Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Interview With A Maid Service Pioneer
Perry Phillips is a pioneer. Perry is the founder of The Association of Residential Cleaning Services International (ARCSI). Attorneys have their association. Plumbers even have their own association. But cleaning companies have historically been disrespected because many view it as a simple job. As a result, nobody really ever thought that an association could help. Heck, it's just cleaning after all. But Perry came along and started one. And he's done a great thing. Professionals from across the country now know that their daily problems aren't unique. We all have them. We're not quite as inefficient as we originally thought. I recently interviewed Perry and asked him a few questions concerning his past and the future of the cleaning industry. It's a two part series. Here's part one.
1. How did you get started in the residential cleaning industry?
I started my first residential cleaning company when I was 19. The idea for it came while I was in high school and involved with DECA, Distributed Educational Clubs of America. One of our class assignments was to write a business plan, make an appointment with a banker, the whole nine yards. I chose to write mine on a maid service, which was virtually unheard of in the relatively small town I lived in. I chose it because it was different. I got a great grade and even entered it in the state competition where I won and participated on the national level. (I didn’t do so well there, was too focused on being in California and having too much fun).
After one long hard year in college, like most students I needed a break - so I took a semester off. While at home doing nothing I received strong “encouragement” from my mom to either go back to school or get a job.
Two of her friends had been complaining that their cleaning person was unreliable and doing a lousy job, and I also had a friend complain that she had a dead-end job. I decided to play middleman and put them together and take a cut! It worked great. Within a month our little enterprise had several customers. Business was booming and in no time there was more work than we could handle. I was even cleaning homes - which I did not anticipate doing. The plan was for me to be involved until I went back to college and she would keep the clients/ business. Well, my friend ended up meeting a guy and leaving town, and I was faced with a dilemma. I had more clients than I could handle, more wanted service, so I did the most logical thing I could think of. I ditched school all together and started hiring people to grow my new business. By the time I was 22 I had 25 employees!
2. What changes have you seen since you started in the industry?
Many! The industry has come a long way. I have been involved in the residential cleaning industry for almost 16 years and the biggest change I have seen is the customer base growing so quickly. More and more people are realizing that hiring a service is not necessarily a luxury, but in many cases a necessity. It can give them back quality time in their lives. Another significant change is the level of professionalism among business owners. Even though my first experience in the industry, like many successful owners, was very humble beginnings, there are now more people with corporate and professional backgrounds getting into the industry.
3. What prompted you to start the Association of Residential Cleaning Services International?
Mostly frustration. While I did enjoy some success with my cleaning service, it was only mediocre success compared to what I see many ARCSI members doing today. Like many young, green business owners, I learn too much the hard way. I kept hitting a wall with my business. I would reach a certain level and could not get past that. That frustrated me and caused me to bail out more than once. I’m not sure if the industry followed me or I went back to it, but nonetheless I was there. Then a great thing happened - the internet! As I started to dig in and look for the missing piece of the puzzle I realized something. When I found a new idea, or put a few things together that made sense to me, I got more satisfaction out of sharing it with others than implementing them myself.
I subscribed to every trade journal I could find, and bought every book I could get my hands on. Then one Sunday on my boat, surrounded by all my current trade journals, I had a eureka light bulb moment; the residential cleaning industry needed this, and I was the person to do it. It took two years to get my plan/ideas to the point I could act on them. Once I did, it really started to take off and less than 6 months into it I sold my last business, and dived into the association work full time.