You run an awesome cleaning business. Clients are happy. You’re growing exponentially.
You’re now experiencing the most persistent growing pain in the industry:
You need to hire more cleaners.
Hiring is scary. Even once you’ve been doing it for awhile, you still get a little nervous signing on a new cleaner. How do you know they will work hard and do well? What if they don’t know how to clean?
This post will give you the resources you need to:
- Interview candidates well
- Figure out how to pay your new cleaners
- How to KEEP your best cleaners, once you have them
How to Hire Profitable AND Reliable Employees for Your Cleaning Business
Table of Contents:
1. When Should I Hire My First Employee?
2. When is it Time to Hire More Employees?
3. How to Find & Hire the Best Employees
4. How Much Should You Pay Your Team?
5. The 3 Most Effective Ways to Retain Your Best Employees
6. How to Hire the Right Office Assistant
7. How to Write an Employee Handbook
8. Should You Fire Your Worst Employee?
When you can’t take on more work because your schedule is full.
An employee is an investment in your business and your life. You’re able to delegate work to them so that you can move toward working on your business rather than in your business.
When you reach the point where you have to slow or stop marketing because you’re at capacity, it’s time to hire someone(s).
Marketing vs. Labor is the central tension of the service industry.
You market until you’re running out of labor then you hire until you’re having too much free time.
Marketing and Labor are like a Newton’s cradle, they knock against each other and throw the other back. They swing back and forth, knocking each other out alignment as you grow.
This is good pain. This is sweaty-and-breathing-heavy-during-a-run pain.
This kind of pain means:
- You’re doing good work.
- You’re selling more work (won’t happen if people are talking about how terrible you are).
- You’re ready to break through your current growth plateau into the next level of your business.
If your business is feeling the strain of too much work, not enough time, it’s time to hire your first employee.
You’ve already hired your first employee. Maybe the first few. You’ve got a crew or two out in the field. So how do you know when it’s time to bring more team members on?
Is it a day that ends in “y”?
Then you should be looking for new employees.
Martha Woodward, Certified Advisor and CEO of Dusting Divas, encourages cleaning owners to be constantly hiring. Don’t get complacent.
Owners who get comfortable with their number of employees end up in hot water:
- Employees have to be fired.
- Employees leave unexpectedly.
- Successful marketing? You might end up with large volumes of work in moments.
Imagine it this way:
If you sold a dozen jobs today (awesome, I know), could you handle them?
Would your team meet the needs of your new clients… or would they break?
If they would break, you need MORE people.
Hiring employees is the biggest problem in the cleaning industry.
To grow, you always need more people, but good ones are hard to find. They’re rarer than a good client who loves your work and never whines (and we know what a unicorn that is).
There are 3 steps to finding and hiring the right people for your cleaning business:
1. Try to “Clone” Your Best Employee
You know right off the bat who your best employees are. They don’t cause problems, they work hard, you trust them.
Who are they?
Moms with young kids? College kids in need of part-time work? Empty nesters?
Whatever commonality you find among your best employees will (more than likely) be true of great hires in the future.
This isn’t to say that someone who’s completely different than your best employees won’t work out, it just means that this kind of person resonates with your company’s mission.
These are the kind of people YOU motivate. A different leader would motivate a different group of people. When you’re interviewing people, focus on their attitude. This is what makes an awesome employee.
Once you identify a key group to target:
2. Target THOSE People
In marketing to potential clients, we use a Client Persona. This helps us our marketing reach that one, ideal person.
Hiring is no different. Create an Employee Persona using the template for clients above. Create your ideal employee on paper and then go look for people like them in the real world.
Here’s the hang-up most people have: don’t look for that exact person. In the same way, you’ll never find the perfect client, you’ll never find that flawless employee.
What you can do:
- Use that persona to choose where you post Wanted Ads. Where would that person look for a job? Post there.
- Use the persona for your hiring ad, write to that person. You can start writing your hiring ad with “Dear Joe Perfect Employee,” just remember to pull that off before you send it out.
- Know that those great employees hang out with people like themselves. Ask for referrals and offer a bounty on new employees.
3. Interview Like a Pro
Interviews are simple. A candidate with a resume that got them in the door is probably pretty decent.
What you want to measure is coachability.
You’re hiring for attitude NOT EXPERIENCE.
You’re an excellent cleaner. You can teach someone to be an excellent cleaner, if they’re willing to learn.
Make the interview conversational, ask open-ended questions and let the conversation breathe. When you let the room go quiet for a second or two, it prompts the candidate to keep talking.
They’ll fill the silence with additional examples or a fuller answer to your question. Listen to them, ask questions about their answers.
The more conversational the interview, the less nervous the candidate will be and you’ll get good information from them.
How to Perform a Secondary Interview
An on-site interview is a great way to gauge a person’s coachability.
You can do this at your office or home. Give the candidate some basic instruction and then allow them to get started. As they start to work, correct technique, have them do things to your standards.
Check local labor laws about conducting an on-the-job interview. You may be required to pay the candidate for their time.
Pay attention to how the candidate responds to correction. Do they do things again with a good attitude? How many times do you have to explain something?
If a candidate is hesitant to do something differently than the way “I’ve always done it,” they’re demonstrating a lack of coachability. That’s going to be a persistent problem.
You can overcome lack of knowledge or skill, you cannot overcome a bad attitude about learning.
Master The Art of the Interview
For more information on how to interview professionally and to great effect, you can read this detailed write-up on LinkedIn that provides a lot of solid information for new interviewers.
A good interview reveals the candidate’s attitude more than their ability. If you find an amazing cleaner who also has an amazing attitude, don’t let a lack of skill scare you off from an otherwise awesome candidate.
This is a decision you have to make. There are pros and cons to every compensation strategy.
Ultimately, you have to decide what you believe will motivate your team to perform. If you have trouble with lackadaisical employees, a piece-rate system might work best for you. If your team is fast and efficient, hourly may work best for you (but may eventually discourage quick work).
Cleaning Business Today breaks down all the compensation plans you can use and the benefits and detractors from each. You’ll want to consult local labor laws, since they vary from state to state, to ensure whatever plan you implement is 100% legal in your state.
Look at the plans, weigh the costs, and decide how you want to pay your employees.
The first strategy is a bit circular (and loops back into what we talked about above):
Don’t Hire People You’re Already Thinking About Firing
Many cleaning companies have horrible retention rates because they hire awful candidates. Never hire someone because they need the work or “just because you need a warm body.” It’s like walking a dart up to a dartboard, sticking it in the outer ring and then complaining you didn’t get a bullseye. You’re choosing to lose.
It’s better to drop a client than have a bad employee turning clients against you with subpar work.
Don’t hire someone that you’re not excited to have as part of your team.
Make Your Company A Place People WANT to Work
Every company has a culture. Make yours healthy and engaging so that employees don’t want to leave. If an employee believes you care about them (and you should, they’re on your team), they won’t want to leave that.
Good bosses are rare. Think about the problems you had in past jobs. A bad boss may have even driven you into entrepreneurship.
Be a good boss. Show you care. Go out of your way to take care of your team.
You can read up on creating a great culture for your cleaning business in our extended discussion of Employee Retention for Cleaning Companies.
The Best Way to Retain Great Cleaners: $$$
You invest in your business all the time. You buy quality equipment so that you can buy it once and not worry about in the future.
Your greatest investment is the one you make in your team.
Pay your employees well. They work hard. You don’t want them to leave. So keep them.
Culture and good hiring choices can only protect your best talent so much. With the unemployment rate as low as it is, this market is “employee’s choice,” not “business owner’s choice.
If you want to keep your best employees, you need to pay them like you want them to stay.
Before letting someone leave for more money elsewhere, consider the cost of training a new employee (wasted time, training time, mistakes, etc.)
Read “The 3 Most Effective Strategies to Boost Your Employee Retention” post to take a deep dive into these retention strategies.
Hiring an office assistant is a big step into a larger world.
You’re out of the field but you need to focus on building your business not answering calls and running the day-to-day scheduling.
That’s where an office assistant comes in. You’re able to delegate tasks to the office in the same way you were able to delegate them in the field.
You want to work toward slowly removing yourself from the day-to-day. This is how you work on the business instead of in the business.
Just like with field employees, hire for attitude, not experience. You can teach these tasks to someone. Find someone with a good attitude and a friendly disposition. They’ll be interacting with customers and, if you’re working out of the office, you’ll be spending a lot of time with them.
Everyone thinks employee handbooks are boring.
Nobody reads them. No one wants to read them.
And NOBODY wants to write one.
But your company needs one. An employee handbook spells out exactly what’s expected of a new employee and what they can expect of the company.
You want to set proper expectations upfront to increase retention. If everyone knows what’s happening, it’s much harder to upset employees down the line.
You can write your own employee handbook and you can do it without falling asleep.
Alright, here’s the deal: sometimes you have to let people go. You don’t want to, nobody is champing at the bit to fire somebody.
Here’s the other side of that coin:
80% of Employee-Based Problems come from the worst 20% of Employees
That means that if you eliminate that 20% (the primary troublemakers), you eliminate 80% of your problems.
This is called Pareto’s Principle and we take a deep dive into it on “The Pareto Principle is an Italian Cheese” episode of The Profit Roadmap.
Bad employees, ones with bad attitudes who do bad work, pollute your company. They drag other people down to their level.
Have you ever worked with someone who incessantly complained about work?
They annoyed you to death, right?
But, eventually, you started to see some of their complaints. The boss was playing favorites. Rick was always “delegating” his tasks to other people.
That kind of bad apple spoils the whole bunch.
Sometimes it’s worth it to the take the hit, even if it means letting a client or two go because you can’t keep up with the work, to get rid of a toxic employee.
Hiring is Hard, BUT You Can Successfully Staff Your Cleaning Business
Figuring out your hiring process and sticking to it is hard.
Sometimes it will feel like you just can’t get any traction. You’ll work really hard to get a new employee and then you’ll have to let them go in a week.
Practice the things in this post and you’ll see a difference. This guide will help you pinpoint problems, address them and move forward.
Happy hiring! (Now go sell some more work so that all your new employees have something to do.)
Cody is a copywriter with Service Autopilot. He was writing before he could read, dictating stories to his mom. Of late, he distills business principles and practices learned from his ever-increasing trove of books and his year with SA Support into digestible blog posts designed to provide maximum value to service industry business owners.