Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Immigration Problem Is Solved

Here's an article that I found recently by accident. I'm glad that I found it because it brings up an interesting point. It's no secret that immigrants willingly perform low-wage, labor-intensive jobs. As I see it, America as two choices:

1. Consumers can pay more for services and goods, or
2. Consumers can keep paying less and less for services and goods

The consumer makes the decision. If a consumer perceives no transparent difference between a product or service, then price becomes the major purchasing factor. That's what they call a commodity.

It's my opinion that nothing has to become a commodity. A product or service can always provide something that a consumer perceives valuable. Some jobs are just downright dirty. You can't change that. But, you can change the perception of the product that your selling. Which means that you can charge more for your product or service. Which means that you can provide better wages for your workers. Which means that you can help control America's immigration problem.

Of course, it's much easier to be cheap. Being cheap means that your customers will tolerate mistakes and problems. Being cheap means that you don't need to improve your process. Being cheap means that you don't need to compete. You just price your stuff less than your neighbor's stuff.

To me, it's easier being good at something. Pick your niche and tell people why your stuff is worth more than your neighbor's stuff. We charge more for our services because we're worth more. We also pay our employees more because they're worth more.

Most experts place housekeeping in the commodity category. Yet, we get customers everyday that tell us that they chose us even though we were the most expensive option. They perceived a value in our services.

Consumers make the choice, but America's businesses have the opportunity to affect those choices. You don't have to be cheapest poultry plant and you don't have to be the cheapest maid service. Start offering more and you'll be able to start paying your employees more.

And that's how you can solve the immigration problem. No congressional acts needed. No legislation required. All we need is for business leaders to stand up and start providing something other than cheap services or products.

Monday, January 30, 2006

A Cleaning Business Dies Every Six Seconds

And then, another cleaning business is born. It's just as easy to start a cleaning business as it is to quit a cleaning business. So, what makes us so special?

Opening a third location could be simple. We could spend about $250 on supplies, hire a couple of employees, and start putting some fliers out in the neighborhoods. All of sudden, we would have a third location.

This scenario gets repeated every day all across the country. It's a minimal investment for most people. That's why it's so easy to quit. There's no real dedication to the business. No desire, no passion. Quitting means that you lose $250. Quitting means that you pick up the Sunday paper and try to find a job.

The customers suffer more than the business. They're left sitting around waiting on the cleaner's arrival. They're left with another day of dust bunnies. They're left waiting for another flier to be put on their mailbox. And then, the cycle repeats itself.

By now, you should know that we do things a little differently. We don't "tip toe" into anything and we don't quit. So, opening a third location is a major investment in both time and money. Quitting is a much more difficult proposition to absorb. That's because starting is so difficult.

Think about that when you pick up that flier on your mailbox today.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

An Employee's Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Waste

An employee needs to believe in the company in order for the company to succeed.

Delve into the mind of an unhappy employee.

Pay For Performance In Action

The state of Wisconsin may be onto something.

Check out Wisonsin's Welfare Miracle.

Pay For Performance And Poverty

I read a recent news article that described how a city was dealing with its rising poverty level. The city is asking volunteers to mimic the life of a poverty-stricken person. The city says that more than 200 people have volunteered and many of them have decided to help resolve the city's problem. Nice thought, but I don't think it helps anybody but the people that volunteer. It makes them feel good.

I think that the primary cause for long term poverty is simple. You've got to have a reason to want to get out of poverty. Some people that live in poverty don't feel like they live in poverty. Their way of life is all they know. Their parents lived it and their friends currently live it. They see no reason to leave the lifestyle. But, what if they had a goal? What if they had something to look forward to besides a government check? What if we instituted a pay for performance plan for poverty stricken individuals?

I used to hear this comment a lot during my early days of this business. "Why should I work for you when I can make more money by just sitting at home?" The government was actually giving them reasons not to work!

I got sick of hearing this, so I changed our pay structure. This comment alone was a big reason for our pay for performance plan. And you know what? It worked. The same people that wanted to sit home and collect free money decided to work for us and make more money by simply working a little bit harder. In our business, you get paid based on your performance level. You make good money if you work hard. You make lousy money if you're lazy.

The government could do the same thing. No, I don't have all the answers. But, the concept is simple. Make people believe that there is a reason to live. Provide incentives for reaching certain goals.

I've read that the national poverty level is $17,000 annually. What if the government assigned an advisor to each poverty stricken adult. What if the advisor required to see tax records, children's school records, and debt records from the previous year? What if the advisor outlined specific goals for the next year? What if the government paid that poverty stricken adult to reach those goals? It's simple. You get paid based on your performance.

The current system encourages people to keep themselves depressed. We all saw this after the Katrina disaster. People need a reason. My business is a mini-nation. It only has about forty employees, but it has the same economics as the rest of the nation. I've seen the pay for performance plan in action and it works.

I'm a little cleaning service owner in Florida, but I'm hoping that someone sees this and sends it to someone else. Make the idea viral. It can work.











Friday, January 27, 2006

Customer Experience

I told you that customer service is important. Some people think it's more important than others.

Check out this guy.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Customer Service In The Classroom

Forbes recently ranked The Dartmouth Business School as the number one biz school in America.

I'm a big fan of business, so I wanted to see what they were teaching our future business leaders. It's the normal stuff - leadership, marketing, financial reporting, management, economics, and technology. There was one subject missing: customer service.

I couldn't believe it. The soul of every business lies with its level of customer satisfaction. You can't report financials if your customers aren't happy. You can't lead a team either if your customers aren't happy. This was astonishing to me. So, I checked other leading schools. Yale, Harvard, and the legendary Wharton. Still no sign of customer service.

As a consumer, I'm worried that customer service is only going to get worse. As a business owner, I'm excited that my future competitors are in the dark.

I'm sure that P/E ratios and regression analyses are important. But, I learned the alphabet before I learned how to read. Customer service is important. Just ask our customers.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Don't Say That I Didn't Tell You

We're more expensive than the neighborhood cleaning lady. There's lots of reasons, but one big reason is because we protect our customers with a broad insurance plan.

A surety bond is probably the most important insurance that a professional cleaning company can offer. A surety bond covers all thefts from an employee inside your home. You can still convict an individual cleaning person for theft, but if they don't have the money - oh well. As a customer, you need more than just a surety bond though. You need protection from a workplace injury and you need protection if one of your possessions is broken or damaged. A worker's compensation policy takes the customer out of the loop in case of an injury inside a home. A general liability insurance policy takes the customer out of the loop if anything is broken as a result of the cleaner's actions. In other words, part of your money that your paying us can be considered a premium for a broad insurance policy.

You could use another service or individual and bypass this premium. You could save money, sometimes as much as $10-$20 per cleaning visit. Is it worth it? Ask these people if it's worth it.

Uh Oh, Should've Called TwoMaids

Friday, January 20, 2006

Customer Service Is Dead

Businesses have quit. They've quit trying to make you happy. Customer service is dead.

It's been dead for a while. You just haven't noticed because you forgot about it. That's what happens when you lose something that you don't value.

You thought that you wanted to bypass the receptionist and push buttons. You know now that you were wrong. You thought that you wanted to get rid of paper and communicate by email. You know now that you were wrong. You thought that you wanted to order food quicker through a drive-thru window. You know now that you were wrong.

You know now that customer service is valuable. The only way to bring customer service back to life is to value it.

Hire service oriented companies for your home projects. Purchase goods from service oriented retailers. Buy food from service oriented restaurants. Eventually, businesses will bring customer service back to life. You are the consumer. You dictate the direction of the business world.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Pay For Performance

The pay for performance compensation structure is gaining strength. The Houston school board recently voted to pay a bonus to teachers based solely on student test scores.

Houston's Pay For Performance Plan

Pay for performance tells your employees and customers a lot about your business.

1. Your employees have the elusive ownership mentality.
2. Your employees sense discipline in your business.
3. Your employees know that you’re serious about customer satisfaction.
4. Your customers know that you’re serious about customer satisfaction.

You can call it marketing. You can even call it a blatant sales pitch. But, the reality is that it works. And its better than the alternative.

The alternative is plentiful. Give the alternative a call and ask them why their business is better than the business with the pay for performance plan. They’ll have to say a lot to convince you. Meanwhile, the pay for performance business doesn’t need to say a word.

It’s compensation plan does all the talking.

Friday, January 13, 2006

The Universal Cleaning Company

Being everything to everybody sounds good. It sounds real good if you're an business owner struggling to find customers. But it's not good. You can't be everything to everybody. Something, if not everything, has to suffer.

There's a cleaning company in your town that does everything. They clean your home. They clean your office. They clean your carpets. They cut your grass. They wash your windows. They pressure wash your driveway. They clean your air ducts. They even organize your shelves. But, they don't really do any of them good.

They can't be good at one thing because they're too busy trying to be good at everything. The "all-in-one" concept is provided by the desperate business owner. His marketing isn't working. The customers just aren't calling. Why not provide more services and become the Wal-Mart of your industry?

Pick your niche. Focus on it. Improve it.

It takes time for this plan of action to work, but it's the only way to corner a market. Ask Boston Market if you don't believe me.

Boston Chicken, err Market

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Brand Extensions Don't Work

Here's another example of a brand getting away from its roots.

Hooters Air

Something has to be sacrificed in order for a brand extension to work. How can Hooters run an airline and a nationwide restaurant at the same time?

I think this customer answers that question.

Stick To The Hot Wings

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Motivation

Zig Ziglar says it best...............

"People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing - that’s why we recommend it daily."

In other words, you need to constantly set goals for yourself. Set life goals, set annual goals, set weekly goals, and set daily goals. Give yourself a reason to be motivated.

Don't just wake up and go to work. Your going backwards if that's all you do.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Profile Of A Leader

A customer calls with a ridiculous complaint. She's upset that we didn't clean underneath her couch. She's been a customer for more than six months and she's been happy every time. But, she's upset today and she wants to cancel the service.

What does a good leader do?

- A good leader doesn't act with emotion. In this case, a good leader calmly assures the customer that several actions will be implemented to prevent the mistake from occurring again. Also, a good leader provides the customer two options. She can either receive a discount on this service or we can come back to her home and clean the missed area. The good leader ends the conversation with a discounted service and the customer gives the company another chance to prove itself.

What does a bad leader do?

- A bad leader reacts with emotion. In this case, a bad leader gets angry at the customer for being so ridiculous. A bad leader asks the customer, "How can you threaten to cancel our service when you've never been unhappy before?" The customer doesn't care about those other cleanings; she only cares about today. She's paid for a service that she didn't receive. A bad leader stops listening to the customer at this point and the customer gets even more upset. In fact, she tells the bad leader that she's only paying a fraction of the charge. She's not paying the full charge when the full service was not performed. The bad leader ends the conversation with a discounted service and a lost customer.

There's a time to fight, but those times are rare when it comes to customer service. You may win the battle, but you always lose the war when you argue with a customer. A good leader knows this. A bad leader knows it too, but attitude gets in the way.

The profile of a leader is simple to explain. A good leader is humble. A bad leader isn't.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Mind Of An Employee

Think about your job for a minute. Do you really believe in your company? Do you really believe in your company's products or services? Would you encourage a friend to purchase your company's products or services?

If The Answer Is No.......

You hate your job. You only work there because you either have no other option or the money's good. Your contribution to the company is worthless. Your soaking up space, wasting money, and abusing the system. Of course, it's not your fault. You hate working there because the company doesn't challenge you. The company doesn't motivate you to do anything other than take up space. Ultimately, you'll lose your job. You'll either quit and find a job that motivates you. Or, you'll be fired because the company needs to lay off the dead weight.

If The Answer Is Yes.......

You love your job. You work there because you enjoy the job's challenges. The money's good, but you could make more if you really wanted to at another company. Your contribution to the company is priceless. You mean a lot to the company. Your company would be a different company without you. Ultimately, you'll be promoted within the company. Of course, you already know that you will be promoted. You know it because your company has already proven that they will reward high achievers. Your excited about your company's future. Your company's future is aligned with your future.

That's the mind of an employee. It's black and white. Your employees are either ambassadors or enemies.

An employee can either fight with you or fight against you. It's your decision.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Excitement Breeds Success

We've have lots of things to be excited about around here. We're opening our third location in a few weeks. We're on the brink of becoming the market leader in Pensacola. We're making some operational changes that could transform the company. And, we're going to unveil some new marketing vehicles that should bring us even more business. I can't wait to see how it all unfolds.

What about you? What are you excited about this upcoming year?

If you can't think of a few things off the top of your head, you're in trouble. Excitement breeds success. You can't be successful if you don't have a reason to be successful.

Set some goals. Dare to dream. Think big. Be passionate. GET EXCITED.

It's not that hard to dream. Give it a shot, it's free.