Ensure your systems and staff can provide a good lifeline
A service business, simply put, is a business that provides a service to a customer. But what is often forgotten is the people who provide that service can make or break the business.
No matter if the business is a large multinational company, a small mom-and-pop shop, or part of a franchise system, the people are a critical part of the equation. Unhappy or unengaged employees—whether you have a disgruntled employee taking legal action against your company or an employee who simply refuses to follow directions—can negatively impact the health and longevity of the business.
In our industry, we can’t afford to have a negative perception of our business circulating among employees or potential clients. That is why it’s imperative to consistently check the pulse of your business. Here are five ways to do just that.
1. Review Your Systems
Take a look at your cleaning business operation plan and determine if it’s really working. Evaluate your prospecting and marketing systems, your cleaning and technical systems, your customer support systems, and more. When reviewing your systems, take a close look at the written systems you have in place; they should, in theory, teach employees to do their jobs without you present.
While many small companies don’t have these written systems in place, they should explore developing them or partnering with an organization that does. This can often be achieved through third-party companies that offer prewritten systems or through a franchise partnership that offers a prepackaged business model.
2. Evaluate Internal Support Staff
Once you review and fine-tune your systems, closely evaluate your internal support staff. These people are the front line and backbone of any strong organization. They need to be emotionally invested in helping you build a successful business. If you are part of a franchise, realize that franchisors are in business to service the franchisees that own territory within their business model. If the internal people supporting the franchise owners don’t understand the mission, franchisors need to do a better job of training them on that mission—or, as a last resort, find people who are better suited for their mission.
3. Gauge Your Outside Vendors
Beyond support staff, you likely deal with outside vendors associated with your commercial cleaning company. Whether your organization outsources accounting software, technology to help run the business, or a marketing firm, there are other key players who help move you forward.
It’s important to evaluate vendors at least every six months to determine if they actually add value to your business. For example, the technology your commercial cleaning company purchased five years ago may now be severely outdated or unable to keep up with growth. Similarly, the marketing firm helping design promotional materials may have lost a step or two in its ability to convey your message to target audiences.
4. Evaluate Front-line Employees
Evaluate employees to address personal and professional growth and identify areas in need of improvement. Start with how well they are serving your customers. If you have a mechanism for gauging customer satisfaction, that is a great tool to begin the evaluation process. If you do not, strongly consider developing one, so you can tap into feedback from your customers. It is not unusual to ask for feedback—it can and should be framed to help improve your businesses.
Perhaps one of the most obvious ways to evaluate employees is to examine the growth of your business. If you are struggling to stay afloat and keep customers, your employees are not doing the job required of them. On the other hand, if you are successfully retaining customers year after year, and growth continues, it is obvious that you have a solid team in place.
5. Enlist Employee Feedback
Perhaps most importantly, it’s crucial for business owners to take a step back and determine how effectively they are supporting employees. This goes beyond systems and focuses on the relationships managers build with employees that ultimately lead to a stronger company. By establishing a support structure with your front-line team, you will foster those relationships and ideally extend the time that they will work with you.
Have a mechanism in place for receiving feedback from your employees. It is best to allow for anonymous feedback. This can be done with a paper survey, a comment box, or an internet or email-based survey. There are third-party survey apps that will allow you to create a survey for free. Ratings from employees gauging how supported they feel can be extremely illuminating for business owners.
Another way to receive feedback is to sit down with a group of employees and listen to their experiences performing their individual duties. Consider monthly staff meetings that allow for discussion of both the positives and negatives of employee experiences. For franchise owners, you can host a roundtable discussion between franchisees where they share positive experiences, as well as some of the challenges they’re going through. You may not want to provide feedback on the spot, but instead, listen and learn from what they have to say; then determine how you can further refine your systems based on the feedback you receive.
Making Room for Improvement
No business model or even franchise system is going to be perfect, and of course, we have all experienced challenges along the way. But with an eye toward constantly fine-tuning the business model, we can gain a deeper respect from current employees and attract future employees who truly fit the culture. In doing so, your commercial cleaning company can thrive.