Survey Results: Having a Hard Time Staffing Your Cleaning Business?

In our last blog post, we addressed the question: Where are all the good cleaning technicians?

Most cleaning business owners are singing the blues these days because they're having a hard time finding good employees that stick around. Because of that article, we asked our readers to take a survey that would give us insights into the hiring difficulties cleaning company owners are facing today. 66 business owners responded and here are the results.

What kind of cleaning business do you have?

Residential 23%
Commercial 32%
Both Residential & Commercial 45%



How long has it been since you started your cleaning business?

Less than 1 year 2%
1 to 2 years 6%
3 to 5 years 18%
6 or more years 74%



How big of a challenge is it to find good applicants and fully staff your cleaning business today?

Very challenging – often short staffed, always hiring 47%
Somewhat challenging – occasionally have staff shortages 50%
Not challenging – plenty of candidates, fully staffed 3%



 How serious is your labor situation?

Serious problem right now 21%
Somewhat serious 36%
It’s an issue but not a problem right now 41%
Not a problem 2%



How does your staffing challenges today compare to one or two years ago?

More of a challenge today 48%
The same 41%
Less of a challenge today 11%



On a scale of 1 (not so good) to 4 (excellent). How would your employees rate your cleaning company as a good place to work?

4 – Excellent – everyone loves working here 18%
3 – Very good – much better than other cleaning companies 70%
2 – The same as other cleaning companies 12%
1 – Not as good as other cleaning companies 0%



Please describe what you are doing specifically to make your cleaning business a better place to work. 

Here are the top 12 responses:

• Competitive wages
• IRA and 401K plans
• Paid holidays/PTO
• Quarterly incentives
• Weekly performance bonuses
• Gift cards
• Flexible work hours and schedules
• Employee of the month recognition
• Training programs and ongoing training/certifications
• Care/Listen
• Group Meetings
• Team/positive work atmosphere

Below are some additional comments provided by cleaning business owners on what they're doing to make their business a better place to work:

We just implemented PTO. This will start occurring after employee has been with us for 90 days. For every 8 hrs work they get .25 paid time off. We are really working hard at helping with childcare -- BIG issue with keeping employees. Yearly employee (with family) picnic at a local amusement park. Bonuses for quality assurance checks that pass with a 85% or higher. Starting wage is $10 an hour. Stages of growth in the business ~ work your way to better pay with added responsibilites.

Trying to encourage employees and verbally thank them for being a great employee. This seems to turn the attitude from grumblings to sharing how they were creatively finding a solution to a problem.

Listening to employees concerns and actively doing something about it, when possible, rather than justifying or brushing it off as " I'm the boss and I know better", gives them an appreciated team feeling.

Treat my employees like I would like to be treated in the business. If they have trouble with cleaning certain buildings find ways to fix the problem and help them out.

Hire using results oriented job descriptions. Insist that the Company core drivers are followed at all times, without exception. Train in-house regularly and require outside training and certifications. Hold regular employee meetings and evaluations. Buy far the toughest for me is to holding people accountable.

Lately, we feel like we've won the lottery when it comes to good employees. Because of this and not wanting to lose them, we recently increased their pay across the board. We had discussed needing to pay better in order to attract and maintain better employees, so we decided to raise the pay of the ones we have first. We also like to reward our employees with gift cards. They work hard, so giving them a gift of a massage or a night out to eat let's them know how much we appreciate them. Appreciation goes a long way and it needs to be more than just saying thank you. Our industry is a thankless one, we rarely hear a thank you from our clients, so we try to make sure our employees know how much they're appreciated to us.

I am going to focus on developing a stronger and more positive culture. I have at times been negative. I have been negative at finding people to work because I don't think they want to work, so when I schedule an interview, 9 times out of 10 they don't show up and I just get discouraged. I am looking at different ways to interview.

I feel as though we are moving in a good direction and after years created the "ideal" employee checklist to interview with as a guideline, allowing us at this time and the near future to be ok. Of course, with the appeal of the minimum wage increase slated to happen for some of the bigger companies, I feel that will have a great impact, no matter how much we care or listen. That is my concern now.

We have an employee of the month with a gift card for $25-50. We pay a current employee $100.00 for finding a good worker if they stay for 90 days. We are thinking about a star sticker program for employee's that keep their Janitor closets clean and neat. Keep our back pack vacuums well maintained especially the extension cords, from pulling out the pig tail from the vacuum, and keep the cord untwisted and damaged. I replace currently no less than 8-10 extension cords every month plus pick up at least 1-6 backpacks due to neglect and pulled out or shorted pigtails, or ruined extension cords due to either end plug end shorts, plus cord bare wires shorting out etc. We have a very real equipment neglect issues which extend much farther into very expense cleaning machines. Etc.

My staff clock in and out at our office the beginning and end of each day making it easy to communicate with the team leaders about their day. We begin each day with a smile and a "Good Morning" and end it with "How did your day go?" "I'll see you tomorrow!" Each teams next days schedule is posted on the wall so they can see what is coming up on the following day. We schedule the same team together as much as possible. We provide 6 paid holidays and two weeks paid vacations. We provide company uniforms and company vehicles, no one has to drive their own vehicles.  I conduct mandatory, weekly staff meetings each Friday morning to review training issues so everyone works from the same page. Our employee training manuals are complete and organized with a copy in each vehicle.

I stay very positive. I praise very loud and publicly. I reprimand privately. I am constantly discovering fun ways to coach, games, contests and while challenging to "rise above" other cleaning techs in service and skill. The bottom line, this is a very physical service and not a lot of people can do it well. I'm thankful for the staff I have! They make my business successful!

Prior to starting my cleaning business I was a Human Resources Director in the hotel industry for 15 years. So I have a very strong background in Team Member Relations and creating a professional positive and fun work environment. There are many things I've done but if I were to sum it all up into one this. Keeping the team members engaged with each other and the business. Make them feel like they are a valuable part of the business. Listen to them, implement their ideas and suggestions and if there's a "bad apple" in the bunch who, after coaching and counseling, won't change their negative behavior; they need to be kicked off the team and replaced. Also get the cleaners involved in the interviewing process and let them be a part of the hiring decisions.

Incentives, bonuses, flexible schedules, positive atmosphere, do not yell or demean when correcting a problem.

1- We recognize Team Members b-days, have donuts periodically or pan dulce, have "graduation celebrations" when Team Members become certified (and a pay increase comes with it), 6 month reviews with opportunity to increase pay by $0.80 / hr per review, weekly team reviews (we work in teams of 2), providing feedback - accomplishments as well as opportunities, we have favorite candy bars and sodas that they can get when doing something well, we hand out gift cards for lunches when team members are caught doing something well - make a customer's day.

The culture of Family first, This assures the ladies if one of the children get sick or a family emergency they are don't have to worry about job security. The have weekends off, and I have developed a great team who enjoy working together and serving our customers.

We try to pay higher than our competitors. We offer paid vacation after 1 year. We offer gift certificates throughout the year to local dining or bonuses when an employee has gone over and beyond.

Better pay than competition, thorough training practices~10 hours before out in the field, professional in all aspects, respect for their ideas and efforts, incentives.

Highest pay in the area, paid holidays (6), up to 5 paid personal time off, up to 5 more unpaid days off, 3 paid sick days, 401K for every employee even the 1 to 2 day part timers

Better pay, vacation and help when necessary picking up children of employees. We give some people that have a hard time finding work a chance.

We have water and soft drinks in the fridge. We have cookies, chips, or buy some food to have in the fridge just in case we have a long working day.

We pay slightly more and strive to make it a great place to work; fun and motivating while holding employees accountable rather than just praising their every move. The accountability piece lets them know we care and want them to be the best they can be.

Give each person time to say what might make the jobs go better for them. Main thing I found  is to let them have their concerns be heard.

Give my cleaning technicians quarterly incentive. 
Start a birthday club gift for every employee.
Training evaluation based on machine operation to increase wages.
Prize giving ceremony at the end of year for staff who have excelled in all areas.

Reward for great customer service performance and job performance with bonuses, gift cards and certificates.

I promote when needed and encourage them to strive to become a leader.

We attend several webinars on cleaning, social media training, customer service, etc.

We have monthly communication meetings and strategic trainings with staff.

I provide everything they need to make their job easier.

We are involved in charity events and I donate food for their families from food drives.

We provide eco-friendly cleaning products

Yearly employee (with family) picnic at a local amusement park


Please share the top two ways you’ve found good employees.

#1 - Referrals 58%

#2 - Craigslist 27%

Facebook 12% 8%

Local trade schools, college websites 6%

Local Employment Office, Job Service or Workforce Center 6%

Classified ads in local papers 5%

Church bulletin board 3%

Local Chamber of Commerce 3% 3%

Local staffing firms/Temp agencies 2%

Networking 2%

Career Builder 2% 2%

Help wanted signs/walk-ins 2%



Please describe if your current labor problem continues, how will it change the way you operate your cleaning business?

Below are comments provided by cleaning business owners:

I believe the labor problem, from what I have read, is with any industry that employs hourly personnel. I see the problem in a lot of places around any community... Fast food, retail, light industrial, etc. The wage rate we are required to pay is quite attractive and comes with fringes, so as janitorial work goes, we are paying well.

I just experienced a growth spurt (yeah me!) and also had some of my strong employees leave (they were college students and graduated and got "real jobs"-can you believe that...the nerve!) so I ended up reevaluating my staff.

I feel as though we are moving in a good direction and after years created the "ideal" employee checklist to interview with as a guideline, allowing us at this time and the near future to be ok. Of course, with the appeal of the minimum wage increase slated to happen for some of the bigger companies, I feel that will have a great impact, no matter how much we care or listen. That is my concern now.

Biggest problem is that the uber taxis of the cleaning world are taking potential candidates -- especially here -- with the lure of inflated wages that don't reflect the high cost of payroll taxes or other costs that legit companies like mine incur. It's also raising wage expectations of existing staff that do keep an eye to or hear about what is posted on job boards. The other big issue is the improving economy -- it's great for demand for our services, but bad for hiring as people have way more job options.

It will stunt our growth, we have more cleaning jobs than we have employee's which means we are always jumping in to help in order to get the request handled. We have hired young ladies 18-25 and most just don't have that work ethic developed yet. We have hire older ladies 50-65 and they poop out after the first home or complain my back hurts, my legs hurt, my elbow hurts etc. We have hired men and most just don't seem to have that cleaning gene in them or have that attention to detail. We have found that out best workers are ladies 30-50 years old. This has been our experiences.

Not being able to find and retain good employees is definitely impeding growth. Clients are easy to get, employees not so much. There was a point or couple of points in time over the last few years that I thought I was going to have to shut my doors due to not being able to find staff. I literally culled through my client base and had to let go of clients that were not real profitable so that I could get better paying clients in to do more with less. That was scary. That was in 2012 and not much has changed on the hiring front. We just try to do more with less. I guess I am happy to just maintain our current volume and no longer strive for the 7 figure revenues. I am in Massachusetts which is a very democratic liberal state. There isn't much incentive for people to get out and work when they can be paid by the state to stay home and collect welfare, vouchers, free health care, free housing and fuel assistance. I can feel myself winding up so will stop here :)

It's hard to be motivated to grow the business knowing that a few weeks after you hire someone, they quit showing up or you have to let them go because they don't do a good job. Then, the new building falls on us to do and we're trying to decrease the hands-on work on us, not increase it. My husband and I can't be everywhere and do everything and when there are call outs, the work falls on us. So, we aren't excited anymore to get more business.

If a labor problem were to continue I just wouldn't be able to grow my Company as fast as I would like to. Although I'd rather grow it slowly and make sure I have the right cleaners in place then to just hire a warm body who it thrown into cleaning and then we start getting a lot of complaints from the clients.

We will be working with our Team Members to identify what they believe would benefit those most and make them most likely to stay and refer us to friends - pay, paid time off, company vehicles, other benefits???

I need more people who drive, this is what hurts my business the most. The rise of minimum wage and what my budget allows from clients payments makes finding the right person a bit harder than 5 yrs ago.

My labor problem seems to be people that interview well, then turn out to be flakes. Dependability is a big issue as well as the physical exercise involved in cleaning, though this is emphasized in the job ad and the interview. Many seem to want to be paid but only put in minimal effort and call it good. If the current labor problem continues, and I end up with more clients than I can serve, I will place them on a waiting list until they can be served with confidence.

Our most difficult areas to staff are outside of the 50 mile radius of our office. We have decided to get rid of most of those accounts. It takes too much time and effort from our management to fill those positions and they have to clean the buildings if we don't have staff.

I started my business from the bottom and I know how the community works and how to help employees in my industry feel that they work for a good company. So, I will continue to create innovate ideas and motivate our employees.

Really not sure.... We are intrigued by the idea of hiring foreign workers as it seems many Americans in our local market do not like manual labor.

I can only get bigger as I get better!

It will not change the way I do business.

I am always looking for new and innovative ideas that will attract and retain excellent employees. Retention is really the key to providing consistency to our clients and giving the business an opportunity to grow. If I am constantly refilling lost employees, I am spinning my wheels and not progressing forward. I also lose a good bit of money hiring and training employees, so if the turnover continues I will be in a constant cycle of losing money.

It's a challenge, but not that serious of a problem to warrant changing the way we have done business.

Move away from adding more Janitorial accounts and focus on specialty services that require fewer employees to operate.

My business will suffer because the time I take to do operations takes away from my time to sell (bring in new business).

It's hard to be motivated to grow the business knowing that a few weeks after you hire someone, they quit showing up or you have to let them go because they don't do a good job.

We have been forced to reduce work. I can't see any other way just yet.

I am fearful that I may eventually become so exhausted and worn down from this that I will give up the business.

If the current daytime labor shortage continues, we will have to shut down the daytime residential cleaning division; and rely on commercial contracts to take up the slack in revenues.

I have too many requests for cleaning to keep up with and may go back to simply keeping the same regular cleaning jobs without expanding. Once I take on new jobs and an employee quits I am stuck filling in myself for lack of subs.

More project cleaning using less regular employees and higher pay. Contracting.

If a labor problem were to continue I just wouldn't be able to grow my Company as fast as I would like to.

We will have to hire more overseas workers if local recruitment efforts continue to be less than satisfactory.

Just being able to give each one more income. I feel that"s what needs to be.

My labor problem seems to be people that interview well, and then turn out to be flakes. Dependability is a big issue as well as the physical exercise involved in cleaning, though this is emphasized in the job ad and the interview. Many seem to want to be paid but only put in minimal effort and call it good.

If the current labor problem continues, and I end up with more clients than I can serve, I will place them on a waiting list until they can be served with confidence.

This could change the way I operate my cleaning business by decreasing employee hours,

I feel as I am competing against our welfare system, I really don't see an end to it. I have staff that has been with us for over 5 years, seems the people that really need the money don't want to work.

We have already stopped promoting for new clients so we're on pause. Closing down is going to happen once we have another income stream in place.

Hiring Blues: Where Are All The Good Cleaning Technicians?

I've been hearing a lot of cleaning business owners singing the blues lately, and it's all because they can't seem to find good cleaning technicians. And just when they think they've found some good people, they either don't show up for work or they quit after a month or two.

The unfortunate result of this scenario is that there are a lot of frustrated owners out there who are no longer willing to put in the effort to thoroughly train employees for fear that it's all just a big waste of time. And thus begins that vicious cycle we've seen in our industry for years - high turnover.

The danger for business owners is the shift that happens when their frustration becomes apparent to the people around them. Frustration leads to bad attitudes, and bad attitudes will change the entire culture of your business. Even your most productive and most engaged employees are susceptible to that negative culture, and may seek employment elsewhere if they have to put up with all the negativity.

How Do You Find Cleaning Technicians That Stick Around?


Unfortunately there is no silver bullet to this problem. With increasing minimum wages, competition for employees, thin profit margins, and restrictive labor laws, it's becoming increasingly harder to find good help.

Even the companies that are succeeding have to actively recruit employees regularly in order to keep the pipeline full. But it's more than just having a steady stream of prospects to choose from. That phrase, "slow and steady wins the race" applies here. And it starts with you, the owner, and the culture you create for your business.

It's not easy to create a positive culture in an industry that is typically perceived as low-end and low-paying. But it is possible to attract and retain good cleaning technicians. I've seen companies that are making it work. In fact, here is a quote from one of our LinkedIn group members about how he is able to steal away employees from his competition:

"Trust me, if you separate yourself from the competition in terms of how you treat your employees, they will tell others who work for competitors and they will come knocking. This has been happening frequently with us for years now."

Another example of a company that literally wrote the book on creating a culture in the cleaning industry that helps it's employees thrive is Jancoa. The book The Dream Manager is based on what Mary and Tony Miller did to turn their company around.

The reality is that for most people, their cleaning job is a stepping stone to what they really want; so if you can get 3 to 5 years out of a cleaning technician, you're doing great. Jancoa is helping their employees reach their dreams, so they are retaining most employees participating in the program for at least 3 to 5 years.  

Market Your Business to Prospective Cleaning Technicians

People don't usually think about marketing when hiring employees, but that's exactly what you need to do. Marketing is all about attracting people to what you have to offer. It's no different when seeking employees. If you want to find good employees you must attract them. 

Think about it this way. Many of us rely on word of mouth to grow our business. When your customers have a great experience with your business, they are more likely to tell others about you. The same holds true for employees. If you have engaged employees that enjoy working for your company, they're more likely to recommend you as an employer. And the good news about that is, they're going to tell their circle of friends, who typically share the same attitudes and values. And if your best employees are recommending your business, it's very likely these will be the kind of people you want to hire. So encourage your best employees to promote your job openings to their circle of friends.

You'll also need a strategy for marketing your job openings in order to get even more candidates  in the door. But instead of the traditional employment ad where you list the position, FT or PT, and the hours they'll be working, focus on the benefits and experience they'll enjoy when working for your company. 

If you read our last blog post on attracting and retaining top talent, you'll know that 41% of employees say job security is a key reason to join an organization. So talk about that in your employment ad. Ask your best employees why they love working for you and use that to attract more candidates. Other things that are important to candidates are career advancement opportunities, learning opportunities, and your organization's reputation as a good employer.

Hire for Attitude, Train for Skill

If you don't want problems right off the bat, be sure to hire for attitude. As the saying goes, this job is not rocket science, and although not everyone is cut out for cleaning, most people can learn to do the job if they get the right training. It's better to hire a dependable, hard working employee with a cheerful attitude than it is to hire an "experienced" cleaner with a negative attitude. The point to remember is to hire people who will work well with the team and within your culture.

If you don't believe me when I say to hire for attitude, train for skill, then take a look at companies like Southwest Airlines. Southwest has followed this philosophy for 30 years and is known for its customer service. And the jobs available at Southwest are much more complex than a cleaning technician job. 

One more point about hiring decisions. And that is to look for people that are coachable. Being coachable means "the ability to accept and implement feedback from bosses, colleagues, customers and others". So ask questions that will help to uncover their coachbility, such as, "If I call your last supervisor, what will he/she tell me are your weaknesses?" If they can't come up with any weaknesses, they're probably not very coachable.

If you'd like more information on how to hire for attitude and how to determine if people are coachable, check out the book "Hiring for Attitude" by Mark Murphy. 

Remember that none of this happens over night (slow and steady wins the race, remember?).  Be patient through the process as you work on improving your hiring and training process as well as your marketing strategy for attracting better candidates. And keep in mind that your competitors are likely struggling too so if you can improve your culture, chances are you'll be able to steal away some of your competitors best cleaning technicians.

Employer vs Employee Perspective Differs When it Comes to Attracting and Retaining Top Talent

In 2014 Towers Watson conducted a Global Talent Management and Rewards study.  The study included 32,000 participants, who helped to uncover both employer and employee perspectives on trends and issues shaping the global workplace.

Here are some of the findings. The interesting thing about each of these findings is the differing viewpoint of employers versus employees. 

Job Security:

  • 41% of employees say job security is a key reason to join an organization
  • 26% of employers say job security is a key reason to join an organization



Attraction Drivers - Employer View:

1. Career advancement opportunities

2. Base pay / Salary

3. Challenging work

4. Organization's reputation as a good employer

5. Organization's mission/vision/values

6. Learning and development opportunities

7. Job security

Attraction Drivers - Employee View:

1. Base pay / Salary

2. Job security

3. Careen advancement opportunities

4. Learning and development opportunities

5. Challenging work

6. Organization's reputation as a good employer

7. Vacation / Paid time off

Retention Drivers - Employer View:

1. Base pay / Salary

2. Career advancement opportunities

3. Relationship with supervisor / manager

4. Manage / Limit work-related stress

5. Learning and development opportunities

6. Short-term incentives

7. Challenging work

Retention Drivers - Employee View:

1. Base pay / Salary

2. Career advancement opportunities

3. Trust / Confidence in senior leadership

4. Job security

5. Length of commute

6. Relationship with supervisor / manager

7. Manage / Limit work-related stress

As you can see, what is important to employees is not necessarily what is perceived to be important by employers. This may result in employers focusing on things that are not as important to candidates in their marketing efforts to attract and retain top talent.

My suggestion is to poll your own employees and have them rank these items in order of importance. Take a good look at the insight you can gain from this and how you might adjust your talent search to focus on what is truly important to job candidates in your type of business.

How To Get A Meeting With A Cleaning Prospect That's Gone Silent

One of the most frequently asked questions we get from cleaning business owners goes something like this:

"I met with a prospect who loved my presentation and seemed ready to hire us, but now he's gone silent. How can I get him to make a decision?"

First, you never want to leave a meeting without stating what will happen next (ie: you'll call next Tuesday at 9am). Assuming that didn't happen, here are some tips to re-engage your prospect. But first...

What NOT to do when following up with a cleaning prospect:

  • DON'T send an email follow-up that looks like this: "I'm just following up to see if you're still interested in hiring our cleaning company." It sounds desperate and does nothing to prompt them into action.
  • DON'T send a follow-up email that says how interested you are in working with him or her. That isn't going to make an impression or get him or her to take action.


Do this instead to nudge your cleaning prospect:

  • Find a better reason to stay in touch, instead of sending desperate emails. Everyone talks about adding value by sending an interesting article you think your prospect might be interested in. Take it a step further and send them an article that YOU have written that demonstrates your expertise. And make sure it's a topic they'd be interested in or that is important to their business. For example, maybe there's a recent flu outbreak and you've written a blog post on how to prevent the spread of germs in an office setting. 

  • Mail them something of value. Our clients loved our monthly newsletter. And yes, we actually printed it out and mailed it to them. They are much more likely to open something that lands on their desk than they are to open an email newsletter, where it's easy to hit the Delete key. We also sent it to prospects that we really wanted to do business with. In our initial meeting we gave them a copy, and then continued to mail it to them. In one case, our prospect was in the early stages of building a 50,000 sq ft, Class A office building. It took several months, but instead of badgering them with phone calls, we stayed in touch with the newsletter. And we were the first ones they called when it came time to submit proposals.

  • Think about what might make the timing of a follow-up meeting important right now. Maybe winter is just ending and you know their floors are in desperate need of professional cleaning. 
  • Give them a reason to be interested. You had them engaged in your first meeting, so find a way to re-engage them. Think back to what their issues are with the current cleaning service. For example, you could say something like, "At our last meeting you mentioned that you are tired of the soap dispensers running out of soap all the time. I have an idea on how to fix that problem." Remember, it's not about you; it's about your prospect's problems and how you can fix them.

  • Find a client or colleague who can give them a nudge. LinkedIn is a great resource for finding common connections with clients and prospects. Maybe a current client who knows Mr. Prospect would be willing to put in a good word.

A tip regarding your cleaning prospect's preferred method of communication

Many of us are so used to text messaging instead of actually calling people, that we simply assume that everyone is ok with it. But before you start bothering your prospect with text messages, find out their preference early on. 

During your first call or meeting, get their cell phone number. Afterwards, send a text message to say you've added him or her as a contact and are looking forward to your next meeting. You'll know by the reply you get (or don't get), whether or not texting is a good way to stay in touch. If they do reply, be sure to use texting responsibly: do not badger them with texts, text them during business hours only, spell out words and use short sentences. In other words, don't text like a teenager if you know what I mean (lol)...

If you've been following up regularly for about 3 months without response, it's time to give it a rest

Sometimes the timing just isn't right. It doesn't necessarily mean they'll never hire you. We've had prospects contact us a year or more after our initial meeting, finally ready to make the switch. Check back in 6 months or so to see if you get a response. If not, let it go and put the ball in their court by letting them contact you when they're ready. 

Go Deep Into One Target Market Before Being A One-Stop-Shop For All Your Cleaning Clients

One of our members at The Janitorial Store recently asked us about being a one-stop-shop for all his cleaning clients. This is nothing new in the cleaning industry and we do recommend that you provide many services to your clients. 

There are a couple reasons for being a one-stop-shop:

  1. First, you become the go-to service provider for just about everything your client might need. Not only is it convenient for them, it's profitable for you.
  2. Second, you keep competitors from getting these extra services and potentially stealing away your clients.

But before you start targeting several different markets and offering many different services, take a step back and come up with a plan to do it successfully. I've seen too many cleaning companies lose control because they're moving in a hundred different directions, quickly burning themselves out with the chaos of the situation. 

Are you a One Stop Shop for Cleaning Clients?

If you want to be a one-stop-shop for your cleaning clients, then consider this:

The first thing you want to do is to go deep into one target market, mastering that sector before diving into other markets. For example, if you want to target office buildings, then really learn that market well, and learn how to offer all those extra services like windows, carpets and hard floor care so that you're the one-stop-shop for that market.

Once you have that experience under your belt, then start thinking about how to approach your next target market and what you need to know. For example, if you want to go into medical office cleaning, what expertise do you need for that particular market? Your next goal might be to add educational facilities. That's fine, just keep in mind that you don't want to be all things to all target markets until you get really good at one or two in the beginning.

The added advantage of going deep with select groups of target markets

The added advantage of going deep with a select group of target markets is that you start to build a reputation for being an expert at that type of facility. We used to clean a lot of banks. We gained the reputation in town of being the trustworthy company that were experts at cleaning banks. In fact, when employees moved from one bank to another, they often recommended our service to the decision maker because they noticed their new bank wasn't as clean as the one they just left. The more bank branches we cleaned, the easier it was to build that part of our business.

Once you have things up and running with with a few clients in place and supervisors running the day to day operations, you'll have more time to research what you need to know in the new market you're going after. You need this time to get the education needed, to train your people and build the connections that will help you achieve your goal of serving this new market.

None of this happens overnight. But if you want to become a stronger, healthier cleaning company, then being strategic about your growth will help you maintain control and avoid the chaos of trying to be all things to all people. 

Do You Make These Mistakes When Terminating Cleaning Technicians?

No one likes to think about terminating cleaning technicians, but it's inevitable. As a business owner it's your job to determine when and how to terminate employees. It's also your job to make sure any management personnel know the rules for termination.

Some business owners hate terminating cleaning techicians so much that they put it off until they're "up to here" with frustration. But this is the worst time to let someone go. The chance that you'll make a mistake increases when you're frustrated and upset. So make sure you're calm and collected before you fire an employee.


Here are some common mistakes cleaning business owners make when terminating cleaning technicians

  1. Taking your anger out on the employee during termination. If you raise your voice, use foul language, or even fire the employee in front of their peers, there is a good chance the employee will retaliate. This retaliation could be in the form of a lawsuit for wrongful termination or filing an unemployment claim. He or she may even make threats against the company, other employees, you personally, or even your family.

    And don't forget about the power of social media. Disgruntled, terminated employees will spread the bad word all over the Internet. Whenever terminating employees, be sure to treat them with respect, no matter how frustrated you are. If they're not a good fit for your company, then explain it calmly and with as much courtesy as you can muster.

  2. Terminating without warning. There are some cases where this is acceptable, such as in the case of obvious theft or abuse against a fellow employee. But in most cases, terminating without warning is not a good practice.

    Give employees every chance to improve their performance. If they're not performing to standard, talk to them first. If the poor performance continues, create written documentation. Taking these steps helps you get all your ducks in a row should you need to terminate the employee down the road. And it ensures the termination won't be a surprise to the employee. It will also help deflect wrongful termination lawsuits and give you ground to stand on should you need to present your case to an unemployment judge.

  3. Putting the blame on something other than the employee's performance. Some employers will actually blame the termination on downsizing or lack of business. The problem with this is that your employee will probably go straight to the unemployment office and start collecting unemployment compensation, which will affect your SUTA rates. And you won't be able to fight it without the truth coming out, which won't go well for your company.

Termination Best Practices

  • Create a progressive discipline policy for your company so you have a process and forms for documenting all discussions and warnings.

  • Train all managers and supervisors on your termination policy and process. There is nothing worse than allowing your supervisors to terminate employees without training them on how to keep your company out of hot water.

  • Never terminate an employee when you are angry or frustrated. If it's a situation where immediate termination is necessary, take a few deep breaths to try and calm yourself before taking action.

  • Have a witness with you such as a manager or supervisor whenever terminating another employee -- especially if you anticipate resistance or anger from the employee.

  • Always terminate employees in a private location away from other cleaning employees or employees of the building in the case of a commercial location. If you're terminating a residential cleaning employee, do it in the privacy of your office - not in a client's home. If possible, do it before or after the employee's shift so as not to create a lot of disruption in the workplace.

  • Prepare paperwork ahead of time such as a termination statement, copies of previous write-ups to refer to, any forms relating to possession of company property, and your policy on final paychecks and termination of benefits.

Termination is never pleasant, but when you are prepared and calm, it doesn't have to be stressful. Treat the employee with courtesy respect, and move on quickly so you can fill the position with an employee that is a better fit for your cleaning company.

Getting Your Supervisors Ready To Run Your Cleaning Business Without You

As cleaning business owners, we've all given thought to what would happen to our business should an emergency happen and we couldn't be there. Are your supervisors ready to run your cleaning business without you?

If the answer is no, then it's time to step up and make plans for this day because it's inevitable. You know that if your cleaning business can't run efficiently without you there every day, then you'll never be able to grow the business. You simply can't expect the business to grow until you can step away and let your supervisors take over for the time you need to be away.

You also need to let them take over more of the day-to-day tasks of running the operation so you can use more of your time leading the business in the direction you want to grow.

The problem most business owners have is that so much of what happens on a day to day basis is locked up in their heads. They have no written systems. For example, do you have a system for how you'll get a job covered when someone calls in sick at the last minute? And what happens when someone doesn't bother to call? Who is checking to make sure every employee has shown up? And what is the process for making sure the work gets done when you have a no-show?

It's Hard to Let Go of Control of Your Cleaning Business

I get's hard to do but it simply must be done! Here are a few tips to help you get started.

Get organized and teach them to think like you do

Before you relinquish control of specific tasks you must document your system. Perhaps the best place to start is to give your supervisors a Quality Control checklist so they know exactly what you're looking for when it comes to the appearance of each account. This is not just a specifications list. This is a list of your expectations. For example; no cobwebs behind doors and no dust on chair legs in the reception area. When they know what you look for, they're more apt to look for the same results when doing a post-cleaning walk-through.

Establish standards

Along with documenting systems, you must also establish operating standards. If you want the phone to be answered no later than the third ring, make sure they understand that. If you want client phone calls returned within an hour, make sure it's added to your list. Without these standards, they'll make their own decisions, which likely won't match your expectations.

Be open to other options

As cleaning business owners we set our own standards of acceptable performance and we expect our employees to follow suit. But it's important to be open to other options suggested by our employees and supervisors. Sometimes we must realize that other approaches to the same task may be as good, or even better that your own. So be open to their feedback before carving it in stone.

Compare results versus activities 

Some people take twice as long to do something as the next person, which impacts the bottom line. Train your supervisors to look for results first, then be on alert for productivity standards. If they're getting the results you're looking for in the time allowed, then congratulate them on a job well done. But if their results are slowing down the overall productivity of the team, then a course-correction may be needed.

Be a coach


Coaches lead their team and teach them how to be the best they can be. So if you want to be able to take a vacation away from the business, or be able to leave at a moment's notice when there's an emergency, then you must teach your staff how to run the business in your absence.

If you want them to take over your responsibilities then you must teach them how to do those tasks. In fact, if you are doing tasks that your supervisors are perfectly capable of doing, then you're standing in the way of their professional development. Plus it may be sending them the message that you don't think they're capable of doing the job properly. And your business may suffer if your qualified supervisors leave for companies that allow them to improve their skills and advance in their career. So get out of your own way and let them help you manage the business.

Start giving up tasks a little at a time

Now that you've made the decision to train your supervisors to take on more responsibility, don't dump it on them all at once. Start slowly. If you want your supervisors to start writing the schedule, teach them how do it and then let them get the system down before teaching them something new. And don't nit-pick if they don't "dot their I's and cross their T's" exactly the way you do. Instead, look at the consistency of their results. If they get the same or better results than you, then don't waste energy on pointing out a typo that really doesn't matter to the big picture.

Encourage them to make decisions and approach you with new ideas

If you never give your supervisors the chance to try new things or make suggestions on how to do something better, they'll shut down and you'll never know their true potential. In fact, they'll probably start coming to you with every little thing to get your stamp of approval in fear that they'll make the wrong decision. That defeats the purpose of having them learn to manage the day-to-day activities of your business.

Giving them that decision-making responsibility may slow things down a bit at first, but remember that it's part of the learning prcess.

Become a good listener and ask a lot of questions

To be a good coach to your supervisors, you must listen to their point of view respectfully and then get really good at asking the right questions. They'll respect you more if you ask questions rather than shut them down for making a bad decision.

Delegate, don't abdicate

The final piece of advice for getting your supervisors to run the business without you is to never simply "hand over the keys to the store", so to speak.

It's great to be able to hand over more responsibility to your supervisors, but without documenting, teaching and ongoing coaching, you're setting them up for failure. And you're setting yourself up for disappointment. So take it slow, follow the tips outlined here, and allow your staff to shine.

I like this quote from Dwight D. Eisenhower because when you have people that WANT to do something, they don't need you there to make sure it gets done.

"Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it." 

If you would like help with training your supervisors to run your business without you, invest in a training program that develops their supervisory skills.

Janitorial Supervisor Training Program

Team Leader Training Program
(for residential cleaning supervisors)




6 Reasons Your Cleaning Staff Isn't Doing Their Job

Every day cleaning business owners become frustrated because they feel their cleaning staff isn't doing their job -- at least not to their satisfaction.

In most cases we figure they just don't care. It's just a cleaning job after all. But not everyone is satisfied to just get by, and they really do want to do a good job. So before you write it off as their being just a marginal employee, take a deeper look into what the underlying problem might be.


6 reasons cleaning technicians fail to live up to your standards

1. They don't understand what you want.
You've been doing this a long time and know exactly the results you're looking for. But that doesn't mean your employees do. The things that seem obvious to you may not be obvious to an employee that hasn't been properly trained. Your employee may think they're doing a great job cleaning sink faucets. But they don't understand that leaving streaks on shiny chrome is not the result you're looking for. Yes, you can tell they wiped it, but you're looking for spotless chrome with no streaks.

2. They don't understand why it's important.
Your cleaning technician may think you're just being nit-picky when you point out that they left streaks on the sink faucets. But they probably haven't considered why it's so important to you. From your experience, you know that if the client comes in right after the cleaning and sees the streaks, they think your company does sloppy work and doesn't pay attention to detail. So don't just point out what they're doing wrong, explain why it's important.

3. They don't understand how to do it.
People are sometimes afraid to admit that they don't understand how to do something -- especially if they've been yelled at for doing it wrong. Instead of asking for help they might just keep their mouth shut. Maybe they're using too much cleaning chemical on their cleaning cloth, which is why they continue to leave streaks on the sink faucets. Ongoing training can help the employees that may not fully understand what they're doing wrong.

4. They've come up with another way to do it.
Sometimes people come up with their own way of doing something. Instead of immediately shutting them down and insisting they do it your way, look at their results. If they're getting good results and doing it within the alloted time, does it really matter that they're not doing it exactly the way you want? Maybe they've come up with a better way that can improve the rest of your employees' performance.

5. They can't do it.
If employees aren't physically or mentally capable of doing what you want, it doesn't necessarily mean they're incompetent; it just means they've been put into a position they're not meant for. For example, if you put a "people person" into a job that has no interaction with others, chances are they won't be happy and you'll end up with performance problems. But just because they're not good at the job you've given them, doesn't mean they aren't perfect for another.

6. They won't do it. 
If you've exhausted all the other possibilities, you've reinforced all their training, and the employee still isn't willing to do what you need done; then it's decision time. Do yourself and your employee a favor and free them up to pursue a job they're more suited to. That will free up their position and allow you to find an employee that can meet your expectations.

Sometimes the cleaning staff we hire are not living up to our expectations and don't seem well-suited for the job. But before you "fire fast", consider that it's not easy finding good employees, so make sure you do your part in giving them every chance to succeed before resorting to termination.

QUESTION: Do you ever feel your cleaning staff isn't doing their job? What are you doing to improve the situation? Post your comments below.

Choose Your Destiny: Will You Live ABOVE the Line or BELOW the Line?

I recently attended a half-day workshop on business planning for 2015. I'll admit I haven't been that great at planning ahead for the upcoming year, and worse yet, implementing our growth plan. I'm sure many of you can relate to this.

Cleaning business owners often get so bogged down in the day to day running of their business, they often don't take the time to plan for what they need in the upcoming year. And one thing I learned in this workshop is that when we keep our nose to the grindstone and ignore what's really happening in our business, we have two paths we can take. In fact we can consciously choose our own destiny. And the choice we have is to live "Above the Line" or to live "Below the Line".

What does Living Above or Below the Line mean?

Successful business owners that continuously move forward in their business are generally living Above the Line. In other words, when things get tough, they do 3 things:

  1. They take Ownership of what's happening in their business
  2. They take Accountability
  3. They accept Responsibility

Unsuccessful business owners that continually struggle in their business are generally living Below the Line. In other words, when things get tough, they do 3 things:

  1. They Blame others for what's happening in their business
  2. They make Excuses
  3. They're in Denial (oftentimes about the numbers)

People who live Above the Line behave like VICTORS
People who live Below the Line behave like VICTIMS


NOTE: I'd like to give credit to Barb Zulegar of Performance Partners for introducing me to this concept of living above or below the line.

Which are you? Please share your thoughts below.

Survey on Holiday Parties Hosted by Cleaning Business Owners

Have you ever wondered if other cleaning business owners host holiday parties for their employees?

I just came across the results of an SHRM 2013 survey on holiday parties, so I thought I'd share these results and take our own survey of cleaning business owners. I'll share the results in a couple weeks.

Holiday Party Facts

(Based on SHRM 2013 survey)

66% of companies threw holiday or end-of-year parties last year.

8% asked workers to pay for guests.

45% didn't allow guests.

10% asked employees to bring food, decorate, buy tickets, give money or otherwise contribute.

42% held gatherings during business hours.

How did your cleaning business compare?

We asked cleaning business owners the same questions and here is how they responded.

36% of respondents own residential cleaning companies
36% of respondents own commercial clenaing companie
28% of responsents own both residential and commercial cleaning companies

Did you throw a holiday or end of year party this year?

Yes - 71%
No - 29%

Did you allow your employees to bring guests?

Yes - 46%
No - 54%

Did you ask your employees to pay for their guests?

Yes - 0%
No - 100%

Did you ask your employees to bring food, decorate, buy tickets, give money, or otherwise contribute?

Yes - 0%
No - 100%

Did you hold your gathering during business hours?

Yes - 46%
No - 54%

A few comments shared by contributors:

  • We have a staff of 8 and have regular pot luck gatherings and the ladies chose to do the same for Christmas this year. 
  • We catered lunch and desserts in and arranged the schedule  so that all could attend.
  • Bowling party with catered food.  Did not purchase any alcohol.
  • We do not have company parties because of legal issues. 
  • Middle Management and executive team only.
  • Everyone partook in a "Kris Kringle" gift exchange.  Gift not to exceed $15.00.  Refreshments were served, in our office. 
  • We do something different every year.  Last year spouses came for comedy show and dinner and drinks

If you did not take the survey, share your comments regarding holiday parties below.