Posted in Content Marketing, Ghost Writer

Ladybug winners announced: an Iowa green cleaning company and a teacher and young adult author

600600p3069EDNmain1947Ladybug-winners-announced-600-x-250Advanced Vapor Technologies and Cleaning Business Today reveal the winners of the Ladybug Giveaway.

Drum roll please… The winners of the Ladybug Steam Vapor Giveaway are:

Stephanie Nesseth of Absolutely Clean

For the before-and-after photo with the most votes: Stephanie Nesseth of Absolutely Clean in Cedar Rapids, Iowa was the clear winner, with over 2,100 votes.

Jolene Buchheit

In the random drawing of people who voted: Jolene Buchheit, a teacher and young adult fiction author is the winner.

Congratulations to both winners and thank you to all of our 18 photo contest entrants and over 4900 votes!

The Ladybug Steam Vapor Giveaway is over, and whether you won this time around or not, owning a Ladybug is a win-win for both you and your customers. It’s a win for you, because the Ladybug is an incredibly efficient tool that can make your cleaners more productive and generate income for your cleaning service. It’s a win for your customers, because the Ladybug uses simple tap water. There are no harsh chemicals, so the Ladybug cleans and disinfects in a way that is non-toxic. For more information about the Ladybug Steam Vapor System from Advanced Vapor Technologies,click here. Or to learn how your cleaning company can use the Ladybug to make your business more profitable, watch the video below. And congratulations again to our winners.

Originally published May 2, 2016 at

Posted in Content Marketing, Ghost Writer, Housekeeping

3 companies use steam vapor cleaning to make more money – and win a free Ladybug

600600p3069EDNmain1925Ladybug-steam-vapor-trio-600-x-250One amazing before-and-after photo is all it takes to win a FREE steam vapor disinfection system and start making more money cleaning.

Sponsored ArticleThe “green” movement is strong, no matter which of the common words you use to describe your way of being green: natural, organic, healthy, sustainable, safe, non-toxic, etc.

What if you could truly strip your cleaning procedure down to just one ingredient: simple tap water? That’s what cleaning business owners across the US are doing: simply reducing the potential for error and harm to the lowest possible denominator.

You read that right! Water, specifically tap water, is the only ingredient that powers the Ladybug series of steam vapor cleaning and disinfecting systems by Advanced Vapor Technologies, the most widely-adopted chemical free* cleaning tool across the US.

Now, you’re wondering just how these folks can possibly be competing on time and price with traditional apply-and-wipe cleaning procedures, right? Well, let’s hear it in their own words – and find out how they plan to win a FREE Ladybug to help them grow even more.

Amy Wiggs King
2 Green Chicks of Norman, OK

Ladybug-dolly-photo-300-x-300A little over a year ago we learned about the AdVap Ladybug with TANCS, and we have been able to upsell and use it for hard-to-clean areas: first-time cleanings, ovens, showers (especially with hard water buildup), grout and the list goes on!

When our cleaning chicks started working with the Ladybug, Chick Christine wrote her middle name “Dolly” in an oven vent! The amount of grime that can be steamed away is amazing, and our clients love the results. And since we are a green cleaning company, we love that the system only uses water and no harsh or unnecessary chemicals.

Mona Gatens
Windsor Maid Service of Houston, TX

I spent nearly 30 years in healthcare before opening Windsor Maid Services, so the plan for my company from the very beginning was to use equipment and products to make my clients homes healthier. We focus our marketing on the healthy benefits of our cleaning methods, and subsequently many of our clients have small children, compromised immunity, are post-surgical or are severe allergy sufferers. We are delighted to have found the AdVap Ladybug dry vapor steam cleaners with TANCS as they are a primary piece in our healthy homes initiative. Having the ability to disinfect surfaces in clients’ homes without using chemicals that they might be sensitive to is a huge benefit to us.

Another advantage of the dry steam vapor system is that there aren’t any chemicals involved; there also isn’t any residue. This makes our maintenance cleaning quicker and easier, saving us money in payroll expenses.

The Ladybug is also an extremely effective cleaning device with the ability to far surpass many more traditional methods and tackles the hardest of jobs. We’ve never found any other device, tool or chemical that can tackle really badly baked on ovens and showers and tubs that are severely hard water stained anywhere near as effectively as the Ladybug does, and it does so completely chemical free – no harsh or mild chemicals or vapors for my staff or clients to inhale!

Troy Knight
Castle Keepers of Greenville, SC

Before starting my business, I committed to being a green, eco-friendly company, and there are a lot of ways to be “green.” Our focus is to use products and processes that are less toxic and have lower VOCs than many traditional cleaning methods. Specifically what this means is that we started off building our cleaning procedure on the use of deionized water and dry steam vapor to enable us to incorporate a chemical-free process into our cleaning for clients who prefer non-traditional cleaning methods.

Without the DI Water Kit and our AdVap Ladybug with TANCS, we’d be running inventory weekly and purchasing supplies likely monthly – forever. It’s just too easy to see the savings of a one-time equipment purchase, especially one that just uses the same water supply we’d have been using if we had to dilute chemicals or in the rinsing phase of the cleaning procedure. Since we get to skip those steps, that’s time we get back in our pockets – either in cash savings not paid out to labor or to re-invest in other, more productive activities like marketing and ongoing staff training.

See more from Troy and The Steam Lady Diana Henley in this webinar about why and how companies have made a successful and profitable transition from standard or eco-friendly chemicals to a steam-powered cleaning procedure.

But you’re ready to find out how you can get your hands on the amazing AdVap Ladybug for free, right? Who wouldn’t want a chance to have this top-of-the-line, $2000 piece of premium cleaning and disinfecting equipment!

It’s so easy – and we hope you’ve been gathering as many before-and-after photos of your Ladybug cleaning jobs:

  1. Submit your best, most dramatic before-and-after photo of something you’ve cleaned with your Ladybug – only one submission per person, so make it really, really good!
  2. Come back and vote every day – on your own submission or a friend’s!
  3. Share your submission daily to remind friends, family, and clients (if you’re a business) to vote – folks can vote once a day!

Contest opens MARCH 29th and voting remains open until APRIL 29th! Good Luck!

Be sure to follow Advanced Vapor Technologies and Cleaning Business Today on Facebook for contest updates and the second half of our 2-month education series on the benefits of adopting the Ladybug with TANCS® to maintain a healthy home for yourself and for your cleaning clients.

Connect with Rick Hoverson on LinkedIn
Connect with Randy Zielsdorf on LinkedIn

Originally published March 29, 2016 at

Posted in Content Marketing, Ghost Writer, Housekeeping

2 Ways to Win the Best Disinfection System Available for Your Cleaning Business

600600p3069EDNmain1903Ladybug-Giveaway-How-to-Enter-600-x-250-REV230 days to find your best “horrible” mess to win a free ADVAP Ladybug 2300 in our Before-and-After photo giveaway

Sponsored ArticleIt’s not often that something truly new is invented that dramatically changes the cleaning process, so when ADVAP introduced its Ladybug with the patented TANCS® dry steam vapor disinfecting system 10 years ago, we knew we had a revolutionary product but that we also had a responsibility to educate cleaning professionals and consumers. After all, military-invented bleach, ammonia, and similar chemical solutions had been the standard for generations, certainly long enough for them to create a space in our memories as the “smell of clean.”

But as science often does, it shows us better, safer, healthier, easier, and faster ways to accomplish the tasks that are integral to our lives. The ADVAP Ladybug with TANCS® is

  • Better at penetrating soils and microbial films, resulting in a truer clean
  • Safer to skin, eyes, nostrils and lungs than high-VOC chemical cleaners – even the “green,” “natural,” and “organic” ones with scents that re-contaminate indoor air
  • Healthier because more soil and microorganisms are removed and there are no chemicals in use to leave residues behind accidentally
  • Easier to use than the old standard “spray-and-wipe” method of cleaning, which requires multiples: spray, dwell, wipe, rinse, dry and sometimes repeat
  • Faster to disinfect in 2-7 seconds as opposed to 2-10 minutes for most disinfectants – plus the dry steam vapor cleans at the same time, reducing 2 steps (cleaning then disinfecting) into one.

And the best news is that you can win a FREE Ladybug 2300 with TANCS® in our upcoming photo contest and giveaway!

The photo submissions and voting starts March 29, but you’ll want to start getting your Ladybug out and practicing your before-and-after routine. You never know when that great contrast situation – you know, the really gross ones that don’t look that gross at first – are going to show up in your schedule. And you’ll want a good collection of before-and-afters to choose from as your final submission to the contest:

The Ladybug before-and-after submission with the most votes wins 1 ADVAP Ladybug 2300.

And a second ADVAP Ladybug 2300 will be awarded in a drawing from among the votes – and ANYONE can vote, not just Ladybug owners!

Here’s what you can do to get yourself ready to submit the best Ladybug before-and-after photo on March 29th:

Practice Your Photos

To ensure that you capture clear, well-lit photos in a high resolution format, let’s make sure your camera settings are ready. Whether you are using a digital camera or the camera in your smart phone or tablet, navigate to the settings and adjust for these levels:

  • Flash: Auto
  • Filter: None

Oh, and one more thing: to set the scale of the area or fixture select a standard sized item like a yard stick for large areas of flooring or a 12-inch or 6-inch ruler for smaller areas or fixtures like faucets. Other universally sized items that may be used to show scale include

  • Unsharpened pencil
  • Dollar bill or quarter
  • Battery (with the size visible in the photograph)
  • Hand

This will also help you to focus your photograph in nearly the same way for both the before and the after shots.

You want to take at three different shots of the soiled area and later the same cleaned area with your camera/phone:

Physically close up – zoomed all the way out so that every detail appears clearly in the photograph

  1. Physically farther away – to give perspective of the soiled area within the larger space
  2. About halfway in between those two shots – this shot often includes enough soiling detail and spatial awareness for a great contrast in the after photograph

Prepare Your Clients

If you don’t already have a photo release written into your standard service agreement, this may be the time for you to add and implement that.

And if you’re not ready for that step, gain permission from clients before taking photos to take photos and use them for marketing purposes using a simple 1-page release like this one.

Find Your Scene

Arguably, the trickiest part of any before-and-after photo contest is finding the best “before” situation, especially when you don’t always know what you’re walking into.

In general, the places that get the most visually dirty and go neglected for the longest times are “wet” places:

  • Bathrooms – especially kids’ bathrooms
  • Kitchen sinks
  • Exterior door frames
  • Sliding door tracks

Also check your add-on cleaning items like

  • Refrigerator door handles, grills, and especially the seal around the door
  • Oven interior
  • Outdoor grill
  • Deck or porch floor
  • Grout

Get more great ideas here.

Start searching for your best scene today by taking before photos of all of these common areas, even if they don’t look terrible. Particularly in the case of grout, you never really know if it’s supposed to be white or a surprising color instead of that dingy dark grey.

Prepare Your Before-and-After Photo Submission

Use a free photo app on your smart phone or table to create your before-and-after photo. We’ve found these to be widely adopted for just this kind of use, easy to use, and available free from iTunes and GooglePlay:

  • Photo Grid
  • Pic Collage
  • Before After Collages

And don’t forget to compose a great caption for your photo.

Be sure to follow Advanced Vapor Technologies and Cleaning Business Today on Facebook as we embark on a 2-month education series on the benefits of adopting the Ladybug with TANCS® to maintain a healthy home for yourself and for your cleaning clients.

Connect with Rick Hoverson on LinkedIn.

Connect with Randy Zielsdorf on LinkedIn.

Originally published February 26, 2016 at

Posted in Content Marketing, Ghost Writer, Housekeeping

8 Things You Can’t Miss at the Cleaning Convention

600600p3069EDNmain1811derek-christian-issa-show-floor-600-x-250-REVSchedules are already filling up; make sure you get time with the experts you need.

Since the founding of ARCSI and, in particular, the year I served as its President, I’ve never missed a convention, and I’m pretty sure neither Liz Trotter nor Derek Christian have either; in fact, both have served on the board and been slightly outrageous advocates for the annual convention – Liz betting Derek that she could get more convention registrations than he could. Yes, Liz won, and Derek had to dye his hair blue that year.

And each year, there’s more to do, new topics and vendors and activities vying for your attention. And let’s not discount the attraction that is Las Vegas itself!

So when you’re looking for me, for Liz or for Derek, here are the 7 places you can definitely find us at Convention:

Private Consultations with Me, Liz or Derek

Naturally, booking a 30-minute private consultation with one of us is the easiest way to ensure that you’re on our schedule with some dedicated time. It’s easy to check online and see when we’re still available to meet new folks like you! Be sure to check with the other consultants to see what opportunities they are offering as well. Convention is a great time to try everyone out!

Workforce Innovation Summit

After the success of the Disruptive Innovation Summit in 2014, I’m excited to see the format return and to focus on another rapidly evolving aspect of our businesses: our staff. In addition to having information from available during the summit, CBT is proud to be introducing Dr. Jeff Waddoups from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, to talk about impending minimum wage increases and how the demand for and actuality of them is likely to change the ways we recruit and retain employees.

Time Management

Make sure you favorite Liz’s Time Management workshop Wednesday at 11:00 am and add it to your agenda in the ISSA Mobile App. This ARCSI session is a true workshop; you’ll be out of your seat and even talking in front of the group before you know it! You might even be able to convince Liz to stick around for some after-workshop workshopping through lunch.

CBT Show Floor Tour

Derek is putting his years of working trade shows to work in this Show Floor Tour, specifically designed to introduce first-timers not only to booths of particular interest to residential cleaners but also how to get free samples out of vendors! The Tour starts on Wednesday at 1:00 pm, after the ARCSI morning education sessions.

Creating a Culture of Promotion

Continuing discussions from the Workforce Innovation Summit, Liz will be presenting on the ISSA Show Floor Thursday at 12:00 pm on how and why to build out your company structure to make promotion the mechanism for empowering professional growth…which leads to business growth. Liz will be available in the Booth 3296 following the class for further discussion.


Happy Hour at the Booth 3296

Possibly the most underrated “event” of the entire convention is the ISSA Happy Hour on the show floor. In addition to enjoying a beverage on ISSA, many exhibitors have special events at their booths only during that one hour. At the Booth 3296, you can get a FREE deck of Core Values Cards, courtesy of Cleaning Business Builders (first 35 people only) and even win a ProTeam Sierra Backpack vacuum. Be sure to visit the booth before Happy Hour to drop your card in the raffle.

CBB Breakfast and Business Forecasting Class

Start your last day of convention off with FREE breakfast and a Business Forecasting class in the CBB Suite at Harrah’s. The class will show you how key metrics tracking can predict what your business will look like in 1, 2, 5, even 10 years from now. If you’ve wanted to know when you’ll hit the $1M revenue mark, this is the class to hit! Space is limited; watch for RSVP information in your ARCSI convention packet.

Improving Customer Retention and Employee Retention in Tandem

Cap off convention with this great class with Derek on the ISSA Show Floor. Admit it: the two things that challenge you the most are people – your staff and your clients. Derek’s going to show you how things you do to make your staff happier and more motivated lead to your customers being happier and sticking with your service longer.

And don’t worry; he’ll be done before you head out to catch Kevin O’Leary from Shark Tank and to see if Teresa Ward wins his Solution Guru contest.

Tom Stewart and his wife, Janice Stewart, are co-owners of Castle-Keepers, the 1st company to achieve CIMS certification. Tom is a nationally-recognized leader & innovator in the house cleaning industry. He is co-founder and Publisher of Cleaning Business Today.

Originally published October 5, 2015 at

Posted in Content Marketing, Ghost Writer, Housekeeping

I Married the Cleaning Lady: The Dawn to Dusk Story

600600p3069EDNmain1752dawn-to-dusk-600-x-2502015 Petra Huppert HEART Scholarship winner John Winter talks about the beginnings of Dawn to Dusk, meeting and marrying the owner Dawn, and becoming a cleaning business owner himself.

CBT: When, why and how did you get your start in the cleaning industry and with Dawn to Dusk
JW: Dawn started her cleaning business in 2006 after she got divorced from her first husband and needed to support her two kids; she specifically wanted something that gave her control over her time, and she could work cleaning houses while her kids were in school.

CBT: What was your very first cleaning client or cleaning job? Do you still have that client?
JW: Dawn’s first client was a referral from a networking group we belong to; we are still in the networking group, but that first client later had a financial setback and couldn’t afford to continue with our service.

CBT: What has been the mission that you’ve used to focus your business development and growth?
JW: Our mission is to provide our clients and customers with cleaning service that exceeds their expectations. We strive to provide long term customer relations as well as employee relations. Our caring and helpful staff will be there for our client’s needs. We understand the importance of integrity and the value of earning the trust and respect of our clients. Our quality service and reliability as well as using the most natural green cleaning products are what set us apart from our competition.

CBT: What would say has been your biggest unexpected challenge to date?
JW: We once had all our cleaning technicians quit at the same time, and they took some of our customers with them and started their own business.

dawn-300-x-400CBT: Is it true that your cleaning business is the way you two met? 
JW: Yes, it’s true! I had just lost my wife Sharon to cancer in 2007, and I needed my house cleaned. I called up Dawn to Dusk Cleaning Service to get a cleaning quote, thinking they would send out Alice from “The Brady Bunch.” Instead Dawn came out, and she was more like Jeanie from “I Dream of Jeanie.” A year and a half later, I married the cleaning lady. When God closes one door, He always opens another. Today we work full time together, and it has been a joy to build a business together; we have cleaned many houses together as well.

CBT: As you’ve sought growth, what resources and/or mentors have been instrumental in supporting you to greater success?
JW: We started out with a local business coach with whom we traded home cleanings for business coaching. When that ended, we found another local business coach but soon found that she did not have the expertise that we needed for the cleaning business. When we joined ARCSI and went to the conventions, we met some great cleaning business owners who continue to be an outstanding professional network. There we learned about Foundations of Success and joined and went for a week-long amazing training jump start that we are continuing through the end of 2016; it was exactly what we needed to take our business to the next levels.

john-300-x-400CBT: What is one way that you’ve changed as a person and a leader?
JW: After going to the ARCSI convention it really open my eyes to see that this is not just a women’s business (forgive me!). I met Joe Walsh, Derek Christian, and Tom Stewart and was really impressed with them and their businesses. It sent a message that this business can be as big as we want to build it and can be a business we both can do together.

CBT: What do you do that believe helps others change?
JW: We found that when we live and work by our core values, we are setting examples for our team to do the same and they will follow.  Thank you, Liz Trotter, for helping us with this.

CBT: As the winner of the 2015 Petra Huppert HEART Scholarship to attend the ARCSI Convention and ISSA Trade Show, what are you looking forward to most at convention? 
JW: We love attending ARCSI conventions and surrounding ourselves with other cleaning professionals and business owners; we learn so much to help grow our business. We hope to learn ways of hiring quality cleaning technicians and ways to keep them long term. We also like learning about the new technology and software that will help our business grow. There is so much more, but these are just a few.

Originally published September 3, 2015 at
Posted in Content Marketing, Ghost Writer

3 More Things to Check Off of Your Convention Prep Checklist

600600p3069EDNmain1681convention-crowd-rev-600-x-250Continue your convention prep by checking these three things off your list this month.

The ARCSI and ISSA show may still seem a long way off, but with all of us being busy in our businesses and personal life, it is going to seem like it is here faster than you would imagine.

There are a lot of ways to make sure you get the most out of your convention experience.   The education events from both ISSA and ARCSI are a great way to build your knowledge.   The show floor is a great place to find new products, equipment, and techniques. But one method that is often over looked is learning from the other attendees at the show outside of the formal events.

Set Up Appointments with Industry Experts

The great thing about shows like this all the “big names” attend. Do not limit yourself just to the formal classroom time. This is a great time to ask that person you have followed online for years to a quick lunch to get some more insight in person.

If there is a vendor you have had a hard time reaching to give them feedback about their products, arrange a meeting before the show starts. You can find vendors and where they’ll be located using the ISSA Show Floor Map (and soon the ISSA/Interclean Mobile App). Be sure to tag Booth #3296!

Finally, a lot of the leading industry consultants are going to be at the show as well. After all, the learning never ends, even when you are an expert. The ARCSI show is a great time to arrange some one-on-one meetings with these consultants to get some advice and see if maybe they are a good match to work with you in the future.

Check your perception of your biggest business needs with this complimentary Business Needs Assessment.

Order More Business Cards!

Be sure to order some extra business cards now because you are going to need them. Bring lots of business cards to the convention. You can give them to vendors you meet on the show floor to ask them to contact you later with samples or more information.

As you meet with others who give you great ideas, you may want them to send you some more information later. And as you accept another convention-goers card, write a note on the back to remind yourself what you talked about and why you would want to connect with that person later. Also, no matter how long you have been at the business, there are going to be those that want to learn from you and want your contact information.

Most attendees have given out more than 100 cards just at this one convention.

Make Your Hotel Reservation ASAP!

All of these great opportunities to learn are there for you to take, but you need to be where the people are – where the action is. Be sure to reserve your hotel room at the official convention hotel ASAP. Not only will this ensure you get the lowest rate possible, it also will make sure you get to stay at the hotel where all of the before and after networking is going to be taking place.  As large as these hotels are, this is a major convention and they do book up, so don’t wait until it is too late.

As a bonus, if you want share the cost of a room, many ARCSI members share a room. If you want to find a roommate, you can post on the ARCSI roommate board on the website.

Be sure you catch last month’s Convention Prep To-Do List here.

Derek Christian is founder and owner of My Maid Service, Cincinnati’s largest, independent professional cleaning company. Prior to that, he spent twelve years at P&G working on household cleaning products. Derek is Co-publisher and Director of Business Development & Sales for Cleaning Business Today.

Originally published August 14, 2015 at

Posted in Content Marketing, Ghost Writer, Housekeeping

4 Money-Saving Tips for the Cleaning Conventions

600600p3069EDNmain1681convention-crowd-rev-600-x-250Do these four things this month to make sure you are getting the biggest bang for your buck at the annual cleaning conventions and trade show.

The idea of leaving your company for a week – even for business – can seem very intimidating, so over the next few months, we are going to share with you what we do in the months before convention to make sure we are frugal while still enjoying the benefits of business education and networking – and especially having fun with the friends we’ve made through the years.


1. Set Your Budget

It sounds so simple to us business owners to say “set a budget,” but especially for first-timers, we haven’t done a great job of setting expectations. We use a pretty simple pro forma from year to year that has made this easy – and we come up with about $2200 per person attending:


Expense Fee
Registration for ARCSI Basic Member $389
Average Airfare $600
Average Hotel Bill for a Week $600
Conservative Per Diem ($50/day) $350
Fun and Entertainment $250
Total $2,189


With very few exceptions, when we plan ahead and catch the early bird registration rates and get into the group rate at the hotel, we’re able to keep our travel and lodging in tight check. But the key is to act early.


Also be sure to apply for the Petra Huppert HEART Scholarship, established in 2013 to assist small cleaning companies in attending convention.


And consider add-ons such as the IICRC House Cleaning Technician Certification 2-day course that precedes convention each year. Scholarships are also available for this class.


2. Register by July 15 for the Most Registration Savings

Each year, ARCSI makes a monthly payment plan available to help members better cash flow their convention expenses. But to take advantage of the payment plan, you’ll want to register by July 15th, which is coming up very soon. Oh, and when you register by July 15th, you’ll get $50 off your registration. That’s a whole day’s per diem right there. What do you know – you’re already under budget!


3. Take a Business Needs Assessment

Oh, this one is actually tougher than it seems. Sure, you can sit down and make a list of all of the things you think aren’t working in your business, but you also need to figure out “what you don’t know that you don’t know” to add to that list.


We’ve been using this simple but illuminating Business Needs Assessment to help new and veteran business owners identify where to focus their improvement efforts for maximum return in their companies. And you can use it too to find out on what topics you should be focusing your convention experience.


And with July signaling the mid-year reality check on your annual plan and goals, our Business Needs Assessment is a great tool even if you’re not coming to convention.


4. Apply for or Nominate Someone for an Award

Your final convention checklist item for July is to look for the good in your company and submit one of your staff for an award. Each year, ARCSI recognizes a leadership staff member and a technician – and pays for their trip to convention. It’s a great way for you to really show your appreciation for someone in your company who has made a huge difference in your ability to grow and give him/her the opportunity of a lifetime at convention.


And those aren’t all of the awards. Show pride in your logo, uniforms, vehicles, and website by applying for an Image Award. Members present at convention vote for the best in each category!


Oh, you want to know if we’ll be there?

Yep – me, Tom, Derek, CeCe and Austin – we’ll all be in Las Vegas – not only for the ARCSI Convention but also for the BSCAI, CETA, IEHA, IICRCA, and IWCA Conventions and the BIG ISSA Trade Show. We’re already scheduled to teach several education sessions all over Las Vegas during the week!

Liz Trotter is founder of American Maid Cleaning as well as an entrepreneur and leadership trainer based in Olympia, Washington.  She is also a former ARCSI board member, a partner in Cleaning Business Builders, creator of the HiPEP employee development system and a charter member of Cleaning For A Reason.

Originally published July 9, 2015 at

Posted in Ghost Writer, Lighter Topics, Small Business Tips

How to Be the Biggest Cleaning Business in Town

Sara Martin, owner of phCleanStarting out in a small town didn’t mean phClean owner Sara Martin had to be just another small town business.

CBT: When, why and how did you get your start in the cleaning industry and with phClean? 

SM: My dad was a farmer, and I married my first husband after three years of university classes in early childhood education. I didn’t know much about working at a “real 9-5 job with benefits,” but I worked out of my home to assist my property manager husband, taking our then-toddler with me to show apartments, take calls, deal with tenants. As our property management business got bigger, we moved into a real office, traveled a lot, had a fun life, drove fancy cars and even had our own “cleaning lady” for a few years. But I couldn’t balance a checkbook and never really knew how much money we had; I left that all to my husband.

But in 2006, I found myself a single, stay-at-home-mom who didn’t have a college degree or a job history! My husband left me to get a job and raise our daughter on my own. Since I wanted to keep my daughter at home and homeschool a bit longer, I emailed all of the contacts on our old country club mailing list: “My hubby left me and told me to get a job, so HEY – I am cleaning homes!” And I drove up to those homes to clean them…in my Mercedes…at least, until it was taken away. And that’s how I got started in the cleaning industry.

I started out cleaning homes alone in 2006, and this gave me pocket money and enough money to finish a degree at Iowa State University. But It wasn’t until I hired my first real, legal employee and started advertising in 2008 that I decided to do this for real.

CBT: You started with one location and today have two. What’s your process – your strategic leader thought process – when you’re considering “getting bigger” and what does that mean for you? To what do you attribute your fast growth?

SM: In 2008, two years after I booked my first cleaning job, I decided this should be a real business. I wasn’t cleaning any homes by then; I had hired part time people to help and had found my start-up resources:, Debbie Sardone’s programs and ARCSI.

As I had hired my helpers, I was using the solo cleaner model, and I kept that as I listened to all the CDs I could, downloaded all of the material I could and went for it.

I believe the reason I was able to grow fast and strong is that I did not clean. Rather, I treated my business like a business from the beginning, advertising right away with both grass roots and paid advertising. And since our home market is small, that also meant no competition, or at least not competition that was bringing it to a professional level.

Our first “home” location is in a college town, Ames IA, with a population of 58,000. But since this includes the ISU students, the “real” residents number closer to 30,000. Looking at the population and demographics, I predict we have to start hitting a ceiling soon with growth. We also have no real competition (too small for a franchise), but that doesn’t mean someone won’t try to horn in soon. If I am going to keep growing – as opposed to sustaining – I need a larger venue, and our second location in Ankeny has that, while only being 30 minutes away; this allows us to share staff and resources while it is starting out.

CBT: Originally, your company was named Professional Home Ames, but you’ve rebranded to phClean. What prompted you to change the name and rebrand your company? What benefits or disadvantages have you experienced from the change?

SM: The name you choose for your business when you are sitting at home with no experience is WAY different than the one you SHOULD have chosen! In the beginning, I wanted to present as professional, and our town is Ames, but “professionalhomeames” is a really long thing to type. And when I began to realize we really could grow out of the town, I knew I needed to switch.

I made the change incrementally, and stayed with the same green circle we had been using, just tweaking it so it remained identifiable. phClean gets the town name out, puts the word “clean” in, and we trademarked it! Now it is a brand name we can use in any town (or state), and it is short and sweet.

And since we worked off of our existing logo rather than starting over with a total rebranding “look,” our clients barely noticed the chance. So we’re not experiencing any disadvantages.

CBT: When things get frustrating or you just get stuck in a rut, from where do you draw motivation, inspiration, and plain ole energy to work through them?

SM: I go first to my small Facebook group of fellow cleaning business owners. They help me work out a thought, see something another way, or just let me vent to help clear my head.

I draw energy by looking at the steps I CAN take and taking them rather than looking at all of the steps I have not taken yet or need to do. I’m also pretty good at not taking things too personally, which helps me not get too bogged down in negative energy. And finally, I avoid dwelling on what doesn’t work and trying someone or something else when my first (or second or third) choice doesn’t pan out like I planned.

For motivation, I keep in the front of my mind the fact that there is nothing else I can go out and get a job doing that will give me an equivalent paycheck. So I am motivated to keep that going! But plain and simple, I also like seeing progress and forward motion, tracking successes and failures. Looking back and seeing our growth motivates me to press on.

Now that I’ve gotten big enough to expand to a second location, I look at the bigger cleaning business owners like Tom Stewart of Castle Keepers for both the size of his operation and the skill he wields in continuing to grow. And I still get inspiration from Tom, Derek and Liz at their Cleaning Business Builders conferences.

CBT: We’ve heard you enjoy quite a high customer retention rate. Would you share your retention rate…and your secret?

SM: In 2013, our customer attrition rate was 3.55%, which fewer than 9% of cleaning companies in the US achieve. But in 2014, we drove that percentage down to 2.42% with an aggressive quality assurance program. Yes, you’re reading that right; that’s a 97.58% customer retention rate, meaning we keep 97.5 out of every 100 customers to whom we sell services.

In 2014 we added a Quality Assurance manager for four days a week, to check homes, encourage staff in the field, correct problems in the field, re-train as needed. This was the only major change. We also read and promote the ideals in the Jeffrey Gitmer book Customer Satisfaction is Worthless – Customer Loyalty is Priceless. This year we have a dedicated Staff & Quality Assurance Manager, with a part-time Quality Assurance assistant.

I have always been heavy on staff in the office, but I also believe that that is what we need to serve well the volume of clients we have. We don’t drop balls, we are able to be prompt and proactive, and even more now, we are in the field working with staff to make that client happy. To me, that extra staffing is why we have been able to keep client loss rates so low.

The attitude we have at phClean is Client Happiness First.  All of my staff know that if a client wants to switch technicians, do it fast. If they have a problem, follow up with a prompt action and communicate it to the client. Techs let us know when clients have life events like a baby or illness, and we send cards, flowers, or drop off a small gift. We have a cupboard filled with local gift certificates that we grab and send to a client if we have “screwed up” and they let us fix it. We all know it is better to keep what you have than scramble for more new clients, and this is particularly important in a smaller community like Ames.

We always try to do the right thing and act with integrity and have great and caring communication, and that relationship the clients have with us enables us to keep them through the occasional mistake or disappointed cleaning.

CBT: As you look forward to celebrating your 10th anniversary next year, what goals have you accomplished along the way and what new ones are you looking forward to going after soon?

SM: In the past nine years, going from content stay-at-home mom to owning and managing phClean is huge. Hitting $1 million in annual revenue mark is a source of pride for all of us, and keeping it above the line is essential to us now. Managing over 37 people blows my mind. It is a huge responsibility, and I don’t take it lightly. And knowing that we brought one person from tech to trainer to scheduler to being the new Manager of our 2nd location really makes me proud.

Our goal moving forward is to become a mature business: fine tune, tighten things up, and take care of what we have done well in our 1st location while growing our 2nd location to the same size in less time. I’d like to see both locations at or above $1 million in revenue in five years.

Personally, I would like to travel even more, and do some walking adventures like hike a trail for a month! My daughter will graduate next year. and I look forward to seeing where she lands and how she grows as a person.

Originally published on May 7, 2015 at
Posted in Content Marketing, Ghost Writer, Housekeeping

Put One Foot in Front of the Other: One Cleaner’s Path to Leadership

600600p3069EDNmainbenja-lane-300-x-250She didn’t set out to be a cleaner or even a cleaning business owner, but that’s where her path to leadership began.

We hear these things when we’re at the beginning of our business and think “they don’t apply to me” because I don’t have other cleaners yet or an office needing staff or enough towels to fight over who’s going to wash them for the next day. And it’s easy to say these ideas don’t apply to me. But I’m telling you they might not apply to you yet, so don’t close off your ears. You’ll get there. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other, and when you get there – and you will – it will all make sense.

CBT: When, why and how did you get your start in the cleaning industry and with Maid My Day Brevard?

BL: It was Jan 18, 2011 – the day before my birthday, in fact. I had just left my job of six years, and I didn’t have a job to go to the next day. I met my brother to celebrate that evening, and was excited about what I had planned: continuing to grow The Lane Solutions Group, a consulting firm focused on helping small businesses with their accounting, risk management, and HR compliance to improve their profitability, something I’d been doing for a number of years and planned to expand into my own business.

But I also knew that I wasn’t going to be able to replace my full income quickly enough to continue supporting my family, so I floated the idea of cleaning and asked my brother if he knew anyone who’d been looking for a cleaner. And the next day – my birthday, a friend of his called me and hired me. So I went to Walmart, bought some supplies and showed up at this house, ready to work but not having too much idea of what I was doing, which is probably why it took me two days to clean it. This first job included things I wouldn’t dream of doing now, like washing and pressing drapes (included in the fee) and hosing down a bathroom in bleach and then having to run away because my eyes were burning.

Within 30 days, I had accumulated enough regular clients to hire my first employee, who lucky for me had twenty years of experience in the cleaning business and whom I knew from my childhood; she was critical in helping me learn the field and technical side of the industry – on the job, literally. And within 90 days, I had enough regular clients to add a second employee to the cleaning business.

But even with this success, I wasn’t excited about the idea of a cleaning company. What I still wanted to do was business consulting and had, by that 90 day mark, a good 30 hours a week of work consulting. And consulting remained my primary focus for the first 18 months, with the cleaning business continuing to grow slowly but steadily simply through me networking through my professional channels through The Lane Solutions Group, Extreme Gleam’s parent company, and organic word-of-mouth. But only with the cleaning business revenue could I generate enough money to cover payroll and support my family. So we cleaned all day, and I consulted at night, making an 18-hour day my normal workday and maximizing my earning potential.

CBT: What was the turning point for you to make your cleaning company your focus, and more importantly your passion?

BL: I have to give that credit to a confluence of events because they all happened at the same time. It was a year after I started Extreme Gleam and I got a direct mail piece from ARCSI about the 2012 ELC in Orlando and the HCT class with it. And that spring I met Bruce Vance and David Kiser along with Tom Stewart and Derek Christian, who later became my first cleaning business coaches through the Foundations of Success program.

It was then, among the 100 or so companies gathered, that I realized I had a legitimate business and started to turn my attention to actually running a growing cleaning company. Within six months of ELC – by the convention in Chicago that same year – I had let go of the consulting business and took a leap to Extreme Gleam.

CBT: Now wasn’t your company first called Extreme Gleam? What prompted you to change the name and rebrand your company?

BL: As I mentioned, a cleaning business wasn’t my first choice. I had opened The Lane Solutions Group and had a good business following my traditional interest and skills in business, primarily for my cleaning clients. But almost two years into operating and growing the cleaning business offshoot, I liked it and I was good at it, but the original name/brand didn’t reflect the new commitment I was ready to make to focus fully on the cleaning business. So I began the process of rebranding by re-incorporating The Lane Solutions Group to Maid My Day Brevard and completed the brand conversion in January 2015.

Our new brand reflects the core values of the entire company and is more obviously customer-focused. But personally, the name change represented my commitment to my cleaning business, to being in this with both feet and my whole heart and head. To have all of my crops in one garden and to grow where I’m planted. And outwardly, it helped me to more easily and clearly say “this is what I do.”

CBT: Your first year or so in business was challenged by some unique situations. What was your source of motivation, inspiration, and plain ole energy to work through them?

BL: On a basic level, I think there are two primary motivators every business owner has: putting food on the table and making payroll. But beyond that, I’ve always received a feed of energy from the people I work with – my staff and technicians – the people to whom I am responsible for creating a sustainable job. The more customers I took on, the more people I hired, the more skin I had in the game.

My second most important source of motivation comes from my fellow cleaning business owners, primarily those I’ve met through ARCSI and the Foundations network, especially Alberto Oliveira. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve called him up to tell him “I’m fed up” or “I quit” or “I don’t want to do this anymore.” And I’d never have come back to the other end of that – back to my business – without him and others helping me.

CBT: Just a little more than a year after opening your doors, you had your first full day “out of the field” on May 6, 2014. How did you do it and how did that feel?

BL: When it comes down to it, stepping out of the field was a risk, a leap of faith even knowing things weren’t perfect. And it’s one I have to take again every time there’s a crisis – too many call outs, overbooked, quality problems, etc. – and it would be only too easy for me to just drive out there and do it myself.

But the fact is that my clients can’t afford – literally, in dollars – for me to personally perform the cleaning day-to-day or even on a special jobs basis. Why? Because there is a limited supply of “me,” so I have a responsibility to my customers to ensure they are getting the best value out of my time for the price they pay:

  • developing staff in a way where they could deliver quality service without me standing over their shoulder
  • building enough reoccurring business where I could financially sustain my move out of the field
  • raising rates to reflect the value and competitiveness of my services
  • systematically and consistently training new employees – and not just technicians
  • adopting a single line of chemicals to simplify the learning curve and improve training efficiency
  • training customers to learn and comply with service policies (so that there’s a chance of office staff actually getting things done efficiently)

The key thing for me to remember was that my being “out of the field” wasn’t permanent; it wasn’t a move where I had to say “I will never clean a toilet again.” Rather it was a paradigm shift, a new way of thinking about myself as a leader and the face of my brand.

highest compliment ever received
You’re on the front lines in Florida as the state attempts to manage some employment-related changes, namely workers compensation, and you’ve fought hard to maintain a direct employment structure. What have been some of the challenges and how have you been able to be profitable as a direct employer?

BL: This is such a multi-step process: reincorporating while keeping the ratings we’d built as The Lane Solutions Group. There’s the standard refiling of legal and tax paperwork, but what ultimately held up the launch of our rebranding publicly was the process and waiting period we had to endure to keep our workers compensation rating. We’d earned strong credibility by not having any claims against us and by paying on time.

And when I sat down with my agent about making this change, that’s when I learned how challenging the workers compensation market is for employers in the state of Florida. The likelihood of getting a new policy for the new corporation would be incredibly difficult and might even force me into leasing employees from a staffing agency until we could get coverage. But I could continue with my current corporation and policy until that policy had seasoned sufficiently to allow me to apply to the state of Florida to transfer the policy with its ratings to the new corporation.

The key to this whole process came down to one thing: developing a relationship with my insurance carrier. And before making any major changes, talk to them; that’s what your agent is there for. Use them as a consultant for your business; after all, that’s a big part of what you’re paying them for.

CBT: As you look forward to your fourth full year in business, what goals have you accomplished and what new ones are you looking forward to going after soon?

BL: To date, we’ve been in a sustained growth mode, relying on referrals and organic word of mouth to gain new clients; and that’s worked, netting us 65% growth in 2013. With our rebranding and my move into the office, I’m finally ready to open the valve on a real, strategically developed marketing program to raise brand awareness and generate leads for the business.

As I’ve put the finishing touches on a streamlined hiring and training system, we are today just slightly overstaffed and ready to turn on the marketing and get in the game, looking to field a third team full-time and a fourth team in development by the end of the year.

In some ways, it feels like we’re opening our doors for the first time – again.

Originally published March 5, 2015 at
Posted in Business Articles, Ghost Writer, Housekeeping, Small Business Tips

Boosting Your Local Point of Differentiation: Champion a Charity through Every Part of Your Business

600600p3069EDNmain1027flag-and-ribbon-615-x-350Show-and-tell isn’t just for Kindergarten. Put your community ties on display and into action.

One of the most under-utilized marketing strategies by any company is highlighting its community service efforts. And with the continued growth of cleaning franchises and national cleaning referral services, a traditional small cleaning business can really maximize that “locally owned and operated” point of differentiation by partnering with local and national community-focused organizations.

The cleaning industry is particularly lucky to have a number of organizations around the US and Canada to make donating cleaning services easy:

Cleaning for a Reason (United States)
Cleaning for Cancer Patients (Canada)
Cleaning for Heroes (United States)
ComforTree (NJ)
Cleaning Angels USA (NY & DE)

Many business owners are finding that their affiliation with a local charity or cleaning-related charity helps their brand reputation, especially for those cleaning companies highlighting their local connections. In addition to the initial press releases when a cleaning company partners with a charity, there are a number of ways to incorporate the affiliation and even small donations into more common elements of your marketing and customer service plans.

American Maid owner Liz Trotter offers both staff and clients a way to join efforts to “Give Back Through Community Outreach.” She rotates through different local and national organizations and invites clients to become involved in her company’s efforts each month.

Joe Walsh of Green Clean Maine and Gemma Beylouny of Rejoice Maids both encourage community participation by making a donation to a client’s charity of choice when the client posts a review on one of four popular review sites. Click the thumbnail images to enlarge.

For small businesses – cleaning or other home services – making that “locally owned and operated” point of differentiation is a tough one to display. Highlighting your community outreach spirit and activities through your business is a great way to show the trust your current clients have in you and to catch the attention of those who are looking for your services.

Originally published July 21, 2014 at