How should we pay our first cleaning tech?

The question: How can I pay a great employee really well and yet still make money myself?

Steve’s answer: Train them on the “Emotional Dynamics” of residential and then watch their income (and your profits) soar!


My wife and I have run a very successful carpet cleaning business for many years.  However, as you told us in SFS:  “One day that cleaning wand just isn’t going to look as good as it did 20 years ago”!  And that has happened with me!  So we want to pay our first projected full time employee well.  But we also worry about the slow season.

So we have come up with what we think is a unique way to solve this dilemma.  A modest base weekly salary (guaranteed no matter what our schedule is like) and then a small percentage of the invoice total.  The percentage will rise in increments of 1% as the person reaches certain milestones such as passing all 12 Skills Reviews in your “Winning on the Home Front” audio training , their first 90 days of employment, achieving IICRC certifications, etc.  Then they could earn further small percentage increases by attending Jon-Don’s VAST seminar, being able to be on the truck alone, training another tech, advancing to crew chief etc.

After looking at our sales from last year even if the person never achieves more than the first level (they wouldn’t be with us any longer but that is another story!) they would make $30,700 a year with the base salary and starting commission.  Once they reach the top of the commission scale with base salary they would be earning $45,800.  This is something that realistically could be achieved within the first year of employment.

We structured this pay system because we don’t want to lose a good person in our slow times and they make more money only if we make more money. So Steve, what do you think?

Puzzling It All Out In Buffalo

Dear Puzzling,

First, Buffalo, let me tell you I “feel your pain”.  I’ve been there- done that- several times!  Successfully making the jump from owner-operator to a viable, stable company with employees was one of the hardest things I have ever done!

On your actual income levels for a beginning tech the amounts required to live a “decent life” vary wildly around the country.  So you’ll need to check your local market for that.  I will remind you of the words of L.L. Bean:  “I always felt if I paid my employees 20% more than they could earn elsewhere I would get 40% better employees.” Think seriously on this one!

Now for a suggestion.  I (of course) love the idea of letting your employees get oriented on the Emotional Dynamics of the Home Front by using my training materials.  But instead of giving your employees even a small raise when they hit some of the goals above why not give them a cash bonus?

For example, many of our SFS members who use my “Winning on the Home Front” technician training course give their new hire a crisp, new $100.00 bill when he or she successfully passes all 12 Skills Reviews.  Even if you only give an employee a small .10 per hour raise that is over 200.00 per year and goes on forever!  Meanwhile, which will have a bigger immediate impact in your worker’s life?  10 cents per hour or a 100.00 bill?

This same principle applies to many of your proposed milestones.  A cash bonus will normally be more appreciated by the employee PLUS it is much cheaper for you over the long term.

NOTE: By the way, I always paid these “Recognition Bonuses” in cold, hard cash instead of including them in the employee’s weekly pay check. Remember that the regular check many times is delivered right into the waiting hands of their spouse. But a cash bonus can be your employee’s “Mad Money” and that is a very precious thing!

Let me know how your compensation schedule works out.  Remember, we are all in this together!


P.S: As your company grows always try to pay these Recognition Bonuses in a public setting with lots of verbal commendation to your employee. You can’t give too much sincere recognition to your “company family members”!

2 thoughts on “How should we pay our first cleaning tech?”

  1. Hi Steve:
    I have had a conversation with my carpet technicians today. We added a checklist on the bottom of our “Conditions “ page. The reason is because we had some Secret Shoppers let us know how our techs were doing and what they were doing. The carpet came clean but they did not do the little extras I spent a lot of money to send them to your school to do. I added this checklist a month ago and maybe 10% have been completed and of those there was a checkmark not an initial like what is requested. One tech is seriously balking. He thinks it should be a surprise to the customer that we do this. (Or maybe a surprise to me that it is not being done!) Tell me what you think about our “checklist” please. Good or bad?


  2. Congratulations on trying to keep your techs “accountable”, Susan. Too many times employees become “Loose Cannons” out there!

    Now as far as having the customer sign off on the Value Added Service steps we did it a little differently. I was concerned about making the customer my “policeman” and especially so if my techs were not complying because then it called attention to our failings! 🙂

    Instead, I and my managers would do “random, ‘just stopping by’ checks”. If the tech had in place the items/procedures they were supposed to then I’d give ‘em a crisp new 10.00 bill right on the spot AND praise them publicly at our next staff meeting. (This is the old “get more flies with honey than vinegar” approach!)

    Plus every single tech knew at least once a year they (and everyone else in our Service Circle including our phone people) would get “Mystery Shopped” with our Secret Home Owner program. The details are in your Ops Manual under Employees/Evaluations and Feedback pages 7-9 and also pages 12-16.

    NOTE: If the tech(s) passed with flying colors which of course is what I wanted then they would each get a $100.00 bill and my profound thanks at our next staff meeting. Then we would pass around copies of the 2 page check list our Mystery Shopper (who got free carpet cleaning out of the deal) had filled out on the transaction to all our other employees. The message was obvious: “You may be next”! I just loved adding Employee Accountability!

    Let us know how things work out, Susan, and you have my very best wishes.

    Steve Toburen

    PS: For anyone who is not a SFS graduate some of the same info is in my “Employee Accountability” Special Report under the Resources Section. Here is the link:

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.