Ask Steve

Ask Steve: How Can I Keep my Techs from Doing “Side Work?”

Let’s analyze how to make it difficult to steal from you

red shirt cleaning business vanHi Steve,

I don’t know if I have a problem here or not. I’ve been in the carpet cleaning business for just over 10 years. In the beginning it was tough (just like with you I’m sure), but I have really been blessed with a degree of success.

So now I’m off the truck and have four techs working for me full-time on three trucks. For the most part, I like and trust my current employees. But I still have nagging concerns over just how far I can trust them and future employees on turning in all the cash money they make.

So how can I keep my techs from doing "side work?"

-Slightly Suspicious in Seattle


Ah yes, that sweet temptation of easy cash as in, “If you can’t afford our regular price, Mrs. Jones, how about I hit the traffic lanes in these bedrooms for 10 bucks each… cash?”

So how do you stop this thievery? The short answer - you can't. Not completely. You can and should make it harder to steal than not steal, but in the final analysis many techs currently are doing it.

Now these techs may not be doing “big time stealing” as in working on whole jobs and not reporting them. But the old "Tell ya what, Mrs Jone - give me $20 cash and I'll throw in the family room" is very easy and very tempting. So let’s analyze how to make it difficult to steal from you:

1. Hold your people accountable with frequent, unscheduled “just stopping by” visits: You (or another manager) should just stop by and go in unannounced on your techs, say hi and then head straight for the work order. Pick up the clipboard and make sure the room they are in is listed out on the work order.

2. Be kind but firm: If your techs are cleaning in a room that is not on the work order, don’t let your people weasel out with the old “I sold her up on cleaning another room” excuse.  My rule was simple: Go in any room you want, talk with the client, measure the room and up-sell your services. Wonderful! But before the wand crosses the threshold to a new area, it better be listed on your work order! If it isn’t, then you as the technician will be considered to be stealing and you will be fired on the spot!

3. Give your employees clear instructions: For example, each employee should receive their very own Production Day Sheet, a one-page form that gives each employee their “day at a glance.” (Including any special instructions and equipment to load for each job that day.) Then your tech needs to note down on this daily Production Day Sheet their arrival and departure time for each job.

NOTE: For the Production Day Sheet I used in my cleaning/restoration company, just write me at and put the letters “ICS PDS” in the subject line.

4. Also insist on accountability on the paperwork: So if I went by a job and the crew wasn’t there on time I might not say anything. But what did I check when the employee(s) turned in the Production Day Sheet at the end of the day? That’s right - the time of day they arrived! Yep - their day sheet is filled out as if they arrived on time! That’s right - my employees are lying to me! So now I needed to…

5. Hold their feet to the fire! “Charlie, I’m impressed! You my friend are a better magician that Houdini! Not even Houdini could make a 1-ton van disappear and you did! You see, I drove by the Smith job this morning at 9:15 a.m. (I even checked the time on my cell phone display) and you guys weren’t there and yet your PDS says “arrived 8:58! I’m confused, Charlie, help me out here…” Now Charlie (and your other techs) will be held accountable and that is exactly what you want to help keep honest people honest!

Let me know how it goes…

 Steve and ICS want to consult for you! For a personal reply write Steve HERE with your questions, problems, struggles and challenges! Your help is on the way! A new “Ask Steve” will debut in the ICS eNews every Thursday. Register for it by clicking here

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