When I was 13, I got a job with the Movie Exchange. It was the company owned bye buy step-grandparents Monty and Shelly Tibbitts, whom I've talked about in prior episodes. They were the only entrepreneurs in my teen years, but I never had the courage to ask them real questions on business mindset. I wish that I had! However, I did learn a ton from them by watching the way the they lived and the way others treated them. First of all, they had money! There were always two Jags in the driveway. They owned a private plane, a boat, a beach house, wave runners. Secondly, they had beautiful decor and they entertained first rate. Check out "Eat with your Eyes First". The Tibbitts' were all about serving and mingling family with business. They made their business deals and built relationships with employees and their families at the dinner table in their home. Their imprint is definitely on me as an adult entrepreneur. I just didn't recognize it until Pop-Pop Monty passed away a few years ago.
I worked for the Movie Exchange for 2 summers. In this podcast, I'd like to share a fun story about swatting flies that connects deeply to how solo cleaners speed up their cleaning. This episode will be a great companion to "Optimizing is More Mental than Physical". During one of these summers, Grandma Shelly sent me into an unused, overflow office area. During the 90's, the Movie Exchange was rapidly growing a pre-viewed VHS division. They would sell acquire grocery store real estate sell these movies for under $10 and they sold very well. The movies had to be inspected, shrink-wrapped, price labeled, and distributed to their display cases in various outlets. In fact, my step-dad Paul was a lead salesman for this division of his parent's business. As a side note, I got to work in the shrink-wrap & labeling side the summer after this story takes place. Now that you understand the business model a little more, Grandma Shelly took me out to the empty office areas and showed me a full room of movie jackets (covers). She wanted me to organize these movie jackets alphabetically, so that they could easily match the VHS movies from the warehouse to the correct jacket faster. This work felt like busy work; a way to teach a teenager humility and work ethic. But no... I confirmed with Grandma Shellie recently and she assured me this was an important step in the process in 1990. She showed me where the box cutters, tape, and empty boxes were located and told me to stop by her office with any questions. That's all of the direction she gave me!
I remember this job distinctly 30 years later. There was a large central room approximately 40 feet by 30 feet and few side rooms. One of those side rooms was empty and the other was stocked floor to ceiling with movie jacket boxes. In 1990, I was a HUGE Beatles fan and was already wearing out the cassette tape of the Beatles Greatest Hits 1962-1966 on my Sony Walkman. I was ready to play this over-and-over while sorting through boxes all day... and I did! The Movie Exchange was paying me minimum wage of $3.85 per hour. I worked through July and August for 5 hours per day. It was awesome earning that biweekly paycheck as a teenager.
Back to the work itself. I started the process in this empty 40 x 30 office and just thought. "How would I solve this problem?" I need a system! During this first day, I visited Grandma Shellie's office several times (she was super sweet to humor me). I asked specific questions so I knew the full parameters of what she wanted. In other words, I wanted to know what success looked like. What was a successful outcome? She wanted boxes for each letter with jackets neatly arranged in each and easily accessible once they went to the warehouse. I tried a few ideas out that I didn't like until I found one that worked.
Grandma Shellie would check up on me from time to time and make suggestions. Over the course of the summer, the boxes of assorted movie jackets kept coming. I wondered if it would ever end. I set my mind to completing this job and I did. I asked her recently if she remembered. She texted me this. "You made the job fun by creating little displays while alphabetizing the jackets. It was summer. You always wore a red baseball hat."
I was getting paid by the hour, so you may be wondering what motivated me to work harder for the same money. Okay, let's get honest. Grandma Shellie, don't listen to this part. I would get so bored at times and would take breaks to visit the warehouse or the break room for a pretzel. I would follow my system and just take breaks. My biggest distraction of all were the flies. A fly would enter the large room and I would dart like a butterfly from my task toward the fly. I had made a homemade swatter out of cardboard and tape and would chase that fly around until I got it. Sometimes, I'd have it in a minute and other times WAY longer. I even had a scoring system for difficulty of the kill. Yup, teenage boy! By the end of the summer, I have achieved the goal. Grandma Shellie was super happy. I was happy to have money. And the fly population had diminished greatly in the town of Audubon, PA.
Years later, I developed a similar system for cleaning houses. I didn't have any coaches, online support, just me and my 26 boxes. I was able to create the ISO Model, which got me to where I am today. This system allowed me to speed up the work that I was doing to make more money. But, just like my summer job at the Movie Exchange, there were many flies that would distract me and steal my efficiency. Social media would steal time. Note-taking from a great audio book or podcast would steal time. Chatty customers would steal time. Carelessness would steal time (breaking my vac, spilling supplies). Phone calls would steal time. Getting tired due to poor sleep or health would steal time. Each of these time-stealers were my flies as I was building this great cleaning system. In that summer job, I had no motivation for being more efficient as I got paid the same no matter what. I strived because I wanted Grandma Shellie to be proud of me. It was totally different in my solo cleaning business. Once I realized that I could earn more per hour with increased efficiency, I started ignoring the flies. You see, the flies will come. The real test will come when you have to choose between a temporary pleasure of swatting them or the long-term pleasure of an optimized job. You have to choose.
So I ask you Solo Cleaning School... What are your flies?
The Smart Cleaning School Podcast helps cleaning business owners from start-up to the struggling solo to the striving seven-figure get SMARTER in their businesses, reshape their mindset, increase productivity, clear the overwhelm, and get clarity through SMART goal-setting & personal accountability. Ken Carfagno is a lifetime learner and teacher. His mission is to help visionaries make the impact they were meant to make.