I’m going to begin by sharing the problems I had when I started my business. I can’t go over them all because that would take you HOURS AND HOURS to read!
I’ll start with my main issues and how I handled them. Then I’m going to ask YOU to share in the comments section your issues and how you handled them. This way maybe we can help others from suffering from the pain we had to endure when just getting started.
At the end of the day, we can all learn from each other. Nobody knows everything when they start a business. It’s just a leap of faith in many ways. With that said… I’ll get it started.
I had two things going for me when I started my business
When I first started my cleaning business I had to learn pretty much everything from scratch. I had no experience whatsoever, of any kind. I was learning on the job in every aspect of my new cleaning business. As most people I suppose, I did well in some areas and not so well in others.
Ironically one of the things I didn’t have an issue with was getting cleaning accounts. I attribute that to my two main strengths. They are I don’t get frustrated and I don’t give up. If I had anything going for me it was that, and that only.
The not getting frustrated part is important. Luckily I always think long-term. Sometimes maybe a little to long-term, but that’s just the way my brain is wired. The not giving up part was equally as key. The fact is I hate to lose, and that drove me to make this dream come true.
If I could add one other thing, it would be my enthusiasm. I’m quite sure the potential customers that were calling me in the early days of my cleaning business saw just how “green” I was. The fact is that I was a BRAND NEW business owner and it showed! I honestly believe the enthusiasm I showed towards their problem was why I was hired.
Everything else I had to learn on the job
As you just heard, I didn’t have that much going for me. Aside from not getting frustrated and having a long-term vision, THAT WAS IT. As I’m fond of telling people, my own mother told me I didn’t have a “business mind”. She was basically telling me to just get a job I guess. I’m sure she was just trying to help me, but it sure did sting when she said that.
Anyway… The fact was I had no experience at all running a business. So pretty much everything was going to be learned “on the job” so to speak. I made a ton of mistakes but most were smaller ones that weren’t going to sink my ship. The main issues I had when I started the business was finding the best employees, training the employees and keeping my customers happy. I call them the BIG THREE.
Finding good employees
Finding good employees can be tough work. The fact is you won’t know the vast majority of those who wind up working for you. Sure, you will fit a few friends in perhaps, but they won’t be long-term in all likelihood. So you’ll have to sort though a bunch of people, then assess how well they fit your company. All in just an interview session or two!
I made TONS of mistakes here. The biggest one was in assuming that everyone I hired would work as hard as me. That was a HUGE MISTAKE. You’ll never find that! Don’t get me wrong, you will get good people if you hire right, but they will never care as much as you. Once I accepted that fact – after about 15 employees that I had to let go – I felt better about myself.
So know that I knew what to expect in a sense, I had to go about getting the best of the best. I started out only hiring full-time workers. This turned out to be a mistake for me. Sadly, in my case anyway, many of those that are looking for full-time work didn’t have a job FOR A REASON. Many were simply unemployable. They had reliability issues, lack of accountability issues and a poor work ethic.
They also quit after a few weeks, wasting all the effort I put in training them. I solved this problem by switching gears and only hiring part-time workers. I looked for those that had a long track record of employment with one company and were just looking for extra work. I figured if they were reliable enough to be employed full-time then they would be reliable for me. It worked! I can’t claim 100 percent accuracy, but it VASTLY IMPROVED my problem.
I’ll begin by acknowledging that I was totally clueless in the beginning. As I already mentioned, I thought it would be easy to “clone myself”. I had visions of an army of Tom Watson’s running around cleaning all my accounts. That didn’t work out! My mistake was in just giving them the most basic of training then letting them go on their own. Huge mistake!
I fixed this mistake by expanding how much time I spent training someone on the job. I would spend a week or two with someone if I needed to in order to make them fully understand what is expected. I would also follow up with regular unannounced inspections, as that kept people on their toes. I made sure I talked to each employee EVERY WEEK. This allowed me to listen to any concerns they had. It also let them know I cared.
I also “loosened” the leash in a sense on how the job was done. I was a “my way or the highway type” for too long. So I instructed people to do this first, then this second, then this third and so on. I did that because that is how I would do it. But I came to realize that everyone has their own “way of thinking”. When I stopped being a control freak, and just let the staff do it their way (as long as the result was the same), I was OK with it. So me “letting go” helped!
Keeping customers happy
This is going to be your main priority, and it will largely influence how successful you will be over the long haul. I made a colossal miscalculation when I started my business concerning this and I’m lucky I caught it soon enough. My mistake was this… I just wanted to get hired THEN “stay out of their hair”. I wanted to be good… but invisible. This was a horrible mistake!
While my intentions were good, the fact is I ignored the whole “customer relationship” part of the equation. Once I got hired, I never called them. I never asked questions about who well we were doing. I never wanted to rock the boat in any way. I figured no news was good news! Well, that is not a good way to run a business.
The reason was simple. When my services slipped a bit – and they will from time to time despite your efforts to prevent that – the customer didn’t ‘know me”. They thought because I never bothered with them that “I didn’t care”. I got fired as a result. More times than I care to admit. The fact was I DID CARE. Sadly… I just didn’t show it.
I fixed this issue by keeping in touch with my customers “as much as they would allow”. Some customers are not looking for my contact, so you can’t do much with those folks. But many will value you callings once per month or even stopping in to see how well the cleaning is going. This will show YOU CARE. Though in your heart you may care, your ACTIONS speak louder!
Share your issues and how you handled them
Now it’s your turn! Take a moment and share the issues you have faced and have overcome. Even if you haven’t found a way to overcome a particular problem, share that problem so maybe someone else can point you in the right direction. I look forward to hearing your issues, your solutions or just your thoughts on the business itself. Don’t be shy… leave a comment!