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
Posted in Business Articles, Ghost Writer, Small Business Tips

Insider Voices: Leading the Support Staff Inside Your Cleaning Business

600600p3069EDNmain7843-lionesses-615-x-350Three internal leaders/managers talk candidly to owners about being the “middle child” in the cleaning industry.

It should not be surprising that with more than 30 years’ experience between us with our current cleaning business owner/bosses that we’d say that our current boss is the best leader we have ever worked with. Who are we? We are the leaders of the support staff for three of larger cleaning companies in their markets:

Rachel Farquer
Leader: Derek Christian, My Maid Service, Cincinnati, OH
Current: Owner/Operator of My Maid Service – Dayton, OH
Previous: Technician, Customer Service, Trainer, General Manager for My Maid Service – Cincinnati, OH
Tenure: MMS-Cincinnati for 7 years; MMS-Dayton launched February 3, 2014

Mindy-Stewart-150-x-200Mindy Stewart
Leader: Liz Trotter, American Maid Cleaning Service, Olympia, WA
Current: Office Manager
Previous: Team Member, Coach, Trainer, Customer Service, Office Manager
Tenure: 15 years

Orvetta Treasure
Leader: Tom Stewart, Castle Keepers of Charleston, SC
Current: Office Manager
Previous: Technician, Customer Service, Office Manager
Tenure: 12 years

And we want to tell you want it’s like to become a leader in someone else’s company.

Oh, and the answer to your burning question is “Yes” – you will see glimpses of owner/leaders Derek, Liz, and Tom in this article, but they are not who this article is about. This article is about US – the support staff – and how we became leaders.

Being the “Middle Child”
advice-from-your-support-staffIf you have three or more children or have read the traditional profile of a “middle child,” then you know that the person stuck in the middle generally ends up being a balancer, a negotiator, a diplomat. Why? Because that middle child has to be both a follower of the older and a leader to the younger. That’s where we are coming from: the support staff that owners need to follow them in turn provides leadership to the cleaning technicians.

Ronald Miller, Director of Career Development at Francis Marion University, describes how a support staff manager/leader feels like this: “I’m not a leader. I’m one of the guys who gets things done and keeps the place running so the leaders have something to lead.”

It’s not uncommon for a newly promoted support staff member to feel like she’s not a leader. The fact is that she’s probably not. What’s worse is that the other staff don’t see her that way yet either. In this new role, we all had to prove ourselves not to just one person – our bosses – but to the staff whom we now lead.

Think of it this way: yesterday, before being trained to work in the office, we – my fellow technicians and I – were equal; today, we’re not and no one knows what it means or what to do. So it ends up looking like this:

·         We are seen as the winners in a brown-nosing contest, power-hungry, and snobbish.

·         Our job in the office is not seen as real work, as if what we do is not as important or deserving of an assumed pay raise.

·         Staff who are older in age or who have been with the company longer constantly challenge us based on that fact alone – not performance or achievement – but a factor unrelated to our skills.

·         We aren’t respected as leaders or managers by the cleaning technicians, a fact often illustrated by their attempts to bypass us and go straight to the owner with minor problems…or worse, playing us and the owner against each other on the same problem.

·         We’ve been trusted with an owner’s heart and soul, something that owner has put love, sweat, and tears into (and probably still does); that’s a lot of pressure, something we might not have learned to the skills and strategies to manage yet.

·         We’re responsible for knowing the company culture, living it, and coaching others to live it; there’s another area where we have a passion and desire to make it work but not always the strategies.

Some of these are challenges you’ve already faced down during your days at the single leadership level, but your role as the owner offers you special protection that doesn’t extend to us. But it’s the ways our various leaders have treated us that gave us the most confidence in becoming the leaders we are today.

Empowering Support Staff into Leadership
You might be wondering how this happened – how we grew to be leaders in our own right. Well, the first thing you should know is that we’re still not the leaders we know we can be and that our bosses know we can be, even though we collectively have been on this journey for many years.

Create a Safe Place for Us to Mess Up
Even when you’re lucky enough to hire or promote someone with a business/management degree or some experience from a previous career, we need to know that we can mess up and learn from our mistakes. We need that support, encouragement and sometimes a sharp poke in the ribs to try something new, push beyond what you know we can do or even what we think we can do.

Provide Personal Coaching and Goal Setting
Every boss does this differently and at different times in an employee’s tenure; but if you really want to build a leader who’s going to embrace your company the way you do, you have to make it personal. Work with leaders-in-training to tie our life and professional goals to achievable milestones within the company. And then loan us your network and your time in mentoring to help make it happen.

Open Up Leadership and Management Training to Us
It seems so simple to remind bosses to provide training, but as we’ve met “others like us” in the industry, we know basic leadership skills aren’t taught, practiced, and reinforced. We might get an article or a 1-hour free webinar once in a while, but a focused, concentrated effort is rarely part of the package. Change that. Between community colleges and online universities, good basic leadership and management training is available and a necessary investment if you want a competent leader in your office.

Get Out of the Way
Along the way, we like that you’ll stop and teach us something new and ask us to gradually take charge of that part of the business routine or even a whole project. But at some point, you have got to stop hovering and let us do it. Especially when it comes to our role as a leader to others in your company, we need to be seen as authoritative at least in the areas we’ve been given. And remember, we’ll mess up, so we encourage you to follow the Praise in “Public; Correct in Private” model not only for our own growth but also for reinforcing our role publicly within the company.

Be open to learning things from us.
This may be the most important thing you can do. We have had to teach our bosses some things about themselves. All bosses have some common behaviors that they can sink into that really stress out everyone: micromanaging, tracking your activities (as if they don’t trust you really did them), expecting genius on a moment’s notice, things like that. The trick is once again to get out of the way – this time out of your own way, bosses. Let us tell you what the specific behavior is, how it distracts us from actually doing what you need/want, and what we can say or do to alert you to the behavior before it derails a day or a project. (Whew! That last part was the hardest to get out.)

And at the end of the day, always remember that we – your support staff and internal leaders – follow because we believe in you and you have given us a reason to believe in ourselves.  You have given us trust, an open mind toward change, clear expectations, and tools for improvement. But most of all, you have given us a model to follow, as the leader we aspire to be.

Originally published on March 19, 2014 at

Posted in Business Articles, Ghost Writer, Small Business Tips

Leaders Defining Leadership: Cleaning Business Owners Sound Off!

600600p3069EDNmain783lioness-615-x-350Cleaning industry leaders talk about people, places, and mistakes on their leadership journeys.

The cleaning industry – in fact, all industries – abound with leaders. Cleaning Business Today has been privileged to feature some of them in our Success Stories column in the past year, and we look forward to continuing to do so.

A leader is too often identified as the person who appears to be in charge—because she is visible, vocal, opinionated, sometimes demanding, the center of attention.  Leadership is both much simpler and more complex than that: “[l]eaders develop a vision, mobilize others, take responsibility, and make changes that benefit others,” according to business leadership expert and coach Dr. Earl Walker.  Leaders can be quiet yet attentive, creative and missionary, equalizers or dividers, all to achieve their goals.  But above all leaders touch something in others that makes them want to act.

We can read books and articles about leaders, defining leadership, outline activities designed to teach specific skills that empower leaders, and we’ll find something pretty similar to these Top 10 Actions or Mind-Sets of a Great Leader:
  1. Encourages and motivates the team members
  2. Actively listens – to their staff, to their clients, to their communities
  3. Explains to the team how its job is important and how its job is aligned with the overall mission of the organization
  4. Stays open-minded when receiving criticism and constructive when offering criticism
  5. Is persistent in applying these characteristics and behaviors in every area of his/her life
  6. Maintains high ethical standards and practices and is a role model for those behaviors
  7. Gets the team the resources it needs
  8. Runs interference so the team can more readily achieve its goals
  9. Builds trusting relationships through the appropriate use of feedback and self-disclosure (sharing your thoughts and opinions and mistakes with your team)
  10. Creates a fun, positive work environment where the team’s successes are celebrated and recognized.

But leadership is much more personal than the lists experts derive from the tales of the leaders themselves. So we asked cleaning industry leaders what it’s like to be “that” leader, what they’ve learned from their mistakes, and what they have on their “to do” list every day that helps them become an even better leader.

Enid Tate-Shephard, Enid’s Cleaning Service
In the early years of my business, I’d have to give credit to each of my clients for inspiring my leadership, especially the difficult to please clients I worked for. My clients also taught me another lesson I pass on: “Every person has a story; it’s up to us to read it and understand it.” I was very socially backward and basically afraid of life. Through this business, I have learned to meet all kinds of people who vary from easy going and friendly to difficult, grumpy and critical to name a few. I’ve taken the time to understand my most critical clients to see what makes them the way they are. Once I can understand, dealing with them and pleasing them is a piece of cake! They also seem to really enjoy that I stick around and they treat me/us much better knowing we will stay and work at making them happy.


Greg Macchia, Clean Conscience
My mother is the leader that helped shape me in to the leader I am today.  She raised 5 children on her own. She had a full time job, she volunteered, she cooked, she helped with homework and she did it all gracefully. She was a grinder!

A great small business leader has to plan. It’s not uncommon for a small business to experience double digit growth year after year. In order to maintain this pace you must plan for it. And to plan for it you’ve got to live and breathe the numbers. Like the old saying, “you can’t manage what you don’t measure.” We have twelve metrics that I look at on a regular basis that we refer to as the dirty dozen.  They are a snapshot of the health of our business.

It can be lonely being the leader of a small business. Small business leaders often don’t have a management team or an advisory board around them to share ideas, dissect fiascos or celebrate victories.  You have to grind every day….the troops are counting on you!

Laura Barnard, Grakei Maids
As a leader, I encourage a work environment where people feel free to speak up and be proactive.Being receptive to my employees’ suggestions has proven to be extremely important when it comes to improving job performance and customer service. My leadership style involves putting the tools of success in everyone’s hands to meet the objectives I establish year after year. I understand that one half of leadership is inspiration and guidance, the other half is giving the employees the resources to attain the proper success within the Company.

Kristen Hadeed, Student Maid
I was a 19-year-old college student when I signed my first cleaning contract for 1000s of apartments…with only three cleaners. In the five years since then, I’ve made a lot of mistakes and from them I’ve learned that there are five main things every leader must do to be successful on a basic business level but also to be able to grow that business into more:

  1. Create a vision for the company and share that vision with everyone in the company; make it clear how each person’s job connects to the daily activities toward achieving that vision.
  2. Live the Core Values of your life and your company; this can be particularly difficult when you first develop those Core Values because it might mean you need to remove friends from your life and staff from your company.
  3. Adopt a Tough Love approach; be willing to hold your staff accountable, even when that means having the tough conversations. Always remember that your job as a leader is to make people better.
  4. Nurture relationships with everyone, from the day you hire them and through their career after they leave you; when I interviewed one of my first cleaners, I had no idea that going to her wedding five years later would lead to the connection I needed to expand to a second location.
  5. Step back to gain Perspective; see, own, and share your failures. Too often leaders forget that failure is an opportunity for improvement, not an obstacle to success.

Alison Palmer, Custom Maid
Alison-Palmer-150-x-200My role model as a leader was my dad.  He had more integrity, more confidence, more compassion than anyone I’ve known.  I recently met an ARCSI member who said to me thatintegrity is doing the right thing even when no one is looking.  I like that definition.  I think a leader has to be firmly grounded in integrity whether leading a team of employees or a group of clients…or your kids.

The worst leader I have known is a boss I had for many years.  Let’s call him “Joe.”   An example of his leadership style was to expect everyone at work every single day no matter what.  He threatened to fire a woman whose infant son was in the hospital if she stayed with the child.  I used to cry before (rarely) calling in sick for fear of my job.  When I started my business and an issue would come up that I hadn’t dealt with before, I would ask myself, “what would Joe do?” and I would do the opposite.  Look where that got me!

Amy King, 2 Green Chicks
Amy-King-150-x-200Find a mentor; that person will be your best tool in becoming a great leader. When I worked in the corporate world, I had a manager Darren Lyons who encouraged me to pursue my dreams of becoming a consultant with IBM.  I had doubts and apprehensions about taking that huge step, but with his help, I did it and I never looked back.  Starting a family and deciding to leave corporate America was another challenging transition, but with the support and experience I had gained working with Darren, I was ready to open and manage my own company.  It’s this same mentoring that I try to give to my employees. And beyond having a positive and healthy relationship with your employees, you should also be a leader in your community.   Being involved in community events, clubs and meetings allows me to not only focus on growing my business, but it helps to grow others in my community as well.  It just feels good.

Stephanie Nesseth, Absolutely Clean
The leadership and success that I know is a life style.  It’s who you surround yourself with, the discipline you have in your day to day life. Success becomes who you are, and it’s not necessarily about the paycheck.  It’s a value; we are not ONE person on the clock, and another behind closed doors. We surround ourselves with people who support us with understanding and “how can I help?” mentalities.

I look for and see leadership in young people; they influence me to be all that I can be because I know that in order to truly lead, they must WANT to follow and WANT to walk in our footsteps. Each year, my company organizes a large carnival fundraiser for our foundation, and we have started pulling in young people to help. The leadership that comes from them is truly inspiring. They influence their peers and are making a difference.  Leadership isn’t about the titles or the money in the bank.  It’s how you inspire others to make a difference as well.

Originally published on March 4, 2014 at