Posted in Business Articles, Small Business Tips

5 Ways to Win the Game of Reviews

online reviewsCleaning up your customer service and your quality procedures are key to getting great reviews online – and upgrading the not-so-good ones.

In March 2014, it looked like the online review landscape might be changed when Joe Hadeed, owner of Hadeed Carpet Cleaning, won a suit against Yelp that would require Yelp to release the legal identities of seven anonymous reviewers who had posted reviews that could not be matched with actual customer services provided.

The ruling was later overturned on a technicality because Hadeed could not show definitively that the anonymous reviewers were not customers; their names or service addresses were not available to be compared with Hadeed’s customer records.

And so began the saga that led to more lawsuits from businesses against Yelp and other online review sites/services where, many suspect, there are more purchased reviews than organic ones. The sheer volume of lawsuits against Yelp alone that Prost Productions, Inc., has successfully raised funding for a documentary Billion Dollar Bully investigating Yelp’s alleged transgressions.

But if Yelp’s recent food delivery acquisition is any indication, Yelp is headed for direct battle with Google and Amazon in the online marketplace arena, far beyond the game of reviews.

The Question: Is buying (good or bad) reviews unethical?

Business and technology lawyer Joy Butler (link: explains, “Not only is buying reviews an unethical business practice, it is illegal and can lead to significant punitive monetary damages leveled against you by the government. In one case, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) penalized Legacy Learning Systems $250,000 to settle FTC charges that the company paid affiliate marketers to pose as independent consumers and write glowing online reviews about the company’s products. Posting negative reviews about a competitor’s business could lead to lawsuits alleging things like libel and product disparagement.”

While creating and posting positive reviews for your company may initially seem like a good marketing technique,” Butler continues, “it can be an expensive mistake. The Federal Trade Commission’s Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising Prohibitions specifically prohibit such online shilling. If you pay anyone for endorsing or recommending your company’s services, the law expects you to disclose such compensation. This even includes bloggers and other social media types to whom a company might give free company products in the hopes of favorable blog and social media mentions. The FTC regards those freebies as compensation and expects that compensation to be disclosed in any resulting online reviews.

The First Amendment versus The Internet

Despite the fact that buying reviews is illegal – whether good ones for your own business or bad ones for a competitor – the fact remains that it’s so easy and fast to do that the legal system’s ability to track and catch perpetrators is strained.

Why? Because “the Internet” empowers the creation of new options and opportunity faster than laws and legal loopholes can keep up.

At this time, the law cannot compel a website like Yelp to reveal the identities of reviewers who wish to remain anonymous. And without clear evidence that an anonymous review is made by someone who is not a consumer of the services about which the review is written, the court is obligated to protect the reviewer’s First Amendment right to freedom of speech, even anonymously.

Amazon Fights Back

In April 2015, Amazon filed suit against California resident Jay Gentile as well as several anonymous owner/operators of “reviews for purchase” websites, several specifically aimed at securing reviews for product listed on Amazon’s open marketplace.

Bobsled Marketing owner and consultant Kiri Masters works with a number of companies with products listed for sale on Amazon; she offers these insights about the practice of review purchasing:

  • Customer reviews are critical to sales conversion on product pages. One of my clients who had only two reviews across their product listings recently ran a promotion to encourage genuine customer reviews; now their sales are around $1,000/week
  • Amazon’s terms of service defer to the FTC’s requirement for persons receiving a product for free to disclose it as such in their reviews. Most reviewers comply with this requirement, so it should. It is interesting to note however that when a brand is generously giving away their product for free, few testers will give it a poor review, opting instead to attempt to resolve it with the brand.


Masters notes that the ethics of giving products away for free in exchange for a usually-favorable review is murky, even when the reviewer is careful to disclose this fact in their review.

5 Steps to Earning Positive Organic Reviews

With Amazon Home Services – including cleaning services – expanding rapidly since its launch earlier in 2015 and Google expected to follow with its own online marketplace and reviews plugged in, the Amazon lawsuit is being closely watched by all stakeholders in the review industry.

But what we know is that consumers rely on what appear to be objective reviews by fellow service recipients to determine not just with whom they actually spend money but often whom they even visit your website with your credentials and amazing testimonials or call for a conversation first.

For business owners choosing to steer far clear of any hint of wrong-doing, continue developing your quality control procedures and metrics as well as your customer loyalty-building initiatives:

  1. Train thoroughly
  2. Inspect and quality check pro-actively
  3. Anticipate and respond to complaints quickly and positively
  4. Wow each customer
  5. Ask happy customers for reviews periodically

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 11, 2015 at

Posted in Business Articles, Housekeeping, Small Business Tips

Do More Than the Minimum To Keep Clients Happy and Boost Sales

600600p3069EDNmaingeneric-apartments-flipped-600-x-250To become and remain competitive, you’ve got to know what your competition is likely offering – so you can do more and better.

When 75% of an industry is doing the same thing, that thing (or collection of tasks) becomes a standard – no longer a competitive advantage but is simple the minimum level of service. So to start with, asked “What’s on your base task list?” in an effort to better define the most basic possible scope of work to give guidance to young businesses as they are getting started and working out the kinks and on their unique selling propositions.

We know that the list can change, especially so for companies specializing in customization. But everyone seems to have a basic task list; otherwise, no one would have a place to start with training, which we all seem to agree is the real core of each company’s competitive advantage.

So what stacks up as the Basic Weekly Scope of Work for Residential Cleaning? These are the minimum expectations, based on earning at least a 75% adoption rate by survey participants. (Click here or on image to see Table 1.)

The question remains what to do with all of the things on your list that might be now considered extra when compared to the minimum scope of work. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Keep them right where they are and highlight them as points of differentiation between you and your local competitors.
  2. Use them to create levels (basic, plus, premium, custom) of service to more easily show the value of cleaning in a home.
  3. Reserve some of the lowest cost/lowest time options for a WOW list that you can turn to when you want to thank or surprise a loyal customer, reward someone for a referral, or add on in a service recovery (complaint) situation.
  4. Create a Custom or Add-on list of services for which you charge a little bit more – because it takes longer and a little more training for your techs to get it right.

Here are the things you can use to boost your base or additional service options (Click here or on image to see Table 2.)

Originally published on August 7, 2015 at
Posted in Business Articles, Small Business Tips

4 Ways to Keep Your Best Employees

motivating millennials at workIn an industry with 300% turnover, having concrete actions for inspiring and keeping your best employees is the best cost-saving hack you can get.

It’s been the plight of the business owner for eons: these younger workers just don’t have the work ethic, the professional attitude, the loyalty to do quality work, make customers happy, and stick around long enough for me to make some money.

And the chant is growing louder as the largest generation in history is already edging out older workers. They’ll work cheaper, and that appeals to business owners trying to keep costs down and prices competitive. But these millennial workers seem to have different expectations of “work” and “advancement” that can make them appear transient, unreliable.

Employee culture and engagement expert Sandy Geroux offers these four ways business owners and managers can better communicate with and motivate millennial workers.

What motivates Millennial employees is the same thing that motivates all employees: respect. However, the difference is in how actions are perceived by the different generational groups, and how certain things come across as disrespectful, even when no disrespect is intended. Here are 4 ways Xer and Baby Boomer bosses can change the way they interact with Millennials that will help lessen perceived disrespect and encourage millennials to comply, engage and feel loyalty to their leaders:

1. Explain the Why – Not Just the What

While Boomers and Xers are often satisfied with an answer of “I don’t know,” Millennials want to know the answer to everything… immediately! They have grown up in an age where the answer to almost anything is literally at your fingertips at any moment via the Internet.

Boomers and Xers had to work harder and wait longer for answers because they often had to research answers in printed books, encyclopedias, and other resources – which many times they didn’t possess, so they had to (gasp!) drive to a library, or call and ask a librarian to research it for them. Thus, they were used to having to forge ahead without ALL the answers in their possession.

Millennials don’t want to do anything without the answer to the question “Why?”. So explaining the “why” behind the policy, rather than simply telling them what the policy is, will inspire them to comply of their own free will because it makes sense to them.

Remember that when someone decides to do something, it has to be for his/her own reasons, not yours; and if they don’t know the why, there is no reason to do it.

2. Ask for Their Input

Millennials are the most socially-oriented generation ever. They love to discuss things, get advice, and offer it in return. In fact, if they are not asked for their advice, they feel disrespected, as though their opinion doesn’t matter and the person making a
decision that affects them doesn’t feel they have anything valuable to offer.

While this didn’t feel disrespectful to previous generations because that’s just the way it was in the past, it does feel disrespectful to this generation where everything is socialized before being acted upon. In addition, Millennials also place much more emphasis on their peers’ opinions than on their elders’ views; thus, they will respect someone much more if that person asks for their input, especially if the decision involves or affects them.

Again, the “why” comes into play, so at least hear and acknowledge their opinions on the matter. They’ll feel less like a policy is being rammed down their throats without input, and you’ll gain buy-in more easily. However, this also means that if you don’t take their advice, you MUST at least let them know you heard it, as well as the reasons why it is not possible, at least right now.

3. Help Them Learn and Grow

Millennials have grown up in a learning environment, so it comes very naturally to them. Therefore, giving them opportunities to continue to learn and grow are vitally important.

They will not stay or engage in a workplace where there is nowhere for them to go, where there are no opportunities to improve themselves and build a foundation for later success in their career and their life.

These opportunities include job training, leadership and other soft skills training, as well as mentoring from their leaders at various levels who can offer advice and guidance on their careers, mindsets, and other important life- and career-related skills.

4. Take an Interest In Them

No one will go to the wall for a leader who acts as though their people are just another number. If leaders don’t take the time to find out the first clue about their people – and also don’t let their people get to know them, why would their people care about the leader or the organization?

Remember, people don’t work for organizations; they work for people. So, start engaging with them. Ask about their lives, joke with them occasionally, share your hobbies, find out the names of their significant family members. You don’t have to be best friends with them, but you do have to at least look like someone they would want to be friends with.

The best way to eliminate the Us vs. Them mentality is to let them know just how like their leaders they really are.

Originally published on July 28, 2015 at
Posted in Business Articles, Small Business Tips

New Overtime Rule Will Cost You Money

overtimeIf your staff make less than $1000/week, you’ll now have to pay them overtime – even salaried employees.

If a new overtime pay rule proposed by the President and presented by the US Department of Labor on Tuesday, June 30th, is adopted, cleaning business owners will be looking at an even more complex compensation calculation system – even for salaried employees.

Here’s how it breaks down:

  • hourly workers who gross $1000/week or less would be eligible for overtime pay
  • salaried workers who gross $50,440/year or less would be eligible for overtime pay


It’s easy to assume that the 5 million hourly workers in the US are rejoicing at this news, but other supporters include various labor unions known to advocate for higher wages in general, specifically the AFL-CIO.


It’s easy to assume that employees will rejoice, but you might be surprised by some of the opponents of this change:

National Retail Foundation: “Overtime expansion would drive up retailers’ payroll costs while limited opportunities to move up into management.” and “most workers would be unlikely to see an increase in take-home pay, the use of part-time workers could increase, and retailers operating in rural states could see a disproportionate impact.”

National Federation of Independent Businesses: “rule will be especially tough for small businesses in small markets.”

National Restaurant Association: “it seems as if these proposed rules have the potential to radically change industry standards and negatively impact our workforce.”

What YOU Can Do

  1. Read the bill in its original and entirety; avoid forming opinions based solely on others’ interpretation of the bill and proposed changes.
  2. Register your comments here by September 4th, the end of the required 60-day public comment period. Please note that your comments will become public record and cannot be filed anonymously.
  3. Compose and post your comments to the office listed in the bill (link above, instructions on page 2).


Originally published July 1, 2015 at

Posted in Business Articles, Small Business Tips

6 Processes Your Cleaning Business Should Automate This Summer

mobile business automationFor a first foray into technology-supported automation, these common processes in a cleaning business are a great place to start.

Technology is an amazing tool which any business can use to begin improving efficiency, but only if the basis processes, procedures, and policies have been created to govern the decision-making that drives the systems. For a first foray into technology-supported automation, these common processes in a cleaning business are a great place to start:

1. Time Tracking

As the IRS requires you to track both job time and travel time towards calculating overtime rates (which often change weekly), time tracking is a daily task that can easily get lost in the paperwork. Some of the traditional maid service scheduling applications offer some form of field time tracking options, though you may want to consider independent time tracking apps before committing to a larger system.

2. Mileage Tracking

Because employers must pay technicians for their travel time, it’s in your best interest (and bank balance) to monitor both mileage and travel time to make sure you keep it to a minimum; that’s where mileage tracking (aka GPS tracking) applications can increase the reporting accuracy and help you keep labor costs down.

3. Blogging

Content marketing continues to dominate the SEO strength and search rankings of websites, and a weekly blog is one of the easiest ways to accomplish this. But it can be a pain to remember to stop and write and post once a week. Use a blog scheduler to help you out so that you can dedicate a smaller block of time once a month to writing and scheduling 4-5 posts for the month that support any specials or themes, and then just “set it and forget it.”

4. Social Media

As with blogs, there are many free applications that let you schedule social media posts ahead of time so that you can make that a weekly or even a monthly task. Keep in mind, though, that you’ll still need to monitor your social media sites daily to respond to comments, client contact messages, and reviews (if you have that feature enabled).

5. Email Autoresponders

If you’re using email marketing, hopefully you are using an email management system that complies with CAN-SPAM. And if you are, then check the additional features for an autoresponder option. With this, you can program an automatic response sequence when a contact hits reply to specific emails or newsletters. It’s a great way to set up and test out your first automated nurture campaign, which is a commonly used feature of larger automation systems.

6. File Sharing

The first time you bring on even a part time office staff member, you’re going to need to share information and files and programs and passwords with that person. A great way to do this without investing in an expensive and complex office network is to use an online file-sharing service, many of which are free.

In general, these are single-task solutions, which are a great way for a company in the beginning stages of bringing on cleaning technicians (time tracking and mileage tracking), launching its online presence (blogging, social media, and email autoresponders), or adding a first office staff member (file sharing).

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 June 30, 2015 at

Posted in Business Articles, Small Business Tips

Growing with Technology: From Ledger Books to Online Bookkeeping

accounting and bookkeeping at homeAdopting a tech-based solution for your business doesn’t mean you have to abandon your back-ups.

Growing up, my family – which includes my mom’s parents and her sister’s family – took a month-long “vacation” from Sunday dinner from March 15 – April 15 every year. Why? Because my grandfather, a retired military accountant for the Veterans Administration, spread his entire tax kit out across the three dining tables in my grandparents’ home, leaving us nowhere to sit our 12-person gathering. And when my grandmother opened her business in 1982, my grandfather added her business bookkeeping and accounting to that process.

Setting the Standard: Ledger Book Accounting

He’d already spent 1 full day each month meticulously organizing, cataloging, and entering each credit and debit into a practice ledger and then, once satisfied that it couldn’t be more correct, into the official old-school ledger book by hand. But then he’d spend a full month re-tallying everything in the practice sheets, and again in the official month-to-month ledger book before embarking on his annual pilgrimage. That’s what I learned to call it as a child because he spent so much time talking loudly to God, and not always using his nice words.

That pilgrimage took him through the annually revised tax code, completing every possible permutation of deductions so that he could figure out the minimum he owed the government. You see, he and my grandmother made a magnificent business team: she analyzed consumer and market trends and selected the investments and he served as her financial backer and accountant. They always owed taxes as the end of the year but were determined to pay as little as possible.

Building on a Traditional System: First Bookkeeping Software

My grandfather’s system worked so well that he passed it along to my mother, who applied the same redundant (that’s a good thing in accounting, by the way) bookkeeping and accounting system to her business, which she sold in 2011, and continues to use as her base system for managing her own personal accounting.

But while she continued to apply those fundamental GAAP accounting systems to keep everything straight, I was able to convince her in 1996 to start using Microsoft Money to keep better track of her business’s regular bookkeeping and monthly, quarterly, and annual reporting; after all, it came free with her first box-style desktop computer and back then, no one even considered using a professional system like the early Quickbooks for home use.

That first year when she was able to turn in her year-end financials to her CPA for the business taxes, he bought her season tickets for the local college football team. Yep! It was that big a deal to him to have his business clients make the transition from all of that paper that had to again be entered by hand and calculated and corrected in his system before it could be turned into tax statements. But to receive an electronic file on that 3.25” floppy was like winning the lottery, making it easy and time efficient to run the taxes and make room for even more clients and his own business growth.

But that didn’t stop my mom from continuing in her father’s footsteps. The last and first day of each month is a tricky time to call her still and we never have family dinners then because, like her father, she spreads all of the statements and receipts out on the dining table and gets to work – every month without fail.

In 2009, when Microsoft announced that it was no longer developing or supporting Microsoft Money, well, that wasn’t a good day. And since you can no longer download the original program (there’s a replacement program), my mom spends a lot of time and energy keeping her laptop in good shape because when it goes, she’ll have to grow with it to a new accounting package.

The Value in Redundant Bookkeeping

Though she no longer does the bookkeeping for her own business, she now volunteers as the bookkeeper for several small charitable organizations. And when her laptop went kaput, she lost two years of electronic records for those organizations.

After she recovered from heart-stopping fear, she gleefully shot me – her tech-happy daughter – a big, fat “I told you so.” Naturally, I’d given her a lot of grief over keeping ledger books and doing so much work every month when she could just keep it on the computer once.

But if she hadn’t had those laboriously organized and cataloged ledger books, she wouldn’t have been able to recreate the missing two years in a new program to pass on to her successors in those organizations.

The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far

So I’ll let you in on a little secret. For all that I’ve abandoned pencil, paper, and calculator in favor of a cloud system when I do my own personal weekly reconciliation, I’ve got every statement and every receipt neatly organized in an 13-slot accordion file and tucked away in my home office. Just In Case!


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 June 16, 2015 at

Posted in Business Articles, Small Business Tips

3 Ways You’re Doing Facebook All Wrong

Facebook marketing the right wayStop doing these three things to improve your return on engagement.

With every marketing guru adamant that a cleaning business must have a Facebook Page to facilitate growth, the internet is flooded with advice on what “to do” to get the most out of Facebook. But here are three things you want to avoid doing on Facebook if you want the best ROE (return on engagement) out of your social media strategy:

1. Stop Hashtagging on Facebook

View infographicPost view and engagement statistics show that Facebook posts without hashtags perform more than 50% better than posts with hashtags. More than that, the more hashtags you add to a Facebook post, the less likely it is to be seen. Why? Facebook has never truly embraced the hashtag from Twitter, which it sees as competition.

If you are dedicated to the hashtag, focus your social media efforts on Twitter and Instagram – but only as long as your strategy is netting you followers that you are able to send to your website and convert into customers. Just because you like hashtags and Twitter doesn’t mean your target consumers do. Make sure you play their game in their playground to make the most of your social media strategy.

2. Stop Posting Videos Directly to Facebook

It’s tempting – oh, so tempting – to take the easy route when you’ve snagged a super cool video of your techs doing something cool like hallway swimming and upload it directly to Facebook. It’s quick; it’s simple.

But it doesn’t support your online presence. Remember, the core of your online existence is your website. Everything else you do online – on any social media platform, on review sites, with lead generators, with contests – must lead your prospects to your website (where presumably you have great sales conversion calls to action).

So when you post a video straight to Facebook, you lose the opportunity to drive traffic to your website or otherwise boost your SEO. Instead, take the extra time – literally minutes – to post that video to your company YouTube channel (which you’ve connected to your website); that way you can add a card to your video, program in some keywords and phrases, and make it searchable – independent of your share to Facebook, which is still an awesome idea!

3. Stop Posting ONLY About Cleaning

Cleaning may be the only thing you think about and talk about during the business day, but it’s not likely to be the only interest in your life. The same applies to the community of followers and fans you’re trying to grow and cultivate through your social media channels. So make sure your posts appeal to all of the aspects of life of your most common target markets.

If you’re currently shooting in the dark with your topics or are posting exclusively on cleaning topics, consider this strategy: make a list of the 10 most common features of the majority of your current clients: have pets, have kids, military families, sports fans, stuff like that. Make that your 2-week rotational pattern for your daily posts. When followers see you connecting with something they care about, that’s when they Like, Comment, and Share posts, and that’s what you’re looking for in your ROE (return on engagement).

When you use the information at your fingertips to take stronger control of what you can do to create a fan following, you’ll see a higher ROE. And then you’ll be better able to connect your ROE and your ROI as the connections between community engagement and sales becomes clearer.

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 June 11, 2015 at

Posted in Business Articles, Content Marketing, Housekeeping

2013 Cleaning Convention Recap: Networking, Synergy, and Landmarks

600600p3069EDNmain705ribbon-cutting-615-x-350What you gain attending the annual cleaning convention is priceless. Taken together with the four associations who gathered in Las Vegas in November, the industry trends, association initiatives and major awards were uniquely uniting for the cleaning industry.

If ever there was proof that the cleaning industry is strong, large, and growing, the evidence could be found at the 2013 trade show and conventions in Las Vegas. Attendance records were broken, vendor participation was at an all-time high, and annual awards honored unsung heroes.

Centered around ISSA/INTERCLEAN 2013 were its three co-located conventions by IEHA – the International Executive Housekeepers Association, ARCSI – the Association of Residential Cleaning Services International, and BSCAI – the Building Service Contractors Association International. With each of these associations reporting record attendance, it’s no wonder the main trade show was packed for two-and-a-half days.

Trends in the Cleaning Industry
Within our ever-evolving industry, change is inevitable, but it’s the changes that catch on with the customers who demand quality and specialty service as well as the businesses who work together up and down the supply chain who really define the trends and challenges facing the cleaning industry at large.

The “green” movement has had its day and continues to enjoy a specialty following, but the lasting trend from that effort is one of sustainability: the balance between achieving our clean goals, rendering minimal negative impact on the natural environment, and operating a successful and profitable business.

Toward that end, many manufacturers launched or featured low-impact salt-based cleaner/sanitizers, including some designed for use by residential cleaning companies. The number of steam-based cleaning and disinfecting options is growing, and the availability of cleaning enzymes is expanding.

Aging Building Maintenance
More than once, the challenges of servicing the “aging building market” was a topic of presentation and discussion. For many years, cleaning was cleaning, with no standard body of knowledge or skills established. With construction remaining slow, rents rising, and businesses moving to older buildings, BSCs find themselves faced with a well-worn building where no amount of removing soil can make things shine the way they used to.

BSCs are faced with the conundrum of feeding into the “pretty and shiny = clean” consumer mentality or potentially losing out on contracts when maintenance or even renovation is the best choice for achieving the consumers’ end-goal appearance. For this reason, the multiple-solution bid is becoming more common, providing the opportunity to place the best option (whatever that may be) in a value perspective.

Mobile Business Solutions 
The number of online and mobile business solutions grows every year, so it was only a matter of time before technology-based solutions made their way into the cleaning industry. Mobile business solutions are major investments that empower cost-cutting savings in operations and support services. They make a huge, positive difference in margins. Online quoting tools and automated sales systems help land new clients. Customer satisfaction and survey tools help retain great clients. These mobile solutions also enhance efficiency in scheduling, creating work orders and dispatching field staff.

When you’re evaluating your existing solutions or looking for a new solution, be sure to check for mobile and cloud interfaces with coordinating products, including ISSA Innovation Award winner CleanTelligent Software for their mobile surveys and work orders. And be sure to check out our June article, which compares options for scheduling and field services software.

Trends Among Associations
Since 1998, ISSA has shared the annual ISSA/INTERCLEAN Show with at least one, and now three, co-located associations. Together they represent “customers” of the various manufacturer and distributor groups who comprise ISSA’s primary membership. And in those 15 years, IEHA, BSCAI and ARCSI have worked together with ISSA to empower growth within the industry at large and within their own constituencies.

IEHA executive director Beth Risinger commented that about 20 years ago, when she first reached out to ISSA, the leadership of other associations was skeptical of initiating a relationship between ISSA and a group considered its customers. But today, she and the leadership of ARCSI and BSCAI have forged strong friendships and an enormous business network. This strengthens the member companies of each group.

BSCAI opened its convention with a unique panel including leadership from BOMA – Building Owners and Managers Association, IREM – Institute of Real Estate Management, and IFMA – International Facility Management Association, along with the BSCAI President. Though the panel was focused on addressing important questions for building service contractors (BSCs), the conversation and its residual value spans the industry.

Our common cause is the delivery of exceptional products and services to the occupants of the spaces we build, manage, clean, and maintain. When we enter into business arrangements with this knowledge, knowing the mission and recognizing the value of our respective associations, we better benefit each other and ourselves. Specifically, we best benefit our end users by:

  • Cooperating and collaborating with members of related industry associations
  • Sharing mutually beneficial resources – bodies of knowledge, educational programs, and certifications
  • Engaging in informed supply chain relationships, which provides the best possible experience for end users

IEHA – ISSA Lifetime Achievement Award
Beth Risinger

beth-risinger-150-x-200This year’s Lifetime Achievement Award marks the 15th anniversary of the landmark and highly-successful partnership between ISSA and IEHA. And for the first time, IEHA participated in the selection process and presentation of the award. As the executive director of IEHA, Beth Risinger has grown that organization to the largest of the three association partners to ISSA. Together with ISSA, she has championed education, certification programs and the development of many leadership tools. She has authored Kip the Koala, the first coloring book for children about cleaning.

BSCAI Industry Service Award and ISSA Industry Distinguished Service Awards
Varsity Facility Services

Don-Aslett-and-Arlo-LukeTwo of the industry’s top service awards were granted this year to Founder Don Aslett and Board of Directors Chairman Arlo Luke, both of Varsity Facility Services. These two college friends started Varsity Facility Services over 55 years ago and have grown it into a powerhouse.

The company has interests in every area of the cleaning industry and has achieved several milestones. It was the first company to become CIMS Certified with Honors. In addition, Don Aslett is the founder and curator of the Museum of Clean, an historical collection of cleaning instruments and advertisements which serve as a testament to the role of cleaning in the evolution of society. In his award comments, Don asserted that, though “we’re still invisible” to many, he can always tell a professional cleaner by the sagging pants, where their keys have pulled them out of shape.

BSCAI Employee of the Year Award
Patrick Morgan

It’s not often that the heroes of the cleaning industry are known outside of their association, let alone outside of the company for which they work. But thanks to the power of our connected world, the tale of Patrick Morgan of Sunshine Cleaning Systems went viral in early 2013. So on November 20th, when Larry Calufetti, President of Sunshine Cleaning Systems, introduced Patrick for the BSCAI Employee of the Year Award, sponsored by Hillyard, Patrick was known, recognized, and appreciated for the example he sets for members of the industry, and also for consumers.

ARCSI President’s Award
Rachel Farquer, My Maid Service

rachael-150-x-200In its closing President’s Reception, ARCSI honored Rachel Farquer of My Maid Service, who in 2014 will become the majority owner and general manager of the company’s newest office in Dayton, OH. Having started off as an average cleaning technician, Rachel’s true talent in leadership and management was revealed when she transitioned to office work in the later months of a pregnancy. Today, at just 24 years old, Rachel is the first President’s Award recipient to have risen through the ranks of her employer’s company to become a majority owner.  Read Derek Christian’s nomination letter.

Through awards and the occasional viral video, members and companies in our industry continually advance the notion that “clean is a condition,” in the words of Don Aslett. With far more than just the four industry associations which convene with ISSA/INTERCLEAN each year, it is essential to remember that all are aiming toward the same ultimate goal: a strong and growing cleaning industry perceived as valuable by our society.

Originally published on December 2, 2013 at
Posted in Business Articles, Content Marketing, Small Business Tips

The Family Business: They Have to Really Want It for the Dream to Become Reality

600600p3069EDNmain1157Anago-3-shot-300-x-250Father and son navigate the life-long process of succession planning.

When Dave Povlitz filed his business corporation paperwork in 1989, he was already thinking about who would take over the company when he was ready to retire. Though that day was 30 or so years in the future, he knew that it mattered even then – in the beginning – if he wanted to ensure the continued success of his legacy at Anago Cleaning Systems.

And like many business owners with a family, Dave dreamed of one day watching one of his children – daughter Lisa or son Adam – grow to love his business as much as he did and want to lead its continued growth. But as much as he dreamed of this family legacy, Dave also knew that leading his business had to be something that the next leader – family or not – valued, believed in, and wanted.

To build his company into something both successful and sustainable, Dave established Seven Unifying Principles to guide the company in setting overarching strategy and addressing day-to-day challenges. And it’s these seven principles, or core values, that have guided his approach to succession planning.

1) Believe in People
“You’re not working for me,” Dave told Adam when he graduated from college with a degree in finance. “You need to go out and work and learn something.”

The leader of a company needs to have enviable attention to detail, intricate financial expertise, and great operational/managerial skills. S/he must be a self-starter and a person who is continually creating ways to do everything better. This person is your biggest sales person and brand advocate, the most human and approachable member of your company. And above all, the company CEO must have a great heart.

“We are here for our franchisees’ success,” says Dave. “That’s our motto.” And that’s where Adam started with Anago after he’d worked in corporate America – as a regional franchise development manager helping franchisees get set up and troubleshoot challenges.

2) Have Personal and Professional Integrity
“The difference between good and excellent is a person’s attention to detail while having empathy.”

One of the hardest parts of creating a family legacy through natural succession is avoiding even the appearance of nepotism. When a business owner brings family members directly into a leadership position, they often inherit a target on their backs at the same time. It’s more than just important, it’s critical to ensure that anyone being promoted into a leadership position has a solid foundation in the inner workings of the company.

Before college, Adam had spent some time telemarketing for the Anago franchisees by day and cleaning a daycare center by night. His sister Lisa started out as a bookkeeper while she went to college. Dave worked hard to make sure that both of his children could speak to every part of the business before considering them – or anyone else – for promotion.

3) Give People the Opportunity for Advancement
“No matter what I did, I was only going to ever be one tiny little cog,” explained Adam about what made him start searching for more than the standard career in finance.

When a leader starts to think about succession, it’s tempting to try to think of finding a person who’s ready to just step right in. But the reality is that very few people like that exist – someone with just the right skills, perspective, and knowledge to step out of an existing job and into the CEO shoes. That’s why it’s vital that a company have and support an employee structure that not only allows for a few to grow into new levels of responsibility, but that actively promotes advancement.

The Master franchise structure that Anago uses does exactly that. It put Adam and Lisa through their paces and helped them grow into the leaders they are today. Adam is the Executive Vice President, having worked his way from cleaning technician and telemarketer to regional franchise development manager to financial officer to the executive team leader. Lisa is the Vice President of Internal Operations, having started as one of the bookkeepers, and now oversees 20 administrative staff responsible for telemarketing, regulatory compliance, human resources, and more.

4) Promote Training and Education
“The primary barrier to entry in the cleaning industry is not cleaning, but the other stuff,” claims Adam. “There are smarter ways to do business, and that’s what we teach our franchisees.”

As important as the formal and on-the-job training is that top-level executive candidates bring to the leadership of the company, it’s just as critical to consider the role of all levels of management within the company in two key areas:
– Their need to continue learning and be growing contributors to the existing and future leadership.
– Their ability to impart both skill training and institutional knowledge to other leaders-in-training.

Dave made sure that both Lisa and Adam would value continuous training and education by having them learn the business from lower management roles. They needed both job skill training and company culture experience.

5) Reserve the Right to Make Mistakes
“Move slowly. Analyze the details of a person’s career,” explains Dave. “Try to find someone from within the organization that has grown up while experiencing the ups and downs and pitfalls of growth. It takes a lot of negotiating in every aspect of life to be a great CEO.”

Those mistakes are an important part of evaluating a person’s ability to lead because mistakes expose a person’s ability to exhibit several of the core values. In fact, a question about a mistake is one of the best questions any interviewer can ask a candidate for any position. The value to the person making a mistake is in recognizing the need for change. The value to the interviewer is the glimpse into the candidate’s reaction to change and ability to see and maximize opportunities.

That’s another reason Dave insisted Adam and Lisa both work from deep within the company to earn their current leadership roles: to ensure that they had ample opportunity to make and learn from their mistakes as part of growing into excellent leaders.

6) Provide a Sense of Achievement and Enjoyment
“The best ideas for development come from our franchisees,” says Adam. And as he’s worked with franchisees, Adam has come to value the growth driven by their knowledge.

The greatest sense of self comes with being encouraged to tell a story about what you go through to arrive at a point of resolution. In other words, when you describe a challenge and are also able to explain how you developed a solution. And to do that, you need someone to listen to your story. That’s one of the ways that the success process can bring the excitement of change and inspiration into a company.

Adam has made it an essential part of his role to listen to the company’s franchisees and support their solutions and recommendations for global development.

7) Manage with Goals
“We don’t want to be your father’s cleaning company,” laughs Adam as he starts to list some of the ways the same old goal of growing the company looks so different in a technology-enabled world.

Business growth is driven by a company’s ability to continually differentiate itself from its competitors, and today a company’s use of technology to create an outstanding user experience is critical to meeting that expectation. More business owners are emerging from the millennial generation in their 20s-30s; they are the rising decision makers, and they’ve been conducting business in an app-based, automated, instant information and accountability world.

As the Executive Vice President and CEO-elect, Adam is already moving the company in some new directions with that growth goal:
– Developing tablet-based software to support easier client interactions and improve technician job delivery and unit franchise operations.
– Expanding the franchise both nationally and internationally, empowered by the ability to use technology to bridge many international challenges.

Passing On the Family Business
With Adam poised to advance to CEO upon Dave’s retirement, both had a few additional cautions for business owners who want nothing more than to see their family join and grow their dream into a true family business:

You – the business owner – have to make sure that son or daughter, sister or brother really want to work in the industry and work hard to develop a full set of leadership skills – even the uncomfortable ones.
Be careful to compartmentalize emotions when interacting with family members – both at the office and at home.
Minimize the appearance of a family clique within or above the full leadership team; Dave, Adam and Lisa limit their family time to one lunch a week.

Power is taken, not given, even within families; be careful to avoid “taking over” before the current CEO is ready to hand over the reins.

Anago Cleaning Systems, led by Chairman and Founder David Povlitz, is enjoying its top growth year ever and will celebrate its 25th Anniversary in 2014. Anago encourages the growth of family-run businesses; in fact, its most successful Master Franchisees are those with a family element in the business dynamic. David has seen the rewards of working at his company with his son Adam, the Executive Vice President, who plays a growing role on the Executive Team of the company, responsible for operations, Master training, and management of vendor relationships.

CeCe Mikell is the Editorial Director 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 October 27, 2014 at

Posted in Business Articles, Small Business Tips

Post, Share, and Comment at the Right Time Each Day

600600p3069EDNmain1112social-times-300-x-250Scheduling your social media checks and posts around high activity points can improve your lead generation rates.

Knowing WHEN to post on each different social media and networking site is just as important as WHAT you post. Here’s a quick guide based on research from SendSocialMedia that will help you

  1. schedule your live social activity time each day – minimizing wasted time and maximizing “the moment”
  2. schedule your auto-posts directly or through a social media management platform – allowing you to set up posts for days, weeks, or months ahead of time!

Consider scheduling 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the afternoon to check on your social activity.

And don’t forget to follow Cleaning Business Today where you like to get your updates!


Originally published on August 19, 2014 at