- THE MAGAZINE
- Matthew Kelly
In business, just like in sports, most of us want to build a dynasty, an organization that will keep on winning and do so without our constant presence as the owner. When you have achieved this state of business critical mass your company will have true value, either by providing a nice check each month (without you touching a scrub wand) or by selling for a huge sum that will help finance your comfortable retirement.
However, any sports team struggling to become a consistent winner is constantly looking for “franchise players” which Wikipedia defines as “athletes who are not simply the best players on their team, but individuals that the team can build their franchise around for the foreseeable future.” So how about you? Do you have “Franchise Employees” that you can build your business around for the foreseeable future?
Sadly, the carpet cleaning industry is full of struggling companies kept afloat by the owner performing daily valiant deeds of super-human endurance. Sure the business survives, but at what cost to the owner, his family and to the growth of the company? Pay close attention here: Nothing you can do is more important to your long-term business success than finding superb and loyal franchise employees that you can build your company around.
So just why can’t you find employees who have the profitable growth of your company as their No. 1 priority? Simple: There aren’t any! That’s right; no sane employee should ever sacrifice his own personal interests due to his or her misguided loyalty to your company (after all, you don’t want crazy employees, do you?). You see, you as the business owner are focused on your company because it is essential to the long-term financial health of your family! So your loyalty to yourself and your family is what truly motivates your hard work and eventual business success. Your employees are no different. At the end of the day they will choose what is best for…themselves! Duh!
Your mission as a business owner is to help your employees define what their goals and dreams are, and how you, your employee and the vibrant (and extremely profitable) business you are jointly creating can achieve these dreams. Any worker can potentially become a franchise employee that you can count on long term based on the happy juxtaposition of three things:
- A quality individual with a strong work ethic and good moral character (your employee).
- A discerning and unselfish entrepreneur that views his employees as his or her most important “customers” (this means you).
- A dynamic business that can be used as a vehicle for all parties involved to achieve their definition of success (hopefully this will be your business.)
Calculate the average stay of a carpet-cleaning technician in your company. One year? Two years? Four months? Now imagine what it would mean for your business if you doubled that tenure. Not only would your hiring and training expenses decrease dramatically, but you also would have the freedom to fire the marginal performers you are now desperately hanging onto because of your rapid turnover. My guess is, with longer-term employees, the overall atmosphere in your company would change and for the better!
Here are a few thoughts on how to find and more importantly develop your franchise employees:
Hire better. Yes, I know. It is getting tougher and tougher to find any workers, much less ones with the potential to become franchise employees. However, to employ a common cliché, “If you start with skim milk there won’t be any cream to rise to the top.” The tactics discussed below will greatly help attract and keep better people. Never let yourself get booked so tight that any one employee leaving will throw your company into chaos. Instead, always try to keep an “employee reserve” that can be used for emergencies, including the unexpected “sudden departure” of a worker. And of course always focus on how you can…
Improve working conditions. I’m not talking here about installing a Jacuzzi and wet bar in your rug room. (Even though I am sure your techs would appreciate these comforts!) Instead, remember that while most employees can step up to the plate on occasion most workers hate the high stress and disorganized atmosphere of many carpet cleaning companies (that is why they are called “employees” instead of “entrepreneurs”!). So focus on developing what I call the “Triple-S Culture”- a Safe, Sane and Stable working environment. Simple paperwork, along with straightforward written procedures detailing how to perform each action and a clearly defined chain of command, harmoniously combined, produce what I call a “Business Infrastructure.” Now implementing your business infrastructure inevitably means change and change is always highly stressful. So remember to always…
Pick your battles. Don’t overwhelm your people with scores of petty rules and draconian directives. Instead, before you make any rule, ask yourself two essential questions:
- Is it important?
- Will it be followed?
Upgrade the self-image of your employees. Let’s face it. As an industry and as individual carpet cleaners, we often don’t respect what we have achieved. And if the owner doesn’t respect what he has created what can he expect of his employees? So work on creating a “Culture of Quiet Pride” by improving the self-image of all your workers. Regular in-house training plus sponsoring industry seminars tells your workers that you value them. Also look, no I mean really look, at your office and plant, your trucks, your equipment down to the uniforms your employees wear. Does everything promote quiet pride, or is your company looking a little shabby and frayed around the edges (literally as well as figuratively)? One of the best ways to build up the egos of your employees is to…
Involve others. Nothing is more powerful or more fulfilling than a group of quality people all working toward a common goal. So involve your employees in the day to day functioning of your company by giving each and every worker at least one task they can call their own. This may be something as simple as taking daily inventory of the chemical stock or tracking the maintenance of your truckmounts. Remember, too, the old saying, “When you delegate responsibility for a task you must also give the individual the authority needed to complete it!” We are pretty good at delegating – shirking? – responsibility, but tend to stubbornly resist giving away our closely held authority.
Accountability with recognition. I call this the “Iron Fist in the Velvet Glove” employee motivational approach. All of us do better when we are held accountable for the successful completion of a task. Your people are no different. Potential franchise employees welcome the chance to be tested and then glory in the public recognition they receive when they fulfill their assignment. Insist on accountability for their actions, but also publicly praise your workers when they exceed their clearly defined expectations (in the positive atmosphere we are describing it happens more often than you might think).
Help your people define and then achieve their dreams. In “The Dream Manager” Matthew Kelly writes, “There are two things that keep people interested in a job: the sense that they are making a difference and the feeling that they are progressing or advancing.” Now, since no one (not even I) would say that carpet cleaning is essential to world peace or curing cancer, then obviously you need to focus on how to help your workers feel like they are advancing in their lives. One way is by providing an upward migration career ladder of potential promotions as your company grows. But if upward promotions are the only life advancement you can offer, then very quickly you will be a carpet cleaning operation with “too many chiefs and not enough Indians. Remember, many people don’t need a steady stream of business promotions. Instead, they just want to feel like their lives are progressing. Can you offer a way to help your qualified employees buy their first home, or fund a comfortable retirement?
There are many routes to success in the carpet-cleaning industry. Hopefully, over the years this column has caused you to stop and reflect on what your goals and dreams are. Once you have defined what success is for you and your family then please start searching for and developing your franchise employees who in turn will help you create your very own cleaning dynasty!