Start with Why: The journey of starting or growing your cleaning business will have twists and turns that you might not expect. Having your core values thought out and written will not only help guide you to meeting your goals but will produce the best overall experience for your clients. But the very first place to begin is defining your “WHY”.
Looking at our “WHY”, you might be thinking, “Um duh…I’m working to make money obviously!” Well, yes of course, but as Simon Sinek explains in the third most-watched Ted Talk “How Great Leaders Inspire Action”, money is the result of work. And, I think, is the only real reason most people work unless they’re independently wealthy. So that’s a given. Our question is not “Why work?” but rather “Why THIS work?” And that’s the WHY you need to figure out! Check out Simon’s book “Start with Why”.
My own “WHY”
My own “WHY” was a little convoluted, and it has transformed several times over the years. In 2012 I decided I did not want to be married to the person I was married to any more. We had 2 daughters, almost 5 and almost 8 when we divorced. I had 3 years of spousal support to tide me over until I got back into the workforce, so I didn’t worry too much.
Even though I had a college degree and an MBA, it was tough to get an interview, let alone a job offer, with so much time being a stay-at-home-mom. I found a part-time job as a church secretary that I figured would freshen up the resume and the job references, but it didn’t and I began to panic a bit but figured I’d just need to start my own damn job if I couldn’t find one!
About 6 months before the end of spousal support, I started investigating what I could possibly do that would not require me to go back to school or a large investment in equipment….something I could figure out with on-the-job learning. I considered mowing lawns (yup really) and babysitting/in-home childcare (which I really, REALLY did not want to do). My mom mentioned that she paid her cleaner $60 to clean her house bi-weekly, and I said, “You’re really clean – how long does it take her?” 2 hours!! I thought, “Ohhhh I wouldn’t mind making $30/hour!”
The problem was…
… I hate to clean. HATED it. Growing up my room, dorm room, apartments, houses I lived in I hated HATED cleaning. But the thought of not paying my bills is something I hated even more than cleaning so took a bit of a risk. I decided that sometimes in life, a job doesn’t provide meaning or doesn’t change any lives or save any orphans, but it does make paying the bills and living the important parts of life possible and enjoyable.
After the first month in which I had 6 cleanings and made $632 whole dollars, I noticed that the clients were extremely grateful for my work! Clients were not just grateful for the end result of a clean house (though it turns out hating to clean is no match for the incentive to pay the bills to do a great job cleaning) but grateful that I was in their home! I was trusted, and believed in, and relied upon to yes clean, but to care for their homes and belongings and pets and lock the door when I left and give them a heads up if I noticed anything that needed their attention.
It turns out, all those things made my CLIENTS feel cared for as people…and that’s when my “WHY” changed. Yes, of course, the point to having a job is to earn money to pay bills and unless you’re independently wealthy, pay is a requirement. BUT, it’s when you get to decide how you make that money, you get to decide how to spend your work hours in ways that also make you happy and fulfilled. Feel useful, feel valuable as a human being. I came to realize that these needs can all be met by cleaning houses – it’s not limited to any certain industry or job, it’s only limited by our view of the job.
Dang my schedule filled up fast
After only 12 weeks my schedule was completely full and I could not take on any more clients. Alone I was able to service ~24 clients and I was sad to tell others “no” when I knew more people needed my services. My inner entrepreneur took over and since I can’t clone myself I decided to hire an employee. I’m pretty game to try just about anything within reason once. The “worst case scenario” was that I didn’t like it, the employee didn’t like it, and the clients didn’t like it, and I would need to help the employee find another job and just limit myself to the 24 clients. But it worked out and with a few minor lessons (like I had to figure out how to navigate the unavoidable discomfort of turning some clients over to the employee when I knew they really just wanted me) in 2022 I’m still here in my 8th year with an office manager and a fabulous crew and still growing client base!
The thing about expanding and becoming an employer is that if you’re only doing that to make more money, if that’s your only “WHY”, then that’s no real “WHY” at all and you will find hundreds of posts on Face Book about the so-called horrors of dealing with employees, that “no one wants to work”, and the overwhelming number of comments that aren’t helpful and only say, “This is why I remained solo.” Just like starting a cleaning business, when growing a cleaning business you have to have a “WHY” that’s beyond just more money.
My “WHY” morphed again
My “WHY” morphed again into actually enjoying being an employer. It turns out, I LIKE teaching! I LIKE encouraging and helping people grow in their job with me and also their life outside work. I LOVE knowing I’m actually affecting my community and providing food for more than just my table. I LIKE that I can help set a bar for any future employers that they’ll have ot meet.
Employees feeling valued as people is what’s been lacking for decades. The pandemic simply augmented workers pent-up feelings of being fed up. The Big Quit – The Great Resignation we are experiencing is a staggering sign that our workforce/employer relationship situation is completely broken. I personally don’t think people don’t want to work – it’s that they don’t want to work for slave wages anymore. Yes, there are extremely lazy people and they probably didn’t change (PS there are lazy folks in all income brackets). People are starved for a boss, a company that cares about them…and they will put their trust in us, but we need to be worthy of that!
The big takeaway for you
Your big take away is your personal “WHY” you chose this job is important to figure out and define. Working ONLY for money isn’t enough for the general population, and it’s not enough for you either. It’s not enough to just pay the bills – we need meaning that reaches beyond ourselves. We need to feel valued in the world at work and at home. This extremely important step helps ensure you’re successful and enjoying your life/work regardless of how much money you make. Though it turns out, the more you enjoy going to work, the better job you’ll do. Your clients will be happier, and you’ll be happier with better pay. Client and employee loyalty will be high, and you’ll have a life outside work you can truly love.