Tuesday, August 28, 2012


In the service industry today, no subject receives more discussion and less results than does training. Nearly every proposal that I have seen in the contract cleaning industry will have a section on how they employ trained personnel---POORLY TRAINED, that is.

Just in the last week, I have had 5 BSCs contact me with employee issues of poor work out on the job, some to the point of losing an account. My first question---DESCRIBE TO ME YOUR TRAINING PROGRAM. In each case the answer was that they send them out to work with a current "experienced" employee. My next question is "experienced at what"? When was the last time you checked the procedures your experienced employees were following? You've heard me say this before but it bears repeating--On the job training will lead to on the job failure unless you have a systematic way of checking the work of the experienced worker.

When I conduct workshops on the subject of training, one of the exercises we have the participants do in groups is to list what better training of the worker means to them and the company as a whole. Let me list some that come to my mind.

----REDUCES TURNOVER--At the rate of $500 plus per employee to put someone on the payroll, it doesn't take a genius to determine that this benefit comes near the top of the list. Let me suggest you review the number of W-2's your company provided for everyone that worked for you last year,determine the excess over your normal payroll and you'll see the dollars you wasted. You may want to get some nausea relief pills before you do this exercise.

----HELPS RETAIN CUSTOMERS--Ever had a customer tell you when they canceled that the main reason was your high turnover? Most service companies, if honest, will admit they have, at least once been told that. So factor in the sales cost you have in finding new prospects and turning them into long term customers and you have another big number and big reason to provide a quality training program in your company.

----HELPS OBTAIN NEW CUSTOMERS--One of the questions being asked often today by prospective customers is, "What's your turnover rate"? I have seen service contractors eliminated through this process. I have also seen service contractors become extremely creative in how they determine their turnover rate when they have to answer this question. Be creative if you want to the prospect but you still have the high turnover when you get back to the office.

----LOWER LABOR COSTS--You, no doubt, have heard or said the phrase , "Why is their never enough time to do it right the first time but always time to do it over"? Well, with the proper training, there are fewer times the job has to be done over. Make sense? Not to mention when a customer has to call you to complain that a job was not done correctly, you have lost credibility with that customer which brings you one step closer to making them a former customer.

I can go on and on with such things as lower material costs by using the products correctly, less equipment repair by knowing how to run and take proper care of the equipment etc.

I remember at one of our quarterly supervisor's management meetings, one of my key managers was explaining for the umpteenth time how to properly empty a vacuum bag. As he was going through the process, one of the participants asked, "Bill, how many times are we going to have to hear how to properly empty a vacuum bag?" " I will continue to repeat this process until we learn how to do it properly" was the reply. You see, as fate would have it, Bill had taken the vacuum he was demonstrating the procedure with from the building where the questioning participant worked. We did not embarrass this person in front of his peers but did talk with him after the meeting that it was his vacuum we were using and that it would be best if he listened more and talked less and then followed the correct procedure. We then invited him to take the vacuum back to his building and begin operating it correctly.

I can go on with this exercise but I have probably hit on the major reasons for doing training that most impact the profitability of your company. Do you see how you are wasting substantial dollars every day if you don't develop and implement a systematic ongoing effective training program at all levels of your company? Let me suggest you conduct this exercise with your staff and then build a training workshop around the answers and the ones you want to discuss that they may not have listed. Try it, you'll like it.

By the way, if you are interested in receiving a free sample copy of the training program we used, you can contact me through our web site at the "ask Dick Ollek" section.

Don't forget to tune into our free pod casts at www.tripodcast.com. Soon we will begin broadcasting daily sessions highlighting the BSCAI convention speakers and sponsors. Also, by signing up to receive an e-mail whenever a new pod cast is posted, you can register at the BSCAI website for the October convention and receive a 30% discount just by entering the code SMD30 in the promo code box. Heck of a good deal. Hope to see you there.

Till next time.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Soon many of us (and I hope you) will be heading to Chicago to attend the ISSA/Interclean/BSCAI trade show and convention. As I reflect on previous conventions I am reminded of some of the great speakers we had as either keynoters or general session presenters. Let me share a couple of points that I heard that stuck with me over the years.


This saying hit me right between the eyes. At that time I had been in business for myself for 7 years and was still opening the mail every morning to "see what has come in".

I don't know what exacting I was looking for. I guess I needed to see who had paid us and who was cancelling service---not! I took the deposit to the bank every day. What, no one else knew how to drive? Mr. Connellan's presentation made me take a look at how we were doing everything, especially how and what I was doing in the company. I found myself doing many things that could just as well be done by someone already on staff and frankly, they could do it much better and faster.

That statement was framed and has hung on my wall ever since. This one thing probably did more to keep me focused down through the years than anything else that was told or shown to me. Let me ask you, what are you doing in your company that you should not be doing at all? Check it out, you will probably be amazed. The time you are wasting can not be recovered.


This one always stuck with me as being particularly appropriate for our industry. So often I hear contract service owners and managers talk about how they have "customer service representatives" visit customers to discuss the quality of cleaning being done. The reality is we shouldn't have to do that because we should know on a daily basis what level of cleaning we are performing.

I realize we must maintain regular customer contact to develop and maintain a relationship. No question about it. That is why I believe you should have area supervisors or managers who work from early afternoon to 10 or 11 at night. Afternoons should be spent visiting the customer and developing that relationship and evenings can be spent in the field with the cleaning technicians.

Those afternoon visits should be augmented by regular monthly or quarterly partnering meetings as I have discussed in earlier writings. That is where the owner and/or top management can be involved in a formal meeting and they will know soon enough if the customer is comfortable with how everything is progressing.

Now having said that, I want to emphasize that the owner/manager must ALWAYS be available to visit with customers. I made random visits all of the time to see my customers. My routine was to visit with the customer on a social basis first, with a comment or question as to if they were comfortable with my staff and they would volunteer comments if they weren't satisfied which was my clue to get more involved. Oh, and by the way, I always made sure I checked random janitor's closets to see how we were doing in that department. I had a customer tell me early in my career that his evaluation of a cleaning company was if they kept their janitor's closets clean. He felt, and rightfully so, that if we couldn't keep our janitor's closet clean, how in the world could we keep his building clean. How are YOU doing in that department?

Having account reps to manage an account is one thing but to have someone to just go to the accounts to check quality is not something I subscribe to. By the way, if you have someone going during the day and they have cleaning issues with the night crew and the crew doesn't correct those issues, the service representative has to face the customer the next day and eventually you have an internal war on your hands that can easily spill over to the customer. Enough said on that issue for now.

These are just a couple of the important sayings that influenced my business career. I hope they will be helpful to you as well.

Don't forget our weekly FREE tripodcasts at www.tripodcast.com. In mid September we will begin daily ones highlighting the speakers and sponsors at the upcoming convention. I hope you will plan to listen as there are some really good speakers this year. Also, if you are a subscriber to our tripodcasts you can register for the convention at www.bscai.org and enter the promotion code SMD30 and get a 30% discount on your registration investment. Check it out.

Till next time and MAKE IT A GREAT DAY.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


In this session it is not our intention to provide you with a library of quick witted, slick all American sales phrases, but we do want to provide some helpful hints and phrases to listen for that gives you a hint the prospect is considering becoming a customer. Maybe we can provide some possible answers to questions that just might help close the sale.


1. You are preparing proposals for your prospect, NOT BIDS. We bid commodities and I would hope you are aware the service you provide is NOT A COMMODITY.


3. Remember to set the time for the proposal presentation at the time you do the walk through.

4. If possible in a one on one presentation, sit next to the prospect so you can control the turning of the pages as you make the presentation.

5. Never speak ill of a competitor.

6. Choose your words carefully as you present. A small mistake can result in a big lost sale. For instance, your wife or girlfriend likes to hear a phrase like, "When I look at you my dear, the hands of time stand still". Beautiful words aren't they? But try saying, "You have the face that would stop a clock". Or look how one day on the calendar can make a difference if you say to your spouse, "Looking at you darling is like the first day of spring", versus, "Looking at you is like the last day of a long hard winter". See how one day can make a big difference. Anyway, you get the point.

7. Dress appropriately for the event. Learn in advance the proper dress code of the company you are wanting to work for and then be sure that you and everyone on your presentation team is in step.

8. ASK FOR THE ORDER. As a matter of fact, you should be attempting to close the sale throughout the entire process with the information you present and in the way you answer their questions. Some statements or questions provided by prospects just naturally lend themselves to closing such as:

Q. I don't like being invoiced at the first of the month.
A. When would you like to be invoiced? If we invoice on the day you want, will you award us the contract? We can start as early as _______________.

Q. Do you usually start on a weekend?
A. We can start when you want. How about on the _______________?

Q. How much room do you need for your supplies and equipment?
A. Why don't we walk to the closet and double check the room you have and I can give you a better idea?

Q. Would you be keeping the current employees?
A. Are there employees that you would like us to keep? We will guarantee each of them an interview (you will notice I didn't say guarantee a job).

Q. You're too high (This one comes into play if you have not reviewed the specifications without pricing and got them to agree).
A. Can you give me an idea of the dollar amount in your budget? With that number we can together discuss the specifications and arrive at some frequency adjustments that can meet the budget you are planning.


The facts of life are that no matter how professional you appear and how professional your proposal is, there will be many times that you get that phrase, "I want to think it over". You then have another opportunity to close by asking,

"So that I can prepare the information you need, just exactly what is it that you are wanting to think over? You see, I want your business and it is important that I present you will all the facts so you can make the correct decision". Their answer then dictates where you go next. You have to be prepared to provide the information for them and set another appointment for delivery of that information.

As I said we are not providing fancy, can't miss pressure sales closes. Where I come from "pushy peddlers" are pushed right out the door so I prefer the conversational approach to closing the sale. IT WORKS.

My wife sold a few years for my company and she was our top producer. The two reasons I feel she was successful is that she followed the order of our proposal to the letter when making the presentation, and maybe more importantly, she came across sincere to the prospect. I heard her use the phrase many times, "The one thing I can promise you is that our company is going to make every effort to provide the service outlined in this proposal to your satisfaction, and if we make a mistake we will correct it immediately". I had customers tell me later that is all they really want. Do the work you promise to do and when you make a mistake correct it with no excuses.


Don't forget our FREE weekly tripodcast at www.tripodcast.com. You can subscribe by entering your e-mail at the site and then hitting the subscribe icon. In addition, if you subscribe you are entitled to 30% off on your BSCAI convention registration fee. Just go to bscai.org to register and enter the code SMD30 in the promo code box. Believe me, that is a real worthwhile investment, take advantage of it today. Soon we will begin our daily tripodcasts featuring the speakers and sponsors of the convention. You won't want to miss that.

Till next time.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


Finally, after all the work you have done the prospect allows you the opportunity to provide a "bid". Hopefully you have responded by indicating you provide proposals, not bids.

Let me also clarify that the comments that follow are based on the fact that you were able to secure a walk through on a proposal opportunity and not a "cattle call" where you have 25 people from 20 companies walking with you and the "low bid" gets the job.

With that in mind our purpose here is to provide you some information of things to do and look for which many times create difficulty once you have secured the account.

Let's start with what may appear elementary but accounts for many lost opportunities in our industry. BE ON TIME FOR YOUR APPOINTMENT. If you are stuck in traffic, call the prospect and explain the situation. Better yet, be an hour early and wait in the lobby

Before starting the tour, ask the prospect for a copy of the current specifications being performed. This will help you determine if the frequencies are adequate and also provides a basis for fact finding discussions with the prospect as you are walking. It provides a great opportunity to ask questions about the specifications that you probably already know the answer to but it draws the prospect out with their perspective of the type of service they would like to have. Well placed questions on the walk through will often times give you the answers as to what REALLY is the reason why they are considering a change.

Even though you are presenting a proposal and not a bid, price, most likely, will be a major factor in your prospects decision making. During the walk through I found it helpful to ask questions such as "Does the current vendor have some employees that you think would be good for me to consider keeping"? "What hours do you have them working? Are they coming in at 6 PM or does the supervisor come in at 5:30 and the rest come in at 6? Do you have a time they have to be out of the building? Oh, so you have a crew of of 5 people working 4 hours per night"? If you couch the questions correctly, many times you can elicit the answers you are wanting.

Sometimes the prospect will say to you that they are not going to give you any information. They will tell you it is your job to determine how many hours to be working and you can interview the old crew if awarded the contract and decide for yourself if you want any of them.

My response to that was, " I am happy to hear you say that because in our efforts to provide you with a proposal that will fit the needs you are expressing and cover the specifications you provided to us, I would not want my analysis to be clouded by trying to make my recommendations fit into a predetermined budget. I realize you still must have financial considerations in your decision making, but it is best for us to present our suggestions based on the needs you have expressed first and then, if need be, we can discuss alternatives".

What that response says to them is that we are going to present a proposal for their review, BUT, we expect to negotiate if need be and not just present a bid and that's it.

Here are some things I found down through the years to be important, not only in endearing yourself to the prospect as being thorough in your analysis, but also assisting your company in performing the work once you have secured the account.

1. As you do your walk through, do not make negative comments about your competitor. Your prospect already has their opinion of them or you wouldn't be there. I do, however, recommend you ask questions of the prospect as you are walking as to what their concerns are and then have general positive comments on your policies and procedures in handling those situations.

2. I try to find out from them if they know the amount of hours currently being expended every day. I always found it helpful to ask to see the janitor's closet to "review the types of products needed and to see the amount of space I will have to store my equipment". Oh my goodness, lookie here, the time sheets are posted in the closet. Let's see, 5 people, 4 hours per night---hmmm! You still need to put your own thoughts and pricing together, but as we stated earlier, it is nice to gather as much information as possible.

3. This is also the time to gather all the information needed for the actual operation of the account that often times is overlooked but creates all kinds of budgeting havoc once you have started the account. Here are some of the things I wanted to know,

A. Determine where all the janitor's closets are, how big are they and do they have water and a sink. Is there space to store equipment and supplies etc.

B. Where are all the light switches. More importantly, where are all the breaker boxes so when you are burnishing the lobby floor the first night and you blow a breaker you don't have to call you new customer at home? This is experience speaking.

C. Where are the outside trash dumpsters? Trying to put an accurate labor budget to an account can be adversely affected if you failed to notice that the trash had to be taken 100 yards to the nearest dumpster which adds 15 minutes each time you have to make the trip.

D. Determine who is responsible for restroom consumables. Does the customer purchase and you install etc.?

I always found it helpful to talk about keys during the walk through process. Remind them that you need one set for the technicians, one set for the supervisor, and one set in your locked, secure safe/vault at the office. A good reason to ask this question now is it begins the sales close process. When you ask for 3 sets of keys and they say that maybe you can have only 2, you know they have started the process of considering you as their service provider. You are always looking to ask questions that indicate a buying signal from the prospect.

We created a form that was filled out that detailed all the things we needed. I outline it in my book--Selling Contract Cleaning Services 101.

As you complete your tour with the prospect there are some important information points to cover before leaving:

1. Request permission to call for clarification on any points left unanswered.

2. Ask for the opportunity to tour the facility on your own or with you operational staff if you so desire.


4. Ask for 1 hour to make your sales presentation when you return with the completed proposal.

5. Request names of all those that will be attending the presentation so you can have a full proposal for each of them.

The information gathering process of the sales process is critical to assure that you are able to price the service competitively and as completely as possible. Don't be bashful or afraid to ask the questions for which you need answers.

Remember to tune into our free weekly pod cast at www.tripodcast.com. If you are a subscriber and want to attend the BSCAI convention in October you qualify for a 30% discount on your registration fee. Tune in next Monday to hear the details.

Opportunities are usually disguised by hard work, so most people don't recognize them----Ann Landers.

Till next time.

Friday, August 3, 2012


In previous blogs we have discussed the tremendous cost of recruiting employees in our industry. Just to review, it costs in excess of $500 just to recruit one employee for your payroll. Keeping that in perspective, if you have 50 employees and made 100 W-2's last year you had 100% turnover and it cost you $25,000 to put those 50 additional employees on your payroll. To take it even further, the industry turnover average is 325% and if you are one of those you really spent some big dollars in bringing people onto your payroll.

So let's talk about the actual interview of prospective employees. As we said, up till now you have spent an enormous amount of energy, time, and dollars to utilize various procedures for bringing people in your door for an interview. Now is the time you have the opportunity to "sell" the benefits of someone beginning a career with your organization. Don't blow it.

One thing I have learned in all the years I have been in this business is that employees and prospective employees will mirror your image of the industry and your company. If you are negative and think of their position as only a part time short time job, that is exactly the way they will view it. If you are positive and demonstrate that you have career positions available with a great organization, you have a much better chance at securing long term employees. After all, if you don't extol the virtues of this great industry then who will. After all, you are in this industry and should be showing people the great opportunities that exist.

The people that walk in your door to complete an application are your CUSTOMERS and should be treated with the utmost respect. If they don't return the favor, you won't be employing them but don't prejudge them before the interview begins.

It is also important to remember that different nationalities may have different customs when they apply for work. For instance, in the United States we have long been told that if someone won't look you in the eye when you are talking to them or they to you, you probably can't trust them. In some countries the people are taught that out of respect when applying for work never look the interviewer in the eye. To do so would show a great deal of disrespect and will hinder severely the chances for obtaining employment.

If you are a company that is actively recruiting different cultures, I urge you to do some homework on the customs they have grown up learning.

I have had the privilege to work with many different companies and observe the way they do the interview process. It has been very interesting for me to observe the good, the bad, and the ugly. Not long ago I sat in on an interview where a branch manager was interviewing someone he was hoping would join his management team. His interview went something like this,

"How long have you been married? Will your wife object to the evening hours? How old are your kids? Won't they miss daddy? I heard a rumor you were arrested for drunk and disorderly, is that all behind you now"? You get the picture. It is the worst interview I have ever sat through. The prospect chose not to accept the position, the owner of the company I was consulting with took the manager to lunch and bought his to go. To the best of my knowledge, this individual had been given thorough training on the correct interview process on several occasions.

As you are probably aware, there are certain questions you just cannot ask in an interview. Because of space limitations I will not list them all here but in my book, Finding, Training, and Keeping GREAT Service Employees 101 I list a majority of them and in today's world there are always new ones being added so be sure you keep up with what you can and cannot ask. By the way, our rule was that if you think it may be question you shouldn't ask but aren't sure if you can, DON'T ASK IT. Rather be safe than pay the price later.

But there are some ways you can get answers to questions you would like to ask but can't. Let me list some of the questions we asked that got answers without having to ask a nonaskable question. (nonaskable is a new word you here here first).

1) Why are you considering leaving your present position (if they are working)

2) Tell me in detail what you did/do at your last (current) position.

3) What did you like to do best?

4) What did you like to do least?

5) What do you consider your greatest accomplishment in life to this point?

6) What do you consider your greatest disappointment in life to this point?

7) What type of person is hardest for you to deal with?

8) Tell me about the boss you liked best.

9) What sort of work would your family like to see you doing?

These are pointed questions but I found many of the answers I was looking for usually came as a result of these few questions. I didn't fire the questions at them but rather asked one and then had a conversation with them about it. In that way it didn't appear to be an interview but rather a friendly conversation and it's amazing what they will tell you in a conversation that they won't tell you in a formal interview although that is what you are conducting. We then moved on to question 2 etc.

I also used an informal applicant survey that we asked them to complete. They were under no obligation to complete it but nearly all did. This survey, along with a completed application and answers to the questions above gave us a pretty thorough insight into the applicant and whether they would make a great member of our team.

Now your question is "How can you take that much time with each applicant? I am only hiring a line worker to clean a building four, six, or eight hours per night etc."? Exactly, and my response is that one of the reasons we have such a high turnover in this industry is that we don't do the job right up front. Once you get the system down you can go through the process very rapidly and the reality of the matter is that many applicants won't measure up by the time you get through 2 or 3 of the questions and the interview is terminated. But those that do make it through all the questions just might be your next shining star.

The entire process of the interview is so critical to a company's success yet so many treat it in such a haphazard way. I sincerely hope your company is one that understands the importance of the process and is constantly working to improve. Believe me, it will determine the success, or failure, of your company in the long run.

I know when I said it will determine the success or failure of your company, I have some people reading this who will argue that point but let me ask you a question. Ever had a customer terminate your service and tell you something like this, "I know you want to do the job for us but your turnover is just terrible. It seems like every other week there is someone new in my facility". Or worse yet, they terminate your service and don't tell you why. Bad service? Maybe. If so, could that be because of a high turnover and untrained employees?

Please don't underestimate the importance of getting the right employees into your organization. It will enable you to build a quality long term organization.

Be sure to tune in to the upcoming tripodcast where we will be making a major announcement about the upcoming BSCAI convention. It is stunning and you won't want to miss it. Go to www.tripodcast.com on Monday August 6.

Till next time.