Saturday, July 28, 2012


As you gain expertise and experience in the industry you all of a sudden realize you know quite a bit of "stuff", especially if you have joined BSCAI or ISSA or both. You are becoming an expert in this business and frankly you need to in order to best serve your customers and prospects and to stay even or hopefully ahead of your competition.

The industry is changing so rapidly that it is imperative that you are always learning and studying which goes to the subject of making sure that you have, in fact, joined your professional trade association(s).

What I want to address here is a trap that most all entrepreneurs fall into. That is, we begin to think we know it all and begin doing all the talking and none of the listening when our staff tries to present their point of view on a particular subject. We fall into the habit of saying yeah but, or we tried that before and it didn't work. Sound familiar?

I spent a lot of years working with a person who felt because he was vice-president of the company he should never let anyone know that he might not have the answer to a particular problem they might be having. The problem with that kind of thinking is you are fooling only yourself when you portray that attitude. The people that work with you are perceptive and will pick up on your lack of knowledge very quickly and the word gets around that you don't know what you are talking about.

Let me give you a couple of examples on myself early in my career that taught me to know where to find the answer rather than provide an incorrect one just to protect my ego.

When propane buffers were first introduced to the marketplace, one of the manufacturers asked if my company would test one of their models for them. Since we were cleaning retail stores at the time I saw it as an opportunity to cut some of our labor costs. Plus, it might even impress our customer that we were asked by the manufacturer to be one of their preferred guinea pigs.

When the machine arrived I took it to the store to spend the night with our crew and to "show" them how the boss did floors. When I started the machine up there was some black smoke coming out of the exhaust which one of my employees quickly said he could adjust very easily and in a short amount of time. My answer was that it is a new machine and after I run it awhile it will be fine.

So I started down the aisle and just as I was passing ladies ready to wear, and just as if the machine was give a cue, a trail of black smoke came bellowing out of the machine and created ladies short suits out of what had been ladies polyester pant suits. My employees tried hard not to laugh. I encouraged them to laugh and enjoy the moment and adjust the machine as they had suggested in the first place. I thought it best then to ask someone else to run the machine. They didn't want to.

Try explaining to your customer and to the insurance company this chain of events especially when the insurance adjuster, who was so diplomatic, asked what idiot caused this disaster. I really didn't want to tell him but honesty prevailed and I told him I was the idiot and I really wish he would have used different words to describe my lack of intelligence on operating propane floor machines.

On another occasion I was trying to demonstrate to a crew the correct way to remove spots from a carpet. As I was offering my expertise, the area supervisor, who was there to oversee my lack of intelligence said, "Dick, let me have the spotter" and Marie proceeded to demonstrate the correct way to use the product. Being quick in my thinking I told the crew I just wanted to see if anyone would catch me doing it wrong. Pretty good, huh? This was just another case where the boss should have turned it over to the expert in the first place.

I have never professed to be a real technical expert and these two examples proved it. They taught me a very good lesson early in my career--YOU DON'T HAVE TO KNOW EVERYTHING ABOUT EVERYTHING, JUST KNOW THE PEOPLE WHO KNOW WHAT YOU DON'T KNOW.

The sooner you learn that lesson the quicker you can move on to leading your company to greater success.

Let me also remind you of the upcoming ISSA trade show and the BSCAI convention in Chicago, October 17-20. You can go to or and get the details and register. It will be some of the best money you will invest.

Till next time. By the way, don't forget our weekly tripodcast at

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


Those of you that have been around for a while may remember a TV show in the 70's called the Flip Wilson show. It starred, you guessed it, Flip Wilson.

Flip played a number of characters on his variety show among those being Geraldine, who was always telling people her boyfriend, Killer, was going to get them. He also played the Reverend of "The Church of What's Happening Now". He seemed to have a strange approach to what a Reverend was supposed to do. His skits with all his characters were hilarious.

I mention this because something was always going wrong for him in the skits and his answer was always, "The devil made me do it". It was an easy "cop out" for everything that went wrong.

What about you? Anything going wrong in your business today? I am going to suggest that everything may not be as you want it but I am going to also suggest that the devil didn't make you do it.

Many of us, me included, seem in our business career to forget what the business plan was that we set out so diligently to follow. Those of you that don't have a business plan may be saying, "See, I'm not off track because I have no track". Well, shame on you. Remember the old saying that if you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there and you won't know which road it is. Or, as that famous baseball player/philosopher, Yogi Berra said, "When you come to a fork in the road, take it".

Anyway, back to my original thought and the premise that you have a legitimate business plan to follow. It is critical to constantly be reviewing it and changing it if need be to adapt to current conditions. I said adapt to current conditions, not change on a whim.

Let me offer a couple of consequences of not having a business plan or not following the business plan or not adapting to change.

Back in the 80's a close friend of mine owned and operated a contract cleaning business in another state and was really struggling to grow. He was moving forward but at a much slower pace than he wanted.

He was cleaning a retail store in his city which also happened to be the headquarters of that chain. He had become friends with the regional manager who offered him the opportunity to clean an additional 25 stores in the region. My friend call me excited that he now had an opportunity to take a major leap into the "big time". He asked what I thought so I asked some questions in hopes that my answer and his decision would become obvious.

I asked questions like:

----With each store requiring 2 auto scrubbers, who would be responsible for purchasing the 50 scrubbers needed? The answer was he would have to buy or lease them.

----With him having to buy or lease 50 scrubbers, would the chain be signing an agreement that they would purchase them in the event the agreement canceled for any reason? The answer was no.

----Did he have the available staff to take on 25 stores all at one time? The answer was he would be able to find them.

---Did he have the available cash flow to fund such an undertaking---to make the first 3 or 4 payrolls, pay the lease or bank payments on the equipment? He was sure he could get the customer to pay one month in advance. (They didn't.)

----What about all the other supplies and equipment he would need for the start up--mop buckets, mops, vacuums, floor finish etc.? He would talk to his supplier.

----How does this type of account fit into your long range business plan? What business plan?

I'm sure I had other questions but these were the major ones I thought of as we were visiting. I wanted the best for my friend and I didn't feel this was the best for him and his family and I don't think the devil was making him do this.

Well, you guessed it. He jumped into the project with both feet. The result?

Within 6 months the regional manager friend of his changed jobs and he had a new "boss" who had a friend in another state to which he awarded the contract. My friend was devastated and this was not the time to say "I told you so". I did the best I could to console him as we both watched his business sink into bankruptcy.

I don't think the devil made him do it but had he had a solid business plan and direction he was going, this account would not have been in the plan I am sure.

Now a story about myself and how we made a decision to add a new paragraph to our business plan.

In the early years of my business we had a manufacturing plant that represented about 75% of our total volume. It was a very good and profitable account.

Early one Monday morning I received a call that because of a looming business reduction we needed to reduce the cleaning budget to one third of what it was. Ouch! That smarts. Boy, did it ever. Even though everyone at the customer's place of business knew what was happening, we spent a lot of time explaining the NEW specifications that were being implemented and how everyone would be affected. I'm tempted to go into a whole new story of how to handle major cut backs by customers but I'll save that for another time.

We accomplished what they asked but it was not without a lot of internal budget cuts that we had to make and our bottom line suffered as you could well imagine.


Just because you have a business plan does not mean it doesn't need to be altered from time to time depending on circumstances. That is not to say whenever you have a whim that you want to do something, you change the business plan. It means you change it only after thorough, intelligent discussion and reviewing the points again of what you do best and why.

We made a change to our business plan that was, AT NO TIME WILL ONE CUSTOMER BE MORE THAN 10% OF OUR TOTAL REVENUE. There were times in our history where taking on a large customer made us hit 12 or 13 percent but that just made us work harder at adding additional business to bring the percentage back in line. I sure slept a lot better through the years knowing that I could lose my biggest customer tomorrow and still have 90% of my revenue.

Now in either of these real life adventures I have relayed, I don't think the devil made us do it. It is important to take away for this blog a couple of important Do's and Don'ts.

DO develop a business plan, review it often and make intelligent changes as the times and economics dictate.

DON'T get caught up in the excitement of being offered an opportunity? that doesn't fit what you do best.

Hope this helps. Don't forget our weekly free tripodcasts at You can sign up to receive an e-mail each time one is posted. As the BSCAI convention draws closer we will be going to daily pod casts featuring the speakers and sponsors so be sure and listen for the start date of these interesting tripodcasts.

Till next time.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


It is common in service industries such as janitorial or food service to look at the positions as ones that will have high turnover thinking "the employee will leave anyway as soon as they find something better so why spend a lot of time in the interview process and detailed training program". I hope that is not your attitude but if it is, they will leave as soon as they can because they will sense that attitude in the interview or shortly thereafter.

Let me suggest it is important for us to change the way WE view the positions we have available. I suggest to you that it is time we begin viewing the industry we are in and the positions we have as careers, not just jobs. But, you may be saying, I am only hiring part time employees at a low wage and they are just looking for extra spending money. Let me ask you, how do you think we will ever get people to think of our industry as a career choice if we are not showing them the opportunities that exist? How you treat them may determine if they want to eventually pursue the industry full time. How a prospective or current employee views their job will often mirror the way YOU view their job. It is important that we begin to RECRUIT employees instead of HIRING employees---the difference?


When you are hiring people you are reacting to the immediate needs of the day. A supervisor comes to you and says, "I need someone to start tonight in the south end location beginning at 6 PM and working till midnight. They will need to know how to dump trash and run a vacuum". So what do you do?

You begin to go through the stack of applications you have on the corner of your desk. "Okay, I'll call the first three on the top of the stack. That seems to be a good way of screening. I don't remember them but I kept their applications so they must be good".

And of course the first two don't answer but by golly the third one does and you offer them the job by going through a tough screening process. "Have you ever dumped trash? Why yes, my wife has me take it to the curb every Thursday morning. Great, have you ever run a vacuum cleaner. I vacuum the carpets every Saturday morning. Have you ever cleaned a bathroom? No, but I've used one. Sound perfect, can you meet the supervisor here at our office at 5:30 this evening"?

At 5:30 they arrive at your office not looking like the best recruit you have ever seen. They sure sounded better on the phone, older too. You're not sure your new recruit is even breathing so you take them over to a mirror and ask them to breathe on it. They do, but it doesn't fog up. So you breathe on it, see a little fog, and say, "Close enough".

Oh, and did you tell them the job was 25 miles from their home? Exaggeration? Maybe, but if you think backI will venture a guess that you have hired someone in the past in a similar manner.

You see, when all you are doing is trying to hire to fill slots, you are getting whomever you can get because all you are doing is reacting to the current situation.

Now let's move on to recruiting and how it differs from hiring.


You see, hiring is only one step in the recruiting process. Unless you do all the steps mentioned above in a professional, systematic way, you will forever be in a panic, high turnover, never ending cycle of frustration.

I suggest that everyone in your organization should be working toward recruiting and not just hiring. A company that I am very familiar with began the process of recruiting and implementing the processes listed above and in my book, Finding, Training, and Keeping GREAT Service Employees 101, was able to reduce their turnover to 25% of the national average for the cleaning industry. It takes a commitment and not just a token memo from the front office.

Don't forget our free week pod casts at Also, BSCAI has posted the convention program at Check it out and register for this exciting October event in Chicago. Hope to see as many of you as possible.

Till next time.