Becoming a good leader is a never-ending journey. Yes, it also takes some courage.
Sometimes as cleaning business owners, we manage to convince ourselves that our problems are special and unique. We do not think anyone can understand what we face every day, that no one has ever had the same kinds of issues. About a year ago, I was meeting with a friend from college who owns her own company. Her company is nearly identical in size to mine, with the same number of employees. But she does not own a residential cleaning company; she has a physical therapy practice. She bills over $100 an hour, and her employees must have a Master’s Degree. Her employees are seen as true professionals both within her industry and by clients. She easily bills triple or possibly quadruple the revenue that I do, and all with the same number of employees. Yet as I sat there with her at lunch, she described problems I have heard hundreds of times from cleaning business owners.
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She is being driven crazy by her employees: bad attitudes, call-out rates averaging 3-4 days per month, unpredictable daily schedule, and more. She has no idea who is going to show up to work from day to day; in fact, one of her “favorite” and “best” employees calls out the most. She is terrified to be too tough her therapists, especially the “good” ones, because they may quit to become independent contractors for home health care without all the same overhead that the business owner has with office rent, liability insurance, and so on.
She is starting to hate her business because she feels trapped by the employees who could go out on their own and steal her clients at any time. It is a conversation I have had hundreds of times with cleaning service owners. We often fool ourselves into thinking we have the problems we do because of the “type” of people we employee. I have news for you: all businesses have the same issue, whether you pay your people $9.00 an hour or $50.00. It is a problem of leadership, not a problem of the “type” of employees we have. This false belief gets in the way of fixing the actual problem, which is usually gaps in or under-developed leadership skills among managers and owners.
The good news is these skills can be learned. When I worked at Procter & Gamble, we had a series of leadership training programs. Most companies spend millions of dollars and weeks of time training their managers to be good leaders. Becoming a good leader takes time and effort; it’s unrealistic to expect you will just suddenly become a good leader. Talk with successful leaders to find out what they are doing. Take classes that help you identify your strengths and weakness and create an action plan for becoming a better leader.
When things go bad, you need to step back and analyze what happened and what you should do differently the next time it happens. Becoming a good leader is a never-ending journey. Yes, it also takes some courage. You have to be able to make the hard decisions and have the hard conversations. If you cannot do that, I honestly recommend you sell your business and go work for someone else. If not, you will never have employees who work for you; instead, you will be working for them. And it is far better to work for one boss than working for multiple employees. It pays better, too.
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 CleaningBusinessToday.com. 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.