Posted in Business Articles, Housekeeping, Small Business Tips

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Originally published on August 7, 2015 at CleaningBusinessToday.com.
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Posted in Business Articles, Content Marketing, Small Business Tips

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Originally published on October 27, 2014 at CleaningBusinessToday.com.

Posted in Business Articles, Housekeeping

Resources for the Home Cleaning Mixologist

woman in apron with bottle and spoon
Graphic by Austin Walker, CleaningBusinessToday.com

If you’re selling your services on “homemade” cleaning products, make sure you’re doing it legally and with tested scientific information.

Making the decision to branch out of purchasing available and regulation-approved cleaning products for your business may seem simple, but can be more complicated than it’s worth, if you intend to comply with current regulation of products used in the delivery of a professional service.

Your first call should be to your business liability insurance provider to discuss what additional insurance you would need to move into the consumer products arena. You may learn that the financial and reputational burdens may not be worth the risk.

If you are willing to tak the steps your insurance provider requires, you’ll want to begin with The American Cleaning Institute’s “Some Facts about Mix-At-Home Cleaners” before moving on to the EPA’s guidelines for developing, testing, and registering a potential hazardous product.

Assuming you mean to begin by using your homemade or mix-at-home product in your professional cleaning business, the applied product must have a Safety Data Sheet (SDS) that meets OSHA standards. ISSA offers an excellent outline of the many ways cleaning products are regulated, including restrictions related to homemade products.

If you’re adding even one “innocent” ingredient to an existing product, then you are changing the chemical formulation and must have your new product tested and verified with an SDS. The EPA DfE Standard for Safer Products details the regulations and even the allowed and prohibited classes of additives before additional safety steps must be taken to protect and inform the consumer – your clients.

If you’re claiming that your homemade product sanitizes or disinfects, then you must also send your product fortesting and validation by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Current green/natural disinfecting agents regulated by the EPA include peroxide and thymol; currently, no formulation of vinegar (acetic acid) or table/sea salt can be verified as disinfectants in home or institutional use.

If you’re considering offering your product for sale to your clients, you must also secure a Certificate of General Conformity from the Consumer Products Safety Commission.

And if you’re determined to follow all of these steps to validate a safe and effective product for your clients, you may also want to use these resources to confirm that the ingredients you’re using really are safe, and not just based on “everyone knows” myths.

CleanIngredients.org – an EPA-supported database of ingredient information intended to empower the development of safer products.

Guide to Healthy Cleaning – an EWG database of consumer and commercial-grade cleaning products intended to improve the quality of information available to consumers and businesses in making safer choices.

Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI) – an independent research organization dedicated to supporting the reduction of toxic chemicals used in a variety of industries; scientific reports available.
When you choose to provide a service or product to consumers who trust you, you assume the responsibility of double, triple, and quadruple checking your sources – all the way back to the original scientific study that proves the old wive’s tales and cleaning mythologies beyond a shadow of a doubt. Your very business may depend on it.

Originally published May 8, 2014 at CleaningBusinessToday.com.