Posted in Business Articles, Small Business Tips

6 Truths about Getting into Real Estate

When you hear the dollar amount of commissions and see real estate agents post about working from tropical islands, it can seem like a no-brainer to get your license and join up. STOP – and consider some realities before you take that leap.

For the past five years, I’ve been the backbone of the business end of real estate – first for a small team owned by a long-time salesman and then as the business manager for large, multi-location brokerages and now supporting over 825+ franchised brokerages through the corporate team. And here’s what I’ve learned are the top myths folks still believe about becoming a real estate agent:

  1. Get your license and sell a home the next day.
  2. You can set your own hours.
  3. Net $1M in your first year.
  4. The commission split is the most important number.
  5. Training is free from the brokerage.
  6. Everything is a contract!

1. Get your license and sell a home the next day.

How long it takes to “get started” varies, and lot of it depends on YOU. The rest of the timing is up to the government on the front end.

One of two sequences are going to affect your ability to take a buyers agency or listing right away after passing your exam:

  • In some states, you have to received your license from the state real estate commission before you can affiliate with a brokerage, and you must be affiliated with a brokerage *before* taking an agency – legally.
  • In the other states, you have to affiliate with a brokerage *before* you can apply for your license.

Either way, you must have BOTH license in hand AND brokerage affiliation *before* you can sign a buyer or take a listing. The wait time for this can be 2 days to 2 months, largely depending on the real estate commission’s process.

Pro Tip: ask the brokerages you are interviewing with how long it takes for you to have both to be able to have business on the books.

The other side of this is that signing the buyer and taking the listing are just the beginning. For listings, expect a 45-60 day process from list to close – that’s 45-60 days before you get paid. For buyers, expect 30 days of showings and offers before you finally get one accepted, and then 45-60 days to close.

Assuming you’ve gone into real estate full time (quit your day job and work on real estate 8-10 hours a day), that’s 2-3 months of your personal savings you are spending. Did you save that much yet?

Pro Tip: save at least 6 months of your personal expense needs before quitting your day job. This will get you through those first 2-3 months before your first closing and commission income check.

2. You can set your own hours.

Yep, you sure can. And If you know anything about how many hours business owners put in a week, then you know this means 60-80-hour weeks to get your new business off the ground.

You see, when you become a real estate agent, you become a busiess owner, which means that in addition to writing offers, overseeing inspections, and collecting commission checks, you are also responsible for

  • creating marketing and advertising – you are a graphic designer, a copy writer, and digital and social media presence
  • keeping the books – you are a bookkeeper, budgeter, and – if you hire an assistant – a payroll payer
  • human resources – as your business grows, you may hire an assistant, a showing assistant, another agent to help you – you are an interviewer, employee/contractor paperwork, tax paperwork, trainer, manager, performance reviewer, and firer.
  • and more.

Are you ready to take on these roles and more as your busines grows? Where will you find the hours to perform the non-sales parts of running your business? Or whom will you pay to do these for you? Does the brokerage you are talking to offer support and training for YOU to become this business owner?

Pro Tip: you will spend either time or money – choose wisely – real estate is expensive either way.

With either choice, here are some expectations you need to keep in mind:

  • A real estate agent is a business owner, not just a sales person. You have to also order supplies, become a marketing expert, enter your business receipts into an accounting program, file business taxes at the end of the year. That’s a lot to learn in addition to the sales and legal ins and outs of real estate.
  • A full-time job is an 8-hour-a-day job, so if you are dual career, that means you are giving at least 16 hours a day to work.
  • When you do real estate only 2 hours an evening after your day job, you are quadrupling the time it will take you to simply replace your current income with real estate. So if a brokerage tells you that you can net $100K in one year, expect it to take your 4 years to achieve that working only 25% of the day.

The fact is that business owners get to choose their own hours only when the’ve put in the work and hours to be able to hire others to run their business for them.

3. Net $1Million in your first year

Yes, it’s possible. Nope, it’s not probable.

The key factors in achieving this particular expectation *in your first year* are almost completely out of your control because it’s a function of the local average sales price. Let’s do a little math here:

The average newly licensed full time realtor will close 8-10 deals in their first 12 months.

ProTip: The Millionaire Real Estate Agent (book) digs into this formula and the KW Business Planning Clinic drills down to how many people you need to talk to each day to achieve whatever your Net goal is.

“Net” means the amount you keep in your bank account after splits to the brokerage and all business expenses are paid.

The basic formula for Net is 30-30-40 where 40% is the net you are looking for:

  • Commission Income (100%) = $2,500,000
  • COS (30%) = $750,000
  • Business Expenses (30%) = $750,000
  • Net (40%) = $1,000,000 (before taxes)

So at 8-12 deals in an average first year in real estate, the average sales price you need to be handling to net $1M a year is around $7Million per contract.

So is this your local average sales price, your experience level, or your luxury designation? Who in your brokerage closed 8-12 deals at $7Million each – that’s wh you need to become your mentor.

4. The commission split is the most important number.

When you are interviewing brokerages – and, yes, YOU are interviewing THEM because they need your money to operate – you’re likely to hear variations on these five costs:

  • Commission Split
  • Cap
  • Royalty or franchise fee
  • Dues
  • Transaction Fee

The Commission Split is where folks tend to focus, and everyone wants to hear 100%. Well, here’s the fact: the brokerage has to make it’s money somewhere to provide you with whatever perks they are promising you to get you to sign up. The commission split is where that happens. Here’s what you might expect based on how much real estate business you’ve done in the last 12 months:

  • Newly licensed agents should expect a split from 50/50 to 70/30 to account for the extra attention from the broker or coach to ensure all actions are legally compliant.
  • Agents with a history of capping in the last 12 months should expect a split of 80/20.
  • Agents with a history of achieving $10M+ in sales annually in the local market for at least 2-3 years running may expect a split of 90/10 or 95/5 depending on their production levels. This is the group with the most split negotiating power.

Pro Tip: the commission split determines how quickly you will reach your cap, not how much you’ll be paying the brokerage, so you really want to check out the next paragraph.

The Cap is the real key to how much you are (or aren’t) paying to the brokerage. Here’s how a cap works: based on the month you started, that’s your cap “anniversary” and the beginning of your 12-month period for your cap. The brokerage sets a fixed amount of the cap, let’s say $15,000. Using the split percentage, you will pay only $15,000 of your commission in that 12-month period to the brokerage; once you’ve paid that $15K, you’ll switch to a 100% commission until you hit that anniversary month.

Another way to think of this is that you are worth $15,000 to the brokerage. And in a brokerage with a great culture, every agent, no matter how much business they do, is worth the same – no one is worth more/less than anyone else. Look for this kind of equity in your brokerage because if they are offering you a sweet deal off the spec sheet, then chances are down the road, they’ll automatically update you to the standard cap regular terms so that they can offer someone more valuable to them a sweet deal too.

The Royalty is a cost unique to franchised brokerages like Keller Williams, Berkshire Hathaway, and others. It’s generally 5-10% of your commission, depending on the brokerage. But here’s the kicker and what you want to be really specific in asking about: is the royalty capped or is it assessed on every transaction until the end of time. The answer that best benefits your way to achieving that $1M net is a capped royalty.

The Dues and the Transaction Fees are opposite sides of the same coin. You’ll pay one or both, regardless of the brokerage you choose, so, again, ask lots of questions so that you can accurately compare what you’ll owe monthly, per transaction, or both combined. Here are some common items that fall into these categories:

  • E&O insurance fees
  • Lead fees
  • Broker fees
  • MLS fees
  • In-house Transaction Coordinator fees
  • Training fees
  • Coaching fees
  • Desk/Office rental space
  • Copies and Faxes

5. Training is free from the brokerage.

Pro Tip: you know what they say about free stuff, right? You get what you pay for.

That’s largely true when training is left up to “more experienced” agents to share what works for them – with no compensation. That’s called mentoring, not training.

What you are looking for in training is

  • a consistent program with clear objectives,
  • instructions, examples, and practice towards achieving those objectives,
  • instructors who are trained to be instructors and held accountable for ensuring associates achieve the practice objectives in “class” so they can achieve them in real life, and
  • a clear habit of scheduling core training progrms on a regular basis (ask for the last three months of the training caledar).

In an ideal world, you’re looking for a brokerage that offers more training opportunities than you could possibly attend in one month and still run your business, training like this for all levels of development, not just for brand new agents and not necessarily just for free:

  • free training and paid coaching options for new associates – there’s a lot of financial benefit to joining a coaching program that takes a little higher split and offers services you’d otherwise be figuring out on your own like marketing and closing coordination
  • ongoing coaching – look at options where the coaching fee is at least in part based on what you close rather than a flat rate – that way you know that their compensation is based on how well they help you get more/enhanced business

And be sure to engage in specialized training that might involve travel, including the national convention(s) of the brokerage you join. These are important opportunities to meet and mastermind and learn from the highest achievers in real estate towards improving your business. And they are amazing events for enhancing your referral network, another great way to grow your business.

6. Everything is a contract.

As you are looking for your first brokerage, you are probably taking or just finishing your pre-licensing classes which throw a lot of legal stuff at you – the stuff that needs to make it into a contract or an addendum to a contract for sale to close.

Pro Tip: everything is a contract, and it’s your job to protect your business interests by insisting on having it in writing.

And it’s important that you also know that every part of your affiliation with a brokerage is a contract as well. Start with the brokerage policies & guidelines and your affiliation contract; these are where you should expect standard terms to be clearly defined.

Here are some things you’ll want to make sure you have in writing with signatures for your own protection:

  • ICA – independent contractor agreement – you are a 1099 contractor of the brokerage, not an employee – make sure you research what that means
  • All fees you are charged both/either as monthly dues or per transaction fees
  • Referrals – make sure you have all client referrals you receive and that you send to other agents – even in your own brokerage – in writing and acknowledged by the brokerage that will be handling the commission
  • Special terms – if you negotiated anything different from the standard affiliation terms, get that in writing – reduced cap, higher split, brokerage-paid services, etc., and especially how long each change is effective. If there’s going to be an end date, you want to know that up front.

Everything is a contract, and it’s your job to protect your business interests by insisting on having it in writing.

Full Disclosure

I currently work for Keller Williams Realty International – the corporate headquarters – and have been affiliated with KW for five years through five different brokerages (called market centers within KW) on the East Coast. I have only worked with the Keller Williams real estate franchise to date and have assisted a number of agents – both newly licensed and with decades of experience – work through the data presented by different brokerages in order to figure out the apples to apples comparison. KW usually but does not always come out on top when weighed against their needs and goals.

Posted in Business Articles

Checking References on a Potential Employer

We’re all familiar with the final section of most job applications where we’re asked to list 3-5 professional references for the potential new employer to call in a final attempt to verify what interviews, demonstrations, and assessments have said about you…or expose something otherwise hidden that would keep them from offering you the job.

Have you ever had a potential employer offer you his/her references to check? You might think with sites like Glassdoor that you don’t need them, that you can find out what you need to know about working for that company or even that individual. But the ability to directly probe a human who has free rein to speak to both successes and failures is invaluable.

I was recently offered employer references during an interview at the same time he asked for my candidate references. Big points in his favor simply for offering; even more for following through with three names and contact information and written permission to dig as deep as I wanted, meaning that I can ask the three references for more people to call and talk to.

Funny thing, though, is that the trusty internet is virtually silent on what might be useful to ask about a prospective employer.

So I consulted a trusted career development professional – a friend/colleague from mutual graduate school days. He confirmed my “gut”: structure the conversation the same way you would for any hiring reference check and base the questions around the future potential for yourself. That’s different from the focus of a hiring reference check where the questions center around confirming examples and patterns of past activity (attendance, reliability, responsibility, promotability, etc.).

INTERJECTION: unlike the vast majority of job candidates, I have always viewed and treated “the interview” as a mutual activity. Interviewing, properly implemented by both parties, is a conversation, not a Q&A. The interview that prompted this blog post was based around a DISC assessment and was, as I expressed to several members of the company, ridiculously brilliant.

My interview conversations, up to the point of reference checks, had illuminated many points of commonality, but, to be fair, must be considered “self reporting” until they can be confirmed. I’m not the easiest to pin down on this, though; I look for something interesting, fun, challenging, invigorating in a career move – not very tangible or measurable, right. But that is, of course, the goal of reference checks: to qualify and confirm the intangibles that are valuable to me.

Here’s how I outlined my Employer Reference Checks:

  • Introduce myself and simply outline the situation: Hi! This is CeCe, and I’m calling in reference to [potential employer name]. We are in conversation about working together to build a team. Specifically, [name] is considering hiring me, and I’m considering working for him/her. Yep, that simple.
  • Tell me about how you came to know and work with [name]. How long, hierarchy of working relationship, still working together?
  • What qualities, talents, or skills made/makes [name] a great colleague? Looking for unsolicited examples of the qualities, talents, skills the interview to date has illuminated to be priorities to employer and to you.
  • Tell me about [name]’s management style or priorities. Can you give me examples of management successes and/or failures? This is a variation on the strengths/weaknesses angle; the question assumes you know enough about management styles and how you need to be managed to achieve optimal outcomes both for the company and personally to recognize an informative answer. I’m also looking for evidence of management qualities or personality qualities that I try to avoid from experiences with bad managers in the past.
  • What would you say [name] values as the most important qualities in team member (employee/direct report)? This question is critical in confirming that what the potential employer has told you about priorities and values confirms and may illuminate values that have not been part of the conversation that may be the deciding factor. It will be up to you to bring that new information to the next iteration of the conversation.
  • Would you work with [name] again and in what capacity/relationship? Would something(s) need to be different for that to happen? This answer is important to me because I have be successful in leaving jobs on such good terms, after doing outstanding work, that the former employer seeks me out for freelance work and future job offers.

Naturally, this is my guide for about a 30-minute conversation, not a prescription for a boring and predictable and useless formula interview. I open a conversation. It starts with a getting to know you question that is relevant to the reason for the call. I listen keenly to that first answer and tailor subsequent questions on the spot, allowing me to respond with affirmations, ask follow-up questions before moving on, or even laughing acknowledging that an answer addressed a question I hadn’t even gotten to yet.

Some might argue that the idea of a candidate checking an employer’s references is a sign of mistrust. Of course it is, and rightly so. There is absolutely no good reason for a candidate for hire to blindly trust any individual who or any company which has not directly demonstrated the integrity and promise-fulfillment necessary to engender a basic level of trust. That process begins upon hire, and is the primary reason for trial or probationary or training periods: to determine if expectation-fulfillment matches on both/all sides and is the right intensity for achieving both company and individual goals.

The Lesson: at the point in the hiring process where the employer is ready to check references, as for some of your own. While it’s not common and a refusal isn’t necessarily a negative indicator, accommodation is definitely a positive nod to the mutual respect and trust necessary for a basically good working relationship.

TIP: Don’t forget your basic, strong phone demeanor: smile, laugh, confirm that you are listening with words rather than uh-huh before moving to the next question/topic. And prepare a voicemail message ahead of your call so you’re not scrambling for the words.

Posted in Branding and Marketing, Business Articles

Marketing That Worked on Me – and Why

I’ve spent my entire life studying and employing the devices of successful rhetoric to convince someone else to do or think what I tell them. Marketer is just one title for people who do this. Yep, that’s what marketers do, day in and day out: research what motivates target customers to choose them, and then create the company messages to make sure that happens.

Certainly, marketers have access to a wide variety of media as well as mixed media to deliver and reinforce the messages they want you to accept as truth and actions they want to compel you to perform.

So when a simple, inexpensive mailer campaign sequence is successful with me – who spends most waking moments at least subconsciously dissecting messages for agendas – I stop to really consider why. And if what I can tease out is replicable, I share that information with the company. In this case, I’m examining my reaction to Honest-1 Auto Care, the Mt. Pleasant branch.

IMG_2066In early summer 2017, I received in the mail a classic postcard bulk mail piece advertising several service specials at a local auto maintenance and repair shop. I know it is bulk mail because the address reads my name on the first line and “or current resident” on the second; this ensures that the piece will be delivered in the relevant service area rather than be forwarded to a previous resident with a forwarding order in place.

Now I’m pretty immune to physical junk mail, including advertisements like this. What happened to make me notice it means backing up just a touch. I had paid off my now-ten-year-old vehicle since my last oil change, which I’d always had done at the dealership. But I was ready mainly to establish a good relationship with a shop much closer to home and work; the dealership was at least 30 minutes away in a part of town I rarely have a need to visit. And I had spoken with my mom about some of the shops she’d used and been happy with on our side of town. And she got the same postcard on the same day and called me to point it out.

That’s what it was. That’s what made this very first “touch” successful. All I needed was an oil change, the shop was perhaps 1 mile from my house and did not require an appointment, and I knew it had been there a good long time, so it must have a reasonable amount of repeat business and/or referrals to at least maintain.

Conclusion (touch #1): there is nothing replicable about the success of this first touch from my response as there is no way the marketers could know all of those specific, converging circumstances that made me primed for the response they were trying to lead me to. But it stands to reason that twice a year (on average) an oil change or routine maintenance is on every driver’s mind, as well as the cost and convenience of acquiring those services.

So one weekday afternoon when I had no appointments, I drove the 1 mile to the shop, walked in, was greeted by a smiling service receptionist (touch #2), got set up as a new client, treated myself to a cup of coffee from the courtesy Keurig, and relaxed with my book in a comfy chair for 35 minutes. That’s when the service receptionist shared with me the courtesy inspection results and recommendations from the techs…with absolutely no pressure to add anything to my commitment for that day. But she did promise to email me the report. Further, when I got in my vehicle to leave, the technician had signed and left a simple “thank you” note card on my passenger seat (touch #3). As I had been promised, when I next checked my email, they had forwarded the report and receipt (touch #4). I also had an email (touch #5) asking me to review their services; good on ’em for asking, something most companies seem terrified to do!

Conclusion (touches #2, #3, #4, and #5): while it’s hard to predict the effect of the same service receptionist on various customer personalities – and, give me credit, I was playing nice that day – it’s easy to compliment a clean, comfortable, climate-controlled, quiet waiting area with free WiFi if I had chosen to work or play on social media instead. It’s easy to compliment a clean, groomed, uniformed receptionist who kept a smile on her face even when she was on the phone and not visible to the caller. It’s easy to be pleased to learn that the overt promises they made, they kept in emailing all of the paperwork from the visit. It’s easy to be grateful for the emailed information and even the prompt for a review, both clearly the result of programmed responses and delays in a CRM. These are replicable conditions that are known to inspire confidence and result in positive results.

I really did keep in mind the recommended service – it was a good and simple and necessary maintenance – and I had intended to get it into my budget and schedule. But I’m also glad I was just distracted enough to not get my butt in gear for 2 weeks after that initial visit. Why? Because two things happened within days of each other:

  1. they emailed (touch #6) me a reminder of the recommended service along with an estimate based on my vehicle
  2. they mailed (touch #7) me a “check” for $15.50 to use towards any service. In the memo line, they called it an “Auto Repair Rebate Check,” but it amounts to a gift card.

IMG_2065Now, I’m not a couponer, not even a casual one, but I can live for a month off of the gift cards I receive at holidays – and I LOVE it! For the most part, I don’t bother on items, say $5 and under; chalk it up to convenience – or inconvenience – fees of clipping coupons and purging when they expire. But when you send me a gift card for $15.50 off of a service that’ll run me close to $80, that’s a big deal in my pocket book.

Conclusion (touches #6 and #7): CRMs are an outstanding tool, especially for automated follow-up marketing (aka repeat sales) in industries where sales interactions take place months apart. Time limits on “coupons” are excellent, necessary even, but I’d argue that 60 days from the visit is too long a period to generate the action desired; I’ve delayed long enough to receive a second reminder.

I’ve been pleased with this company’s communication, programmed and delivered by a simple CRM with simple automated marketing. It’s a powerful tool – that automated marketing. It makes it easier for a marketer to switch up the gentle and the aggressive messages for the best opportunity to generate that desired response from a variety of customer types. Naturally, if my interpersonal and/or service experience hadn’t matched up, I surely would not have been as receptive to the reminders or the coupon/check.

I’m scheduled to use my coupon/check the last week of August.

NB: The initial postcard indicates that marketing is generated by the corporate office in Marietta, GA, the coupon/check lists my local shop in Mt. Pleasant, SC.

Posted in Business Articles, Small Business Tips

NY fourth state to add paid parental leave to employers’ FMLA obligations

NY Parental Leave graphicFMLA and paid family leave affects small businesses with 50+ employees this year or last year.

While a large percentage of cleaning businesses are too small to be covered by Family and Medical Leave Act requirement, those with 50+ employees for at least 20 weeks of the year do. According to the NPR’s Jennifer Ludden, “the only federally mandated leave covers just half of the workforce.” Currently, the Department of Labor does not require the leave to be paid, so most workers can’t afford to take it. For business owners, the financial burden on a company is limited to hiring and training a temporary replacement or divvying up the duties for a short time.

But an increasing trend may change that as New York because the fourth US state to mandate paid parental leave, the most generous of the packages. In addition, the city of San Francisco has also mandated paid leave at full wage or salary.

As cleaning company and maid service owners consider growth goals, keep in mind the FTE benchmarks for additional costs. In an industry where 90-95% of the workforce – in the field and in the office – are women, the costs are likely to be higher than in other industries where the mix is more balanced.

Here’s what cleaning business owners should consider tracking now to prepare for this cost in the future:

  • # births/adoptions by employees
  • average weekly wages of those employees
  • cost of hiring a replacement
  • cost of training a replacement

The latter two are recommended key performance indicators for any service business. The former are designed to help businesses establish a baseline for budgeting and bill rate increases when a similar mandate is implement in your state or nationwide.

Originally published May 4, 2016 at

Posted in Business Articles, Housekeeping, Small Business Tips

12 cleaning upsells for 12 months – part 2

UpsellingIt’s never too late to implement your upselling strategy. Get yourself ready with these campaign ideas for July – December.

As you’re pulling up to the end of the first quarter or 2016, let’s finish up a year’s worth of monthly upselling and cross-selling campaigns. Remember, you can choose to run your program less frequently – say quarterly for 4 upselling promotions a year – to get started. There’s no need to overwhelm yourself with planning or your staff with keeping up right out of the gate. You can check out the first six ideas here.

July: Christmas in July Pre-paid Service Deals

Instead of competing with all of the Fourth of July themed promotions, pick up a Christmas in July theme and focus on beating the heat with good ol’ Saint Nick at the beach, the lake, or the park – and push your gift certificates or pre-paid cleaning services and programs. Another play on a summer/winter mash-up is to use a design with holiday evergreens made out of watermelons or pineapples.

August: Sweet Thank-Yous

August boasts both National S’mores Day (10th) and National Marshmallow Toasting Day (30th), so play up nights around the fire pit or camp fire and the last days of summer before school starts. It might feel like taking a break from promotions and selling, but I recommend breaking things up with a soft upsell on referrals, something that appeals to your existing clients’ hearts and senses. For this promotion, leave a thank you note along with a S’mores kit; to alleviate food allergy concerns, it’s best to purchase pre-packaged kits. It’s the kind of thing that they’ll talk about to their friends – OH, you could leave a note about sharing S’mores with friends and leave extras!

September: No-Labor Day for Mom

Why does Mother’s Day have to happen only in May? Encourage mothers to celebrate themselves and their labors-of-love by leaving the cleaning to you – especially the extras like refrigerators and carpets and pressure washing and even a one-time special on laundry.

October: Silver Polishing Cross-sell

With two often-formal family meal holidays coming up, many clients will be looking to pull out the good silver…with all of its tarnish. Imagine a leave behind with a Victorian-inspired dinner scene dripping with Halloween cobwebs to start getting clients in both a cleaning and silver frame of mind.

November: Thanks-Giving Referral Promotion

The holidays are one of the easiest times to close sales on referrals from your current customers because the holidays just simply demand a clean and tidy home. So make November an entire month of Thanks-Giving by offering to donate 10% of the cleaning fee to your charity of the month or to the charity of their choice when customer referral gets his/her first cleaning. Extend the promotion to the new client for an immediate upsell: 10% of the regular service fee (weekly or biweekly) to charity when they upgrade to regular service (fine print: donation to be made after the fifth regularly scheduled cleaning is completed).

Tip: ARCSI members should consider the November promotion as a way to create awareness of ARCSI’s Kleaning for Kids charity with the Ronald McDonald House in their local area.

December: The 12 Gifts of Christmas

Folks love gifting others with the items and services that they enjoy the best, so remind your customers of the various “extras” you offer that they’ve found valuable. Run 12 different deals-of-the-day, just one each day: a small discount or 2-for-1 with the offer expiring that same day. Repeat something if you don’t have a lot of extras, and change up the promotion for it if you do. Traditionally, the 12 days of Christmas run from December 25 – January 5, but many businesses use the 12 days leading up to Christmas: December 12 – December 24. Alternatives: The 8 Gifts of Hanukkah, The 7 Gifts of Kwanzaa

Between these and the first 6 months of upsells, you now have a complete annual upselling calendar to keep your existing clients reaching for – and paying for – more. This is an easy program to set up and put on autopilot year after year, with maybe a few tweaks and switch-ups. And don’t forget that a successful promotion begins at least 2 weeks before you intend/expect for folks to need that special service.

CeCe Mikell is the Editor-in-Chief for, coming to the cleaning industry from a 15-year career as a college professor of communication and business. She also consults with cleaning business owners on business development projects.

Originally published on March 23, 2016 at
Posted in Business Articles, Housekeeping, Small Business Tips

12 Cleaning Upsells for 12 Months

UpsellingUpselling to your current customers is easier, less expensive and more profitable than relying only on new customers to raise your revenue. Part 1 of 2.

Pull out your annual marketing plan – if you have one. Take a look at the promotions you’ve slotted in for each month because, let’s face it, most promotions line up with the primary holiday each month.

Who’s your target consumer for those promotions? I’m betting you’ve designed your monthly promotions to get new clients on your schedule and even include in fine print at the bottom of the email, postcard, or flyer “New clients only” or First-time clients only.

I challenge you to add a second, concurrent promotion of either an upsell (add-on to an existing cleaning appointment) or cross-sell (add-on or big enough to be a separate appointment) specifically designed to entice your current clients to buy more from you. And I’ll even make it easy with 12 great upselling promotions you can deliver via email or leave behind with your current clients.

January: Refrigerator Cleaning Add-on

Once the New Year celebrations have ended, your clients have refrigerators that have weathered three food-based holidays in three months, and that refrigerator is pretty icky with spills and smells. A simple company magnet with your number makes a great leave behind – especially when it’s holding a simple note with the refrigerator cleaning rate right on the refrigerator.

February: Loyalty (or Frequency) Upgrade

Make use of the “love” theme in the air to focus a campaign on your happiest clients who haven’t yet committed to weekly or bi-weekly service by confirming a primary cleaner or team to take care of them when they upgrade their service. Remember to add a little fine print to allow for a proxy cleaner or team to occasionally visit to allow the primary team deserved time off.

March: Window Cleaning Add-on or Cross-sell

Consider a play on the Luck o’ the Irish and a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for a window cleaning cross-sell. If you can offer only interior window cleaning, this promotion works well as an add-on to an existing appointment. But if you can offer exterior window cleaning (or whole house pressure washing), often a separate appointment is useful. Add a simple coin chocolate to a printed leave-behind for a bit of whimsy.

April: Spring Organizing Add-on or Cross-sell

As you’re pitching traditional spring cleaning to get new clients, your maintenance routine makes that unnecessary for your regulars. But often by this time of the year, especially at tax time, clutter presents more of a challenge than dirt. If you haven’t offered organizing before, consider starting small with linen closet, pantry, and toy organizing since those are usually focused, contained spaces that can be unloaded, sorted, and reloaded within a few hours.

May: Porch Cleaning Cross-sell

By May, most of the spring pollens around the country have completed their yellow dusting and left porches unusable – at least until someone hoses them down. Keep tabs on the visible pollen activity in your local area and time this cross-sell with enticements of favored outdoor spring/summer nights, but only after the porch or deck has been de-pollened.

Tip: This is a great opportunity to partner with a local pressure washer in a cross promotion, gaining you access to his/her clientele and broadening your reach.

June: Kids’ Room Deep Clean Up-sell

School’s out and many kids get to spend a week at a sleep-away camp during the summer. This can be a great opportunity for parents to have you come in to specifically deep clean just one room – every nook and cranny and even the scariest place on earth – under a kid’s bed. And it’ll probably take you long enough to include laundry service for this highly unique service.

Naturally, any one of these upsells and cross-sells can be re-framed as a “new clients only” promotion, but it’s nice to be able to make your customers feel special when they see that some services are only available to them.

And remember, just because you’re featuring or promoting a particular service doesn’t mean you have to offer a deal or discount. The awareness factor alone is often enough to drive conversions.

Oh, you noticed that that’s only six months, did you? Check back frequently at for the second installment. Type “upsell” in the search bar to see what other resources are available.

CeCe Mikell is the Editor-in-Chief for, coming to the cleaning industry from a 15-year career as a college professor of communication and business. She also consults with cleaning business owners on business development projects.

Originally published on February 17, 2016 at
Posted in Business Articles, Content Marketing, Housekeeping, Small Business Tips

Top 4 Active Facebook Groups for Building a Better Maid Service

Facebook networking pictureProfessional discussion groups jump from LinkedIn to Facebook.

In the past year, you may have observed the slow death of professional discussion groups on LinkedIn; though a few continue to receive a steady flow of new discussions started, the conversations are often a rehash of old ones.

So where have all of the veteran CBOs gone to keep their edge? Why, to Facebook, of course, where the posts and discussions and ideas flow freer and faster. No longer is Facebook simply the realm of our “social” lives but, rather, is now the critical intersection of all facets of life.

Want to check for yourself? You can find out pretty easily which of the LinkedIn groups you’ve joined over the years are actually active. In preparing this article, I check out my own groups and found only 8 active discussions (active = has at least 1 comment in the last 24 hours) out of 45 groups; in fact only 8 of those groups had a new discussion posted in the last week. Four were in ISSA and two were in ARCSI, so I’m definitely staying in those groups.

To check on your Facebook groups, navigate to your groups menu on the left side of your Facebook News Feed; make sure you are scrolled all the way to the top of the page. Hover to the right of the word Groups and click on More. Now you’re looking at a complete list of the Facebook groups you’ve joined or been added to. You can see the currently active one – with recent notifications you haven’t looked at yet – by the number to the right of each group name.

What we learned at CBT is that our Facebook group, CBT Cleaning Industry News is far more engaged than the exact same posts and probing questions to our LinkedIn group.

Toward helping you find your next amazing group to help you move your business forward, here are 4 of the most active and engaged Facebook groups with exclusive or very heavy emphasis on cleaning and maid services:


Groove Learning

Started by Rohan Gilkes, owner of as well as several SaaS platforms and subscription boxes

Closed Group: request to join and an admin will have to approve you. This group is highly focused on digitally automated customer interaction and employee management, and could be a good resource for those maid services adding or converting to online booking from traditional in-home or phone estimates.

Quality Driven

Started by Martha Woodward, owner of, and Maria Dorian, owner of as well as Quality Driven, an SaaS platform for maid services

Closed Group: request to join and an admin will have to approve you. This group is focused on the quality control and continuous improvement systems you need to ensure that the performance your technicians deliver meets/matches up with customer expectations so that both groups of people are more likely to stay with you.

The ZenMaid MasterMind (Exclusive)

Started by Amar Ghose, owner of Fast Friendly Spotless as well as ZenMaid, an SaaS platform for maid services

Closed Group: request to join and an admin will have to approve you. This group is focused on all aspects of starting up a cleaning or maid service – from how to post recruiting ads on free job sites to handling your first breakage claim.

Turnover. Help for Move In/Out Property Managers and Service Providers

Started by Kayla Storlid, owner of Kayla’s Custom Cleaning as well as turnoverapp, an SaaS platform for maid services

Closed Group: request to join and an admin will have to approve you. This group is focused on helping other cleaning services establish a profitable turn-clean process, whether as an annual division or as a seasonal project, such as with local college dorm and apartment turns before the start of term.

Keep in mind that nearly all online discussion groups – even those on Facebook – are started and operated by individuals who have a product or service to sell. Keep this in mind as you choose new groups to join. There are also a number of groups you can join when you purchase or subscribe to a particular technology or service; these groups are often “Secret,” so you won’t be able to search for them.

As always, what happens online, stays online – forever – in a digital format that someone can always get to no matter your privacy settings. Be social responsibly.
CeCe Mikell is the Editor-in-Chief for, coming to the cleaning industry from a 15-year career as a college professor of communication and business. She also consults with cleaning business owners on business development projects.

Originally published on January 27, 2016 at

Posted in Business Articles, Housekeeping, Small Business Tips

10 Best Tips for Winning at College House Turn-Cleans

College move out cleaningCleaning business owners weigh in on how they make college dorm cleaning an annual revenue booster.

As fall term comes to a close, college students across the US are past mid-terms and looking forward to the final stretch before a nice, long vacation break before spring term. And as soon as spring term gets started, that’s when college maintenance departments go shopping for cleaning companies to contract for their annual student housing turn-cleans. caught up with several CBOs who have turned this “down and dirty” job into an annual summer revenue booster, and here are their tips for getting the bid, preparing for the 48-hour to 1-week “Hell Week,” and surviving to look forward to doing it again the next year.

Kayla Storlid
Kayla’s Custom Cleaning
Madison, WI

Kayla’s Custom Cleaning, LLC has been doing large turnover projects for several years. This year we did over 140 units in 5 days. Each month we complete on average 10-30 units. The key to an effective turn-over is being prepared. You need to be organized! It is crucial to make sure you have enough sets of equipment, plenty of product, lots of extra people to help and a great manager. Your manager needs to have the ability to stay one step ahead of the team at all times and is capable of understanding where everyone is at in the completion process. We have developed an app to automate this process. It saves us a ton of time and money and allows me to manage the entire project remotely.

  1. The key to having a successful turnover is to under-promise and over-deliver. We find it very effective to have a checking team for every unit to ensure quality and make sure no units go missed.
  2. It is crucial that you over-staff and that you do not cut your staff too early in case you run into last minute additional units or several call-ins.
  3. If you keep organized and one step ahead of the game, you can make great additional revenue and your team has a lot of fun. The key to getting the job and not losing it is to never, ever miss a deadline!

Amy Wiggs King
2 Green Chicks
Norman, OK

This summer (2015) we did our first set of college dorm/apartment turns ahead of the campus opening for fall term students. I had several great CBOs to help me through it, and now that I’ve had some time to reflect on how it went this first year, three things jump out as having made the difference between breaking even (or losing money) and making good money with this special project:

1.      Be Detailed and Meticulous in Your Bidding

When bidding, ensure you include business references that can vouch for the great work you have done and can do for their business. You want to make certain the bid clearly explains if you will be using the client’s supplies and cleaning products/equipment or if you will be responsible for providing the products. Lastly it never hurts to ask if the company you are bidding for has other properties or campuses that need your services.

2.     Over-prepare with your Team

Forecasting how many teams you will need is crucial, as well as deciding how many people to have on each team and assigning them tasks. Having a huge “let’s do this meeting” beforehand really helps as well to set expectations and to answer questions. I made binders for each team that had FAQs to help them while out in the field, things such as “what to do if…,” contact phone numbers, map of apartment complex, checklists for notations (for communicating issues back to client), timesheets, etc. Also ensure you have plenty of supplies at hand for the job and that you have staff to help wash cloths, fill buckets, clean vacuums at the end of each day. And investing in less expensive lightweight vacuums is a good idea; they are much easier to lug up and down stairs – and there will be a lot of stairs!

3.     Over-communicate with Everyone

As in any special project job, communication with the client is crucial to ensure you do not have any issues at the end of the cleaning period; things are so chaotic, and it’s easy to lose track!  My Quality Manager and I had a sign off sheet that we used before we considered the unit “done.” We performed a walkthrough and checked for anything missed. Each night, we emailed updates to the client to provide status of what units were cleaned, what units had issues (broken blinds, needed new burner plates, etc.). I believe this communication is necessary for a smooth transition and to get payment!

Kyle Walker
Real World Services
Logan, OH

I start the marketing process for new college housing cleans at the beginning of every school year. If you think about it, this is really when the housing managers start looking for a new cleaning service, as they have just finished a turn season and know if they are going to be looking to hire a new service next year if they were not happy with the results the previous cleaning company provided them.

I also start marketing to them again in February, as most housing managers want to have a signed contract by the end of March or early April.

Our turn season lasts from April until the first week of September. We begin the hiring process in early March or as soon as we know we have a signed contract. In 2015, I hired an additional 40 staff members just to handle the cleaning of our 600 apartments during this short time frame.

Here are some tips for someone doing this for the first time:

  1. Over-hire by several FTEs.
  2. Always count on people not showing up and calling off sick when you have strict deadlines to meet. (NOTE: this is not specific to college/apartment turn cleans.)
  3. Provide your staff with all of the supplies and equipment to do their job well.
  4. Check in with each tech/team daily to make sure the cleaning list is correct before dispatching the job.

The reason we at Real World Services come out smelling like roses is because we are constantly communicating with our property managers both throughout the year and especially during the turn period to make sure things are going smoothly.

Originally published on November 4, 2015 at

Posted in Business Articles, Content Marketing

Can Small and Large Service Businesses Provide an On-demand “Feel” with Employees?

employee engagement in on-demand service companiesExplore this challenge and more at the ARCSI Workforce Innovation Summit and ISSA Trade Show.

In the services industry at large – cleaning is just one type of service – every business owner is simultaneously managing two significant “inputs”: clients and technicians. And based on the association discussions and various mastermind groups, service-based small businesses are feeling the tension as reality versus legality are changing the ways these two inputs are interacting.

Last month, in the fallout of Homejoy’s closing, two dominant themes:

  1. The consumer demand for the instant gratification and perfection of on-demand services is well-established and, in fact, growing.
  2. The use of independent contractors to staff an on-demand service is rapidly falling out of favor as quick-start entrepreneurs recognize that quality and training are the keys to sustainability in a service business.

So the question remains: can small and large service businesses begin/continue to provide an on-demand “feel” for consumers while operating an employee-based business?

At the Workforce Innovation Summit of the ARCSI Convention, cleaning business owners and managers from across the country will wrestle with this and other questions related to recent changes in federal labor regulation – some of which is in reaction to the rapid development of the on-demand marketplace.

And while it’s classic to cite the:

  • intense networking (and friendship-building) with CBOs across the nation,
  • excellent business education sessions on basic start-up and advanced development topics, and
  • 700+ vendors at the ISSA Trade Show for trying out cleaning products and equipment AND business software and systems

as the main reasons for attending the conventions year after year, it’s the way that the industry keeps up with and engages in relevant conversation about current events that excites me most! I like change…it’s the challenge-creator that keeps me fully engaged with my business and always looking for opportunities that lead to an even better future.


CeCe Mikell is the Editor-in-Chief for Cleaning Business Today, coming to the cleaning industry from a 15-year career as a college professor of communication and business. She also works with several cleaning business owners on business development projects.

Originally published on September 1, 2015 at

Posted in Business Articles, Housekeeping, Small Business Tips

Google, Amazon, Homejoy and Customer Service in the Dog Days of Summer

fall cleaning business trendsThe start of the school year, the demise of Homejoy and the entrance of Amazon and Google into on-demand home services make Autumn 2015 the perfect time to focus on customer service.


The reason we focus on Customer Service in August, specifically, is because it’s the beginning of the classic seasonal turn for major facets of the cleaning industry: home cleaning ramps up as kids go back to school and bring home new germs; vacation rental turns level out for the same reason; commercial bidding heats up as big businesses approach the end of the fiscal year; carpet cleaning picks up as the kids are less underfoot at home. And in 60 days, it’ll be time to launch holiday marketing campaigns and hire some extra support to push through the 2-month holiday crush that ends every year.

Making Customer Service Your Edge

This second half of the year is typically stronger for cleaning businesses in general, and one thing we’ll be watching here at is customer behavior. With the exit of Homejoy from the maid service market and expansion of Amazon’s and Google’s home services divisions, the “trend” of the on-demand, tech-enabled service access is about to be tested.

A New Era of On-Demand Competitors

Publisher Derek Christian writes in his op ed this month that what we’re seeing is the transition between Home Services 1.0 into its evolution into 2.0. And the choice CBOs have is one of customer service, specifically which kinds of consumers you want to serve and which ones you’re willing give up to competitors in your market.

Customer service is what drives your choice of staffing model: choosing one that empowers the best customer experience possible. And there are many different customer experiences in demand. That’s the beauty of the evolution we’re experiencing today in the cleaning industry: being at the center of an expanding marketspace with more customer interest than ever – demanding better customer service than ever.

CeCe Mikell is the Editor-in-Chief for Cleaning Business Today, coming to the cleaning industry from a 15-year career as a college professor of communication and business. She also works with several cleaning business owners on business development projects.

Originally published August 22, 2015 at