Being the leader of your cleaning business starts with recognizing your core values and beginning to live them day after day.
My company doesn’t have a mission statement. It has a manifesto. This is because at the core of my soul it’s what I believe in, passionately, and unwaveringly, and I want to shout it from the rooftops! But until recently, I had neither passion nor clarity. I had a few uneasy and unformed ideas about what we should aspire to, which looked suspiciously like a rehash of a corporation I once worked for. But more importantly, I was not energized by my business. It was a drag to come to work, a struggle to answer the phone; to do everything was a chore.  Over the course of time, things had gotten so bad that I avoided doing anything I didn’t absolutely have to, afraid to make any bold statements and afraid to take any risks.

Laying a Better Foudation

In January all that changed. It started with a simple question asked by one of my coaches during my Foundations of Success seminar. What are your core values? I threw out a few ideas of things that seemed good to me. And she challenged me: So what about this situation? Would that still be the most important to you? What if someone died? What then?  Frankly, I was slightly traumatized by the whole conversation. I couldn’t sleep when I went to bed that night. My real values, I knew, were in there, but apparently some things I thought were my core values were really just ideas I thought were good because conventional wisdom said so. But when faced with scenarios where hard choices had to be made, I couldn’t defend them. 

After my sleepless night, I went back to my coach. “I need more help with this,” I said. We talked. We hashed out the reason why I’m cleaning. She asked me questions about my processes. I described my happiest management moments, and some of my key principles and behaviors became clearer. In this process, I also identified some things I was only doing to meet perceived expectations. Through this conversation, we nailed down two of my core values. 

The Soul of My Company

Nurture. I knew in my heart that “nurture” defines me. I knew this was how I felt about my team; they were MY people! I would defend them to the death, and I would look after them no matter what! Team was in there too, at the heart of who I am and how I work. 

The week was intense on many levels, but these thoughts boiled in the back of my mind even while I learned marketing techniques and wrote job descriptions. It took time to hash out my core values, but on the way home, sitting on the plane, I had an epiphany. Respect. Empowerment. Aspire to Excellence. The soul of my company was revealed, and I had my manifesto written before we took off. The core values tripped over each other trying to get out of my head and onto paper. 

Our Manifesto:

“We are one team, a collective, and think that each one of our brilliant team members should be empowered to take the action they deem appropriate to nurture our customers. We honor that, and we stand by it. Enthusiastically happy customers are the measure of our success. We celebrate and reward people who continually make an effort to be the best they can be. We respect the differences in our customers and our individual team members because we realize that, without the people who aren’t like us, we can never be complete, and we can never excel.”  

Coming home I felt differently about my whole business. With my core values in place, it was clear where changes needed to be made in my company, starting with me.  If “aspire to excellence” was a core value, then being passive and only reacting to whatever happened each day, could not be – and never had been – an acceptable business choice. No wonder I was so unhappy about my business in its current state! I wasn’t meeting my own expectations! And, our quality bonus and feedback process would have to change. I had never quite liked it, but now the reason was clear. It didn’t align with my core values. And my process for making phone sales? Clearly insufficient! How could I nurture my clients if I never talked to them? I had dreaded doing phone calls before, but suddenly understanding how these activities aligned with my core values made me eager to answer the phone.

Having my manifesto written down also helped me see that my employees were in many ways already exhibiting our core values. This made it easier for me to think about pulling them into the process as I planned the changes to their bonuses, our feedback process, and brainstorming ideas on how we can nurture our clients in the future.  

Sharing the Vision

We had a team meeting, and before reading, I thanked my employees for their work. “You already embody this,” I said, “I’ve just written it down now so that we can do it even better with new people who come on in the future.” I stood up as I read our manifesto and explained our company’s core values. My employees took everything in. We brainstormed about how to nurture our customers. And the very next day they were already making little changes! By sharing our vision with conviction, I gave them permission to make it their own, and they started immediately. They have already risen to the challenge more than I expected. 

We are just beginning our journey, and I know that not every day will be so easy. Habits take effort to break, we are going to make some mistakes, and we still have a ways to go to become the company we want to be. But we will embrace the hard days too and find our solid ground together, as a team.

Amy Thomas purchased Eastside Housecleaning in December 2011. She is an IICRC-certified House Cleaning Technician. Previously, Amy was in the insurance industry for 18 years. She holds a BS in Business Information Systems from Linfield College.