By David Kiser
When you put your name on the line everyday, it means something. It certainly seems that way for Joanna Saucier (pronounced SōCā) Palumbo and her company Signature Cleaning Services. Since 1999, Joanna and her team have built Signature Cleaning Services into the largest and best rated home cleaning service in Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada. Joanna grew up in an entrepreneurial family where her parents ran two businesses simultaneously. That experience proved valuable in learning how to value and honor the customer as well as how to develop a team of loyal employees. It also helped her understand the hard work and sacrifices required to build and run a successful business.
In my recent conversation with Joanna, she shared some real gems that helped me understand why people want to be part of her winning Signature Cleaning Services Team, whether as a client, employee or friend.
Joanna started cleaning homes in 1999 out of the trunk her car with what she fondly recalls was “a vacuum and a vision.” From her 3 initial customers, she grew her client base and perfected her cleaning method. She knew that in order to build a business she needed to get out of the field and train employees to replicate the work she was doing. She always knew organization and processes were important. In fact, she shared with me that today, one of her keys to success is that her employees feel safe and confident that they can be successful and do a great job, because they are trained properly and are given the right tools and information for the job. Yes, Organization and Documented Processes pay off and clients notice the high level of service because there is a consistency to every cleaning event, making homes sparkle. What is another key? Joanna did not believe in a “spray and wipe” method. She coined the term “wash, dry, shine” as a way to differentiate her business from others in her market. Joanna soaked up information. She joined ARCSI. She attended events. She asked many, many questions. That is where we first met many years ago. She learned the science of cleaning and incorporated industry accepted best practices. For example, she learned about hospital grade ultra-microfiber and uses them to clean instead of cheaper cloths that cross contaminate. Joanna told me she learned about chemicals, heat, agitation and time (C.H.A.T.) in the process of soil suspension from a book she bought called the Professional Housecleaning Technician’s Manual. She said that was the kind of cleaning she wanted to make sure her company performed. Cleaning based on science and best practices.
Joanna knew success in business took more than just being organized and having processes. Scaled success doesn’t happen without a committed team. As the company was growing, Joanna noted that her employee attrition was higher than she liked. She decided to poll the employee group to find out what the company can do better to elevate the employee experience. Two overwhelming pain points stood out. Employees did not like driving their own cars, and they wanted a health and dental plan. The two items became a burning priority for the Company. Within 18 months, Signature Cleaning Services acquired a fleet of company branded vehicles and introduced a robust health & dental plan to meet the needs of the employee group.
The Car Dealership loves Signature Cleaning Services!
What results did these major investments have? The fleet serves as a major marketing tool for Signature Cleaning Services. The wrapped vehicles helped the brand value soar! The health and dental plan became a recruiting and retention tool which resulted in better quality applicants and increased loyalty within the existing employee group. The return on investment was remarkable. It sent employees a message. That message was – you are Professionals. Signature Cleaning Services appreciates you. The management team appreciates you. Employees talk about Signature Cleaning Services as a winning team they are proud to be part of. Signature Cleaning Services is an industry employer of choice in Winnipeg attracting over 250 qualified applicants per month!
Signature Cleaning Services has a great reputation of giving back also. They are part of Cleaning For A Reason (C4R), the International Foundation providing free housecleaning for woman who are being treated with cancer. Check the newscast out at this link: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y_61rYFsOgU. Joanna’s association with C4R allowed her the opportunity to spend some time with the sales legend Zig Ziglar.
Growth and success presented challenges. Joanna knew she needed Leadership help to take the business to the next level and surpass the million-dollar revenue mark. In 2015 Joanna’s sister, Rachelle Fedora came on board. With her strong leadership skills, the two got to work improving the Employee Leadership Model and this proved highly successful. Now, Rachelle is a Partner. I heard Dynamic Duo and something about pink capes! Watch out Winnipeg! These two are unstoppable sisters in grime!
What does a well-designed organization, with good processes, strong culture and giving back do for a cleaning service? On the evening of October 18, 2018, the Women’s Business Owners of Manitoba held a special Gala Event at The Metropolitan Entertainment Centre honoring Women Entrepreneurs in Manitoba. That evening Joanna Saucier (Palumbo) was recognized as The Manitoba Woman Entrepreneur of the Year! With over 200 nominees paired down to 24 finalists, Joanna won the Overall Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Award. She was shocked and honored to win and said that she could have never accomplished this without her amazing team!
Joanna Saucier wins Manitoba Woman Entrepreneur of the Year
I sensed, before she told me about her shock, Joanna’s award was something she shares with everyone in her company. And then she shared this…
I asked her to finish the sentence – I enjoy the housecleaning industry because…? Her reply – “I love making a difference in the lives of employees and the clients they serve, and I have made many great friends who are cleaning business owners like myself, and we share stories, listen to each other, encourage each other and brainstorm together. AND I love the challenge of building something better and better everyday!”
There is much more to Joanna Saucier. She travels. She cooks and enjoys nutritious food. She visits other cleaning businesses. Joanna has had struggles too. She overcame them and stood strong. She lives by a strong set of values.
As a Founding Member of ARCSI I want you, the reader, to know it was the story of Joanna Saucier, not yet realized, that all of us envisioned. She is a role model for the Residential Cleaning Industry, and I am honored she calls me her friend.
Joanna and some other C4R gals having a little fun with pink eyelashes!
* I would like to thank Joanna Saucier for sharing with us two books she is reading right now.
- They Ask, You Answer by Marcus Sheridan
- Culture Works: How to Create Happiness in the Workplace by Kris Boesch
David Kiser is a Founding Member of ARCSI and served as the first President. David and his wife Carrie sold their business called Champagne Services in 2015 after 34 years. David spearheaded the IICRC HCT Program and is a co-author of The Professional House Cleaning Technician’s Manual.