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December 2012
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February 2013

Are You Confusing Motion With Progress In Your Cleaning Business?

Most cleaning business owners are in the thick of things every day, swamped with a huge to-do list. But do you ever feel like you're riding a rocking horse? In other words, are you creating lots of motion back and forth, but never really making any progress?

Some days you might actually feel like you were very productive because you were busy going from one project to the next all day long. You paid some bills, responded to emails, did some research on a piece of equipment you wanted to buy, talked to a couple clients, cleaned out your email again, made a trip to the bank, and stopped by a couple accounts to check in with employees.

You were busy! Yet, you really didn't do anything to move your business forward. You still didn't take any action on that employee with the chronic bad attitude -- the one that other employees are complaining about. You didn't do any marketing activities -- in fact you skipped the monthly Chamber of Commerce networking event because you were too busy fixing a vacuum cleaner that stopped working last night. You forgot to get the monthly newsletter done -- again. And you gave up looking for that much needed supervisor because the thought of having to spend all that time interviewing and training a new supervisor is just too overwhelming.

Guess what! You were busy on the wrong things!

I've worked with a lot of cleaning business owners and there's one thing that I've discovered. The owners of underperforming companies almost always work as hard and sometimes times even harder than the owners of successful cleaning companies.

They seem to think that as long as they work hard and put in long hours, their business will continue to grow. But that's not usually the case. It's kind of like rowing a boat as hard as you can, but rowing AGAINST the current instead of WITH the current. You're not going to reach your destination no matter how hard you row!

So stop filling your day with "busy work" and tasks that should be handled by your staff, and start filling your day with projects that matter. Projects that will increase sales and profits, and that will bring you closer to your goals.

If it seems you're crazy busy every moment of the day but your business isn't moving forward by leaps and bounds, then stop and take a critical look at what you're spending your time on. Look at each task you're working on and ask yourself if you're working on the most important things that will move your business forward.

You only have so many hours in the day so make sure you spend those hours wisely.

Can Your Cleaning Business Operate Without You?

This week I posted this question on Facebook and LinkedIn and received some interesting feedback.

One cleaning business owner feels she must be involved with her business at all times. She's scheduled minor surgeries on Fridays so she could be back in the saddle on Monday. She hasn't taken a vacation since 1992. She admits that it's simply difficult for her to let go.

Another cleaning business owner takes a different approach:
"This is actually one of our main goals I give my leadership team a lot of ability to make decisions.... I quietly oversee the process and correct when necessary but this is by far the best way to teach them the skills they need to process how decisions are made and to follow through with their decision."

When I asked what specifically have you done to enable yourself to step away from the business he replied:
"Probably the largest step is letting the leadership team know I expect them to be able to operate without me sometimes. When they come to me with a question I ask them what they would do if I wasn't there to answer the question. This forces them to make a decision and they learn from the decisions they make... Not all decisions are the greatest but we must have patience and allow them to make a mistake."

Another business owner is getting help from a business coach:
"My biz coach has me working on this RIGHT NOW!!! And he's relentless at having me get it done because you can use the time to grow the business even further, amongst other things. Take a look/advantage of some of the training work Steve has already done for you thru the training videos."

Another business owner believes getting the right people in place is the key:
"Know what you need, be willing to get rid of someone who is not the right candidate, and also be willing to invest time and training into the person who IS the right person. Some skills are easier to teach, while others are almost a personality trait (ie: attention to detail, ability to keep calm during stressful situations, handling multiple projects, a good work ethic, taking 'ownership' and pride in their job)"

One of the biggest challenges we face when we start a business from the ground up is letting go of certain responsibilities. This is our baby and no one cares like we do. And yes, that's true. But if you actively seek out people that have certain skills that are needed to free you up from having to be involved in every facet of the business, then that is what you need to do.

It doesn't mean you should hire someone, show them the ropes and leave them on their own to run that part of the businesss - far from it!  I remember the first time I hired a bookkeeper. I'd been doing it myself for years and it was VERY difficult to let someone else into the books. But I did a thorough job of screening and hired a great candidate who is still with me several years later. I spent an entire summer working closely with my new bookkeeper to make sure I felt comfortable that he had a good handle on things.

The lesson here is that it's not something you can do over night. It's something that needs to be worked on every day. Besides getting the right people in place you need to have written systems in place -- and that takes time too. But when you plug away at these things a little at a time and get your people trained on how to perform these systems in your place, you'll start seeing more time in your day freed up for working on other things. And when that happens I challenge you to step away for a few days and take a REAL vacation!

You can do it - you really can! But you have to want to do it and you have to work at it. If you want it bad enough, you'll take the steps necessary to make sure your cleaning business can operate without you.

Frustrated With Supervising Your Cleaning Technicians? 6 Tips For More Effective Delegation

Let's face it. We've all been frustrated with the challenge of supervising our cleaning technicians. Sometimes it seems as if it's impossible for our business to survive, much less thrive through all the challenges we face with trying to lead our employees effectively. And once we feel we've mastered it for ourselves, we need to find supervisors that we can train to be good leaders as well. No wonder it's so hard!

One of the challenges we face is that most of the people we put into supervisory positions are good at cleaning, but they've had no supervisory experience or training. They've gone from being a great cleaner, to being responsible for making sure their entire team are great cleaners. That's a whole new job, isn't it.

One of the things your new supervisor needs to learn is how to delegate effectively. Here are some tips for teaching them how to be more effective delegators.

  1. When delegating a task, ask yourself if the person is trained on how to perform the task. If they're not, then it's time to either train them or delegate the task to someone else.
  2. Ask the employee if they have the time to do the task. If you want it done correctly you need to make sure they have the time to do it. Just keep in mind that just because they say they "don't" have the time, doesn't mean they're off the hook. Rather, it's a signal that you may need to talk about priorities. They may believe something else is a priority over the task you're delegating, so it's time to have a discussion about what's important.
  3. Clearly define the task. And remember, the more detailed the task, the more detailed you need to be when defining the task or when giving the steps to complete the task.
  4. Confirm understanding. You need to make sure that what you said was understood by the employee. And that doesn't mean asking them if they understand what they need to do. If you ask them that question, they're sure to say "yes", even if they don't fully understand. Instead you might ask, "Did I explain that ok?" That puts it back on you and opens the door for them to ask questions. Another way to make sure they understand is to ask them to explain the task back to you and how they're going to accomplish it.
  5. Offer your support and encourage them to call you with questions. You don't want to leave them on their own without the opportunity to ask questions once they start the task. If you do that, don't take it out on them if you find out later that they ran into an obstacle and then made the wrong choice. It's your responsibility to make sure they have every opportunity to be successful at the task you've delegated.
  6. Always follow up after delegating a task and then offer feedback on how they did. What did they do well? What would you like them to modify for next time? We always talk about giving positive feedback to employees. This is a perfect opportunity for you to do just that. It not only makes them feel good about the work they do, it confirms that they performed the task correctly and to your liking.

If you'd like more tips on how to be a better supervisor, or how to groom your best employees for supervisory positions, check out our two supervisor training programs:

Janitorial Supervisor Training Program (for commercial cleaning supervisors)

Team Leader Training Program (for residential cleaning supervisors)