avenue for getting qualified applicants which seemed to be working well, so I was hopeful that we could turn our staffing situation around once I was back at full steam. And with the exception of the one, we had solid, committed staff who could be counted on.  Web traffic and quotes were up going into the new year, which was boding well for my growth plans. In addition, in December I had just completed an in-depth review of the business and our finances which had helped me identify some areas that we could make simple changes which were going to immediately improve our efficiency and reduce some costs. “Yes,” I thought, “I am going to make it through this, too!”

“And company aside, the things that really matter in life are going well,” I reminded myself.  “We’re happy. We are healthy – well, mostly, anyway. We have good friends. We can travel when we want.  We have everything we need… Yes, I know it’s been a tough day, but it’s going to be a good year.

Amy Thomas
is owner of Eastside Housecleaning in Issaquah, WA. When they aren’t busy working Amy and her husband enjoy exploring new destinations and home remodeling projects and various charities in the area. Eastside Housecleaning is a member of the Association of Residential Cleaning Services International (ARCSI) and Amy is an alumnus of Foundations of Success.