Friday, December 30, 2005

Living Below Your Means

I'm always amazed at my hero, Warren Buffett. He's the second wealthiest human being on Earth, but you wouldn't know it based on his lifestyle. He lives in the same home that he purchased in the late 1960's. He drives used cars with high mileage. He prefers Dairy Queen hamburgers over fancy entrees. It's an understatement to say that he lives below his means.

I though that Warren was an anomaly. I was wrong. A man named Kerry Packer recently passed away in Australia. He was the country's wealthiest individual. He also preferred hamburgers over fancy entrees. Add him to my list of heroes.


My New Hero

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Wasting Away

I talk a lot about my hero, Warren Buffett. Warren has a famous cousin named Jimmy. Jimmy Buffett's music evokes a laid-back, no worries lifestyle. You think of water, boats, and frozen drinks when you hear his music. His music is a brand and he's made lots of money off the brand.

Brands get greedy when they get really successful. The brand gets caught up in itself and thinks it can use its identity to create new markets. Only two things can happen when you attempt to cross market your brand.

1. The market that the brand originally dominated is eroded.
2. The image of the brand is sacrificed.

Jimmy Buffet is no different. He became famous for playing music, but today he does all of this:

- Licenses the franchise rights to 24 Cheeseburger In Paradise restaurants
- Operates 13 Margaritaville Cafes and Stores
- Sells Buffett footwear through department stores throughout country
- Licenses microwaveable seafood products sold in grocery stores throughout country

There are no tour dates set for 2006. His music has to slow down in order for him to attend all the functions required by the different arms of his new empire.

A brand can only represent one specific thing. It can't be everything.

TwoMaids is a brand. One day, a lot of people will attach "customer service and housecleaning" to the brand. At that point, we could start manufacturing TwoMaids cleaning products or we could license our name for apparel such as aprons. But we won't. We'll just keeping cleaning houses. And we'll keep dominating our intended market.

I wonder what Jimmy's cousin would tell him?

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

This Week Is Thinking Week

The last work week is usually the least productive for most people. You've eaten all you can eat. You're looking forward to New Year's Day. You just want to get through these next few days.

This week is traditionally very slow for a cleaning business. People's wallets are thinner and many people are still on vacation. That's why I make this week my thinking week.

What went wrong this year? How can those mistakes be corrected? What went right this year? What should I continue next year? All in all, I use this week as my assessment week.

You don't need to be a business to utilize "thinking week". Thinking week is for everyone; business, people, your job, even your car. Use the dead time to make next year more productive than this year.

Always be climbing the mountain or you'll start going down the mountain.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Passion Makes Perfect

You can do anything when you have passion. This proves it.

Passion

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Merry Maids Financial Update

ServiceMaster is the parent company of a business called American Residential Services. American Residential Services owns one of our biggest competitors, Merry Maids . Merry Maids is big, real big. They have thousands of locations across the country. They've been around for a long time. And they're losing money. Check out this quote from a recent news article about ServiceMaster.

Through the first nine months of 2005, American Residential Services posted sales of $570.1 million, an 11% increase over the same period in 2004. Operating income for ARS surged 189% to $6.54 million. The cleaning businesses, however, remained under water, losing $9.25 million through three quarters, despite a 7.4% increase in sales.

Merry Maids cleans more homes than any other company in America. They're the first name that pops into a person's head when it comes to a professional maid service. Yet, they're on pace to lose more than $12 million this year. How can the nation's leader in residential cleaning lose that much money? Focus.

Focusing allows you to concentrate on the real problems. Focusing allows you to fix mistakes immediately. Focusing allows you to plan for the future. Focusing allows you to grow the business.

At TwoMaids, we're focused. Granted, it's not that difficult to be focused right now. We only have two locations. We only clean in four counties. And we only have forty employees.

Everybody knows our focus. It's customer service. Maintaining a high level of customer satisfaction is our number one goal. It is today and it will be twenty years from now. A person can't succeed without focus and a business can't either. You've got to have direction in order to know where you're going.

So, hats off to Merry Maids. You clean more houses in one day than we clean in one year. Of course, we didn't lose $12 million dollars this year either.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Sign Of A Good Boss

I was getting take out food from a local burger joint and noticed a sign that said, "Don't Worry, We'll Be Open Monday, December 26th". That's the sign of a bad boss, literally!

We need healthcare. We need police protection. And we need many other vital services that day. But, we don't need another hamburger. I wonder if the person that made the sign will be there on Monday?

You don't need to shop Monday. You don't need to get your house cleaned Monday. You need to be with your family and friends on Monday. There is a time to make money and there is a time to value your employees.

Value your employees before you value your customers. That's the sign of a good boss.

Monday, December 19, 2005

It Starts Out Good, But

I hear it every day. "My old cleaning service started out great, but it got worse and worse over time. I complained, but things never got better. "

I know why this happens. The ugly head of employee turnover rears its head after about four cleanings (sometimes less). It goes a little something like this.

You're a new customer. You want to schedule the service once per week. The cleaning service manager knows that your first cleaning is crucial in order to secure future cleanings. So, she sends out her best team of cleaners. You're extremely happy, so you agree to weekly service. A new cleaning team arrives for your next cleaning. The cleaning is not terrible, but not nearly as good as the previous week. Mistakes happen, so you chalk it up to people being people. The third visit isn't so great. Mistakes are obvious, so you contact the office to voice your concern. They listen and they offer to correct the mistakes. The mistakes are corrected, but the fourth cleaning doesn't get any better. You contact the office again and you don't receive a return phone call. You give up and call Two Maids & A Mop.

That's how you see it. This is how the cleaning service manager sees it.

You're the priority that first day. It's her job to make you happy. She's got a handful of people that she really trusts. She sends them and they make you extremely happy. A week passes and its your turn to be cleaned again. Four people don't show up for work that day. She's overbooked now because she doesn't have enough qualified people. She can either cancel an appointment or she can send out unqualified people. She needs the business, so she's sends out the unqualified people. This same problem repeats itself every day, not just your cleaning day. Running a cleaning business is all about survival from one day to the next day.

That's the ugly truth. Turnover in the cleaning industry makes it impossible to create customer satisfaction. For most people.

The key to a successful cleaning business is employee turnover control. There's lots of ways to make this happen. For us, it's the pay for performance plan. An employee of TwoMaids can make more than $10 per hour if the employee makes a lot of customers happy. Customer satisfaction means employee satisfaction. Employee satisfaction means low turnover.

Low turnover means that it starts out good, and stays good.

Friday, December 16, 2005

The $950 Cocktail

Here's a great example of a company that creates value out of a commoditized product.

Click here...

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Create Value

The consumer price index (CPI) is a measure of the average change in prices over time in a fixed market of goods and services typically purchased by consumers. It covers about 80% of the nation's population.

A recent news article stated that the November 2005 CPI dropped more than any other month during the past 56 years. That's good news for consumers. You are paying less now for stuff than you were in October. But, is it good news for a business?

Not if your business operates as a commodity. A commodity has no specific advantage other than cheap prices. Look at the nation's commodity markets. Traders pay more or less for a good based on its expected price increase or decrease. Nothing else is analyzed except price fluctuation.

A business was not designed to operate solely on price. This has become the norm because business owners forgot how to compete. It was easier being cheaper than the other guy. Times are changing. A business needs more than just a low price today. A business now needs to offer something that provides value to the customer. A business is destined to fail if no value is created by the purchase of its goods or services. You can't always be the cheapest, but you can always be the best at something.

Need an example? Would you rather pay $350 per night for a room at the Ritz-Carlton in Manhattan, or would you rather pay $90 for a room at the Howard Johnson in Manhattan?

There's a lot of people that would select the HoJo. However, there's just as many people that would select the Ritz. It's called a market. A market has supply and it has demand. In this case, a cheap hotel has a demand. So does a hotel that provides you with unbelievable views, plush rooms, and tons of amenities.

A business can't serve everybody. Some people want you, others don't. Start creating value out of your goods or services. If you build it, they will come.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Provide Something Extra

We're required to purchase an occupational license each year in order to legally hire an employee. I just searched all year-to-date occupational licenses for the janitorial/cleaning industry and found that just over four hundred licenses were granted. The alarming thing is that I only searched one county. We compete in four counties.

Think about that for a minute. Four hundred cleaning businesses have been in existence at some point this year for just one tiny county. I should restate that. Four hundred "legal" cleaning businesses have been in existence. There's probably a few thousand "illegal" cleaning companies out there.

In contrast, only twenty-six accounting firms were granted a license this year. Fourteen liquor stores. Seven boat dealers. One amusement park.

We compete against a lot of people. It's an easy business to start. A few bucks at the dollar store, a few flyers in a neighborhood, an inexpensive occupational license, and you're in business. It's easy to start, but difficult to maintain. That's proven time and time again. Check out your area Yellow Pages if you need tangible evidence.

Highly competitive markets are typically the least efficient markets. Businesses tend to take the easy way out and attempt to capture market share by being the least expensive option. It's harder being better.

The problem is that you can never be the cheapest provider in a highly competitive market. Somebody will always beat your price. Think about the airline industry. There's not four hundred airlines, but there might as well be. The cheapest provider gets the customer. When is the last time that you paid a higher price for air travel? If you have paid higher, then there is a reason. That airline gave you something extra.

The cleaning world better wake up before it's too late. You better start providing something extra.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

The Pessimism Disease

You've had a terrible day. Nothing went right. Everything went wrong. You're tired and frustrated. The day can't end quick enough. Sound familiar?

It should. We all have days like this. Life doesn't beat to the same drum every day. The question is, how do you react to these days? Do you wake up energized, ready to tackle yesterday's challenges? Or, do you wake up just as tired and frustrated as the previous day?

To me, it's easier to be optimistic. The glass should never be half-empty. Optimism gives you reason to live. You always have a purpose.

Pessimism is ugly. It permeates through people like a disease. One pessimistic person usually infects another person. Eventually, everybody is negative. The glass is half-empty all the time.

Who wants to live like that? Not me. And you don't either. The pessimism disease has infected you at some point in your life. Your disease needs problems in order to survive. How do you get rid of the disease? Easy, never have problems.

Make your problem a challenge. Be optimistic. It really is that simple.

Quit complaining and start fixing.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Turnover In The Housecleaning Industry

I've seen some companies brag about 15% annual employee turnover in the housecleaning industry. They're lying.

A recent survey indicated that the average turnover level for a janitorial company is just over 600%. That means that the average company is changing its entire staff six times per year. Sounds about right to me.

Our early days were ugly. Employees were hired as fast they quit. Our turnover rate was so high that I never bothered to even calculate it. I didn't know what to do. I treated every single employee with respect. I never demanded too much because I was afraid that they would leave. I basically begged for every employee. It was a difficult time to say the least.

I was frustrated. My frustration lead to desperation. My desperation lead to even more frustration. How could I make the job better when nobody seemed to want it?

You all know the answer. Our pay for performance program changed everything. We still have turnover. In fact, our turnover level is still pretty high when compared to other industries. A law firm wouldn't be too happy with a 150% turnover rate. But we are.

We're happy with it because we know the realities of the housecleaning industry. You can't have anything less than 150%. The job presents too many challenges.

Most housecleaning companies require each employee to use their own car for travel. How would you like to put 75 miles on your car everyday? Most housecleaning companies require each employee to work very hard. How would you like to scrub someone else's toilets everyday? Most housecleaning companies require each employee to work for low wages. How would you like to clean your house three times per day/five days a week for minimum wage?

Of course, we pay our employees pretty good when compared to our peers. Nobody can beat our pay system, but it's still difficult to attract qualified employees to our business.

The experts tell you that your employees need to feel respected. They need to feel as if they are a part of the business. They need to feel like it's not a job basically. We're working hard to try and improve our turnover level, but we also know that some things can't be avoided.

We've faced the facts. Our industry is difficult. We can get frustrated and keep banging our heads against the wall. We can get desperate and hire the wrong people. Or, we can just live with it.

Turnover in the housecleaning industry isn't going away anytime soon. It's a reality. Live with it.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Nobody Needs You

You need everybody.

Your service or product is among millions of choices. You may think that you've created a revolutionary product or exceptional service, but you're wrong. Nobody needs you.

The postage stamp used to be a necessity. You needed it for all types of delivery. The internet changed that pretty quickly. The postage stamp is no longer a necessity.

The late night local news used to be a necessity. You needed it in order to catch up on global, regional, and local events. Cable TV changed that pretty quickly. The late night local news is no longer a necessity.

The normal cycle of a business goes a little something like this. It gains strength during the early stages. It begins to attract more and more customers. All of sudden, it is now dominating a market. That's when the curbs are put in place. The ambition, energy, and spirit of the start-up fades away. A new stubborn resistance to change sets in and allows another start-up to define another market. The cycle repeats itself.

A business must continually evolve in order to maintain its market share. It's a difficult proposition. The money is so good when you're on top. It's hard to mess with something that looks like it's working.

People never really needed you in the first place. You needed them and you gave them reasons to select your product or service. Those reasons have been replicated by other companies. Those reasons have been refuted by other companies. Those reasons no longer apply. You've got to give them new reasons all the time. Otherwise, you're destined to live the cycle.

Get over yourself. Nobody needs you.

Monday, December 05, 2005

When Price Doesn't Matter

There once was a time when I thought that we could be the most affordable cleaning company in town. I don't think that any longer.

Our original employees were paid poorly. They performed poorly.

We were cheap. As a result, we had no problem finding new customers. The problem was that we had trouble keeping those new customers. We signed up new customers just as quickly as we signed up new employees.

It was painfully obvious that we needed to raise our employee's wages. There was only one problem. We also needed to raise our customers rates in order to afford our employees. Try telling an unhappy customer that he needs to give you more money so that you can fix the problem. It wasn't a fun time, but it was essential for our survival as a business.

It hit me one day while in a department store. I was searching for a stapler. There were plenty of staplers to select from that day. About five if I remember correctly. What intrigued me was the price deviation from stapler to stapler. The really cheap stapler cost about $5, while the most expensive stapler cost just over $125. They each did the same thing, they stapled.

I thought, "Why would someone purchase anything but the $5 stapler?" I was intrigued, so I asked a store employee. What she told me was alarming. The $5 stapler was the most popular item, but the $125 stapler wasn't far behind. I still didn't get it. I pressed on. According to her, the expensive stapler belonged in a classy office setting. Professionals use the expensive stapler, while everybody else uses the cheap stapler. That's when it hit me.

People are more than happy to pay more if they perceive the higher price results in more value. I was scared to be the most expensive cleaning company in town. I preferred being cheaper because it was easier. Higher rates meant that I needed to provide more value.

We not only needed to raise our employees wages, we needed to increase our value. We did it and our customers are glad we did it now.

Your product or service must provide more value than any other available option. That's when price doesn't matter.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Countdown 30 Days

Thirty more days left. Thirty more days to the next phase at TwoMaids. Yes, it's a new year. But more importantly, it's a new office. A new manager. A new city to dominate.

The Operations Manager for the Panama City location starts on January 2, 2006. He will train for one month in each current location. March 2006 is go-time for Panama City. I can't wait.

Some of our customers in Pensacola or Fort Walton Beach will see him. His name is Tim Chappell. He'll be cleaning a few houses, inspecting a few houses, answering telephones, scheduling housecleanings, and providing estimates. He takes customer service to another level. I can't wait to watch him take his new office from zero customers to market leader.

Heads up Panama City, we're coming.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Most Important Question For Your Housecleaning Service

What does your company do to ensure my satisfaction?

Your bathrooms are important. Your kitchen is important. But none of that matters if the company's employees are careless. The employees assigned to your home must care about your satisfaction. They must know that your total satisfaction is the ultimate objective.

A reputable company can offer you tangible evidence. No clever sales pitch. No flashy brochure. Just hard facts. This is how we do it.

Ask the question and watch what happens. They can't answer it. They can't answer it because they don't know how to ensure your satisfaction.

High turnover. High absenteeism. Insubordinate employees. These are the typical problems that a housecleaning service tackles every morning before they head out to your home. How can a manager worry about your satisfaction when the main concern is just getting an employee to your home?

I know all of this because I lived it. Managing a typical housecleaning service is best described as survival. Fighting through the same problems over and over again. I lived it and I hated it.

That's why I changed it. Ask us how we maintain your satisfaction.

Of course, you don't have to ask us. You already know.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Failure

The typical scenario is for a person to set a goal. Success or failure is based on the attainment of that goal. The problem is that nobody really fails at anything. You only quit trying.

A marketing idea bombs. A new product flops. A new business dies. It happens every day, every hour. It's possible that your project is simply a bad idea. But, it could be that your bad idea can be improved into a better idea. Or, maybe even a great idea. Only one way to find out. Keep working.

The Dyson vacuum is quickly becoming the most trusted vacuum cleaner in the world. It didn't begin that way. Nobody wanted it and nobody bought it. James Dyson could have quit. He could have got a real job. Instead, he kept working. The rest is history.

There's a little Mexican restaurant down from my home. They held a grand opening about two weeks ago. The doors are closed today. They must have had a less than grand opening. They quit trying. They failed.

You can't fail if you're still trying to succeed.

Monday, November 21, 2005

They Hate Us

They hate us because we get their best employees. They hate us because we get their unhappy customers. Simply put, they hate us.

The big guys hate us because we're emptying their feeding trough. The food's always just been there. No struggle, no fight required. All of sudden, the trough is getting bare. Where are all those customers going???

The little guys hate us because we're defeating their purpose. Big companies aren't supposed to care. Big companies aren't supposed to measure customer satisfaction. All of sudden, a big company cares. Where are all those customers going???

Of course, they're going to us.

We've got a lot of work still yet to do, but man........things are getting really exciting. We're getting tons of new customers every day. We're making tons of current customers happy every day. We're on the verge of opening our third location. The sky's the limit and they know it. Boy, they really hate us!

Saturday, November 19, 2005

TwoMaids Katrina Fund

Thanks to you, these four children will have a Merry Christmas. Each child received $250 from Two Maids & A Mop this week. Each family has relocated to Pensacola as a result of Hurricane Katrina.


Friday, November 18, 2005

Boring Makes It Easier

We don't manufacture circuit boards. We don't know how a semiconductor works. We don't have "dot com" after our name. We clean houses and we're boring. And that's the main reason we're successful. Nobody pays attention to boring industries.

Boring industries have been around forever. A company can dominate a boring industry for a long time because nobody else wants to enter the industry. It's hard to get a bunch of venture capitalists excited about lawn care, plumbing, or housecleaning.

I was at an entrepreneur club meeting recently and witnessed this first hand. It was an open meeting and the club was looking for new members. Of course, I eat this kind of stuff up. I decided to attend and network a little bit. I walked into the room and started mingling with the current members. I talked about our history and our plans for the future. I thought that totally reinventing an industry seemed pretty exciting. I was wrong.

The conversation was redirected to another group that was speaking to another potential new member. The other guy had just started a new company with a fancy technical name. He talked about his plans for the future and his current situation. The members went crazy over this guy. I've never seen business cards exchanged quicker. Anyway, the meeting started and I sat next to this guy. Turns out, he doesn't even have a customer yet. Better yet, he doesn't even have a product to sell yet. About the only thing he does have is a fancy business name.

People like being smart. People feel good when other people tell them that they're smart. It's hard to act smart when you clean houses for a living. That's fine with us.

It's easier for us to succeed when nobody else cares. Boring makes my job easier.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Perfect Business

The perfect business has low turnover. The perfect business has lots of happy customers. The perfect business provides reliable products or services. But, the perfect business isn't perfect.

Everybody slips up. Mistakes happen. Sometimes they're hidden. Sometimes they're not. Nobody's perfect. The perfect business isn't measured by its quality control department or sales force. It's measured by the company's culture. A company's culture creates the perfect business.

Don't stop what your doing in the QC department and don't stop what you're doing the R&D department. You guys are important. You've got fancy degrees and extensive knowledge about your industry. But, your company's culture determines your product's success.

A positive, caring culture creates happy employees. Happy employees create superb products and services. Superb products and services create happy customers. Happy customers create happy employees. The cycle repeats itself.

That's the perfect business.

Monday, November 14, 2005

The Maid Man Gets His Hands Dirty

My wife and I kept waiting and waiting for our food. Thirty minutes passed before we realized that our waitress wasn't coming back. The manager had just informed us that she had quit during her shift. He also said that she had never placed our order and our food wasn't close to being prepared. He looked beaten and embarrassed. We left the restaurant. We never returned.

I've told that story a lot over the years. It gets a good laugh every time. Today, we had an employee quit during a housecleaning. She walked out; no notice, no warning. My story doesn't sound so funny now.

Right now, I feel like that beaten and embarrassed manager. Try explaining this to one of your best clients. Try explaining this to a brand new customer. I'm not a good liar, so I told the truth, just like that manager.

The brand new client sighed and declined to be rescheduled for another housecleaning. One of our best clients sighed and declined to be rescheduled for another housecleaning. Just like me several years ago.

Why am I telling you all this? Because there is something to be learned here. At the end of the day, we have rescheduled those two clients. We've turned a terrible situation into a great experience. We've shown both clients why people rave about our company. What did we do?

We did two things. Number one - we told the truth. It wasn't the most politically correct thing to say, but we told the truth because that's what we believe in. Number two - we showed the customer that we care. They know that we care because we proved it by our actions. We cleaned both houses, me and my wife. We were a little slow, but we did it. We made two families happy today. Of course, neither customer paid for today's service. And, they wont' pay for another cleaning this year. They hated us at noon and loved us at 5.

I'm better at leading a team. I'm better at marketing. I'm better at selling our services. I'm better at a lot of things, but I cleaned today because I had to do it. There is no such thing as absentee ownership.

Sometimes you have to get your hands dirty.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

You CAN Make Everybody Happy

The easy way out is to say, "You can't make everybody happy". It's an escape clause. No excuses needed. People will be people, right?

I say no. I say there is a way. I say even the most challenging person can be made happy. The recipe is simple.

Give a hoot.

It's obvious that most people don't give a hoot. Bad customer service occurs so often in our lives that we barely remember them. Of course, the good customer service experiences are so rare that we always remember them.

The housecleaning business is designed for failure. We've yet to perform the perfect housecleaning. If you look hard enough, you'll find something. Most people understand this. Some people don't. And that's ok. Our goal is to make everybody happy, one way or the other. We follow the "give a hoot" principle with every customer. Customer complaints never go unheard. You cry and we jump. Our customers know that we care about them because we jump higher than anyone else when they complain. From broken items to missed areas, we fix it all with ridiculous speed and urgency. We care. They know it.

An unhappy customer reacts with either anger or sorrow. Your reaction to the problem defines the level of satisfaction from that point forward. You can make it worse by yelling back. You can make it worse by not doing anything. Or, you could just give a hoot and show the customer that you care.

Mistakes are forgiven when you give a hoot. Even downright subpar performance is forgiven when you give a hoot.

It's take lots of patience and lots of great employees, but.......you can make everybody happy.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Warren Buffett Sat Here Once

Right here in this chair. Right where I'm sitting. It was a while back, several billions dollar ago. But he sat right here. And he sat in your chair too.

Every successful person starts where you start. The probability of success is defined by the person, not the situation. Your biggest obstacle is yourself.

Everybody loses, nobody wins all the time. Warren Buffett lost lots of money on airline stocks. He was forced to close a failing convenience store. But his biggest failure turned into his main reason for success. Berkshire Hathaway was the merged company for two fledgling textile companies. Both companies were losing money, fast. Buffett had bought a tired, old company with no future. This is where most people quit. Of course, Buffett didn't quit. He quit pouring money into the two companies and used that extra money for other investment opportunities. The rest is history.

You don't need to be Warren Buffett in order to be successful. Success is measured by one person: you. We all start in the same place. Your distance from the starting point is up to you.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Conventional Wisdom

Conventional wisdom tells us to take it slow. Don't rush into anything. Think about the risks involved. Be cautious. Don't fail.

That's the problem with convention. The real risk is not risking. There can't be a reward if there's no risk. The real failure is to not risk anything.

We're going headfirst. The mistakes will be there. The failures will probably be there also. But there's going to be some rewards as well. Those few failures will be remembered because we must learn from our mistakes. However, the rewards will be remembered the most.

Nobody talks about our 1000% turnover level anymore. Nobody talks about our failed night shift anymore. And nobody talks about our lousy pricing structure anymore.

A lot of people talk about our devotion to customer service. A lot of people talk about our professional employees. And almost everybody talks about our bright future.

We buck conventional wisdom because everybody else follows it. We may have failed more than we've succeeded. But our successes have outweighed our failures every time.

Following conventional wisdom makes you conventional.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Do What You Say

I had been in the cleaning business for about five days when I figured it out. It was a day after my first in-home estimate. I had spent about 45 minutes talking about my new company with the potential customer. I spoke about our cleaning abilities, our rates, and our arrival times. The customer liked what she heard and agreed to a one-time cleaning.

We arrived the next day and cleaned her house. No big deal. Just another house. We did our job and took the money. We called her the next day to see how we did. That's when it happened. She was amazed. Really amazed. She couldn't believe the level of professionalism that we had shown. Uhh?

She praised our cleaning team for arriving on-time for the appointment. She praised our manager for calling to receive her feedback. And she praised me for spending so much time with her. That's when it dawned on me. Nobody else did it.

Nobody did what they said. Was it really this simple? You bet it is.

Doing what you say goes along way. The vast majority of service companies don't adhere to this policy. It's a lost art. Everybody's too busy trying to make more money. They all want to make the next sale.

The first step in making a customer happy is simple. Do what you say.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Change The Rules

Glen Bell changed the world. He managed a little hamburger diner before it happened. He opened a marginally successful hot dog stand before it happened. It finally happened one day. It happened because he finally figured it out. To win, you have to change the rules. You have to make new rules.

It started out as a tiny taco stand, tucked away in a bad California neighborhood. It wasn't done back then. In 1952, you either served hot dogs or hamburgers. All other food was served in full-service restaurants. No way was this going to work. Of course, it did work. Of course, we're talking about Taco Bell.

Taco Bell seems status quo today. In 1952, it was revolutionary. Customers lined up for the tacos and burritos. Glen Bell couldn't open enough locations. It didn't work because the food was superior. It didn't work because it was located in a great location. It worked because it was different. Taco Bell changed the rules.

Taco Bell spawned all sorts of alternative fast food chains. It created a new category. The food was fast, good, cheap, and way different than any other fast food restaurant in town.

Glen Bell tried to compete with the market leaders of his time and it didn't work. You can't catch a speeding bus when you're traveling at the same speed. You can either lag behind or quit chasing. Glen Bell quit chasing. He started his own race.

It takes courage, skill, hard work, and a little luck to make it happen. But, it's the only way. Quit following and start leading. Change the rules.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The State Of The Housecleaning Industry

Stuck. Motionless. Boring.

That's where the housecleaning industry is today. There's not many forward thinkers, not many pioneers. Not many people are trying to improve anything. No reason to fix what ain't broke.

But it is broke. I hear it over and over again from other people's clients. They all complain about the same things.

The service starts out great, but gets worse and worse over time. The cleaners never arrive on time. The cleaners made mistakes and the owner didn't seem to care.

I'm not kidding. I hear these three complaints every time I enter a home that is currently being serviced by another company. I've memorized my response to each complaint because I hear them so frequently.

The housecleaning industry is broke. Too many people are doing the same things and they're doing them wrong. That's good for us, right?

Not really. We want to people to perceive the housecleaning industry as a professional trade. We want people to respect our services and our employees. That will never happen as long as the housecleaning industry remains in inertia. People will continue to view a housecleaner as a low-level commodity and low-price leaders will continue to attract new clients.

People respect medical personnel. People respect attorneys. People respect electricians. People respect them because they perceive them as professional. Nobody selects a doctor based on price. Nobody selects an electrician because he's cheap. People select these professions based on quality workmanship.

That's where the housecleaning industry needs to be. People need to select a service based on quality workmanship. Unfortunately, we're a long way away. The majority of people select a housecleaner because he/she is cheaper than the next person.

People cancel their cleaning service for one of two reasons: 1) They found a cheaper alternative, or 2) They found a better alternative.

It's easier to be the cheaper alternative and that's why nothing gets changed.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Pizza Hut's Out Of Pizza

I stumbled across an article detailing a man's trip to his area Pizza Hut. Yes, you read the headline correctly. They were out of pizza. Apparently, they ran out of dough.

Talk about horrible customer service. It doesn't get much worse. What could have been done by management to correct the dough shortage?

- The easy answer is to stock enough dough so that you are NEVER out of dough.
- Did the manager ever consider calling other area Pizza Huts?
- Go buy the dough at a grocery store.
- Close the restaurant so that you don't look stupid.

None of these actions were done because Pizza Hut is too big. Big, large franchises make a manager think like this......The manager probably orders his dough based on last week's or last year's comparable sales so that costs can be controlled. The manager probably can't call other Pizza Huts because he's not motivated to think independently. The manager probably can't purchase from a grocery store because that's prohibited in his employee manual. And, the manager probably wanted his work hours so he kept the business open.

Two Maids & A Mop can't evolve into this kind of a business. We can't be the normal large company because we've got a reputation to uphold. We're the most customer friendly housecleaning company in the world.

Most of all, we can't because we don't want to let you down. We're growing because our customers love us. We owe it to you.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Problem With Everybody Else

A manufacturing job work environment is designed to have a hierarchy that detects and minimizes errors. This traditional work environment works for the most part because whatever is being manufactured gets reviewed before it leaves the plant. The problem with our country is that all workplaces use this structure for their business. That's the problem with everybody else.

Most businesses don't make widgets, so why do they all run their business that way? Because nobody told them any differently. Their parents worked this way, their business professors taught this way, and their competitors runs this way. Don't rock the boat.

The housecleaning industry is no different. 100% of our competitors run their business the same way. Either the employee is paid on commission or the employee is paid a set hourly rate. It doesn't work. I know it doesn't work because I used to do it. I've tried it and it stinks.

Housecleaning has a lot working against it. First, it's hard work. It's much easier sitting behind a desk or cash register. Second, it's not very glamorous. Most people don't respect the maid. Third, it's typically low-paying. Who wants to make $7 per hour when Burger King pays the same hourly rate? Finally, your customers are the first person to see your mistakes. There is no quality control department. It's a tough business to the say the least.

Enter TwoMaids and the revolutionary pay-for-performance compensation plan. It works because it defeats each of the four points. First, it makes the hard work more enjoyable. The job still requires you to sweat, but making someone happy now means more money for you. Second, it glamorizes the position because your hourly pay is probably higher than many of your friends. Third, it allows an employee to earn a good living, assuming he/she satisfies the customer. Finally, it also ensures that mistakes are minimal since the employee's compensation is entirely dependent on customer satisfaction.

Your not working in a manufacturing plant. Quit acting like it. Your employees want you to change and your customers want you to change. The only person that doesn't want you to change is your competitor. Quit acting like everybody else.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Passion

Meet Christopher Michael Langan. The smartest man in America with an IQ of 195. He's 45 years old and he's been employed as a construction worker, firefighter, and even a cowboy. He currently earns about $6,000 per year as a part-time bartender.

Meet George Bush, Jr. The President of The United States. He has an IQ of about 119. He's owned a large oil company, a major league baseball team, and governed the state of Texas. He currently makes a little over $400,000 per year.

Christopher is obviously smarter than Bush. He's proven that by taking a test. However, Bush is the leader of the world's most important nation. Christopher is smarter, but Bush has something that Christopher doesn't: passion.

Intelligence doesn't outweigh passion. Bush wanted to become our leader. He committed his life to the pursuit of this achievement. It wasn't easy, but it happened. It happened because he was passionate.

Education is important. That can't be denied. But, success results from the combination of hard work and passion. The smartest man in America doesn't have a passion, so he doesn't have success.

Sam Walton, Warren Buffett, Sandra Day O'Connor, Bill Gates, Ray Kroc, Howard Stern. These people are leaders. They fought for something that they wanted. They were passionate. They succeeded.

The root of any man's success is passion. If you don't have it, quit and start over. You're going sideways.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Under The Microscope

Sam Decker has written a review of the Two Maids & A Mop website. Take a peek at what others are saying about our little company.

http://decker.typepad.com/welcome/

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Life Before The Remote Control

It's like something from the Arabian Nights! From across the room - without ever leaving your easy chair - you can change television channels with a small control that fits into your hand. Just press lightly with your thumb. That's all there is to it.

That's an early print advertisement for a Zenith remote control. Sounds kind of silly right now. But, it seemed revolutionary at the time. Competitive markets change everyday. Sometimes, industries get changed forever.

The invention of the remote control changed the television industry forever. Who wants to purchase a television set without a remote control? Zenith forced each of its competitors to change their business practices immediately. That's what we're doing.

The housecleaning industry has operated under the same compensation structure forever. We're changing that. Our customer's level of satisfaction dictates our employee's level of compensation. It's a new concept today, only because we're tiny. We're not going to be tiny for much longer. The big boys will stand up and notice that change is on the way.

We can take pride in the fact that we changed a industry. However, we can't go to sleep. When was the last time you purchased a Zenith television? They were the first to market the remote control, but they have been surpassed by loads of other competitors. A business has to continually adapt to change or it will fade away.

Don't believe me........(http://www.merl.com/projects/tv/)

Life changes quickly. It's your job to recognize how it needs to change.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Job Opening

We're expanding into the Panama City, Florida market and we need an operations manager. An operations manager is responsible for pretty much everything related to the success or failure of the business. An operations manager must be able to say the following things:

- I have been paid to clean a toilet
- I have hired a great employee
- I have resolved a difficult situation
- I have made someone smile today
- I live below my means
- I enjoy working alone

Needless to say, but we're only looking for individuals that are serious about customer service. The primary job responsibility will be to serve our customers and employees. You will be responsible for starting a business from the ground up. You will not have one customer or one employee on your first day. Your job is to find them. Your job is to keep them.

We like smiles. We like energy. We like passion. We like frugality. And we like confidence.

The position needs to be filled by December 1, 2005. The winning applicant will receive a decent salary, but the real compensation occurs when profits roll in. An operations manager receives 25% of the location's profits. First year profit sharing is a fixed number since start-up costs will outweigh revenues.

This is a way to own a business without actually owning a business. We want you to run this business as if you're the owner. Email me if you're interested.

two_maids@yahoo.com

Friday, October 14, 2005

Panama City, FL

That's going to be our third location. We've got about four months before our first day. A bunch of things have to happen in order for our scheduled opening to occur. We've got to find a suitable office location. We've got to hire and train a suitable Operations Manager. And, we've got to prepare our current locations for the expansion. It's a lot of work.

But, it's fun. It's fun knowing that good things are in front of you. Our future competitors don't know what's coming. Our future customers don't even know what's coming. They've all gotten used to the sad status of the housecleaning industry. Things will change in about 150 days.

The marketing begins now.

Get ready Panama City. Here we come.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Loving Your Customer

The magazine, Fast Company has ranked the nation's top fifteen most customer friendly businesses. The rankings were tabulated based on actual customer feedback. Check out the nation's most customer friendly companies.

Click here for the list...

These companies all share one common attribute: care. They care about making people happy. Yeah, they make mistakes and they don't make everybody happy. But, their customers sense the caring attitude because they hear it and see it everyday.

These companies don't have any real competition because no one else in their industry stresses customer service in the same manner. Providing excellent customer service can't be accomplished by setting policies or rules. Customer service only occurs when an employee feels like their work performance determines the future success of the company.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Today Is Monday

You're either depressed because it's Monday or you're excited. Most people are depressed. America hates Monday.

The reality is that Monday has nothing to do with it. The real reason that people hate Monday is because their bored. Boredom can occur in a job very quickly. The bored employee doesn't feel like anyone cares. His actions, his words, his work means nothing. Boredom can take place on the assembly line or atop the ivory tower. The bored employee hates Monday because he's got five boring days in front of him.

I know this because I was once bored. I hated Monday and I loved Friday. I worked only to receive a paycheck, nothing more. The sad fact was that my company wanted nothing more. They were happy with my results. I could have climbed the corporate ladder very easily. I was the least bored of the bunch.

It's easy to be excited now because I do what I love. I love the challenge of building a business. This is my dream.

My ultimate challenge is to make Monday exciting for my employees. Can cleaning a house be made exciting? On the surface, it sounds impossible. But, we're not just employing housecleaners. We're employing future training managers, office managers, division leaders, and sales representatives. Everyone in our organization knows our plan. Our plan is to dominate the housecleaning industry. That means many of our original team members have an opportunity to grow and flourish with the company. They're not stuck.

I'm not stupid. I know that one of our employees hates today. She's counting the days until Friday. It's my job to excite her. Make her feel like she's important. Make her feel like she's got a future.

Stop hating Monday and you'll feel the change immediately. You've got to have purpose in order to be happy.

Friday, October 07, 2005

The Three Phases of Housecleaning

Phase One.

This is the learning phase. This is where we do our homework. Preparation for a housecleaning is essential if you plan on meeting a customer's needs. Bring the correct supplies/equipment, understand the customer's priorities, and make sure that previous mistakes are not repeated. You can't make someone happy if you don't know what makes them happy.

Phase Two.

This is the cleaning phase. This is the phase that most of our competitors work in. They concentrate on the details of cleaning. They only know mops and buckets.

Phase Three.

This is the service phase. This is where we earn our money. This is where we receive our customer feedback. This is where the customer really understands why we're better. A two minute phone call. A short letter. A quick email. That's all it takes to prove our commitment to customer satisfaction.

Cleaning a house is just that for the rest of the housecleaning industry. There are no phases. There are no customer experiences. It's all nuts and bolts. Here's a mop, go clean.

People pay higher rates for our services. They pay higher rates because our experience is different. Yeah, we clean. But, we do more than just clean. We serve the customer.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The Mission Statement

Most companies today require employees to memorize their mission statements. The original intent of a mission statement was to clearly explain the reason that a particular business was born. It has evolved into a boring marketing ploy and a ridiculous form of waste.

Take a look at this company's mission statement.

"Our mission is to provide a family of hospitality and services that achieves excellence and enhances lifestyles of all who come in contact with our brand ."

The company is Hooter's. What's the first thing that you think of when you think of Hooter's? Is it hospitality or lifestyle enhancements? Or, is it....well, you know? How does this mission statement help attract a customer or motivate an employee? Why even waste the time and energy to create this mission statement?

I bet some high level executive within Hooter's demands that his underlings know this statement word for word. His boss made him do it, and now it's somebody else's turn. A mission statement is created because that's what a business is supposed to do. That's the way it's always been done.

There are some creative mission statements out there, but you can't make me believe that a mission statement means anything to the fork-lift driver or data entry clerk. What makes them tick? What makes them want to help the company succeed?

A company's culture or mission can't be defined in words. It's defined in action. A good leader performs everyday tasks that make his employees stand up and recognize that the future is bright.

Our mission is to clean a bunch of houses and make every customer happy. I don't need to make an employee memorize that. They know it because their paycheck is dependent on customer satisfaction. They know it because they're trained from day one on how to perform excellent customer service. They know it because we preach it everyday.

For the record, I hate mission statements.

Monday, October 03, 2005

What's Your favorite....

restaurant? It's probably not a chain. It's probably a local, family owned restaurant that has served your area for some time. It has a great reputation for awesome service and excellent food. You refer it to as many friends as possible.

hair salon? It's probably not a chain. It's probably a local place that has been referred to you by a friend. It has a great reputation for staffing the best hair designers. Plus, all the cool people go there.

landscaping company? It's probably not a chain. It's probably Bobby, who works in your neighbor's yard. He's friendly, punctual, and he does a great job.

consumer electronics store? It's probably Best Buy. You buy from them because they stock everything you'll ever need.

computer? It's probably Dell. You trust them because everyone you know has one.

auto manufacturer? It's probably one of the big ones. You trust them because you see there cars on the road everyday.

Notice a trend. People purchase products from big, established companies and they purchase services from small, local businesses. The difference is service. People expect better service from a smaller business. A product has limited amounts of support, while a domestic service depends heavily on service for its success.

We have an uphill battle against society if we plan on growing past our current count of two locations. People will begin to lose trust if we lose our focus on customer service. Each customer of a service related business wants to feel important. They want personalized service that only a small business can provide. That's our goal. Get big, but act small.

There are role models to follow. Starbucks is the nation's most popular coffee house. A person would rather go to Starbucks than go to a local coffee house. Starbucks acts small, but they're very big. Chick-fil-A is the most popular chicken restaurant in the southeastern U.S. Nobody competes against them because they can't compete with their food quality or customer service. Chick-fil-A is very big , but they act very small.

Getting big is one of our goals. Staying small is another.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Big Doesn't Always Mean Worse

The common theory is that getting bigger means getting worse. Think about it.

Boston Chicken was a great little chain serving family-style chicken. They went public, received a bunch of money, and started expanding very quickly. They changed their name to Boston Market and started serving meats other than chicken. The business started to deteriorate until it eventually fell into bankruptcy, only to be saved by McDonald's.

Krispy Kreme was also a great little chain. It originally only served the southeastern U.S. It was much different than any other doughnut company. The doughnut was good, but the experience of buying one was even better. They went public, received a bunch of money, and started expanding very quickly. The expansion created pressures that upper management had never experienced before. They had never cared about quarter to quarter growth or market saturation. The business has deteriorated to levels so low that bankruptcy is a viable option today.

What happened to these once unique businesses? They got greedy. Gordon Gekko may think that greed is good, but it is evil. Greed only ends once you have nothing else to be greedy about.

So, I ask myself, "Are my expansion plans greedy? Will expansion make us generic?"

Each new location will be in a new market. We won't saturate anybody but our competition. We won't lose our competitive spirit because our systems create a culture. We'll keep that culture just as long as we keep receiving customer feedback.

I don't make us different. Our name doesn't make us different. Our cleaning supplies don't make us different either. Our customers make us different. Customer feedback is the heart and soul of our business. Without feedback, we're Johnny Anybody. The great thing is that our customers want to help us get better. They want to rate their service and they want to recommend improvements in our services. Simply put, our customers make us different.

We're going to buck the odds. We're different today and we're gonna be different tomorrow. In our case, big means getting better. Our first customer will receive the same level of service as our millionth customer. All because of one five minute idea: pay-for-performance compensation.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Housecleaning = Boring

The logical man asks the Maid Man, "What person would strive to build a housecleaning empire? Housecleaning is boring. Vacuum, dust, clean the bathrooms/kitchen, empty the garbage, and you're done. Any fool can build a housecleaning business."

The Maid Man agrees with logical man. Housecleaning is not the sexiest business in the world. Heck, it may be one of the least sexiest businesses in the world. But, you know what? Nobody does it right. That's why I'm doing it. Two Maids & A Mop is going to do it right. Get rid of your current image of a maid and replace it with one that is professional, courteous, and customer friendly. The sad status of the housecleaning industry makes it easy for a customer focused company like ourselves to gain ground on the market leaders.

The logical man asks the Maid Man, "There is already a number of nationwide housecleaning businesses. They have hundreds of locations, millions of dollars, and much more experience than you. What makes you think that you're better?"

The Maid Man agrees again with the logical man. Sure, we have an uphill fight. They have more money than us. They have more manpower than us. They probably even have more experience than us. However, they don't have the same amount of energy that we do. They don't have a leader that's ready to turn the industry upside down and they've all gotten used to the status quo.

They don't know what's coming. They don't know how successful we are going to be. They won't know until it's too late.

We're successful today because our customers know that we care. We will not lose that focus. Our number one focus will always remain customer satisfaction.

If you can't tell by now, I think housecleaning is pretty exciting. I can't wait to change the world.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Big Always Starts Small

There's one in your city. A tiny, little upstart company that's changing the world. Minute by minute. Day by day. The obscure company is gaining strength and it's going to pop one day when you least expect it.

Starbucks. Kentucky Fried Chicken. Microsoft. Ford. America Online. Google. And my favorite, Berkshire Hathaway.

Big, huge heavyweight businesses. Fortune 500 managers run these companies today. Yesterday, they were tiny, little upstarts. Nobody listened to them. Nobody knew who they were. All they had was a visionary leader who had really insane ideas about the future.

How can you explain Warren Buffet transforming a dying textile mill into one of the world's largest conglomerates? How can you explain Harland Sanders creating a global franchise out of one restaurant? How can you explain Bill Gates creating the world's most utilized software system out of his garage?

It's called vision. Big doesn't start big. Big starts small and then grows. It grows because the leaders of the small think big. Thinking big requires a lot of risk taking. Thinking big requires an unequaled desire for success. Thinking big requires sweat, tears, and blood. Thinking big is not for everyone. That's why little companies don't normally become big companies. It's too hard and it's too risky.

The time has come for Two Maids & A Mop. We're ready to take the leap. We've taken the baby steps and we're ready to jump. The big burst is coming. Hang around and you'll see.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Broken Windows

The broken windows theory has become an accepted explanation of how a neighborhood goes from good to bad.

The theory states that signs of decay (accumulated trash, broken windows, graffiti) remain in a neighborhood for a long period of time. People who live and work in the area feel more vulnerable and begin to withdraw. They become less willing to intervene to maintain public order or to address physical signs of deterioration. Sensing this, teens and other possible offenders become bolder and intensify their harassment and vandalism. Residents become even more fearful and withdraw further from community involvement and upkeep. This atmosphere then attracts offenders from outside the area, who sense that it has become a vulnerable and less risky site for crime.

The theory suggests that community leaders must maintain the outward appearance of the neighborhood in order to prevent poverty, crime, and anarchy. Examples of maintenance include quick replacement of broken windows, prompt removal of abandoned vehicles, fast clean up of illegally dumped items, quick paint out of graffiti, fresh paint on buildings, and clean sidewalks.

It works. The New York City Transit Police experienced a significant decline in crime once it starting removing graffiti from its subway trains on a daily basis. The city of Atlanta wanted to decrease its number of burglaries on one street. So, the city hired a weekly landscaper and it also conducted daily clean-up of parking lots and sidewalks. Order went up, crime went down.

The broken windows theory can also be applied to businesses. A business with no order eventually finds itself in peril. The first signs of trouble begins when turnover begins to rise. A good business owner recognizes the problem and addresses it. A bad business owner doesn't listen to his employees and keeps going about his business. Next, customers start complaining and he loses their business. Eventually, the company's culture is so negative that it's impossible to motivate an employee to make a customer happy.

Maintain the little things. Look for subtle changes in your business so that you can avoid big changes in the future. Listen to your employees, keep positive energies flowing, talk to your customers, and fix problems as soon as they occur.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The Big Idea

It only takes one. One big idea that can spark something even bigger. For some, it's an exciting new invention. For others, it's an innovative business plan. For me, it was a unique compensation plan that changed everything. Overnight.

The TwoMaids pay-for-performance compensation plan. Simply put, an employee's compensation is 100% determined by customer feedback. A simple concept, yet I didn't think of it until one early Saturday morning.

Big ideas are everywhere. There right in front of you just waiting to be heard. The problem is that most people aren't listening. Too busy. Too tired. Too difficult.

Sam Walton created Wal-Mart out of one tiny dime store in Arkansas. J.K. Rowling dreamed about writing Harry Potter while on a train headed for London. Tom Brady discovered that hard work made him better after he didn't make his freshman football team. Ted Turner created CNN after watching his local eleven o'clock news one night.

It's right there, just waiting to be heard. The only way to hear it is to always be listening.

Most of your ideas are duds. Many will fail. But, all you need is one big one.

Listen for it, it's coming.

Monday, September 19, 2005

The Church Agrees

The History of Stress

Everyone experiences stress at some point in their lives. Grandmothers, teenagers, small children, and even pets are diagnosed with anxiety problems everyday. Stress doesn't discriminate. The poorest person in your community can get just as stressed as the wealthiest.

Of course, therapy for stress can vary significantly. There are physical means such as chiropractic therapy. There are pharmaceutical means utilizing medicinal drugs. And, there are mental exercises such as psychology.

The funny thing is that no one knew that they were stressed until about 1956. The word "stress" was not put into our vocabulary until Hans Seyle defined it fifty years ago. What else happened in 1956? Four no-hitters were thrown in baseball, Russia began nuclear testing, a black man was admitted into The University of Alabama for the first time, and Elvis Presley made his first television performance. Each of these events sounds pretty stressful to me.

Fifty years later. Divorce rates are at an all-time high, suicides continue to surge, and life sucks for a whole bunch of people. Imagine our life without the word "stress"?

How different would it be? Losing the big game could be blamed on poor execution. Getting fired from your job could be blamed on ineptitude. Not succeeding could be blamed on your lackluster performance.

One thing's certain. Stress is in our head. We make it what it is.

Casey Stengal didn't know that he was supposed to be stressed when his Yankees played the Dodgers in Game 7 of the 1956 World Series. He just coached. And he won.

Visualize your life without stress. Think positive. Make the glass half-full.

Friday, September 16, 2005

The Unheard Ring

If a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it, did it really happen? Who cares, it doesn't really matter.

If a phone rings in the office and nobody hears it, did it really happen? You bet it did.

Here's a challenge. Pick up your area yellow pages directory and call five random domestic service providers during regular business hours. It doesn't matter who or what, just call them. My guess is that at least three don't answer the phone. Instead, a recorded message picks up and you get the same, tired message that you'll receive again tomorrow when you call back.

The economics of the unheard ring is staggering. One new customer doesn't mean just one new customer. One new customer means that you have another means of marketing at your disposal. Think of a new customer as a seed. By itself, a seed is just that, a seed. Once cultivated, a seed grows and enables other growth to form around it. Eventually, a lawn is formed or a garden is born. That one tiny seed has worked with other tiny seeds to create something much bigger.

That's how you should treat every new customer. Make them happy and you can expect them to spread your message.

If you don't answer the phone, then you lose that opportunity. That lost customer could have potentially resulted in hundreds of new customers.

And all you had to do was answer the phone.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

If I Were........

The manager of a car dealership........I would dedicate the dealership to sports cars. There's too many dealerships that offer too many things. Target a market and become the category leader. (How about building a track around the lot for test drives?)

The manager of a hardware store......I would have booths set up in front of the store with live experts providing help. You ask a question, they tell you the answer, and they direct you in the right direction. The booth is not a customer service desk, it's a "how-to" booth.

The manager of a clothing store..........I would only sell pants. I'm talking nice, expensive pants. The kind of pants that make your friends tell your other friends, "Do you know what she paid for those pants?"

The manager of a computer store.......I would sell the cheapest computers on earth. These computers get you on the internet and print documents. That's it, nothing else. No frills, but really cheap.

The manager of an accounting firm....I would specialize in the service industry. No exceptions. Every client must sell some sort of professional service. Imagine the yellow page ad that said "We Only Work For Service Companies". How many of your local business associates would spread word-of-mouth?

The manager of a restaurant...............I would only sell food for a dollar. The first dollar restaurant. Everything on the menu cost one single dollar. Cheap hamburgers, french fries, onion rings, hot dogs, pizza, etc. No waiters, no extras. We cook it, you come and get it. One cashier, one cook. This isn't fast food. It's cheap food.

The manager of a bottled water company....I would let you personally design our labels. Create a website that allows people to send in digital pictures of family, friends, pets, cars, etc. You email them to us and we print them onto a series of bottles. Those bottles get sent out and sold throughout the country. You might buy your own bottle. Imagine the buzz created by showing real people on the bottles.

The manager of a maid service............I would be the most customer friendly housecleaning company in the world. Customers would feel special. They would feel like their satisfaction actually means something. They would throw out their old image of a maid and replace it with one that embodies respect and gratitude.

Monday, September 12, 2005

High School All Over

Today's business owners aren't much different than high school teenagers. A teenager wants to be accepted. So, she imitates the most popular girl in school by looking, talking, and walking the same way. She drinks the same soda, eats the same food, and takes the same classes. The problem is that the most popular girl remains the most popular girl throughout high school. Number one never gets unseated because everyone is trying to beat her at her own game.

Businesses do the same thing. They all want to be like the leader. Same price. Same service. Same everything. And just like high school, number one remains number one because everyone is playing the same game. There's no way to catch up if you take the same number of steps as the leader.

Face the facts. Your product, your service, your business is a commodity. Your job is to create value out of that commodity. What makes your product more valuable than your nearest competitor's?

Buck the status quo and quit living high school all over again.

Friday, September 09, 2005

The Power of A Nail

A nail strengthens just about everything that it penetrates. A nail is tiny. It's as big as your little toe. However, it's stronger than your entire body at times. The trick is that a nail can only provide strength if it is allowed entrance.

What's your nail? What gives you strength?

If you can't answer that question, then you are lost. Everyone needs an external source for strength. You need strength to make it through the bad days. You need it to keep your creative energies flowing. You need it to just wake up some days.

Open up and find your nail.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

When I Grow Up

When I grow up, I want to be the owner of a professional cleaning service.

I don't ever remember saying those words, yet here I am. I was raised in a working class family. I went to college to become a chemist. I worked in a laboratory for six years, until one day I said........ I want to own a business. I heard the same question over and over, "what do you know about business, you work in a lab?"

They were right. I didn't know much about business. I did know that I wanted to create something. I wanted to build something. Money was the last thing on my mind. Money is still the last thing on my mind. What happened? Why did I change everything about my life?

One word: ambition. I remember being ambitious early in life. I wanted to be a major league baseball player. I wanted to be a rock and roll musician. And, I wanted to be the President of the United States. Big, fancy dreams. As the years passed on, my ambitions were replaced with practicality. Go to college, get a job, pay the bills, wake up and do it again tomorrow. Slowly, I began to feel like I was becoming just another person. I was a little fish in a very big pond.

Eventually, I decided that just being wasn't enough. I wanted to be remembered for something. I wanted to build something. Unfortunately, doing this meant changing everything. Leaving the comfortable job, leaving the comfortable city, and leaving behind friends. It was huge gamble. Losing the gamble could result in financial ruin. I did it anyway. I did it because I had recovered the ambitious nerve that most of us lose somewhere between childhood and adulthood.

Children have nowhere to go but up. That's why children's dreams are so big. They've got nothing to stop them. Why do our dreams get smaller as we get older? They get smaller because life gets in the way.

Today, my ambitions grow everyday. What I dreamed yesterday is much smaller than what I dream today. Growing up doesn't mean that you should stop growing.

I may have never dreamed of owning a professional cleaning service. But I did want to be somebody. I'm glad I found that lost ambition. It's changed my life.

Start dreaming again.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Cleaning Is Easy

Most business websites or books list professional cleaning services as one of the easiest businesses to start. Here's one website that says it is the 10th easiest business to start....Click here for the article)

Yes, starting a professional cleaning service is easy. It only takes a few dollars to get started. Buy some supplies, drop off some fliers, and you're in business. But, there is a catch. Nothing is too good to be true. In fact, a recent survey illustrated this point. Approximately 75% of all cleaning businesses fail within the first year. Why?

Starting a business shouldn't be easy. If it's easy to start, then it's just as easy to quit. A business owner should have financial and emotional attachments to his business. When bad things happen, he shouldn't be able to walk away. So, the fact that starting this type of business is so easy directly determines why it's also so easy to quit.

This fact also contributes to the negative image that most people have when it comes to professional cleaners. They don't trust them and they don't respect them.

We can't change the market dynamics. But, we can change the perception that you have when it comes to professional cleaners. We'll stick around when bad things happen and we'll fix them.

Simply put, we'll be better.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Housecleaning Defined

Housecleaning is not brain surgery. It doesn't require a high level of education and it doesn't require any specialized skills. It's easy work and easy money for the housecleaner. Anybody can do it.

That's how our competitor's customers view the art of cleaning house.

Housecleaning is difficult. It requires high work ethic and a strong back. It's hard work and worth every penny that I pay for it. Anybody can attempt to clean a house, but not many people can really clean a house.

That's how our customers view us.

You can save a lot of money by calling someone else to clean your house. Heck, call us and we'll give you their phone numbers. But, are you really saving money? Is your time worth anything? Is your patience worth anything? Is your house worth anything?

We don't get married and leave town. We don't get pregnant and quit cleaning. We don't just quit showing up. We don't show up wearing a dirty t-shirt. And, we don't act like the majority of cleaning "companies".

We do show up on time. We let you tell us what to do. We let you tell us what to pay our employees. We let you rate the quality of the housecleaning. We show up in a clean, professional uniform. And, we don't act like the majority of cleaning "companies".

Your definition of a housecleaner determines the type of housecleaner that you hire.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Katrina Charities

Here are a list of charities that benefit Hurricane Katrina victims.

http://instapundit.com/archives/025235.php

About Hurricanes.....

The gulf coast has experienced its fair share of hurricanes during the past twelve months. Three major storms have plowed through the area during that timeframe. Obviously, none have been more deadly or devastating as Katrina.

Luckily, Pensacola and Fort Walton Beach only suffered minor damage when compared to our neighbors to the west. Hurricane Ivan taught our area that you can't take life for granted. We all get caught up in our daily routines. Reflection occurs once a natural disaster occurs.

Money is lost, property is destroyed, and families are torn apart as a result of these disasters. The only good thing about a hurricane is what happens after the storm. Communities grow stronger because the rebuilding requires days and days of sweat and tears.

Today is a bad day for New Orleans and the Mississippi coastline. Tomorrow won't be much better. Things will get better. Day by day, hour by hour, things will get better.

Friday, August 26, 2005

The Problem With Domestic Services

We all need them. Plumbers, painters, carpenters, and of course, housecleaners. A home needs constant attention and most homeowners don't have the time or skills necessary to complete every project. So, we hire someone else to do it for us.

The biggest complaint that people have with these types of businesses concerns customer service. They don't return phone calls, they're late for their appointments, they don't correct mistakes, and some decide to just not show up. How can an industry that is entirely dependent on customer satisfaction be so bad at it?

Because there's a lot of great carpenters out there, but not a lot of great managers. A domestic service business is born everyday. John loves to fix things. He's so good at it that his neighbor hires him to do some side work. He repairs his dishwasher, unclogs his sink, and even paints his office. John's neighbor is thrilled with the work. He's so thrilled that he tells everyone at work. Of course, everyone at work has had terrible experiences with previous handymen, so they all call him for help. He agrees and the tree starts growing pretty quickly. This is where it happens.

John can't keep up with the work. But, the money's good and he doesn't want to turn it down. So, he hires a friend and starts delegating responsibilities. The friend does a decent job, but the work keeps pouring in. Finally, John has so much responsibility that he can no longer spend a day in the field working. Instead, he spends his day estimating jobs, purchasing supplies, coordinating work schedules, answering phone calls, paying bills, hiring employees, resolving problems, and supervising everything. He's now become a full-fledged manager.

Is John ready to become a manager? Does he have the skills necessary to create customer satisfaction? Maybe, but only time will tell.

This happens everyday across America. People are fed up with their current service provider and they want something better. It's a crazy cycle. These great tradesmen have to become great managers overnight. The vast majority can't handle the responsibilities and that's why most people complain about their domestic service provider.

I didn't know how to clean anything before I bought this business. Ok, the secret's out. But I learned pretty quickly. I did know how to please a customer. My number one goal from the first day was to create a great customer service experience. I think that we have a great model right now. We make mistakes. We know that. But nobody can claim that they work harder than we do to create 100% customer satisfaction. My roots are in customer service and that's why we excel in that area.

I wonder how different things might have been if I had great carpentry skills?

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

It's Easier Being Different

People work so hard to look like their neighbor. They eat the same foods, watch the same movies, wear the same clothes, and use the same words. Even different people aren't different. Everyone belongs to a clique.

Think about attorneys. They all have the same business cards, work in the same style office, wear the same clothes, and have the same law firm names. If I were an attorney, I'd be different. I would have business cards shaped like a star. I would work in a coffee house environment. I would never wear a tie in the office. And, my business name would describe my specialty. Being different is that easy. It doesn't take long to be different. Just look at what's normal and do the opposite.

The problem is that people get trapped into doing the same things. They're scared to try something new. They're scared of being different.

Of course, something else happens after you establish your own clique. People want to join you. They see your success and they want some of it. So, you're not different for long. Remember my airline discussion? Check out this article (http://www.usatoday.com/travel/flights/2005-08-18-airline-humor_x.htm).

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Creating Your Category

Let's think about air travel. There are 10-15 airline carriers that serve the continental United States. The majority of today's airline companies are on the brink of bankruptcy. They're losing money hand over fist. Two airline companies stand out from the rest and post profits year after year. Why is it that only two airlines make money?

The majority of airlines compete strictly on price. They don't offer the consumer anything other than a cheap fare. There are two sides to a business: employees and customers. An employee's job should be to satisfy the customer. With airlines, the employees hate their job and the customers have no loyalty.

The employees hate their job because management keeps cutting salaries and terminating senior employees. These cuts are necessary because the airline has to keep their fare prices in line with the competition. (Rising fuel costs are another major factor, but only recently has this been the driving issue when it comes to airline profitability.)

The customers have no loyalty because price is the sole decision maker. That same customer will pick another airline next time if the price is right. The customer has no reason to think differently because the airlines don't give him any reasons to think differently.

Except for two small companies called Southwest and Jet Blue. They make traveling fun. They create an experience around air travel. A customer walks out of the plane feeling different because the flight wasn't just another flight. They've created their own category and it's called Customer Service. Customer satisfaction can only occur if the employee buy into the customer service philosophy. Poor employee relations equals poor customer service.

Sometimes, these airlines offer the cheapest fares. Many times, they offer a higher fare. It doesn't matter. The consumer consistently selects these two companies because of their past travel experience.

Air travel is a commodity. There are several ways to separate yourself when you are competing in a commodity business. You can be the cheapest, you can be the biggest, or you can create your own category.

Two Maids & A Mop has created its own category. We're the most customer friendly housecleaning company in the world! We prove it time after time in each of our customer's home. Our employees buy into the philosophy and our customers consistently choose us because they know we want to make them happy.

In business, you're either going forwards or backwards. Create you own category or start walking backwards.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The Mystery of Gasoline

I don't get it. We can send information from Florida to China by pressing a few buttons on a keyboard. We can fly from New York to Miami in about three hours. We can even predict the path of a hurricane when its deep in the Atlantic Ocean. But, we can't create a better means of powering our vehicles.

Gasoline is evil. It's evil because it determines the future success of our country. Global commerce stops when oil production stops. Our society has become too dependent on oil and it's time for us to do something about it.

Car manufacturers need to start mass producing hybrid vehicles. Several of the airline companies need to fold so that jet fuel consumption can decrease. And, our government needs to get serious about finding an alternative to oil.

A terrible cycle is created once oil prices begin to skyrocket. First, businesses are forced to raise prices. Second, employees search for work closer to home. Third, businesses are forced to raise their prices again because of rapid turnover. Fourth, the consumer gets jabbed in the stomach.

We can do it.

The Economics of Housecleaning

The housecleaning industry is crowded with hundreds of competitors within a given market. The competitors range from small, one person businesses to large, franchised businesses. Someone recently asked me why rates vary so much within the industry. The main reason: low barriers of entry.

Anyone can become a housecleaner tomorrow. There's no required licensing, no high amount of education, and you only need a small amount of capital. At the same time, anyone can quit being a housecleaner tomorrow because of the same reasons. For example, John Doe wouldn't start a construction business today and close tomorrow. Why? Because John has spent a large amount of money on equipment and land. A newly formed housecleaning company requires about $40-$50 towards basic cleaning supplies. Not exactly a large investment.

A larger housecleaning business requires a larger investment. The business owner must provide workers' compensation, general liability insurance, bonding protection, cleaning supplies, office equipment, advertising, office space, and; most importantly, employee compensation. Obviously, a larger business can't compete with a smaller business on price alone. So, we don't.

I compare most large cleaning businesses with Superman. Superman was invincible, unless kryptonite was in his presence. That's us. We are the most customer friendly cleaning service in the world, but far from the most perfect cleaning service in the world. I know plenty of people who have used the same cleaning person for years and years. Their cleaning person charges them about 25% less than we charge. I have never once tried to steal that person's business because I know they are better than us. They personally clean everything with their own two hands. They probably know the house better than the homeowner. We can't compete with a great individual housecleaner. If you find one, hold onto them.

The problem is that most individuals aren't very serious about their occupation. Since the barriers of entry are so low, there's little reason to care. Some of our clients have told us that their previous housecleaner just quit showing up or quit caring. That's sad because it makes the rest of the industry look bad.

I have a dream. My dream is for our services to be respected. I want our business to be held in the same regard as your accountant or financial advisor. In other words, I want our employees to be regarded as professionals. The only way to accomplish that dream is to consistently satisfy each of our clients. It's a long deliberate process, but we can do it because we're here for the long haul.

Monday, August 15, 2005

The End of the Evolution

We had corrected operational problems, improved our marketing practices, and motivated our employees. We had changed 100% from that fateful April Fool's day. But still, how was I going to tell everyone how great we were now? How was a potential customer going to understand our pay-for-performance plan? So, I tossed and turned every night for several weeks. Still, no solution.

Something weird started to happen. People were calling our office and they were already aware of our pay-for-performance plan. Word of mouth marketing was alive. Our current customers had noticed the improvement in our business and they were telling their friends and family. At last, it was happening. We weren't replacing one unhappy customer with a new customer. We were now adding a new customer to our schedule. The business was growing, and growing fast.

The outlook for the business' health was so strong that we decided to open a sister office in Fort Walton Beach. That's where you find us today. Today, we clean nearly 175 houses per week and staff more than 36 employees. Problems are still brewing and everything is not perfect.

The evolution of Two Maids & A Mop will never end. We change everyday. We change because our customers expect us to change. They know that we promise to satisfy them every time, so we work everyday to improve our quality control and customer service skills. Today's TwoMaids will not be tomorrow's TwoMaids.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

The Evolution Continued

At last count, there were 10 billion cleaning companies throughout the country. They all have one thing in common. They're paid to clean your home. A consumer obviously has many choices when it comes to housecleaning, so why choose us?

That's the question I asked myself not too long ago. We looked the same, we acted the same, and we cleaned the same. The million dollar question: How can something as simple as housecleaning be different?

My first reaction was to create services that no one else offered. Services like the TwoMaids Rewards Program and the TwoMaids Riddle Game. The Rewards Program was a big hit. You get a point for every dollar spent on our services. At different point levels, you receive all sorts of free gifts and services. We've had customers receive free rounds of golf, free meals at restaurants, and free gift certificates to department stores. Of course, the most popular reward is a free housecleaning. The Riddle Game is a little kooky. We leave a riddle in your home after every cleaning. Originally, the first three people that answered the riddle correctly received an additional 25 Rewards points. Today, each correct answer rewards the customer with 25 TwoMaids Charity points. We support a local charity by paying 10% of the total number of charity points. In other words, we pay $2,000 if 20,000 points are accumulated.

The different service offerings helped. However, they weren't enough. People were still calling other companies and we still had a lot of market share that needed to be stolen. How could our service provide something different?

It was a eureka moment. My idea was to align the interests of our employees with the interests of our customers. What mistakes were we consistently making? What upset our customers the most? What upset us the most? We addressed our top four problem areas using a pay-for-performance compensation plan. Absenteeism/tardiness, lost equipment/supplies, late arrival to customer homes, and poor quality/customer service were specifically addressed. Our employees were now being paid to produce. If they produced, they were paid well. If they didn't produce, they weren't paid very well at all.

Good things started to happen. Employees began arriving on time for work and their jobs, customer satisfaction skyrocketed, qualified applicants came pouring in, and the entire company morale changed almost overnight. I had found the magic formula.

We still had a lot of work to do. We were far from perfect. We had changed our business 100%, but no one really knew except our current customers. What could we do to inform everyone of our new dedication to customer service? As usual, check back later and find out....

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Starbucks Most Valuable Customer

Check out this guy (http://www.starbuckseverywhere.net/)

This is either one crazy man or a masterful public relations stunt from Starbucks. In any event, it has grabbed national headlines just like Jared Fogle did when he decided to create the Subway diet. Not all advertising is created equal.

Note to all TwoMaids customers: Feel free to visit each of our locations and chronicle your adventures. Of course, the credits may last longer than the movie.

Monday, August 08, 2005

The Evolution of a Cleaning Business-Part Two

It tooks us about six months to get rid of our old habits. Our employees were now only being paid for work conducted in a house or office. Many of our employees had been abusing the system by doing crazy things such as sleeping on the job, taking the long way home, and one person was even caught shopping at Wal-Mart. The ship was not tight, to say the least.

We also axed the night shift. The night shift was responsible for most commercial cleaning jobs. The problem was that it cost an arm and a leg to support. It required a full-time manager who didn't have that many responsibilities. It was costing us money every minute that we were open. So, we called each of our clients and asked them to move to the weekend or early morning. Some said sure, others said no. We helped some of our customers by providing them with other contractors that promised to charge the same rates.

The pricing problem was widespread. Nobody paid the same rate. Some customers paid way too much, but most paid way too little. The economics just didn't add up, so we were forced to raise our rates. We lost some clients, but then again we were losing money with most of them anyway.

My next goal was to increase the customer base. The business was in serious need of some marketing. It had never really received any real marketing. We had a tiny Yellow Page ad and that was it. Everything else was strictly word-of-mouth. My specialty wasn't advertising or marketing, so I decided to start educating myself. I read everything that I could find. I called other business owners in the area and I also called other cleaning service owners in nearby cities. Finally, I decided that we needed to design a marketing plan for the next twelve months. It was very simple.

#1 Purchase a newspaper ad three times per week
#2 Make our services different

The first goal was easy to execute, but difficult to finance. We were still losing money. How were we going to afford three newspaper ads? I looked at the expenses as investments. If you build it, they will come. And they did. The phones began to light up because we were the only cleaning company in the newspaper. Cleaning companies weren't supposed to advertise in the newspaper. It was like a light switch had been turned on.

The second goal wasn't quite as easy. How can we be different? We clean houses, plain and simple. Check in later this week and find out how we made ourselves different. (If you're a customer, you already know the ending)

Thursday, August 04, 2005

The Evolution of a Cleaning Business-Part One

I was a young whippersnapper ready to rule the world. I knew it all, especially anything related to business. I had already managed people. I already knew how to make a sale. And I had already made a lot of money running a business for someone else. No one could be better than me!

That is, until I actually owned a business. I thought that you hired someone, you trained someone, and they worked for you forever. I thought that if you said the right things and did the right things, then everything would work out. I was wrong, dead wrong.

Two Maids & A Mop started ominously on April Fools' Day. I had reviewed the business' income statement and I was ready to get rich. The problem is that we only had five employees and just over twenty clients. The phone lay silent day after day, and the losses came piling in. What had I done? Did I really pay money for this "business"?

The turning point came one lonely night when I least expected it. I had worked a long day, with it ending at about 10 PM. I sat on my back porch wondering what my next move was going to be. Do I quit, or do I buck up and fix the problems? I'm not sure what happened, but I decided today was the last day of my depression. Problems were about to be fixed and goals were about to be set.

My first order of business was to fix the immediate problems. I had a terrible compensation system. I ran a disorganized, hectic office. And, I priced the services as if we were in a bargain bin. The next 30 days were not fun. Employees cried because their free ride was over. Customers cried because their free ride was over. And, I cried because profitability was finally in sight.

The easy part was over. Now, my attention needed to be focused on growing our customer base to more than just twenty clients. Part Two will explain....stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Everything Changes

Nothing stays the same. Nothing stays the same because we live in America. We're capitalists. We're the free enterprisers of the world.

Supply never meets demand for a very long time. Demand for a product or service eventually gets recognized. Our economic system requires change for a business to succeed. Disney is not your mother's Disney. Tomorrow's Microsoft will not be today's Microsoft. Companies can't dominate a category forever. Two things occur when a business dominates a category:

1. Competitors flock to the category
2. A new category is born

Blockbuster stores spread like wildfire during the early 1990's. If you rented a video, you got it from Blockbuster. Movie Gallery, Hollywood Video and others tried to ride the video rental wave. They didn't topple Blockbuster, but they cut into its dominance. Blockbuster put everything it had into stopping these competitors. Meanwhile, a tiny company called Netflix began operations in the late 1990's. It rented movies and DVD's, but with a twist. It created a subscription model that allowed its members to rent three DVD's per month for a flat rate. It didn't fight Blockbuster on its turf. It created its own turf.

Two Maids & A Mop is no different. Today, we're the only cat in town. Nobody else allows its customers to determine its employees compensation. It's unheard of in the cleaning industry. Things will change. Somebody will figure out how well we are doing and follow in our footsteps. Someone else will see our copycat succeed and there goes our secret.

Our emphasis will always be on customer service. Right now, it's easy to prove our commitment to customer service. We're not sleeping though. We know that we must change in order to continue our success.

Come and get us, we're ready.