ICS Magazine

The Carpet Cleaning ‘Triangle’: Winning the Cold War (Part III)

July 20, 2001
When it comes to you and your employees, things can get really strange because neither side really understands the needs and wants of the other.

So who are you? A money grubbing, greedy, power mad boss, or an overburdened, long suffering employer? What about your employees? Are they childish, selfish whiners, or loyal and uncomplaining supporters of your dreams? As usual, the truth in these opposing viewpoints fall somewhere in between. These contrary opinions illustrate the gulf in the employee/employer relationship. Dealing with employees has never been easy and it’s getting harder all the time.

On the other hand, life without employees is no bowl of cherries either. I loved the physical act of carpet cleaning, but with the big “5-0” staring me in the face, I’m grateful to not have to push a wand eight hours a day. Have you ever been sick, hurt, or burned out? Working solo means your income stops until you can get back into the saddle. Even worse, without the higher volume and profit that employees bring, it will be tough to sell your business to fund your retirement.

By implementing “Value Added Service” and consistently exceeding customer expectations, this column has shown how easy it is to please the other point of the “carpet cleaning triangle,” the homeowner. But when it comes to you and your employees, things can get really strange because neither side really understands the needs and wants of the other.

How can you bridge the employer/employee gap? Simple. Employees are people, and people are motivated by one thing — themselves. We’re all primarily interested in good, old Number One! (Remember that #1 can and should include an employee’s family, friends, etc.) So go ahead and ask yourself: “What does my employee really want from me?”

Above all else, people want respect. We crave the respect of our family, friends, co-workers and yes, even our boss. If your employees feel like they are respected, they will achieve the most coveted “respect” — self-respect. If you feel good about yourself, it doesn’t matter how much money you make or how “lowly” your job may be. But, you’re fighting an uphill battle with carpet cleaning technicians and self-respect.

Many of your employees come from a negative background of personal and professional failure. Of course, society views “blue collar” work in general, and the cleaning industry specifically, as lowly and demeaning. Let’s be honest here. Your employee’s kids seldom brag about their dad being a carpet cleaning technician. How can you fight back against this negative perception and help your employees feel good about themselves and their career?

Change Yourself First. How do you view yourself, your business and the carpet cleaning industry? Are you proud, fulfilled and eager to go to work every day? Positive or negative, your attitude will communicate itself to your employees and their self-respect will be influenced accordingly.

Insist on Core Values. Successful businesses (and lives) are based on a set of ethics and values. Employees need to know where you and your company stand on treating customers, suppliers and each other. Even better, good people will stay loyal to a company that reflects their life’s belief and values.

Build a Family. Thanks to divorce, a nomadic lifestyle and our fast-paced life, the concept of a close, extended family is usually a relic of the past. Yet all of us need to be part of a “family group.” Set your company up as a happy, supportive “family of equals” and reap the benefits. This doesn’t mean a turkey dinner at your house every Sunday. It does mean you personally encourage, and at times participate, in off-hours group activities.

Delegate Authority. When you show confidence and trust in your staff, their self-respect (and performance) will blossom. Just remember the old saying, “When you delegate responsibility, you must also give authority.” Nothing will destroy the budding self-respect of an employee faster than to be put in charge of something and then be constantly overridden and second guessed by — you! All too often our obsessive, neurotic, controlling tendencies as entrepreneurs doom our delegation efforts before they even get off the ground.

Define and Communicate a Vision. All of us want to be part of a “great notion,” building something much bigger as a team than we ever could achieve on our own. If you show respect to your employees by giving them input in defining the goals and the future of your company, then they will throw themselves into fulfilling their common vision.

“How Can I Help You Win in Your Life?” I call it “emotional judo.” Employees have been trained to be resentful and suspicious toward the boss. Your mission is to find out what their goals and dreams are, and then to ask them, “How can we help each other?” Your employees will be totally blown away and incredibly grateful.

Sam Walton expressed it very well, “If you help people get what they want, they’ll help you get what you want.” What do you want? A dynamic, thriving, exciting and profitable company staffed by quality employees that feel good about themselves and their job. Why? Because you’ve shown them respect, and now they respect themselves.