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June 2006
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August 2006

What is Employee Engagement and Why Should I Care?

Employee Engagement is defined as an employee's willingness and ability to contribute to company's success. Or in other words, the extent to which your employees are willing to put extra effort into their work in the form of extra time, brainpower and energy.

As a cleaning business owner, you might be thinking, yeah right!  Extra effort?  I'm lucky if I can get them to show up to work!  So rather than think of ways to help employees become more "engaged" in their work, some of us would rather continue with the revolving door -- employees continually coming and going. That seems like a lot of work to me!

What can we do as small employers to improve our employees' engagement to their work and our success?

  1. Find out what the competition is doing to keep their employees. What wages are they paying? What benefits do they offer?  Do they have incentive programs?
  2. Implement a meaningful employee recognition or incentive program.
  3. Ask employees for their opinions and ask for feedback. People want to know that their opinion matters, and by involving them in the decision-making process, they'll feel more engaged in their jobs.

When implementing an employee recognition or incentive program, keep in mind the following:

  • Make sure the rewards are meaningful. Think about the lifestyle of your employees and offer rewards that match that lifestyle.
  • Be fair and consistent with all recognition and incentive programs.
  • Don't just hand over a reward. Be sure to communicate to the employee the value of their contribution to the success of your company. Offering public recognition in the form of a meeting or writing about the recognition in the employee newsletter is also important.
  • Consider offering learning opportunities as an incentive. Send employees who show an interest in their job and your company to a workshop that will enhance their skills.
  • Track your incentive programs. Be careful to study the laws surrounding incentives, as they may carry tax consequences.

It doesn't matter how small your cleaning company is. What matters is having employees who are not only committed to their own success, but to yours as well.

Are You Cleaning Your Support Team's Buildings?

Our support team for our cleaning business includes our accountant, insurance agent, and attorney. In our first cleaning business, we built relationships with each of these support team members, and eventually we took over the cleaning at all of their offices. Initially our accountant had an employee who cleaned on the weekends for extra money. However when they built their own building, we were the ones they thought of when making a decision on the cleaning.

Now that we have our second cleaning business, we also clean all the buildings for our support team. All it takes is building those relationships, which results in building trust. Once you have that, the chances are good that they'll want you to clean their offices.

Improving Writing Skills Can Improve Your Cleaning Business Success

Have you ever considered the impact your writing skills (or lack of) has on the success of your cleaning business? If you've never thought about it then perhaps it's time to start.

I can't tell you how many positive comments we've received from customers on the professionalism of our cleaning bid packets. Not only are they impressed with the presentation, but they're impressed with the content, which is grammatically correct, with no typos.

Nothing turns off a prospective customer more than a poorly written bid, brochure, or flyer, filled with bad grammar and typos. The first thought that comes to mind is, "if they turn in a sloppy bid packet (or brochure), then what kind of sloppy work do they do?"

So how can you improve your writing skills? Here are some tips:

  • Read articles by good writers. If you subscribe to trade magazines, read the articles and pay attention to how the sentences are formed.
  • Practice writing every day. The more you practice, the better you get. If you aren't sure what to write about, try journaling -- write about your day.
  • Have someone you know who has good writing skills proof your work. Ask them to make corrections in red so you can see where your mistakes are. Chances are, you probably mis-spell the same words over and over again without even realizing it.
  • Re-read your writing a day later. It helps to read with fresh eyes. See if you can find the errors.
  • Writing doesn't have to be so formal. Write as you speak (without using too much slang or jargon).
  • Use active words rather than passive words. Passive example: The restroom was cleaned by the janitor. Active example: The janitor cleaned the restroom.
  • Keep your paragraphs short and to the point. Don't ramble on.
  • When finished writing, read it out loud to see how it flows.

Even if you have top notch writing skills, it's still a good idea to have someone else proofread your work. Sometimes even the best writers miss typos or other errors.

New Strategy for Gaining New Cleaning Accounts

One of our members at is starting a new cleaning business and wants to differentiate himself from the competition.

His plan is to market his cleaning business as a high-end service that uses premium supplies and equipment. In addition he'll let potential customers know that he's only taking on a limited number of accounts because he's the owner and will be doing all the cleaning personally.

His reasoning is that in his experience working as an employee of a cleaning company, he's seen the owners become frustrated and overwhelmed by complaints due to shortcuts taken by employees. So he'd like to take on just a few accounts and bid them at a high hourly rate, and play up the fact that the cleaning will be performed by someone who has their best interest in mind, not a minimum wage employee who has no vested interest in the quality of work being performed. The other key point is that what he'll be saving in labor is being put into top equipment and supplies.

Personally, I like his marketing strategy. Many customers are concerned about the quality of employees who will be working in their buildings, so knowing the owner is doing the work is a plus for many of them. The key is to demonstrate the value to the potential customer and also to find customers who are willing to pay for great service.

What do you think?  We'd like to hear some other comments. Feel free to post below.

Employee Fired - Our Gain

I have an employee who works part-time a couple nights a week. She does a great job. My supervisors and I were just talking about her and they suggested I ask her if she wanted some extra hours since we had just lost an employee. Then she called me up the same day and told me she'd been fired from her primary job at a restaurant. She was pretty upset about it.

I reassured her that she's a great worker as far as I was concerned and it's their loss (and our gain!). It really bothered her so I suggested she try to let it go and focus on what she needs to do going forward. So I asked her to come in the next day so we could discuss her availability.  It's turned out to be a win-win situation. She doesn't  have to worry long about her job loss, and we're able to fill a void with an even better worker.

Passerby Looking for Cleaning Business

One night I was cleaning an  office building that had several tenants, each with their own front door. I was moving from one office to the next with my cleaning cart and vacuum, when I saw an older gentleman on his regular nightly walk with his dog.

This time, however, he started walking towards me and put his hand up to catch my attention. When he approached he asked me if I'd be interested in bidding on an office building. Never one to turn away business, of course I said yes! So he gave me the number to call and the name of the person to talk to, and then walked away, never identifying himself.

The next day I called the person and told her my story and she told me he was one of the vice presidents of the company. We gave the bid and got the account - a 19,000 square foot building. A couple years later, the company was growing and needed a larger facility so they built a 32.000 square foot office building. Over the years we had built a friendly relationship with the company, so when the time came to move into the new building, they never even took a bid from any other cleaning company. They just had us give our prices and we moved right with them.

Just goes to show -- you never know where your next lead might come from, and if you build relationships with your customers, there's usually no cause for worry that you'll lose the account unless you don't provide the service you promised.

Growing Cleaning Business

One of our members at recently had a customer give a referral and now has a chance to bid on a medical office, which is a niche she'd like to break into. Isn't it great to get referrals from existing customers? It's the best way to gain new business! Since it's a new area for her, she asked for advice from other members, and several have shared their experience and gave tips for cleaning this type of business.

Our member also recently picked up a church, four residential homes, and a new business. Due to the increase in business her husband recently quit his job in order to work full-time in the cleaning business with his wife. They're now actively marketing their business and having great success. Congratulations!