Friday, June 29, 2012


This week I thought it would be interesting to list some of those attitudes we need to grow our companies in this competitive, slow economy business environment. We can't ignore the changes that are happening, we must face reality and do what works.
Here are some ideas.


+++Change won't wait on you
+++Hurry needs to become the normal style
+++Technology is advancing at a dead run
+++Get rid of "busy work" and bureaucratic practices
+++Don't resist change, create it


+++Nobody else is in charge of your attitude
+++Bad attitudes lose jobs
+++You can control how you react to change and the world around you


+++What you do best may not fit today
+++Keep learning
+++Develop in new and exciting directions
+++Be willing to adjust
+++Don't use yesterdays solutions to today's problems


+++Blaming comes easy
+++There are already enough problems, the company needs SOLUTIONS
+++Pointing your finger to others for your mistakes loses jobs
+++Today's culture demands accountability from YOU

Change destroys organizations that don't adjust. Is your company adjusting to the needs of today's economy and competitive environment? Change won't wait on you. You simply don't have time to take time. In the weeks to come we will examine the key points above in greater detail maybe make some suggestions to those of you that feel you need to make a few changes.

You see, every company is made up of three types of people. There are the sponges, the spectators and the camels.

The sponges are the newer employees that want to learn everything they can about how to do there job better. They absorb everything they are told---good and bad. This group generally will make up about 30% of your work force.

The spectators make up about 65% of the work force and they are the ones who are looking around to see what is going on and who's doing what. They waste an enormous amount of time watching and not working. They are quick however to complain about everything that is wrong. They bring their lunch everyday in a lunch bucket. Actually it isn't their lunch in the bucket, it's binoculars so they can watch everybody everywhere instead of work. (Just kidding, not about the watching but about the binoculars).

Then there are the camels which make up the remaining 5% of a normal workforce. These are the people who get most of the work done. These are the ones you go to if a deadline has to be met or you know it has "to be done right".

Now, which one of these three are you? Hopefully you fall into the 5% and if you are a sponge in the 30% category, you will skip over the spectator group and jump into the camel category as soon as possible. These are the people who have the attitudes to grow the company and get ahead in life.

In keeping with the attitudes needed to grow a company, I want to close this session with several of my favorite quotes from a variety of sources. These have helped me in my business attitude growth and I hope they will help you as well.

From Tom Peters---If the other guy's getting better, then you'd better be getting better faster than the other guy's getting better---or you're getting worse.

From Clay Carr---To satisfy the customer, it means that everybody in the company has to understand that the total existence of a company depends upon the customer, so if the customer is not satisfied, he is not going to be a customer tomorrow, and if he's not a customer tomorrow, we don't have a business tomorrow.

From Service America---If you're not satisfying the customer, you'd better be satisfying someone who is.

From Bernard Berenson---I wish I could stand on a busy corner, hat in hand, and beg people to throw me all their wasted hours.

From Dick Ollek---When you say, that's not my job, the one you have won't be for long.

From Zig Ziglar--Many people quit looking for work as soon as they find a job.

From Sherman Potter---Never make 7 people mad when all you are carrying is a 6 shooter.

From Al Batt--It is easy to sit up and take notice, what is difficult is to get up and take action.

So to follow up on Al Batt's quote, Will your organization just take notice or will you TAKE ACTION? You see, the decision is entirely up to you.

Till next time. Don't forget to listen to our free week pod cast at


If you have been in the Building Service Contracting industry for any length of time you no doubt have had that customer complaint where you assured a problem would be taken care of only to have them call the next day and tell you it still had not been corrected. You also have probably had the supervisor who told you when you asked what happened tell you, "But I told him to do it", or am I the only one that ever had that problem?

I remember telling a supervisor who gave me that response a few years ago that if all he was going to do was tell the cleaning tech to correct the problem, I didn't need him because I could have told the cleaner myself and saved a supervisors salary. What I needed from a quality supervisor was to go to the job, examine the issue, and make sure the employee knew how to correct the problem and then if they need training the supervisor provides it. That is supervision, the other method is being a messenger. That particular supervisor never did get the idea and eventually I had to take him to lunch and buy his to go.

This brings rise to another issue that is paramount in the workforce today. Do we all understand each other and the different meanings words can have in the normal course of a training conversation?

In the workshops I do on communications for companies, one of the exercises we have the group do is to provide their definition of the following words,






I invite you to take a minute and write down your definition of each of these words. Write down the first thing that comes to your mind. Ready, set, go.

Let me provide some of the answers I get,

FIRE---destroy, terminate, hot, warm, explosion,

TRAIN---choo choo, tracks, locomotive, collision, provide learning for employees,

DIAMOND---expensive, engaged, married, baseball,

HIKE---up the mountain, long walk, take a hike, pay raise,

BAD---good, terrible, poor job, spanking

Take a close look at the definitions provided in the exercise and compare them with your answers. No wonder we sometimes don't get the job done right. When diamond means engaged or baseball and bad means good, we should take a clue that we need to be very explicit in our instructions to our supervisors and they in turn need to be trained on how to be very clear in their teaching and training procedures to the people in the field. Believe me, when my wife asks me for a new diamond, she is not asking me to buy her a baseball. Let me ask you, do you have a training program in your company or a locomotive program in your company?

I am reminded of a story a friend of mine told me about his first job as a grocery sacker at a supermarket when he was 14 years old. He had taken groceries out to the car for a lady and as he placed them in the car trunk (boot in England) the sack split and he had groceries going everywhere. Well, the lady complained to the store manager and my friend was called to the office where he was told his services were going to be terminated. He said, "what's that?". The manager said, "you're fired". My friend said, "now I understand". By the way, I used to have a partner from England in a business venture and his definition of termination was "sack him". Now that complicates matters even more. Do we fire, terminate, or put the employee in a bag (sack)? See what I mean?

You see, every generation and every nation has certain meanings for different words. In the world in which we live we are becoming more and more diverse and employing more and more people from more and more countries with many different cultures and customs. Add to that the different generations and their different ideas about the importance of work and where it fits into their meaning of life, we can become confused rather rapidly.

As managers and supervisors of a very diverse work force here in the 21st century, it is critical that we make sure that our employees understand EXACTLY what we mean when we are communicating and it is also critically important that we have supervisors and team leaders that are true supervisors and not just messengers. They need to make sure that their workforce understands CLEARLY what is expected of them and how they are to correctly perform the duties assigned to them. What about you? Is your organization one of supervisors or one of messengers and do they know how to communicate so they are truly understood?

Till next time.

Saturday, June 23, 2012


Following last week's post, several people asked about paying straight commission to BSC sales people. That certainly is one way to pay although not used often in our industry.

I personally never used a straight commission structure or had anyone apply that knew anything about this industry that wanted a straight commission career with me. With a 90-120 day lead time usually needed to make the call, do the walk through, present the proposal and secure the signed agreement, the sales representative needs quite a cash reserve until worthwhile sales begin to be made. In addition, in the early months, if the representative comes from outside the industry, it may be difficult to get the sales at a consistently high level to provide any sort of straight commission income.

An exception, of course, might be that successful sales person you secure from a competitor that already has contacts. But then there is usually the issue of a non-compete contract that they have signed with their previous employer so you are unable to take advantage of the contacts they may have. By the way, I have been on both sides of non-compete employment contracts and am a firm believer in them if they are properly constructed. I offer absolutely no legal advice on them but am a believer in them.

A discussion on sales people would not be complete without a brief dissertation on vehicle allowance payments. I have used methods where I provided a car and also where the sales person provided their own vehicle and received a monthly allowance. In the words of the late New York Yankee manager Billy Martin when he appeared in the old Miller Lite beer commercials, "I feel very strongly both ways".

When you provide the car you are in control of the appearance your company makes and you can also be comfortable knowing the vehicle is properly insured as well as maintained if you are paying all expenses.

If the sales person provides their own vehicle, that assurance is not always there. You have to make sure they carry the proper limits on insurance and you need to keep an insurance certificate on file which sometimes slips the minds of even the best managers.

Gas prices are one of the most volatile parts of our economy so the entire discussion of whether the company provides the vehicle or the sales person provides their own is one that requires very careful research as it is a MAJOR investment.

As far as which pay structure to use, that is up to the individual company but I used successfully a salary plus commission program in harmony with one or more methods of executive brief and hit list mailings on a regular basis for support of the sales effort as well as periodic customer/prospect industry update luncheons.

I have on previous occasions discussed providing appropriate support to the sales people and then expecting them to produce. I think it is critical that you develop, with their input, weekly, monthly, and yearly expectations of the business you expect them to produce. I recommend an every Monday morning or Friday morning "sales meeting" to review where you are and the plans of where you are going. Good sales people hate meetings unless they are meeting a prospect, but keep in mind, your Operations and Human Resource departments need to know at all times what sales proposals are being delivered, the status of existing proposals, and which ones are a "definite maybe" to close soon.I personally had every Monday morning conference calls with each sales person in each city in which we operated. We limited them to 30 minutes each and found them to be very productive. We stayed on the subject of sales only. You see, they couldn't sell me anything and I wanted them in front of suspects and prospects as much as possible. Most professional, effective sales people will keep the Operations and Human Resource departments very busy.

As I close this discussion on compensating sales people, I want to emphasize the importance of a coordinated effort of the selling process. I know that I have mentioned it before but if you want to be really successful in your efforts you need to produce support in targeted mailings to specific markets you want to penetrate. You also need to target specific accounts within those markets with specialized mailings and meetings.

And don't forget, sales people are employed to SELL, not to send out mailings, do telemarketing, put together sales proposals etc. If they are not in front of prospects they cannot close a sale. Good sales people won't stay with you if they are asked to do all this support work. Bad sales people will love it because they then have an excuse for not making their sales quota. Which sales person would you rather have?

Don't forget our weekly pod cast at It's free and only takes about 5 minutes of your time each week.

Till next time.

Thursday, June 14, 2012


I wish I had a dollar for every time a BSC has asked me that question. This area is one of the most discussed areas in all of cleaningdom. Do I pay salary only? Salary plus commission? Commission only? If commission, how much? So let's review a few compensation plans and give you my personal favorites and why.


My opinion of this method is that if a sales representative wants a "salary only" position they are not confident of their ability to bring business in the door. If you agree to pay them in this manner you will almost always end up making them a "former" sales person and the only one who made any money was them. I strongly recommend this method not be used.


Nearly all of the companies I have familiarity with use some variation of this method. It usually consists of a negotiated "livable" base salary plus a car allowance.

Determining the commission structure is usually the tricky part. There are probably about as many types of commission plans being used as there are sales people. Here are a few plans that I am aware of:

------The sales representative receives a percentage of the first months billing payable 30 to 45 days after the contract is started. The percentage can be anywhere from 15% to 40%. The important issue here is there needs to be a check and balance as to pricing of the contract. Many organizations require that before a proposal can be presented, the ownership, operations, and sales departments have to "officially" initial that they have reviewed and approved the pricing. If disagreements occur, they are discussed and then agreed upon BEFORE the presentation is made to the prospect.

------Here the commission paid is a percentage of gross profit that has been agreed upon, again by all departments prior to the sales presentation to the prospect. The amount of commission can be 1, 2, or 3 months gross profit or a percentage of 1,2, or 3 months gross profit.

This method has to have certain guidelines as to "is the gross profit amount agreed to before the sale or is it paid on the actual gross profit generated"?. The first method requires the Operations department to deliver what everyone agreed to whereas the second method pays the sales person on what the Operations department actually delivered. You can imagine the disagreements that can occur if the Operations department doesn't deliver what they agreed to deliver.

------This method pays a percentage of one months contract billing based on the actual labor performed in the second month of the contract AND the percentage will be different dependent on types of accounts sold. Here again, a requirement is that ownership, operations, and sales agree on the projected labor and selling price prior to the presentation being made.

The reason for the different percentages allows for the company to direct the sales department toward the types of accounts it wants in its portfolio. For example, if you are wanting to expand your industrial or medical account base you would increase the percentage of commission paid as well as increasing it on higher volume at acceptable lower labor costs.

I used this method for several years very effectively and it allowed us to increase our customer base AND DO IT PROFITABLY in the areas we wanted to grow. We paid handsome commissions but we also accomplished what we wanted. Our sales people liked it as well because it really focused them on the types of accounts to spend their time on. We paid almost nothing for retail and tenant occupied buildings because that was not our focus. We concentrated on owner occupied, industrial and medical facilities and the system work very well.

Because our company relied very heavily on selling consumables to our customers we also paid the sales person commission on those type of sales made to the customer for a certain period of time--usually 1 year. We did not ask the sales person to make calls to obtain the consumable sales. They were to negotiate that with the contract sale and then our operations department took it from there. This was a very nice add on, profitable business for us.

------This method pays an ongoing monthly commission for as long as the company has the account. This provides for the sales representative to receive 1,2, or 3 percent of the monthly billing with no more selling needed to that account. Some companies will ask the sales representative to make customer relations calls to justify the monthly commission. Want to start a real fight in your organization? Have the sales person make those calls. It creates havoc in the organization AND it keeps the sales person from doing what you are paying them to do---SELL.

Some companies use a variation of this system by paying a higher amount the first year, a lesser amount the second year, and then eventually phasing out the commission completely.

I personally am not a fan of the ongoing commission structure as I believe sales people can become complacent and "get comfortable" with their salary and ongoing commission. I firmly believe you pay an attractive commission one time and provide the appropriate support of the sales people and then expect them to succeed.

In a later blog we will discuss the management of sales people as well as you can manage a good sales person, but for now I want to emphasize that you hire sales people to SELL, not put sales proposals together or do mailings etc. You want them in front of prospects closing sales not in the office doing work that the support staff should be doing. The fact is, good sales people WON'T do it. They want to be out beating the bushes.

This subject could be discussed forever but we are going to stop here and as I said earlier we'll discuss other parts of sales and sales management in future discussions.

Don't forget to listen to our weekly free tripodcast at We enjoy doing them and hope they are helpful to you as well.

Till next time.

Saturday, June 9, 2012


How many times have you heard the phrase "We have trained personnel" or better yet, how many times have you used it yourself? It seems to be the slogan for every BSC all over the world. Now, my question is this,

Since the initial training and orientation class (if you have one), when was the last time you had all of your line technicians go through a refresher course to assure they are doing the processes and procedures that you are telling the customer you possess? Many companies (yours?) put their new employees through an orientation and then put them in the field never to provide any additional technical training. So when your employee reaches the 3 year or 5 year time of being with you they have one hours training 3 or 5 years over. Sound at all familiar?

This brings me to the issue that many BSC's have. They hire a new employee, give them the orientation and some initial technical training and then put them in the field to work with and learn from an "experienced" cleaner. And more often than not, that experienced cleaner is one that has learned to do it wrong. Oh!, they really don't mean to do it wrong, they just got into some bad habits over the months and years and no one has corrected them and so their "wrong" way of doing the procedure all of a sudden becomes the accepted way of the company and the new employee becomes an expert at doing it "wrong".

My company instituted the every 6 month program for the very reasons listed above. We were a Team Cleaning company using exclusively back packs and those of you that do Team Cleaning the accepted way know that while it is a terrific way to do a thorough job in a fraction of the time needed for zone cleaning, it can also be difficult to implement. After instituting Team Cleaning, about 3-4 months into the program I began to do random visits to our buildings to see how the procedure was working in the field. To my amazement I saw some cleaning procedures I didn't recognize and frankly, didn't want to recognize. I wondered if these were the same employees that were at the initial training. The faces looked familiar but the cleaning procedures sure didn't. Anybody had that happen to them? Anyway, I guess this negative turned into a positive because it forced us into the on going every 6 month training process (more on this later).

You may have heard me say in a workshop or read in one of my books that "on the job training is a recipe for on the job failure". Not intentionally, but it just evolves if a company doesn't have an on going follow up training policy. That brings me to my next point,

If you have not already done so I want to suggest that you implement a program whereby each employee is required to attend a 2 hour refresher course in your main office or training center every six months following their date of employment. You can hold them at different times on different days to allow for the schedules of your employees, knowing that many have other jobs, full time. Pay them to attend and one good procedure is to let one of the "experienced" cleaners teach different segments of the training. This lets you observe if they have picked up any bad habits and allows for you to correct them. Always correct in a positive, helpful fashion and not in a "gotcha" attitude. I am of the opinion that you will learn that there are all kinds of cleaning procedures taking place out in the field that you weren't aware of. I surely learned that.

At the risk of sounding too elementary let me remind you of how we remember in a learning situation. We remember,

10% of what we read
20% of what we hear
30% of what we see
50% of what we see and hear
80% of what we say
90% of what we say AS WE DO.

So it follows that you will want to involve the class in the training and let as many of them as possible teach the rest of the group by saying AND doing a procedure. It really does provide for a better learning atmosphere. That is one of the reasons I suggest you have those "old timers" involved in demonstrating the various procedures because these are probably the ones you are relying on the most and you want to make sure they are doing it right. Remember, all of us learn one step at a time.

An additional thought---make the training fun. Give prizes for correct answers and get everyone involved. I have learned through the ages that giving prizes like cash or grocery gift certificates gets all the shy ones and those feeling like they were forced to attend involved in a hurry. Amazing.

So, how about it? Do you have a follow up training program or do you just train when they are hired and then train only supervisors after that? Remember, the cleaning techs are the ones doing the work that customers are paying for. How does your staff measure up. If you don't have an ongoing technical training program, now would be a GREAT time to begin. With all the new products, including green, on the market today, your employees need to have a thorough knowledge of how to use them and that needs to come from you, and not trial and error. Happy training.

Don't forget to listen to our every Monday morning tripodcast at You can sign up to receive a notice whenever one is published just by entering you e-mail address and clicking the orange icon.