ICS Magazine

The Carpet Cleaning 'Triangle:' Winning the Cold War (Part IV)

August 14, 2001
Creating that dedicated employee



You probably spend more waking hours with your employees than with your spouse. (Now that's a scary thought!) And just like in your family home, the relationships found within your business can make your work (and your life) a joy or a drudgery.

Our industry's biggest problem by far is finding, motivating and keeping quality employees long-term. The sad fact is most carpet cleaning technicians view working for you as just a stepping-stone to a "real job." For your business to prosper and your life to be a joy, you must solve the employee "revolving door" problem. How? By giving your employees what they want.

Last month we defined the number one desire of employees: Respect. Respect from you and respect for themselves. It's no secret that the carpet cleaning industry suffers from a low public image -- and an even lower self image. So you must raise your employee's self-respect internally. Help your people feel good about themselves and where they work and they'll reward you with incredible loyalty.

Of course, all this "feel good" stuff only goes so far. As one employee told me years ago, "Steve, I love working for you and want to continue. But I need to put food on my family's table and plan for the future."

Here are some thoughts on what your employee needs from you:

Clearly defined expectations are the basis for all successful relationships.
Just like your kids, employees do much better if they know what's expected. If your people know the rules and the penalties for breaking them, then both their performance and comfort level will increase. Define your expectations in a clearly written company manual that has been reviewed by your attorney. Then, refer to it daily when making decisions instead of "shooting from the hip." Employees need and want consistency in their work place.

"Just tell me what to do."
It's extremely stressful to not know what you're doing. Yet this state of ignorance describes a substantial percentage of the carpet-cleaning technicians working out there today. Remember, good people love to learn. Your new employees need to be guided with a daily written orientation and training outline from their very first day. Then, assuming adequate performance on their part, you should send your people to industry technical and management seminars.

The confidence and pride you show by investing in your employee's training will be repaid many times over in increased motivation. (Note: Another advantage of having written training systems is they send the silent message that anyone in your company can be replaced. It's no fun being held "emotionally hostage" by an employee who correctly believes they are indispensable.)

"How am I doing?"
All of us crave praise. Assuming you have implemented both a company manual and an orientation/training program, your employees should be doing great. Why not let them know? All too often, we're afraid that if we praise our people, they'll ask for more money. If anything, the opposite is true. Positive reinforcement from you is often perceived as more valuable than money by your employees. Daily and public "attaboys" tied to specific accomplishments are great.

But do you have a regular, routine program of formal evaluations scheduled for all employees? Remember, these should not be an opportunity to dump on someone. Instead, formal evaluations are big opportunities for you to forge relationships with your employees and build loyalty on both sides.

"Where can I go in this company?"
Nobody wants to spend their life "chained to a scrub wand." Often, you lose good technicians because they see no opportunity for advancement. One of the best reasons for rapid, sustained company growth is the "career ladder" you can offer quality individuals. After all, only marginal people are willing to stay long-term in a deadend job. And who wants to surround themselves with marginal employees?

So share your vision, goals and plans with your people. Let them know where they can go with you. Your employees will reward you by building their dreams around your company.

"Show me the money."
You like money and the good things in life it provides. Can you blame your employees for wanting the same things you want? Simply put, you should be paying your people more than they could make at an equivalent job elsewhere. A good rule of thumb: Are you paying your employee well enough that he or she can buy a house? If your employees can't at the very least achieve the "American dream" of home ownership working for you, then don't be surprised when they search for more lucrative employment.

"I want to have a life."
Today, more than ever, people judge their success by non-financial, emotional factors. Primary among these is quality time spent with family and friends. All too often we consistently request overtime and after-hours emergency work from our employees. Sure, they love the extra money. But what's happening behind the scenes in their family? As the old saying goes, "If momma's not happy, no one is happy."

Try to offer consistent, routine hours. Then, when things get weird, your employees will be happy to pitch in. But if you routinely demand overtime work, there will be no reserve left and your employees will burn out quickly.

Employees can make your life a daily joy or "hell on earth." The choice is yours. Focus on fulfilling the needs and wants of your employees and they will reward you with loyalty and dedication. Remember, truly successful companies not only provide superb quality carpet cleaning, they are a superb quality place to work. True success is defined not by bigger truckmounts, but by developing incredibly loyal employees that view it as a daily privilege to come to work.