Is your Small Business making you miserable? Is it bringing you the fulfillment, financial freedom and lifestyle freedom that you sought when you started out? Maybe you started out just looking to make ends meet, but have secretly hoped for more- more recognition, more money, more impact…
If none of this sounds familiar and you and your business are living happily ever after, this blog may be a colossal waste of your time. On the other hand, if those questions got you fired up and your heart pumpin, you just might be in the right place…
It is one thing to work hard and make money…It’s another to be lazy and broke…
But there is no excuse for working your tail off and and not getting the financial rewards you deserve!
The reason you aren’t getting the results you want is often because you don’t have clear, written goals. Even if you do have written goals, they are usually WHAT based and impotent like these…
- I want to double my business
- I don’t want to stress over bills
- I only want to work 40 hours/ week
Nothin’ wrong with those goals, but they are missing a key ingredient to give them power…
I consult with small business owners day in and day out. The examples above are what business owners just like you tell me they want every day.
When I dig a little further (this is why I get paid the big bucks) they don’t really want to grow their business, or work less. What they (and probably you) truly want are things like:
- Time freedom
- Ability to provide and care for their spouse and kids
- Respect from their community and family
Do you see the difference in power between the first and second set of examples above? The first set of bullet points are wishy washy wants that won’t get you fired up to do what needs to be done, but the second set of bullet points are the kind of things you would walk through a plate glass window for.
As more and more clients confided in me with their true desires, I realized, you don’t just want to grow your business, you want a clean (C.L.N.) business.
N– Not Stressful
Without further ado, let’s jump into your CLN future…
First, let’s build a quick foundation.
- First and foremost, you are an entrepreneur
- You are owner of a Small Business second
Your business thrives on creativity and needs it to grow, but before we talk about your business, let’s talk about YOU. You need to be creative. It is fun, energy giving, not to mention profitable.
BONUS LOVE: Often times when you don’t have cash, you can get the job done (often better) using creativity instead.
HINT: There are at least 3 amazing examples of this in this very blog…
You as a human being will be healthier, happier and wealthier with some creativity in your life.
You didn’t get into this business with the hopes and dreams of slogging through mundane tasks like customer complaints, payroll, bidding, health insurance and every other monotonous thing that fills your day.
You don’t have to resign yourself to being slave to your business.
You are an entrepreneur.
Every day you have the opportunity to flex your mental muscles and squeeze out creativity.
Set aside time 2-3 times/ week to BE CREATIVE:
- Take a walk or jog
- Listen to some classical music
- Arm wrestle kindergartners
Consider using your first creativity session to creatively think of things you can do in the future that make you feel creative. Pretty meta huh…
BONUS LOVE: If you are one of the few that think you are “just not that creative”, borrow other people’s creative ideas you find in books, articles and blogs
As the leader of your company- whether you have 1 employee or 100, it is your job to set the course, cast your vision and determine how you will get there and what rules and values you will use to guide your way.
Enough Kum By YA- let’s dive into the nuts and bolts of what a solid creative business looks like…
You know that getting and keeping good staff is one of the biggest challenges owners of cleaning companies struggle with. Here is a fine example of how to use some creativity in your on boarding process:
Typical first day for an employee:
- New employee arrives, no one is ready.
- New employee is herded into a small room and given a stack of boring paperwork to fill out.
- New employee is sent out to work and is told to just do what Bob does
- New employee goes home, kicks the dog (don’t you feel guilty), and tells his wife his new job is just like his last crappy gig
- New employee loses interest, goes on a violent killing spree, it’s a bad scene…
Creative first day for an employee:
- New employee comes in to find a gift basket with business cards with their name already printed, balloons, logoed uniform,
- Owner personally spends a couple hours with the new employee and:
- Makes them feel welcome
- Explains the company’s Core Values
- Goes over the employee manual with the new hire
- Lunchtime comes and there is a surprise party where the staff welcomes new employee to the team
- At the end of the day you check in with the new employee and ask what you could have done as a company to improve the new hire’s first day
- New employee goes home, pets the dot (isn’t that nice), and tells his wife this job is unlike any other he has ever had
- Wife says she is not surprised as she got a bottle of wine with a signed thank you card from the company thanking her for sharing her spouse
- New employee is 243% more committed than any other job he has held
Employee’s first day sets the tone for their employment- take a minute to think what sort of creative ways you are going to employ to set the tone the way you want it.
Don’t let the party stop on employee’s first day. Consider blocking out a couple hours every other Friday for a BBQ at your office.
- Buy a foosball table and have tournaments,
- Throw up a basketball net and shoot hoops with your people
- Rent a bouncy house
- Rent a dunk tank and let your customers and employees try to dunk you
- Have a ice cream sundae bar where people can make their own sundae
- Have an employee take pictures and video so you can share your events with customers and prospects who missed it via the magic of the internet
The ways to use creativity to add fun and excitement to your employee experience are unlimited and they go a long way to loyalty and retention.
Let’s crank it up a notch and talk about how you can use creativity to blow your customers away!!
So many small business owners (i.e. your competition) are doing and saying the same old BORING stuff…
“We offer the best service, lowest prices, cleanest restrooms, best looking staff, coolest logo, blah blah blah… “ I got bored just typing it!
With even the tiniest bit of creativity, you can stand out from the crowd and eliminate so much of the price resistance/ competitive bidding that is the woe of any industry.
For example- do you have a referral program? Is it awesome? Try a couple of these creative ideas on for size:
- Run referral contests- award your Referrer of the year something awesome like a cruise.
- Have quarterly parties just for referrers and referees.
- Bring homemade cookies to anyone who refers you to an account.
- See how many referrals you can GIVE to your customers and even prospects
- Reward and recognize employees who ask for and get referrals
- Automate requesting referrals into your business- on every bid, email signature, and invoice
Referrals alone can explode your business, and I don’t want to short change you. I go into depth in my book “I’m a Freaking Genius – Why is This Business So Hard?” For the full scoop, stop everything you are doing and get it now!
I have a friend who has an amazing cleaning business that couldn’t afford to give Christmas gifts his first couple of years in business so he went to every single client and gave them a Christmas hug. People remembered that for years and would still request their Christmas hug when he was able to buy nice presents for them!!
BONUS LOVE: Don’t send Christmas cards (everyone else is and yours gets lost in the pile) send Kwanzaa cards or St. Swithens Day cards (I think I made that one up). Make up a Holiday for yourself and send National Give Your Cleaner a Raise cards.
Use this creativity to Surprise and Delight your customers. If you are a big reader (you should be) send them the latest business book that you read.
If you are not a big reader here are some other surprise and delight ideas:
- Alcohol (always a fan favorite)
- Food stuffs (homemade is always better),
- Ball game tickets
- Any articles you find on them (HINT: use google alerts to keep track of your top customers)
- Birthday cards
- Anniversary cards (1 year after they become clients)
- An article you find on the internet that might bring value to them
The idea is to make them feel special! Have an annual award ceremonies and give your customers, prospects and employees awards:
- Quickest to pay bills
- Best referrer
- Best looking employees
- The one that got away (for the bid you gave and really wanted and didn’t get)
- The stubbornness award (for the prospect that won’t let you give a bid)
- Best dressed
- Best attitude
- Customer Favorite
Host “Bring a friend lunch and learns” and invite your best customers, prospects who invite other people who could use your services. Get a private room at a restaurant. You can usually get the room for free if you buy a minimum amount of food (usually $200-$500)
You can even get a cool easy to set up red carpet style backdrop with your logo on it for a couple hundred dollars. Set that up at every event and take pictures of your customers in front of the back drop- makes them feel special and is also a great time to film testimonials.
A single event could get you 5-6 video testimonials and new customers- not to mention your new customers will love you. Video the whole event including the testimonials and edit it down to a fun sizzle reel that will entice other customers and prospects to come to future events.
BONUS LOVE: Can’t afford an event? Be creative. Find someone else who wants to sell to your customer base or a vendor you spend a lot of money with and have them sponsor the event. They pay for everything, you set it up and you share the glory!!
Let’s look at creativity and your sales process. Most salespeople (and small business owners) wait for the phone to ring (a cardinal sin) and when the phone does ring, they go out, give a bid, plays hide and seek with the prospect (you seek, they hide) until they get too busy and move on to the next fire.
Build creativity into your sales system:
- Don’t just give a bid, bring a gift
- Educate them on working with your company makes their life better.
- Offer the first 1-3 services for free (often customers will take the higher bid if the first cleaning is free)
- Before you give the bid ask if they will do an exit interview for you if you don’t get the bid telling you what you could have done to earn their business
- Drop them into a systematized communication funnel that includes:
- Monthly newsletters
- Event invites
- Birthday cards
Be creative with the bid itself, don’t just give them a stack of 11 pages of small boring type and a price. Create an entire welcome package (assume the sale) that has hats and t shirts with your logos on it, your favorite business book, a consumer alert with the top 10 criteria your employees must meet, take a picture of you with your customer that you took on the initial appointment in a frame with the bid.
Right off the bat this lets them know that you are not just another cleaner and their experience with you is going to be extraordinary!
There are 1,000 ways to skin this cat (no cats were harmed in the making of this blog) but the thing is to take a break and give yourself permission to have some fun and be creative- it’s good for you, good for your employees and good for the world at large!!
One of the main roadblocks between cleaners and a lucrative business is that they think, talk and SELL on price- namely that they are the cheapest price. UGH. Don’t fall for this trap
KEY POINT: Base everything you do on increasing the value to your client- not lowering the price of your service.
It is nearly impossible to be the cheapest guy out there, someone will always be willing to work for virtually nothing and undercut you, even though they will probably be out of business in short order, a new one will spring right up.
When you fight the losing battle of lowest price you don’t starve yourself of the financial resources to provide the rockstar value that your customer wants and will pay for.
Focus on attracting (through proper marketing messaging), clients that understand and value what you bring to the table.
BONUS LOVE: If you aren’t THE LOWEST price, there is no value in being second lowest- price shoppers will always take the cheapest- so you might as well be the highest and offer amazing service and make some money while you are at it!
If you do get bids by being the lowest price, you are always vulnerable to losing the account, any Tom Dick or Harry that is willing to do it for a couple shekels less will take your job in the blink of an eye. It’s a race to the bottom, to see who can make the LEAST money doing that job. It’s a game you can’t win so why play?
Before you scream to the heavens how every single customer ONLY cares about price and there is no way you can be the most expensive, let me give you a couple of nuggets to help you in your thinking:
- The more you charge, the more money you have to create an amazing customer experience. One that your competitors can’t compete with.
- The more you charge, the more you can spend to acquire a customer (HINT: Whoever can spend the MOST to acquire a customer WINS).
- If everyone ONLY cared about price, there would be no such thing as Lexus, only Hyundai- and the good folks at Lamborghini would be right out!!
- If EVERY ONE of your customers really does base their decisions solely on price- switch customers, find a niche that isn’t as price sensitive.
If you aren’t getting the prices you want. Find a niche. When you advertise to specific people- you can speak to and serve their specific needs that they feel are unique to their unique needs. Find a couple of creative ways to distinguish yourself and your services in such a way that delivers high perceived and actual value to your niche(s). Once you do this price becomes far less relevant.
The fact of the matter is- the low bid is not chosen every time. Movin on…
When I really press owners on what they really want and why they want it- they don’t want to deal with the stress. The beauty of a CLN business is all 3 steps work together. Being Creative is a stress reliever and makes you more Lucrative and profit is the ultimate stress reliever in business.
BONUS: If you have a problem that requires money and you have money- you don’t have a problem
Once you are creative and lucrative, there are only two other things keeping you from living the life you want with your business:
- Not enough hours in the day
- Always putting out fires
Now that we have identified the poison- what’s the antidote?
Stay with me for a moment and let’s think this through…
Why aren’t there enough hours in the day?
Because there is too much to do.
Can’t you hire people to do these things?
Yeah, but I can’t trust my people to do the things I do.
You can’t trust your people to “handle” things so you end up doing everything- including the life sucking tasks that you hate. What you are really saying is you want things done a certain way…your way… the RIGHT way. You have a checklist in your mind, a decision making flow in your brain when you attempt to do something… anything…
The way you think things through is different than the way your employees think things through so you don’t trust them. Often for good reason.
What if there was some magical way that you could communicate all of the fine decision making skills rolling around in your mind grapes with someone else so they could make decisions like you make decisions??
That way exists my friend and it is called a written system. That is the good news.
The bad news is that often it is easier to just do it yourself than to expend the brainpower to think through exactly what you do and write it down in a simple and easy to understand manner.
It may be more work to create that system today, but once you have created it, a single system can save you untold hours and dollars and STRESS.
Here are some things that magically appear when you create a system
- You become less dependent on “star” employees ability to make decisions because you have made all of the decisions in advance
- Decisions are made before there is an issue, in a relaxed creative setting, not in emergency mode when you are dealing with a fire
- When you take the time to write out your system, you often find room for improvement over what YOU have been doing and your company gets that much better
- Quality and the ability to execute gets much more consistent
- Less fires to put out
- Less stress when you have fires because there is already a plan in place to deal with them
- Customers and employees notice you have your crap together and it becomes easier to attract both
BONUS LOVE: If and when you sell your business systems and an immaculate set of books will get you TOP DOLLAR and can be the difference between a six figure and seven figure payday
Once you build systems for every job that you do- you are no longer needed, you just:
- Put people in place (there is a system for that)
- Train them on your company’s systems (you KNOW there is a system for that)
And you good sir (or ma’am) are effectively retired.
What’s that? You don’t want to retire? No problem, you have the option of taking your business to the next level and to just do the things that you want to do instead of everything you are afraid to let anyone else do.
I know I threw a ton at you in a single post- if this has you fired up and you want more, get the book “I’m a freaking Genius – Why is This Business So Hard?” and prepare to have your world rocked.
OK, that’s it- enough of my rant, it’s time for you people to contribute- leave your comments and questions below and let’s figure this thing out!!