By Sharon Tinberg
The first week of February took me to Seattle, Washington. What a GREAT city, even if it did snow three inches my first night there. It is a city full of success stories generating hope and excitement, which was also true of the office I visited. The owners were excited from the remarkable growth they achieved in 2016 and were filled with hope that increased growth could also be accomplished in 2017, but this year with the added benefit of fewer operational challenges.
This is one more common theme I have heard in the 18 offices I have visited in the past 1 ½ years. Owners everywhere are hoping for shorter work days and less stress from their business. I have yet to meet an owner who does not dream of managing their business from a remote location – like an island somewhere. There is the paradox. You can lead a service industry from a remote location but you cannot manage it from afar. The actual management of cleaners requires on site presence from a person of influence. With our tight margins, how can owners afford a person of influence in every home? Promote one of the cleaning partners to the position of supervisor and then teach them how to become a person of influence with their partners, that’s how.
"You can lead a service industry from a remote location
but you cannot manage it from afar."
I have witnessed two types of cleaning teams while observing cleaners in the field cleaning homes.
- One type of team has co-team leaders where all team members are responsible for organizing the team and insuring the home is left spotless.
- The second cleaning team is one with no designated leaders/managers where the team is instructed to just work together as a team and look out for one another’s errors.
I always ask owners who work under either of these models “When a key is lost who is ultimately responsible for that lost key?” I can ask the same question regarding the quality of the cleaning. “Who is ultimately responsible for walking the home at the end and insuring all fringes on carpets are straightened, no cleaning clothes have been left behind and the alarm was actually set?” If you have not delegated this responsibility to a sole person on a team then you end up dealing with the issues when the client calls complaining about the fringe not being straight and the cleaning cloth left lying on the sofa. I ask the key question instead of the quality question because it is more finite and does not lend as well to the answer “Well they all watch out for one another.” Either question leaves the same results, something left not perfect because no one felt ultimately responsible for leaving it perfect.
New cleaning partners feel more assured when they have confidence in the knowledge and skill level of the supervisor they are working with on their team.
Clients will also have more confidence with discussing their cleaning concerns with a eam supervisor if they are clearly the “person in charge.” This one change alone will stop your phone from ringing. After all, it is the cleaning team that needs to fix the problem, and they can on the spot, rather than the client having to look at it until they call the office and you get someone out there to fix the cleaning.
Many of the offices I visit do not have team supervisors because all of the team members say they cannot speak English so the client could not communicate with them. First, never put a cleaning team in a home where at least one person on the team is not at least 40% bilingual and then get them to 90% bilingual within a year. When I visit offices and ask team members if they speak English and they say “pequito.” I start talking in English. You would be surprised how much English these cleaners actually speak. Have team supervisors start learning a minimum of 10 English words per week and partners a minimum of 5 English words per week. All of my cleaners who came to me without speaking a word of English were at least 60% bilingual within 2 years. And really, owners, this is where you gain the greatest satisfaction from your career. You have changed a person’s life, and the lives of their family members, forever, when you teach them to speak English. Mothers can now go to their children’s parent/teacher conferences and actually engage in their child’s education. What other paid job results in so much personal satisfaction?
Owners are only one being and cannot be everywhere all of the time. In order to grow you need to stop checking every house that is cleaned. When we cleaned 95 homes per day it was simply impossible to check them all. If you can’t check them all then you need to think of a different way to ensure quality in each and every home. My working team supervisors were my alternative to checking each home. Did it work? My company had 754 repeat clients and we never quality checked a home from an office perspective. Our working team supervisors were ultimately responsible for that task.
When you have key supervisors in place, you have started the ground work for a tiered-organizational chart which makes growth manageable and almost easy. When you have enough teams and supervisors you simply add a field operations manager and you are ready to lead your company remotely.
In my next article I will cover the field operations manager position that has been my main focus of training in the past 4 offices I have visited and will be my main focus for the next 10 days when I reach Annapolis in two hours. What an amazing and small world we live in!
Sharon Tinberg is a national residential cleaning service coach who has worked with cleaning companies across North America.