Thursday, June 26, 2014


I spent a lot of years working with a person who felt because he was an executive/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. He would rather give them the wrong answer than to admit he didn't have the right answer. The problem with that kind of thinking is you are fooling only yourself. 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.

Many business owners and managers fall into the "know it all" trap. As we gain expertise and experience in the industry we suddenly realize we know quite a bit of "stuff". We are becoming an expert in this business and frankly we need to in order to best serve our customers and prospects. The industry is changing so rapidly that it is imperative that we are always learning and studying.

Let me tell a couple of stories on myself. When propane buffers were first introduced to the marketplace, one of the manufacturers asked if my company would test one of the 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. 

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, 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 and the black smoke did subside.

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 not to laugh. I encouraged them to laugh and enjoy the moment as I adjusted 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 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 could 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 carpets. 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?. Another case where the boss didn't know it all and should have turned it over to the expert in the first place.

The point I am making here is that people around us catch on fast when we try try to BS them. They figure it out quickly when we don't know what we are talking about and we rapidly lose their respect. 

The two examples I gave on myself above taught me a great lesson 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 and practice it, the quicker you can move on to leading your company to greater success. You don't know it all. 

Reminds me of a scene from the TV series "Law and Order".  Assistant District Attorney, Jack McCoy was questioning a suspect and the suspect said to Jack, "Are you trying to make me look like an idiot?" and Jack's reply was, "You're doing a great job of that yourself". Let's make sure we don't fall into the same trap. 

So, do you know it all?

Till next time. MAKE IT A GREAT DAY.

Friday, June 20, 2014


Well, here we are nearing the July 4th United States independence day celebration. That means my dog Caesar will be going crazy with all the fireworks that will be going off in the neighborhood. He hates it with a passion.

With the holiday approaching it also means most all schools are done for this year. With all the snow days that had to be made up in so many parts of the country it seemed like this school year was going to go on forever.

Most people I know are also planning some sort of vacation time with their family. Maybe just a long weekend at the lake or a trip to see relatives but most people do plan some sort of family event.

You have another family you know. How about the family that sees to it your customers are serviced properly each and every day? What do you have planned for them? Let me suggest some sort of family outing such as a corporate picnic etc. that involves the entire family. I personally believe their is a huge benefit in involving the spouses/significant others and children of our employees in some sort of event that promotes company fellowship. Let me offer a couple of suggestions that worked very well for us.

How about a family day picnic where the company provides all of the food and drink? This is the day to honor your employees and their families so don't ask them to bring anything. As the years went by, we actually had a committee, made up of employees in the field and our office staff, that planned the event. Eventually they were recommending that employees bring their favorite dish and the company ended up providing only the soft drinks and sometimes the meat. We built on it each year to where is became quite an event and at a very reasonable investment.

One thing we found to be very popular was to have something to involve the children each year. For example,

---We hired a clown to paint the faces of the children and to create balloons in different animal shapes at the request of the children. We found children hanging around the clown the entire time he/she was there.

---Along the same line, we hired a magician that would do about a 15 minute show 2 or three times during the afternoon. My biggest problem there was trying to keep the adults out of the front row so the children could see.

---We rented a trampoline game like you see at McDonald's etc. where the children could play all day if they wanted to in an indoor type environment for safety.

We found the investment in the entertainment to be very reasonable. Most yellow pages have magicians and clowns for rent. These are usually people that are doing it as a second job etc.

We also used the picnic event to have a short honor ceremony where we provided plaques and gift certificates to employees with 1 year or 5 years etc. of service. We also made sure we had some sort of a small giveaway for everyone in attendance such as a coffee mug etc. The ideas on the giveaways are countless but I think it is important to have SOMETHING for everyone in attendance.

One more thing. We had this event in every branch office in the company. The dates were published well in advance and I did my very best to attend each one of them. That became an interesting adventure trying to schedule me in about 7 states with multiple offices for company picnics but I didn't miss many, if any.

We also found that the success of each event was in direct proportion to the excitement generated by the branch manager. A couple of ours weren't real excited to host the event and it showed. Ironically, it also showed in the performance of their profit and loss statement. Those that were excited and created involvement also had the least turnover and the most profit. Interesting, isn't it?

So if you haven't planned anything this year, let me suggest you consider a company event such as I have outlined here. There are lots of different  ways to do an event and I have only mentioned what we did. I am sure others have had very successful events and if you have let us know. We would love to hear of other ideas that have worked.

As the title of this article implies, it's summertime. We hope yours will be full of enjoyment both for your immediate family and your company family.

Till next time.

Monday, June 9, 2014


Well, here we are nearing the middle of June and the half way point in this calendar year. Seems like just yesterday we were asking if you had developed your goals for this year. So, this being the half way point of 2014, how are you doing? Do you need to dust off the business plan to review what is supposed to be your focus for the year or are you forging ahead? Let's review a bit. 

Are your sales on target? Maybe more importantly, are your sales on target in the types of accounts on which you need to focus? Did you establish a policy to only take those accounts that fit the profile you want to advance your business such as a certain time of day or night, or a certain segment of business such as manufacturing or medical or educational or a time that fits your supervison and doesn't stretch that supervision to impossible bounds?

Did you establish a systematic formula for securing new accounts like regular targeted mailings or social media outlets? If so, how is your progress or lack of progress? 

While we are on sales, have you developed an ongoing, systematic way of making sure you stay in contact with your current customers? Remember, the investment to keep a current profitable customer is much less than the dollars needed to secure new customers. Not only is it important to maintain a positive relationship with existing customers, these are also your best prospects for adding profitable tag or special work or introducing a new service you have decided to add to your portfolio. 

I remember speaking with a BSC a couple of years ago who told me he had added over a million dollars in new business that calendar year. I then asked the inevitable question of how much business had he lost during that same time. His answer was just a bit over a million dollars so his net effect was a loss. I then asked him what he was going to do and his response was that he was going to add another salesperson. I couldn't resist the temptation to ask him if that meant he was poised to lose two million dollars next year. He gave me that puzzled look and asked what I meant. Well, if you sold a million this year and lost a million plus and you plan to add a sales person so you can add two million next year, it stands to reason if you don't change something in your operation, you will also lose two million in business next year. He had never thought of it in that way. 

You see, when you develop a sales goal for a period such as a year etc. it is also important that you make sure your operation and administration departments are running smoothly and efficently. It is critical to evaluate where you are and determine what changes need to be made to handle an influx of new business. Most of the work I do with my clients is to help them create sales growth and do it in a somewhat rapid pace but we ALWAYS focus as well on what has to happen, and when, in the operation of the company to handle the new growth and to make sure we are not short changing or neglecting the existing customers that are paying the bills to this point and allowing us to spend the time and dollars on securing new business. 

As we take the time to focus on existing business, the half way point of the year is also a great time to do a retuning of your current accounts. Are they in budget? Is the budget you established the one that still should be the current budget? Did things change that would cause us to change the budgeted time up or down? Are the closets neat and clean and are there supplies that can be brought back to the warehouse or does the budget for supplies need to be increased? What about equipment? Is it time to replace that 1947 floor machine or that 1985 vacuum cleaner? Are the specifications for all of the accounts up to date and posted properly? How about emergency phone numbers or is the emergency contact number in the closet that of a supervisor that quit 3 months ago? We have a FREE retuning form that may be of help. You can do to and click on the Worksheets icon and download the Account Re-Engineering Worksheet under the Operations/Human Resources heading. May save you some time. It's free and we don't bug you to buy something.

And last but not least, are you doing the refresher technical training for all of your technicians. People do get in bad habits. Even our best employees get off track and sometimes don't even realize it so a refresher class of how your company expects cleaning procedures to be done is in order for everyone at least twice a year.

Well, there you have it. It's half time in 2014. How ya doin? Time to check up on yourself and your company?

This week's pod cast at talks about a tax credit from the government that just may save you tons of dollars in taxes this year. Be sure to go there and listen and see if it can help you. 

Till next time.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014


In this week's tripodcast at I talk about how we sometimes send our technicians out to the job without the proper instructions or tools and supplies to get the job done promptly and professionally. We use our old nail in the board example to show how easy it is for us to expect our employees to do the job but we have forgotton some very basic rules for success on the job,

1. Have we thoroughly trained them in the task we are asking them to do?  

2. Have we explained what end result we are expecting to attain?

3. Have we provided the correct tools for them to get the job done safely and correctly? 

4. Have we provided them a budget for the job we are expecting them to accomplish? 

5. Do we compliment them if they do a great job?

6. If the job doesn't turn out the way we want it to, how do we proceed? Do we analyze if we provided them everything they needed to do the job correctly or do well yell at them for doing a bad job?

Let's look at each of these points.

By now you know I am a fanatic when it comes to assuring that all of our employees receive the proper orientation and training prior to an assignment. One of the top reasons why employees quit this profession (yes, it is a profession) is that they don't receive the training they need to do the job and then get criticized if it isn't done correctly. What's your policy?

Knowing what the end result is supposed to look like is an important part of the job. It isn't enough to say "clean it" but it is important to instill in each employee your company's way of doing things and what you expect the end result to be.

In the pod cast eluded to above I give a good example of a bad example. I ask the participants to put the nail in the board but, among other bad information, I don't give them the tools to get the job done. I have witnessed people ruining a shoe trying to hammer the nail in the board. Some try to use their notebooks to hammer with. To make matters worse, I don't explain to them where in the board  I want the nail to be put. What about you? Do you  have a listing of tools and supplies needed for each cleaning task you ask your employees to perform. Here again the initial training will help get those points across and then follow up with a refresher course at regular intervals. 

Do all employees have a budgeted number of hours for the task(s) they are being asked to perform? I find that usually the regular nightly work is budgeted pretty consistently but many times the crews that are doing the project or tag work are sent to the job without a work order explaining EXACTLY how many hours we expect it to take. I learned this the hard way. If I sent a crew out to strip and recoat a floor, they many times did the job in the hours their shift was for. If I sent them out with the understanding the job was to be completed in "x" hours, that's also how long it took. Funny how that works. Until I got wise to this concept, I was paying for a lot of hours of wasted time. I especially learned this when doing summer project work in the schools we cleaned and also in the project work at manufacturing plants during Christmas holiday shut downs. One of the reasons, I believe, that so much time is lost on special projects is that the managers themselves don't know how long it should really take. That is why it is important to know the industry time standards for each task we have to perform. Most software programs have it automatically set but if you don't have software be sure you have the time standard books published by ISSA or BSCAI. It will save you bunches of dollars.

Do you make it a habit of complimenting the crews on a job well done? This is another one of the major reasons people leave our industry is that they only hear when the job goes wrong and never when it is done right. I know, I know, they are being paid to do it right but all of us like to be told from time to time that we are doing a good job, provided it is a sincere compliment and not a contrived one that many times will do more damage than good.

What if the job doesn't turn out exactly right? Our first order of business should be to have a show and tell training class to assure that the technicians know how to do the job correctly. If they don't know, then we need to retrain. If they do, and just didn't do a good job, then we have a discipline issue we need to deal with. Be sure you know which it is before you start blasting them for a poor job. Sometimes we just maybe haven't taught well or we haven't had a refresher lately. 

Well, there you have it. Some quick refresher points to make sure our valued employees have what they need to do the job we want and expect. Let me suggest you review each of the items and see how your company measures up. Take the time now. It is much better to do it now than to jepordize an account with poor workmanship. 

Hope your summer is going well. Till next time.