Jun 252012
 

 

case study, aspiring entrepreneur, build a better business, team, trust, team building, learning from small business mistakes

 

 

 

1. How it all started. How you got into the cleaning business?
Cleaning and business in general has been in our family for a while now. My father runs several successful businesses, passed down from his father. My grandmother held several private office cleaning contracts and used to complete the services in the early hours of the morning each day. As a child, my sister and I would tag along and help out. I remember emptying bins and pushing the vacuum around as young as six. It was always fun and we loved to help out.

Moving forward, my sister started her own cleaning company around 2005 – I would often assist her with services, learning how to cleaning professionally. After education, I ventured into other things myself such as office management, accounts assistant, recruitment consultancy, sales associate, etc. All of my roles gave me the skills required to go into business myself. Cleanique is not my first business and has not been my last, I run several other companies, some working out and some not. In 2011 I officially started Cleanique, with only a mop and some products with around £75.00 to spend on Google Ads. I built the website, designed some leaflets and invested in some online ad campaigns. And from there, it just grew and grew into what it is today!

It took time to develop the first bulk of clients. After the relocation to Watford, Cleanique essentially had to start from scratch, which was a big blow to the hard work I’d invested in the business however it turned out to be an excellent choice as the client opportunity base was much larger and although that meant more competitors, we worked to rise above them and have so far been successful.

To this current day, Cleanique are now hiring self-employed contractors and developing a team of staff to allocate services and clients to. Cleanique started from absolutely nothing with very little money to invest (less than £100) and today are turning over a large profit and have huge plans for the future ahead. It’s been a very exciting whirlwind of a journey and has of course had many snags along the way. But each difficulty can only be used as a lesson learnt and we embrace each challenge we face.

2. What challenges did you face along the way?
Cleanique has encountered many, many issues – mainly when first starting out. However without problems, you cannot find a solution that you know will work.

The first problem we faced was the relocation to Watford. I moved to the area myself and as the business was still at its starting point, made a difficult decision to release all clients from their contracts in the previous area and start fresh. It didn’t make sense to attempt to franchise or employ a manager of the area so early in with only a few clients on the book. The move was difficult as I suddenly lost the entire income from the company, but it was also exciting. A whole new county to find clients in! I redesigned the website, created new leaflets and marketing plans, upgraded my equipment with the profits made so far and went back to work finding new leads! Overall it’s paid off massively and the new area is much higher populated, therefore has much more to offer than previously.

Our second issue has been with employing the right staff. It can be very difficult to find a staff member who performs to a high, professional standard and is also reliable and loyal to the company. We choose to contract self-employed cleaners and ensure our contracts insist they must not approach our clients or poach business from Cleanique for up to 12 months after contract ends. We also ensure there is a two-week notice period (or wages with-held) to cover our losses if they suddenly decide to leave. Contracting rather than payroll has it’s downsides, but is much easier from my perspective as if the cleaner is not up to standard you can easily replace them. The other upside being that they do not get paid for sickness or holiday time, therefore are motivated to work to a high standard and hold dedication to the company. After all, no working = no pay.

We have trained staff for weeks to months and still not found that when out alone, they are performing to the standard we expect. Some may be lazy, trying to cut down time (not staying at the client for as long as they should be) or perhaps just genuinely do not have the correct level of attention to detail. Some may be rude or unable to socialize with clients in the correct manner and others might not get on with others when in a team. One issue I faced on two occasions was getting too friendly with particular staff members. Befriending your staff is a bad idea as they’ll start to take advantage, and I experienced this myself. Keeping a professional, friendly working relationship is important and allowing your staff to walk all over you can lead to a lot of problems down the line.

Another problem we’ve faced and many others will find is choosing the wrong type of client, putting trust into people too early and struggling to cancel a client you know is not good for the company. We sent staff to clients who were rude or aggressive and those staff no longer enjoyed their roles. We have also had clients who seemed lovely on initial meeting and put trust into them, but they soon changed their tunes when it came to invoices and contracts (not paying, paying far too late, refusing to sign a contract or pay for a large service booked). We had to find ways to cover ourselves by implementing payment procedures into the contracts, saying no to clients who didn’t want to sign one and making sure we had separate contracts for deep cleans (to be signed before and after service, agreeing to pay the amount quoted).

3. What did you and your company do to overcome those challenges?
Every challenge has a solution. If it doesn’t work one way, try another. I can only say you have to attempt a new method before you can write it off. Seeking advice from other perspectives always helps too. Even if the person is not a business owner, they may still have a great idea that could work. Never give up when something goes wrong, always find a way to overcome the issue and make sure you’re covered if it’s ever to happen again.

Cleanique has had to change contract wording, implement entirely new contracts, create new systems for tracking and expenses, find new ways of stock control and search for suppliers who offer the same products and equipment but at lower costs. I’ve had to change our advertising methods due to losing money on “useless” schemes, adapt our selling skills to different clients and learn more about staff management to ensure the issues I’ve faced do not happen again. It’s all about adapting your approach to things. If you can’t change the way you do business to create a safer route, it’s not worth running a business at all.

4. What was the result that you achieved after you overcame these challenges?
As a whole, we’ve managed to prove to our clients that even when things go wrong, we face them head on and resolve the problem. We’ve built trust with clients, knowing they’ll always be able to talk to us about issues and knowing we will do everything in our power to fix things. We’ve built a stronger and much more reliable team of professional cleaners as we now know who we want and who to avoid, from past experiences. We hold contracts with excellent suppliers who are saving us money overall, rather than spending ridiculous amounts of cash on the wrong type of brand (or worse, supermarket-bought products!)

It’s overall created a stronger relationship with all parts of the company from the clients to the staff and suppliers. I feel much more in control and no longer panic about what could go wrong, because I know everything in place is safe and has a backup plan in case something should go wrong. In turn, it’s made a much smoother ride on the road to success!

5. Any tips for aspiring Entrepreneurs looking to build a business and take their one man/woman shop and turn it into a business.
I can summarise this into just a few bullet points. Starting a business is not easy no matter what sector it’s in. Whether you’re cleaning or running a blue chip corporation, every business will succeed only with a never-ending amount of hard work and dedication. Don’t ever expect that just because it’s “only cleaning houses”, this is what it will be when you expand from a solo self-employed role to a company hiring staff and handling all sides of business.

1. Make sure you’re ready. Create a business plan and make sure you have clear, set ways to reach your goals.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask. We all start somewhere and if you genuinely don’t have an answer for a problem, research or talk to someone who does know.
3. Always get involved in groups and business events. Whether it’s person to person or using social networking such as LinkedIn & Facebook. Market your business wherever you can.
4. Don’t underestimate the power of a website. If your website is badly designed, you’re doing more damage than good to your company. Employ a web designer if you need to and make sure you have excellent web presence.
5. Never employ the first person who applies for a job. Carry out interviews, checks, trial runs, train them hard and keep a close eye on any new employees. It can take just one person to wreck your business & name for good.
6. Learn about business. Learn about marketing. Learn about bookkeeping. Don’t think that just because you know how to clean (to a professional standard), you can do it. You need all of these skills to run a company.
7. Stay strong and committed, never give up! If this is truly your dream, you will achieve the results you hope for with hard work and determination. Don’t let anything defer you from achieving your business goals.

 

Laura Winterbourne

Watford, UK

www.cleaniqueuk.com

 

If you enjoyed this post, I would be grateful if you helped spread the word by emailing it to a friend or sharing it on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook. Thank you!

 June 25, 2012  Posted by at 6:00 AM Case Study Tagged with: ,  3 Responses »
Jun 182012
 

Branding, Business Coaching, Service Businesses, Build a Better business, Business Planning, Advertising, Marketing, Identifying, unique selling point, turn weakness into strength

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What we learned in Part 1.

Part 1. Here’s a vital secret that turns conventional marketing psychology on its head.

Are you struggling to create a memorable positioning statement for your marketing? Do you want to stand out from your competition, but the uniqueness of your business seems to elude you?

Here’s a sneaky, vital secret that turns conventional marketing psychology on its head. By changing your positioning statement, find out how to transform your weakest link into your strongest marketing tool ever.

3 examples of using your weakness

  1. Avis is Only Number 2…So, Why Go With Them… Years ago, in the rental car market, Hertz was chugging along merrily, with Avis a distant second. With one Problem-Based USP(unique selling point), Avis closed the gap. Its catch phrase, “We’re No.2, We Try Harder,” ignited the minds of the target audience like a rampaging bush fire. They turned a liability into an asset.
  2. Southwest Airlines took to the skies with a similar message. We’re Smaller Than Everyone Else, it told us, while gently explaining why its service was dramatically better, as a direct consequence of their size. They also turned a liability into an asset.
  3. In 2001, Harley Davidson proudly boasted how their CEO was 38th on the waiting list for the company’s then, new V-Rod motorcycle. And they took pains to describe how each Harley was lovingly rolled off the plant. The waiting period, which normally would be perceived to be a negative, was turned into a publicity coup that burned a stamp of quality and uniqueness into the brains of every prospective Harley owner.

All of these companies took a cold, hard-nosed look at reality. The superlatives in their business had been taken. Instead they unearthed their USP, in what most people would consider a disadvantage of sorts.

 


 

Part 2.  How to Create a Knockout USP for Your Business…

Let’s assume you’re in the wine selling business. To own real estate in a customer’s brain, you’d have to do battle with about a zillion other wines. Yet decades ago, Paul Masson cut through the clutter with a simple statement. We sell no wines before their time. With charming simplicity, they turned a negative waiting period into an exploitable advantage.

You too can turn your liabilities into assets. Stop screaming about how magnificent you are, and look for the apparent glitches in your business. Let’s just consider a few scenarios. Are you perceived to be too expensive, extremely slow, or maybe just too busy?

 

The Primary Reason You Should Search for the Hiccups in Your Business…

Knockout your competition like a Mohamed Ali right hook.  Finding what makes you beneficially different is a notoriously difficult task. However, just about any client or potential buyer will very quickly identify your weaknesses and liabilities. If it’s a technical problem, you can fix it. If it’s a conceptual problem such as speed or price, it’s much harder to fix.

This, however, is the key to your success. The more you try to keep your weaknesses and liabilities under wraps, the more customers will uncover them. On the other hand, take a liability and turn it into an asset. Expose a problem to the harsh glare of the spotlight and transform your frog into a prince. This brave act will gain the instant admiration and support of your clients, while giving you a USP that others simply won’t have the guts to match.

Can You Make the Leap?

Creating a negative USP is a tricky, dangerous tactic, and one not to be taken lightly. “We’re slow and proud of it!” is hardly a selling point, yet fulfills the requirements laid out in this article. However, if you’ve been struggling with your USP, as many companies do, this is a tactic that may work well for you—as it has with some of the companies above.

It’s time you tickled your customer’s brain with some sharply focused psychological marketing jujitsu. Find the weaknesses and liabilities in your business, carve them into a dynamic USP, and the attention your business has been craving for, will be yours forever more.

If you enjoyed this post, I would be grateful if you helped spread the word by emailing it to a friend or sharing it on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook. Thank you!

 June 18, 2012  Posted by at 6:00 AM Growth Tagged with: , ,  No Responses »
Jun 112012
 

scheduling crews, taking responsibility, weather forecast, planning ahead

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. Tip #1. Schedule with what I call a “soft” Friday. I tend to stack up my jobs and routes early in the week, leaving Thursday, and especially Friday softer work days(fewer work orders). I also know in the back of my mind that I have Saturday to make up any missed work if needed. This way if things go well during the week, all my employees show up and complete their routes, the weather cooperates, and everything runs smoothly I have one of 2 situations.

  • Situation #1.  I have an easier Friday and time to focus on sales, planning, budgeting, or any other tasks that I personally have.  Making sure I have a clean desk before I leave for the weekend. Who can complain about this worst case scenario?
  • Situation #2. Things went well during the beginning of the week and I would like to get more work done this week. If this is the case then I look at the coming week and pull any last-minute jobs up into the current weeks schedule. This also makes me happy, because getting more work done means making more money in that given week. As any seasonal business owner knows making money while the sun shines is the key to our success.

2.  Another tip, is to schedule interior or non rain/snow sensitive work on the days that your weather man is forecasting rain/snow. Rarely do I remove all my jobs and routes from the schedule. Even if the weather is supposed to be poor, I still always try to get something done. Maybe route work or pressure washing, anything that is easy to re-schedule is worth trying to complete on a bad weather day.

3. The last tip, is that the accuracy of the 10 day forecast diminishes the further out you look. In other words your weather forecast tends to be very accurate for the next 48 hours. Anything past 48 hours the accuracy of the prediction reduces dramatically.

Falling victim to the weather forecast is easy to do. Putting blame on the weather, weather man, or your customers is not the answer to effectively managing a seasonal business. We need to take responsibility for our actions and make the changes necessary in our organizations to help us manage the scheduling of our crews around the ever-changing forecast of mother nature. We do this by focusing on the things that we can change(reliable employees, and equipment) and relaxing about the things that we can do nothing about. Worrying is like a rocking chair, it keeps you busy but it doesn’t get you anywhere.

Is your seasonal business dependent on the weather forecast?

What tips do you use in order to help you manage this unpredictable factor?

If you enjoyed this post, I would be grateful if you helped spread the word by emailing it to a friend or sharing it on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook. Thank you!

 June 11, 2012  Posted by at 6:00 AM Team Tagged with: , , ,  1 Response »
Jun 062012
 

facts, opinions, beliefs, self limiting beliefs, passive income, goals, killer questions, who's responsible, open ended questions, powerful words, powerful phrases, controlling the conversation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are three types of communication questions:

  1. Open-ended questions- these are questions that cannot be answered simply by “yes” or “no”. They encourage the other party or parties to open up and provide information from their perspective that will allow you to more fully understand their position.
  2. Reflective questions- these allow the other party or parties to elaborate on a statement after you repeat a particular word or phrase that the other party used.
  3. Directive questions- these guide the other party toward a desired, specific piece of information to allow you to quickly move to the response you want. Avoid using directive questions in a manipulative manner as this can backfire by creating mistrust and turning people against the desired communication.

In considering these three types of questions, always consciously see how many closed-ended questions can be converted to open-ended questions by using : What, Why, When, Where, Who, How. However, a word of caution using the “Why” question. It tends to be to directive and usually puts the other person involved on the defense. Essentially it is hard to use a “Why” question and not sound like you are accusing someone of something.

 

Below you will see a few examples of specific questions that help to keep you in control.

  • Is that a fact or opinion? To learn more about the difference between facts and opinions, click here.
  • What are we going to do next time so this doesn’t happen again?
  • How does that make you feel?
  • What do you think we should do?
  • If you feel it’s not your fault, then who’s do you think should take responsiblity?

To learn more about powerful words and phrases that keep you in control click here.

If you enjoyed this post, I would be grateful if you helped spread the word by emailing it to a friend or sharing it on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook. Thank you!

 June 6, 2012  Posted by at 6:00 AM Leadership, Team Tagged with: ,  1 Response »
Jun 042012
 

time management, most valuable resource, delegation, stop blaming time, lack of time is not an excuse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why do we sometimes have such trouble concentrating? The ability to focus is a skill – it is not innate. Here are 11 ways to strengthen concentration, even under difficult circumstances:

1. Connect emotionally to the task. Tightrope walkers and lion tamers have no trouble concentrating. That’s because their lives are at stake. But it’s easy for the mind to wander when it lacks passion for what we are doing. Of course, life’s realities often require us to focus on tasks we don’t like. In those cases, ask yourself, “What aspect of this task do I care about most deeply?”

2. Chart your energy level throughout the day. Most of us have certain times of day when we are clearheaded and energetic. Use those times for tasks that require the most concentration.

3. Remove items that regularly break your focus – family photos, magazines, and any material that is not relevant to your task; even the icon on your computer that alerts you to email…

4. Train yourself not to give in to distractions. When someone enters the room, or when a door slams, consciously keep your concentration on what is in front of you. When someone talks to you, don’t let your mind wander. Listen as if you were going to be required to repeat what is said back to the speaker.

5. Decide how long you intent to work, and what you plan to accomplish. Set strict time limits to complete subtasks. Ask your spouse of a co-worker to monitor your progress, and to apply gentle pressure when necessary.

6. Remember the big picture – but focus on the task at hand. If you keep mulling over the large, long-term consequences of your actions, your mind will shut down to keep you from becoming overwhelmed.

7. Use caffeine and sugar sparingly. True, they stimulate concentration, but their effects last only 30 to 60 minutes. The more caffeine or sugar you consume, the more you will eventually need in order to achieve the desired effects. Instead, try five minutes of light exercise, which will perk you up with no side effects.

8. Meditate. It strengthens your ability to control your thoughts. Try focusing solely on your breath going in and out. Start with five minutes per day. Build up to 20 minutes. When your mind wanders, observe the distracting thought rather than trying to force it out of your mind. After a few minutes, refocus your attention.

9. Take breaks. You should be able to concentrate on one task for about 40 minutes. Then take a five to ten minute break. Periodically shift you’re sitting position at your desk. This helps keep you alert by promoting circulation and sending more oxygen to your brain.

10. Ask yourself where the block is. If you are chronically unable to concentrate on a specific task, perhaps something about what you have taken on is not right for you. In that case, consider whether you are being fair to yourself by forcing yourself to continue with it.

11. Reward yourself for completing particularly difficult tasks.

If you enjoyed this post, I would be grateful if you helped spread the word by emailing it to a friend or sharing it on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook. Thank you!

 June 4, 2012  Posted by at 6:00 AM Time Tagged with: , ,  No Responses »
Jun 012012
 

 

Branding, Business Coaching, Service Businesses, Build a Better business, Business Planning, Advertising, Marketing, Identifying

 

 

 

 

Are you struggling to create a memorable positioning statement for your marketing? Do you want to stand out from your competition, but the uniqueness of your business seems to elude you?

Here’s a sneaky, vital secret that turns conventional marketing psychology on its head. By changing your positioning statement, find out how to transform your weakest link into your strongest marketing tool ever.

3 examples of using your weakness

  1. Avis is Only Number 2…So, Why Go With Them… Years ago, in the rental car market, Hertz was chugging along merrily, with Avis a distant second. With one Problem-Based USP(unique selling point), Avis closed the gap. Its catch phrase, “We’re No.2, We Try Harder,” ignited the minds of the target audience like a rampaging bush fire. They turned a liability into an asset.
  2. Southwest Airlines took to the skies with a similar message. We’re Smaller Than Everyone Else, it told us, while gently explaining why its service was dramatically better, as a direct consequence of their size. They also turned a liability into an asset.
  3. In 2001, Harley Davidson proudly boasted how their CEO was 38th on the waiting list for the company’s then, new V-Rod motorcycle. And they took pains to describe how each Harley was lovingly rolled off the plant. The waiting period, which normally would be perceived to be a negative, was turned into a publicity coup that burned a stamp of quality and uniqueness into the brains of every prospective Harley owner.

All of these companies took a cold, hard-nosed look at reality. The superlatives in their business had been taken. Instead they unearthed their USP, in what most people would consider a disadvantage of sorts.

If you enjoyed this post, I would be grateful if you helped spread the word by emailing it to a friend or sharing it on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook. Thank you!

 

 

 June 1, 2012  Posted by at 6:00 AM Growth Tagged with:  1 Response »