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.