I'm so thankful for a conversation I had with Patty in 2006. Let me set the scene. She was an executive for an apartment property management company with 13 complexes. I was cleaning for two of them and wanted to grow my solo business to as many as I could. During early to mid-2006, I drove all over the Capital District of NY to knock on the doors of small offices, apartment complexes, and builders to drum up more business. I had information packs with testimonials that I'd hand out at each. All in all, I visited over 300 businesses and dropped off over 50 info packs. This lead to 1 more apartment complex, 1 builder, and 1 new office. It seems like a waste unless you tally up the lifetime value of just that one office. I cleaned for this law firm from 2006 to 2018 and earned over $80,000 in revenue from that client. Yes, it was worth it. I wanted you to see the mode of growth I was in. We were struggling big-time with money and I was willing to do whatever it took.
When I walked into one of my complexes that spring, Patty was there. I knew who she was and that she was the decision maker to hiring me for more complexes. I never got a chance to ask her a question. She approached me and shocked me with this advice that has forever changed my business!
"I know you want more complexes. I've been hearing from our property managers that you've been visiting. But I'm not giving you any more right now because I don't want to lose you!" Patty had my attention and continued. "Do you know why good cleaners like you go out of business? They can't say no and take on more than they can do. They get further and further behind. They don't know how to properly hire employees to take off some workload. They start dropping in quality, missing commitments, lose trust, lose reputation, lose money, and we have to let them go. These good businesses eventually go out of business if they don't change. And we have to constantly replace contractors like you. It's time-consuming. Ken, you're doing a great job for our 2 complexes. Keep it up and truly decide if you want and can handle more."
Her message hit me right between the eyes. It was a turning point for me. I was only pursuing apartment complexes because we needed money. But really, I hated apartment complexes. They paid terrible. The hours were awful. I would often batch 3-4 apartments overnight after cleaning all day and sleep on the floor! They were unpredictable. They were feast or famine. They were dirty. They required a lot of thinking, planning, and mental time. I never did add the 3rd complex. I veered down another path instead. I started growing and stabilizing my company with recurring weekly, biweekly, and monthly houses fueled by working with realtors. The real estate work was tough, but it opened the doors to simple, clockwork houses. I also learned my niche of presentation cleaning and applied it to house and office cleaning to build my reputation.
Over the years, I have taken on projects that were huge. Patty's advice rung in my ears, but I was lured by the big money promises and the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. However, each time it hurt my main recurring business of services houses. It took me a few years for Patty's lesson to sink in, but I promise you it did. By 2009, I stopped trying to hit the grand slam and worked on building my company slow and steady. This was when I truly started stabilizing my solo cleaning business to gain peace of mind. Today, I get this question all the time. A solo cleaner will ask me. "Ken, how would you price for a 30,000 square foot office or a chain of banks or a multi-building disinfection project?" I don't answer their question. I ask them this in reply. "What is your goal? Are you looking to hire employees, work nights, invest in equipment, etc?" After they hear that question, it re-centers them and they realize that these amazing opportunities are a distraction and a surefire way to cause a good cleaner to go out of business through declining quality of always saying yes. I learned a valuable lesson that day from Patty and I'm forever thankful! Now I'm the "Patty" of sorts to you. I hope you don't go down this path too unless you truly want to pursue it for a reason and with employees.
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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.