Friday, April 28, 2006

The Rocky Road To Success

The first day was unbelievable. Almost too good to be true. The second day was just as good. It all started so good.

Then the turnover bug stung us. It hurt a for a little bit, but we shook it off and regrouped.

With the sting gone, we got back to business. Calls were coming in one after the other. We talked to more people in one week than we did in our other two locations combined. Times were good.

Then came today. The bottom fell out. We lost half of our staff in one single swoop. More specifically, we lost three of our six employees without any notice. So goes the cleaning business. So goes our new location in Panama City.

The good news is nobody knew it. Each of our customers in Panama City received their housecleaning. Each of our customers were happy. We know they were happy because we asked them. To them, the duck just floated. Forget the feet that were paddling frantically.

You've now heard the bad news. But wait, there's more news. And it's good. Here goes.

Today proved that our new manager can handle anything. 50% absenteeism is not an elementary problem to solve. But he did it. And I'm proud of him. Today proved that he is going to succeed.

Today proved that our business can handle anything. Our other two locations banded together and we all made it happen. Pensacola handled all of the incoming customer calls. Fort Walton Beach handled all of the day-to-day calls. Today proved that I'm not quite as important as I thought I was.

Today proved one other thing. Today proved that we're going to make it. We're going to succeed. We're going to succeed because our people believe in our mission.

The mission. To become the dominant housecleaning company in America. And nothing less.

P.S. We hired more people.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

CEO Pay Versus The Working Man's Pay

You've got to read this article about the escalating rate of pay for today's CEO.

Leaders lead by example. Leaders lead because that's their job. A CEO is a leader. At least, a CEO is supposed to be a leader. Earning 430 times more than your average employee is not the sign of a good leader. Here's an example of the greed.

"Lee Raymond of ExxonMobil is CEO Public Enemy No. 1 these days since his astonishing retirement and pay packages are coming to light at the same time the nation is struggling with gasoline prices heading north of $3 a gallon. Are we paying for the high price of oil or simply digging deeper to cover Raymond's $144,000-a-day paycheck?"

For those counting at home, that's more than $52 million per year. What did he do to earn $52 million? We'll never know.

I've said it too many times already, but it's never enough. Pay for performance. Make the man earn it. Make him become a leader.

By contrast, over the last five years.....the three lowest paid CEO's for all Fortune 500 companies earned just over $1.5 million COMBINED during that period. The CEO's; Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, and Eric Schmidt of Google. Three of the most successful companies in the world. They're rich, but they're worth is tied to the success of the company. They own lots of shares in the business. If the business prospers, they prosper.

That's what I call leader.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Dark Side Of The Cleaning World

The cleaning industry gets a bad rap, or does it? Take a look at this news article about a cleaning company in Illinois.

The most alarming quote in the article says....

She said TexMex has in its contract, "which is in English on purpose even though they hire Mexicans, that if you quit a job without 15 days notice that your last paycheck is forfeited.

Now that policy is sure to instill a loyal, hard working employee culture. The morale at this company must be extremely high. I'm kidding of course. Excluding the legal circumstances, this statement wreaks of terrible management. The management of this company looks down on its employees. It regards its employees as cheap labor. A commodity. Replaceable. Ignorant.

The cleaning industry has a very low barrier of entry. Anybody can do it. Anybody can afford to start it. There's a whole bunch of anybody's out there. And they're targeting your business or home.

Be careful of our industry's dark side. It looms in every city. Remember, cheap rates means that your service provider must pay for cheap labor.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

One Month Later

Tomorrow is our one month anniversary in Panama City. The first week started off with a bang. We generated more than 350 phone calls on our first day. Calls kept pouring in over the course of the next few days. The last three weeks have been just as good. Just last week, we received 45 inquiries about our services. In contrast, we received 21 inquiries in Pensacola and 18 inquiries in Fort Walton Beach. Obviously, the word is out in Panama City.

We've learned a lot during our short time in Panama City. We've learned that customers from other cleaning services have the same complaints as they do in our two other locations. We've learned that our employees continue to be the most important part of our business. And we've learned that our rates are still higher than every other cleaning service in the area.

Many of those 45 calls last week were surprised to hear our rates. They're used to paying a lot less for a "simple" housecleaning. We're not the perfect housecleaning service. You pay us more. But, you get more. What you get is a highly motivated cleaning team that is paid great if they make you happy and paid poorly if they don't make you happy.

The funniest thing that we've learned is the fact that we're the only cleaning company that utilizes the pay for performance compensation system. Of course, we're still the only cleaning company in our other two locations that utilizes the program.

I wonder when they'll wake up?

Monday, April 17, 2006

The Truth About Professional Housecleaners

The truth - Professional housecleaners don't clean better than you do. You clean your house better than we do.

The common assumption is that our cleanings are better than your cleanings. Some people think that we have magic cleaning products. Others think that we know cool techniques to get stains out. Most understand that we don't clean better than you do.

It's your house. You know where everything goes. You love your home and you'll spend all day cleaning it if time permitted.

But time doesn't permit it. That's why you called us in the first place.

We call ourselves professional cleaners. Most professionals are experts in their field. Professional baseball players are the best baseball players in the world. Professional musicians sing better than other singers. Professional cleaners are good cleaners. But, they're not better than you.

A professional cleaner provides service to two types of people. People who can't perform the physical tasks associated with cleaning. And, people who don't have the time required to properly clean their home.

Now, we're going to provide a lot of other things besides a cleaner home. We're going to stay in constant communication with you to determine your level of satisfaction. We're going to juggle your hectic schedule to fit in your housecleaning. And most importantly, we're going to free up some valuable personal time for you.

That's our role. That's the truth about professional housecleaners.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Art Of Customer Service

Read this. It's taken from another person's blog. That person is the famous Guy Kawasaki.

Here's the challenge. Read Guy's top 10 and then go to our website. Compare.

My favorite is point #2.

"Put the customer in control. The best kind of customer service happens when management enables employees to put the customer in control. This require two leaps of faith: first, that management trusts customers not take advantage of the situation; second, that management trust employees with this empowerment. If you can make these leaps, then the quality of your customer service will zoom; if not, there is nothing more frustrating than companies copping the attitude that something is “against company policy."

Three words: pay for performance.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Memoirs From A Canadian Maid

A Canadian reporter spent one month working for a maid service. She's detailed her plight in this article.

The article paints a dark, gloomy picture for the maid service industry. She claims that she is paid less than minimum wage for 40 hours of week. She also claims that the work is filthy and dirty. I'd like to address each of her points.

Point 1.........This is how she describes her compensation plan.

"You get 18-per-cent commission on every clean," she said. When I looked puzzled, she explained. A client typically paid $75 for a clean by two maids that lasted an hour and a half. I got 18 per cent of the clean, or $40 to $50 a day for cleaning four houses. Travel time was unpaid. That meant for a workday of 10 or 11 hours, I would be getting paid for only five or six. Apparently, calling it a "commission" gets around the minimum wage. When I looked unimpressed, she asked, "Can you drive?" A "route manager" gets two extra percentage points commission. I would get a pink and purple car. But I would have to drive, figure out the schedule, the route, keep time sheets and handle all the cash, cheques and, ominously, "non-payments." I'd work the longest hours because I'd have to pick up and drop off my teammate. On Friday nights, I would have to go to the office to cash out, and return all the keys. "Oh, and you have to wash the rags. We pay 35 cents per house. We don't use paper towels because it's too costly."

This compensation plan is the average compensation plan for most cleaning companies. Another common type of a compensation plan pays based on the number of homes cleaned in a day. In both cases, drive time is not paid to the employee. Here's how the compensation plan at TwoMaids works:

You get paid all day, whether you're driving or cleaning. Your primary salary is derived from customer feedback. You are also eligible for full medical/dental benefits and mileage reimbursement. You essentially write your own paycheck. The average employee works about 30 hours per week. Nobody ever works more than 40 hours per week. They can earn anywhere from minimum wage to as much as $10.75 per hour. We have some people that make $8 per hour and we have others that make $10.75 per hour. The average wage is about $9 per hour company wide. Which means that the average employee only earns about $270 per week, or just over $14,000 annually. That's not a whole lot of money. But, wait a minute. Remember, your only working 30 hours per week. Your home by 3:30 every day usually. Your never home after 5:00. If you ask me, it's not a bad paying job. Some of our employees work 40 hours per week and make as much $10.75 per hour. In other words, they make more than $22,000 annually. That's a great salary. Especially after you read this article. And, no...we don't require our employees to wash their dirty rags and mops.

Point 2.......This is how she describes the work.

Frisbee-sized stains of ochre urine encircle the base of the toilet. Feces splatter its rim and underside. The seat is streaked with old urine. Solidified toothpaste, spit, phlegm, beard stubble and pubic hairs -- how did they get there? -- coat the sink. The floor is thick with dust balls and more hair.

First of all, our employees would leave the home. I wouldn't clean it, so why should I expect someone else to clean it? Our employees are maids. The word "maid" gets a bad rap in this article. The author conveys a message that a maid is less than average and not respected. I'm sorry, but our "maids" are professionals. They clean because our customers don't want to clean. Just like accountants and real estate agents. You hire an accountant because you don't have the time to pour over your financials. You hire a real estate agent for the same reason.

Yeah, the work's dirty. It's not easy. You sweat alot. But isn't that the definition of work? If it were easy, you wouldn't need to hire us.

I don't normally allow comments on this blog, but I'm opening it up today. I want to hear your comments. Read the article and ask me questions about our industry. If you read it, you're going to think terrible things about the cleaning industry. Some of it is true about our industry. None of it is true about Two Maids & A Mop. Ask me and I'll tell you why.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Charging Extra For Customer Service

That's what the airlines want to do. They want us to pay them for a pillow. Click here to see what I'm talking about.

They still don't get it. They still don't understand that we're willing to pay more for air travel if they're willing to provide more than simply air travel. Traveling doesn't have to be normal. Click here for proof.

You can sell complex scientific instruments or you can sell simple bags of potato chips. In the end, every product or service must provide some type of value to the consumer. Without value, you have a commodity.

Charging extra for a service people already perceive as a commodity doesn't win the game. It just prolongs the demise. Eventually, somebody's going to get it. Somebody is going to figure out that the plane ride doesn't have to be about the travel between point A and point B. It's about the experience between point A and point B.

It took us a while, but we figured it out too. People need their house cleaned. But, people don't choose us simply because we clean homes. They choose us because we provide value. We meet the consumer's needs. Paying our employees based on customer satisfaction proves that we're serious about customer service. Of course, we don't need to say it. Pay for performance speaks for itself.

Monday, April 03, 2006

The Marketing Of Pay For Performance

Pay for performance is a good thing. It's self explanatory. Just saying it conveys the meaning. Or does it?

I've noticed that many pay for performance programs aren't really paying for performance. Here's a great example.

I think what I'm seeing is that marketers have sensed that consumers like the pay for performance plan. However, employees aren't always as receptive to the idea. So, employers are attempting to make both sides happy. Offer guaranteed money with a fraction of your salary determined by your performance. This strategy allows the employer the opportunity to market its "pay for performance" program.

Investors usually applaud when the press release announces its new pay for performance program. New customers line up; eager to see a difference from their current provider. Meanwhile, nothing changes. Nothing changes because nothing changed.

Pay for performance works. It works when it is implemented properly. Our employees are paid based on one factor. Customer satisfaction. We're not the ideal job for everyone. We demand a lot from our employees. Our employees know that their paycheck is determined by our customers. They know that their pay can be terrible if they simply "go through the motions". And they know that their pay can be well above the industry average if they satisfy every customer.

Our pay for performance program is integrated into our marketing program. We use it to our advantage. But, our pay for performance program is different than most pay for performance programs. The difference.

We don't just say it. We do it.