So what type of crew members do you want to employ on your carpet cleaning “sail boat”?

Over the last month you have all put up with me as I focused on the need to “put wind in the sails” of your cleaning/restoration business.  This wind comes from two related areas- money and sales.  Both are crucial and challenging to acquire.  And yet, perhaps the most difficult decisions business owners face as their companies grow from one size of boat to a larger one has to do with their employees.  Yes, I’m talking about the the “crew” that staffs our business boat.

cleaning-business-employee-growthLet’s start with this premise: the work crew we have helping us sail our current boat—including the loyal guys who have been with us from the start, and who may have shared beers with us on Friday nights after work—won’t necessarily be able to help us when we make the leap to a larger boat. This happens for various reasons. Some of them are happy where they are right now and don’t want to move to a larger boat. Some of your crew members may want to move to our new, larger, more challenging-to-sail boat but simply don’t have the skills to make the leap.

You see, in the early days of a cleaning business, the boat you’re sailing is smaller, and the people who work for you are frequently people who need their jobs just to cover the daily physical needs of their families—paying the rent, buying groceries, or making their car payment. (Nothing wrong with any of these worthwhile and necessary goals!)  Some of your employees may be able to make more money working someplace else, but they are intoxicated by the fast pace and unstructured environment of a start-up company and by your free-wheeling, swashbuckling leadership style. Still others might just feel sorry for you, figuring if they don’t stick with you, there is a good chance you are going to self-destruct!

As your business grows and your business model evolves, the talent level of the people you need to attract will change. The involvement you expect from your employees will also be different. On your entry level small business sail boat, your key people are “doers.” They’re front-line people who perform the tasks necessary to get their jobs done.

But when you move to a medium sized cleaning business yacht, you will now expect your key people to be “thinkers”. Typically these are managers who help you think through how to deliver better service, produce a better product, or shrink expenses. At least some of your crew from the smaller ship may not ever be able to make this change.  But then the plot thickens …

As you transition your company into a massive business tall ship, you need your essential staff to be “advisors”. The advisors in your cleaning business are your senior managers or members of your executive team.  These are the people who advise you on the course your business is sailing.  And these folks are going to expect much more from you and your company …

Remember that “thinkers” and “advisors” are looking for opportunities, not just tasks. So, reflect for a minute on how appealing are the “opportunities” on your boat? Are they enough to attract and keep the caliber talent you’ll need to compete at this level? How open are you, as the captain of the boat, to receiving input from your employees? Highly talented (and often opinionated!) crew members who don’t get a chance to stretch their talents and voice their thoughts abandon ship before too long!

Of course, “thinkers” and “advisors” usually come with a higher price tag than “doers.” Being able to afford these higher priced employees is another critical reason why your pricing structures need to change as your cleaning business grows, and why the cheap labor model I mentioned a couple of weeks ago won’t work at this level. When you combine the higher salaries of these employees with the added costs of even a modest benefits package, you can see your profit structure needs to be deep enough to attract people of this caliber, and deep enough to continue paying them once you have them on board.

Every good sea captain knows two things: his ability to compete and win races or to be victorious in battles at sea is directly dependent on the caliber of the people on his crew, and his crew is a direct reflection of his own values and beliefs.  As you might have guessed by now, we’ll reflect on this next time I stop by …

(Next in series: How to develop and manage your carpet cleaning/restoration business “crew”.)

Chuck Violand (more about Chuck)
SFS Instructor
CEO Violand Management Associates

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