Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Here is a question I would like for you to answer. How many times in the course of a day do you mention the word "quality"? Taking it even further how many times is the word "quality" mentioned in your advertising literature or in your proposal? It is a word that is used in our industry almost to nauseam. We do quality work. Hire us if you want quality. We do nightly quality inspections. We have quality inspection software to assure you get the quality you deserve. Any of these sound familiar?

I had a friend in this business who would publish his quality ratings in the customer and employee newsletter every month. This account got an 8.5 or this one a 8.8 etc. etc. These were inspections done by his quality assurance department, not the customer.

I had a large customer who required a monthly tour of the facility to determine a rating. The first few months he walked with me in great detail to do the inspection and, without fail, we would rate an 8.5 or 9.0 on a scale of 1-10. His words to me were that if we got more than an 8.5 he was paying to much for the service because to get from 8.5 to 10 was entirely to expensive and a waste of money. After about 6 months he tired of the visits and asked me to make them myself and send him the report. Guess what? The quality each month was somewhere between 8.4 and 8.7. He was a happy customer and we kept the account for many many years  until he retired and the new manager of quality decided to change the system and take only the lowest price each year. This resulted in a new service provider each year and we no longer chose to participate.

Another customer had us rate the service each month between 1 and 5 and then they rated the service and we compared our notes. Most always my rating was more critical than theirs.

So, I would like for you to answer this question--The definition of quality is _____________________________________. Was it easy to define? Did you have to think about it?

Webster's dictionary defines quality as "superior or higher status". We all like to think our service is superior or of a higher status than our competitors. That brings up an interesting subject.

We so often ask if we can give a "bid" for janitorial work which in reality we are saying we can do the work cheaper than our competitors, just let us show you how cheap. Then we present a "bid" that promises superior or higher status service. Can there be a conflict there? I think so. That is why I continue to suggest to BSC's that they offer proposals to their prospects that provide the best overall plan of service needed, not the lowest price at all times. Sometimes you can offer the best "quality" at a low price but it can certainly be a challenge as evidenced by the large number of BSC's that go out of business each year. So what is the real definition of quality? Here we go. QUALITY IS WHAT THE CUSTOMER SAYS IT IS.That's it, plain and simple. It really doesn't matter in the long run what we think the quality of the job is. It ultimately depends on what the customer who is paying for the service says it is. If they are having a bad day your service may be terrible and if they are having a good day you may be the best service they have ever had. That doesn't mean we quit doing quality inspections. On the contrary, it means we need to understand what our customer defines as quality and strive to maintain that level of service. Do our own quality inspections keeping in mind the customers "hot buttons" and the need for an overall great superior or higher status service as viewed by the customer. So what's your opinion? Do you agree with my premise? I have always felt it was our job to SATISFY the customer and if we felt they were being unreasonable it was our job to cancel them, not the other way around. Just remember, Quality is what the customer says it is and if you don't want to agree to the customers definition you have some decisions to make. Sometimes we can be our own worst enemy but that is a subject for another time. Don't forget to tune into our free weekly pod cast messages at www.tripocast.com. Till next time.

Monday, March 18, 2013


I am writing this with the assumption that you already have a formal training program for both new employees and existing employees. Many of us, myself included, will develop a training program and feel so good about our accomplishment that we never go back to see if it is still the way we want to be performing our service.

Let me suggest that you today begin the process of assuring you are teaching what you want taught. Try this process,

1. Sit in on a training class being conducted for your new employees. Take notes. Is the trainer following the prescribed lesson plan or have they strayed from the original message? It is natural to stray somewhat so don't be to hard on them if they have, unless they have completely strayed from the message.

2. Take a couple of evenings and days (if you have day crews) to visit several sites to observe how the cleaning is being done. Does it match up with the formal prescribed program? Take notes of any variances. Here is something important to ask the employees in the field. What training do you wish we had given initially that you needed when you got on the job? This is an important one. We may know cleaning but it is also possible we forgot to include something very important that would have made life a lot easier on everyone had we included it in the initial orientation and training. Take good notes here because the landscape continues to change rapidly and if your training program is a few years old it may not include some very vital steps in the cleaning or customer relations process. By the way, doing these visits is a great time to inspect your equipment and your closets to see if they conform to your standards. I suspect you will possibly have some challenges in this area. The visit also serves as a great checkup on how well the supervisor is performing. If you are a supervisor, take heed and get everything in order. It should be there whether a visit is coming or not.

3. Conduct a working session with Human Resources, Operations, and the trainers to review you findings. This should not be a "gotcha" session but rather a workshop to refine and update the training so it conforms to what you want and your sales department is telling the customer is happening in your training process. Take this opportunity to review how you are delivering the training in the first place. Be sure to place a timetable on when your new updated training program will be in place so it doesn't just drag on. This is important and should be treated as such in your scheduling. If you haven't already done so, perhaps this is the time to develop follow up training using the internet with

---Pod casts on the various subjects in more detail with raises or prizes etc. for completion of various training subjects.

---Follow up training done on iphones or tablets that the supervisors carry. You can download a number of subjects that are the ones most often overlooked or done incorrectly such as restroom training. Track your complaints, if you get any, and then develop short training videos on those subjects and be sure supervisors have them on there tablets or iphones.

--- If you use telephone timekeeping, create short messages that employees need to listen to before they can clock in. These can be short reminders like explaining the first task to be done when cleaning a restroom etc.

4. Schedule sessions for ALL of your employees to attend a "refresher" training class. Pay them to attend and include any new processes you have developed in item 3 above. I insisted on an every 6 month renewal or refresher class of everyone in the company. It really kept us on our toes to be sure we were doing what was supposed to be done and doing it the correct way.

With the rapidly changing cleaning landscape and the numerous new great products coming onto the market, I consider it critical that the professional BSC constantly be reviewing and updating their training program if they want to be the leader in their market. I realize that you still have to dump the trash and vacuum the carpet but we all know that new innovations have shown us how to do it better AND faster. Keeping up with the new ways may just allow you to present a proposal that gets that new large contract because your training program leads the way in innovation.

By the way, many of you may already be taking advantage of the innovations for safety while driving. Some companies, like Sprint, have systems that will automatically turn off the outside phone and texting capabilities of your employees phone as soon as the vehicle engine starts. With all of the accidents these days attributed to these distractions, it seems prudent to at least investigate how the systems work. I don't believe any company would welcome a lawsuit over an accident caused by one of their employees texting etc. while driving the company vehicle. I am told that this feature can be added for as little as $5 per month per phone. I suggest you investigate for yourself this feature and the cost. It might just save a life or two. If you find features like this, how about sharing with others that read this weekly message. We would all appreciate it.

One last thing. I can't let a training blog session go by without reminding everyone that "on the job" training is a recipe for "on the job failure". Hiring someone and then sending them out to work with an "experienced" long time employee who has probably picked up several bad habits in cleaning is not the path to a successful training program. You need a program that is formal and is updated on a regular basis. Now I feel better, I have told you my pet peeve.

Don't forget to listen to our FREE weekly pod casts at www.tripodcast.com. Our viewer and listenership is growing rapidly each week and we really apreciate the wide acceptance of these every Monday morning features. We continue to add to our guest list of professionals that share their expertise with our audience.

Till next time.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


It has always been my contention that the toughest job in the BSC industry is that of the site or area supervisor. They seldom hear of the good things they are doing and ALWAYS hear about things that are wrong.

Their job is so tough because they have to wear many different hats during the course of a day or nights work. Let me identify some of the hats good suprervisors have to wear.

FIREMAN--The supervisor has the responsibility of taking care of the complaints or requests from customers. Depending on the day, when they come to work they will have a list of places they have to be, probably all at the same time, to meet with the cleaning staff to review the situation that needs attention or to meet with a customer direct to view the situation.

One that I remember most was customers that would call at 5 PM and inform you that they had a board of directors meeting at 9 the next day and would we please shampoo the carpet tonight. That's a fire that needs attention NOW. The client knew of the board meeting for 3 months but let's us know the night before. Having said that, it is also a time that good supervisors can really shine and show their ability to get things done.

Or how about the customer that has had a bad day and decides its the janitors fault and threatens to cancel if we don't "clean the place up" tonight. Oh! and the supervisor is 3 people short tonight. Now, we really find out the fireman capabilities of the supervisor.

POLICEMAN--Here is where the supervisor has to take disciplinary action against employees who have decided not to comply with the policies of the company or the customer. That means the supervisor needs to know company policy and make a decision or decisions, and not just "send them to the office tomorrow".

I recall a few years ago having to break up a fight between two of our employees in the CEO's office of our client. That was bad enough but one saw it necessary to throw their coffee cup at the other one and it sprayed all over some imported wallpaper. That is when I had to become a

DIPLOMAT-- Early the next morning I was in the CEO's office mustering all the apology ability I had and of course offering to pay for all damages. He of course took me up on the offer but I did save the account. By the way, going back to being a policeman, the two fighting employees were asked never to come back and that gave them the opportunity to fight at home on their own time.

Anyway, the good supervisor has to have the ability to calm the nerves of an irate customer that they might encounter as well as being diplomatic in working with employees to correct problems in the facility. There are times that the employees are doing a good job but the customer just had a "bad day" and diplomacy is the order of the day in order to retain otherwise great employees. I am a great believer in working to retain employees and not playing "gotcha" in order to terminate them. With the high cost of recruiting and training new employees, it  is far better to develop the employees you have if at all possible.

ACCOUNTANT--The good supervisor also has to be a numbers person. They have to be able to understand labor and supply budgets for the buildings. In addition, it is their responsibility to closely monitor the hours and dollars spent in order to recommend any adjustments, up or down, that need to be made. This is a critical part of a good supervisors responsibility.

In addition, there are those times when the employee feels their paycheck is incorrect and the supervisor becomes entangled with explaining how we are going to solve the issue. In the last few years, with direct deposit etc., hopefully your supervisors are not delivering the checks which just wastes an entire shift in answering questions that many times they don't have the answers to anyway. But the fact remains, being an accountant is a major responsibility of a great supervisor.

COACH--Here the supervisor continues to train and teach the employees in their area on how to do the work faster and more effecient. This, as you can well imagine, is also a critical part of the great supervisor responsibility. It requires knowledge and patience.

As new products and procedures are introduced into the workplace, the great supervisor has the responsibilty of learning them so they can properly implement and follow up in their area. This is big.

So...there in a very abbreviated article you have what I consider the 5 major hats a great supervisor will have to wear in order to be really effective in their position. One of the best times I have when working with my clients is when we do this workshop with current and prospective supervisors. I use all the props such as a fireman's hat, a policeman's badge, a passport for a diplomat, a coach's whistle to get their attention, and all the pens and pencils we can find to be the accountants. Each year at the ISSA and BSCAI conventions, I get asked, at least once, by past attendees if I brought my fireman's hat. I looked foolish with it on but the attendees remember and, after all, isn't that what learning is all about? So the five hats are


Now let me ask you.

OWNERS--Are your providing the learning opportunites for you supervisors so they can excel for you and your customers? They need all of these skills if they are to be effective. If they aren't as good as you would like, is it because you aren't affording them the learning opportunities?

SUPERVISORS--How skilled are you in these 5 hats? Do you need to learn more? Are you taking responsibililty to learn more without waiting on your employer to provide all the learning workshops. Remember, spend 30 minutes a day learning more about what you do and in 5 years you will be an expert in the industry.

The timing has never been better to learn and develop the skills needed to be successfuly. Between  BSCAI and ISSA you have a wealth of learning tools available. Take advantage of them and excel at what you do. My very best to you.

Till next time.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


From time to time I have written about the art of interviewing cleaning techs and the importance of making them feel at home and then asking the right questions. This is such a major part of managing our companies---and very expensive in terms of dollars and cents.

Little has been said though about the interview process and questions for mid and upper level managers that we recruit and bring on board. Recently I read an article in Forbes magazine entitled "14 Revealing Interview Questions". A couple of them really impressed me and I thought it would be good to share them with you. The authors are properly credited.

1. If you got hired, loved everything about this job, and are paid the salary you asked for, what kind of offer from another company would you consider?---Ilya Pozin founder of Ciplex.

This is a great question isn't it? You really find out with this question if the person is strictly motivated by money or working at a place they love. In other words, can they be bought. I must admit I have never asked that question in an interview. Have you? No question, money is extremely important in our lives and certainly is a motivating factor, but if that is all that drives us, accomplishments mean very little and it will show a certain shallowness in the character of the individual. These are my words not the author of the question.

2. Tell me about a time when things didn't go the way you wanted--like a promotion you wanted and didn't get, or a project that didn't turn out how you had hoped?---Tony Knopp, co-founder, CEO of Spotlight Ticket Management.

This one I have asked before and got all kinds of answers.  My thinking was that we needed a cohesive team and not someone pouting or placing blame. Mr. Knopp puts it this way,

"Answers tend to fall into three basic categories: 1) blame 2) self deprecation, or 3) opportunity for growth". He goes on to explain that his company requires focused employees, willing to wear many hats, and sometimes go above and beyond the job description, so he wants team players with the right attitude and approach. If the candidate points fingers, blames, goes negative on former employers, communicates with a sense of entitlement, he or she won't do well with his company. 

Now think about this previous statement. In our business, isn't it almost a regular occurence that our managers are asked to do something not in their direct job description. After all, isn't our job one of satisfying the customer, not defending our job description? That is why I always had as the last item in EVERYONE'S job description the words--OTHER DUTIES AS ASSIGNED. If you don't have it in your job descriptions for each position, let me suggest you put it in. Makes for lot fewer headaches and discussions down the road. 

Another one I really liked and was authored by Deborah Sweeney, owner and CEO of MyCorporation. "Tell me about a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career". This one tends to open the door to a number of follow up questions like What was your position when you accomplished this? or Who else was involved with you on this accomplishment? These questions tend to provide some answers to their work habits, their ability to work smoothly with others etc. If they can't think of anything, you probably don't have the candidate you want for a mid or upper level management position or the same applies if the accomplishment they give is really not something even they would not consider significant if they are being honest.

By the way, I have used a question for line workers like tell me about your greatest accomplishment in life and then I follow up with tell me about your biggest disappointment. I am always amazed at the number of applicants that can't give me an answer to either question. Depending on their age this tells me if I can consider them for a supervisory position in the future. Doesn't mean I won't hire them as a cleaning tech, I just will think twice about promoting them to a supervisory position. On the other hand they may display traits that tell me they could learn and grow by attending our supervisory training class. 

There is no question it is extremely important in an interview to draw the candidate into a conversation that will give you real insight into their ambition, character, and stability. All to often we find ourselves doing all the talking and none of the listening. We spend all our time telling them about the position that we don't draw them out and let them answer telling questions that will help us make an informed decision on hiring.  Does doing all the talking in the interview and little of the listening sound like anyone you know? You see, if you let them do the talking now and you hire them, you get to do the talking later as you take them through the training process in their new position. 

We talked in previous blogs about the high cost of recruiting and training employees in our industry and they are the highest when you are recruiting mid and high level management staff. Don't mess it up. Conduct a professional interview, do the proper profile testing, and hire right the FIRST time. It makes life so much easier on all of us. You will certainly sleep better at night.

Thanks to many of you we are reaching all time highs in the viewers and listeners to our weekly pod casts. We are averaging over 11,000 listeners each week. That's a lot of folks and we are very excited about the tripodcast acceptance. If you haven't been listening, you can get this free information at www.tripodcast.com. We have several very exciting guests coming up that you won't want to miss. This week, Chris Stathakis gives us great insight into peer groups. 

Till next time.