HOW DID YOU GET STARTED IN THE JANITORIAL SERVICE INDUSTTRY?
I started my cleaning business in 1993 when I moved to Las Vegas, NV from Southern California. Originally it was called First Class Housekeeping and I (as a solo-prenuer) did both residential and commercial cleaning. For the first several months I did all of the cleaning in addition to all of the other company functions (sales, purchasing, accounting etc.). I paid a church group to go out and place doorknob hangers in the area near my apartment and I put a small ad in the Las Vegas Review Journal. When prospective customers called, I went out to walk the facility and gave them a price on the spot. If they liked my price, I’d schedule the work to be performed. Then I’d put my vacuum cleaner and mop bucket in the back of my Honda and go out to clean accounts. Once I had more business than I could handle by myself, (within the first few months) I hired a person to help me and we cleaned the accounts together. I just kept hiring new people as I needed them and the business grew from there…..
WHY IS WHAT YOU DO IMPORTANT TO YOU? WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE YOU MAKE?
Both of my parents are from the Deep South (Mississippi) so there’s an aspect of “taking care of people” and certain amount of “Southern Hospitality” that is involved in making sure people’s offices and work spaces are properly cared for that I’ve always enjoyed. When I was a child growing up, we had a housekeeper, so I’ve always had everything neat and clean. I can’t work in a space that’s disordered and dirty, and I enjoy helping people who work in offices and have that same need. I’ve always been the sort of person who loves a “plan.” There is nothing I love better than a “list.” My friends tease me by saying that I prepare a list about the list because I like everything to be just so. Perhaps it’s a combination of my “inner control freak” and my “wanna be Martha Stewart” but I’m passionate about cleaning and I want it to be done perfectly or I’d rather not do it at all. My Dad used to say to me, “I don’t care if you are a ditch digger…..I want you to be the BEST ditch digger there is!” So that’s always been my goal, to do things the best they can be done.
The “helper” part of me really enjoys the “problem solving” aspect of providing my clients with perfect janitorial services especially if they’ve had problems in the past. Maybe I love a challenge, but it makes me feel really good to be able to “fix” the problem that many companies have had with poor janitorial service.
And being able to provide jobs in the LV community has always been really very satisfying to me. For my employees, I feel that even something a as humble as being a janitor has honor in doing it right. I love being able to help them grow their skills, provide for their families, and reach their financial goals. Many of my employees work with me as a second job…..it’s good, important, honest work that needs to be done. So, it’s extremely rewarding to be able to offer them the help they need!
IN TODAY’S COMPETITIVE ECONOMY, WE NEED THE ‘LOWEST BID’.
I want someone to be able to explain to me what I’m actually getting for that higher price and then I’ll make the decision as to whether it’s worth it to me to pay the premium or not. When I hear companies using the old adage “you get what you pay for” to justify their higher prices, that seems like a cheap shot to me. So, here are some important things to consider in evaluating any cleaning company proposals:
- Liability and Worker’s Compensation Insurance is in place with the appropriate limits. Ask to see proof and be named as “additionally insured” That way you’re notified in the case of a lapse in coverage
- Ability to communicate with cleaning staff (speak, read, write English, Communication Log, Maintenance Requests Form, etc.) and responsive management, prevent repeat complaints, etc. Can the company handle all your facility needs (windows, carpets, pressure washing entries, supply paper and plastic, etc.)?
- I’ve been in situations where companies will call me and say: “We’re pleased with the cleaning company we have, but we’d like to see if we can get the work done for less money. Can you give us a bid?” Frankly in a situation like that, I’d really rather not submit a proposal. My goal isn’t to beat out the next highest bid by 1/2%. My goal is to provide value-based product (good value for the price) that is innovative in offering solutions, responsive to my clients changing needs and that give our clients an amazing customer service experience. One where we proactively give our clients what they need so that the never even think about janitorial services. That’s my goal.
There have been situations where a prospective customer gave me a budget and then we used a “cafeteria style” approach to let them “pick and choose” the services they wanted and how much emphasis they’d like on each area. I enjoy doing that, because again, it’s about providing a custom experience for the client and I’m all about that.
There’ve also been times when we’ll submit a proposal and the customer came back and said “We love the proposal but price is too high. Can you work with us a bit on the cost?” The answer there is yes, absolutely! It’s not a good business relationship for me if my client is resentful of the price they’re paying, struggling to pay that bill, or in any way unhappy with the deal we struck. It’s important to me to come up with “win-win” solutions because I don’t want to be unhappy in my work and I don’t want to work with unhappy people. I want to work with people who are “thrilled” to be doing business with me. Any other scenario just doesn’t work for me.
WHAT RESULTS CAN I EXPECT?
Our two “Biggest Things” are:
- No repeat complaints
- Money back guarantee
You’ll also get………custom solutions not a “template”
- immediate response to requests
- One call does it all = one stop shopping. In other words, we can handle all of your facility’s needs (nightly janitorial, floors, carpets, windows, entryway pressure washing, etc.)
- I always tell you the truth even when it’s painful ……..
- Talk to our clients for reassurance
- Many long term clients because of our consistency
IF YOU HAVEN’T CLEANED FOR LOTS OF COMPANIES IN THE SAME EXACT INDUSTRY AS MINE, HOW CAN I BE CONFIDENT THAT YOU CAN HANDLE OUR UNIQUE NEEDS?
Sometimes a “fresh pair of eyes” is actually better than the same tired old service providers. I tend to be a seeker of knowledge and improvements so I’m always looking for ways to do things in a way that is better for the environment, better from a safety standpoint, or that provides superior results. I’m easily bored, so I’m an avid reader and always looking for ways to improve. So, whether I’ve worked in your industry or not, I’ve never done YOUR FACILITY before, and I am a VERY good listener because what we provide is not a template, it’s custom to each client. What I’ve found after 20 years of owning a cleaning company is this:
- My company tends to do the best work for a certain type of “company personality.” Those features are much more likely to stay consistent than the industries in which are clients operate.
- We’ve provided the highest customer satisfaction for companies that are very picky about how things are done.
- They tend to be the leaders in their industry because they understand the significance of excellence!
- Some people may call them demanding but I chose to call them discriminating.
- They want things done in a certain way and they’re willing to keep searching until they find someone to do it according to their standards
- I frequently get clients who have been through lots of cleaning companies before they get to us. They’re frustrated, they’re unhappy, but then we start cleaning their buildings and we wind up staying with them for 10 years. I LOVE when that happens!
WHAT KINDS OF CLEANING JOBS DO YOU NOT PERFORM?
Well, we prefer to clean spaces of at least 10,000 sq. feet and we like to go in at least 5 days per week. Because I buy expensive commercial equipment and want to leave it on the premises, it’s not economically feasible for us to service account that needs less service than 5 days per week.
Also, over the years we’ve decided not to do retail, food service establishments, salons (beauty, nails or tanning). We don’t do residential cleaning, and we only work in Las Vegas. For me, I’ve found that I’d like to be master of a few trades rather than a jack of all of them.
A LOT OF THE BUSINESSES YOU LIST AS CLIENTS ARE REALLY “BIG NAME” COMPANIES. WHAT IF MY FIRM’S NOT A HOUSEHOLD NAME?
Yes. Absolutely! The reason that it may seem that we only do the “big names” is because that’s typically what I’ll list as those are the ones that are most recognizable. We clean for a lot of medium sized companies that are not necessarily in the Fortune 500. We may not have their names on the list of clients, just because no one would recognize them, not because we don’t service them. Because I started my company here is Las Vegas in 1993, I now consider myself a “native, so of course I’m favorably disposed to our “locally owned” companies…..
HOW IS A-1 JANITORIAL SERVICES DIFFERENT FROM OTHER CLEANING COMPANIES?
After getting my B.A., I spent many years in the corporate arena, so I have a good understanding of the bureaucratic processes and hierarchal structure that many of my clients are working within. I understand that we have to justify expenses to the money people in the organization and I know that sometimes we have many stakeholders that have to be catered, not just the corporate officer who signs off on my bill. I’ve worked in banking, customer service and as a stockbroker in Beverly Hills for 5 years, so I’m familiar with environments that are high pressure and demand meticulous attention to detail.
In addition to the fact that we conduct pre-employment background investigations and skills testing, we also require that all employees be able to speak, read and write in English. We have an extremely rigorous training and quality control program that enables us to receive real time inspections as they are being conducted from the field via our inspection team’s smart phones.
We have a whole set of systems and processes in place to make sure that we catch potential service failures before they happen, make sure we stay on top of periodic tasks and enable us to track, monitor and improve our cleaner’s performance every step of the way. For example; once we submit a proposal and it’s been accepted, that contract document become a checklist that our janitors use to perform the daily, weekly and monthly services.
That same document is also turned into a quantifiable Quality Control Inspection Sheet so we can tell exactly where improvements are needed and track progress and performance on an ongoing basis. The cleaning personnel and the supervisors get bonuses based on these scores, so everyone’s on the same page with the performance goals. It makes the “team work” concept a real working tool, not just some words from a book.
I could go on all day with examples of how we do what we do and why its’ better, but I think most people are interested in solutions as opposed to features and I think the fact that I understand that sets me apart from a lot of other business owners. I think a lot of people have forgotten what customer SERVICE really is these days, but I haven’t! I am very clear about the fact that I am in the SERVICE business and I’m here to serve my clients.
There is one thing about me personally though, that I take a great deal of pride in and I think contributes value to my clients, and that’s my personal code of ethics. Keeping your word, treating people in a way that you would want to be treated and always doing the next right thing are HUGELY important to me and to everyone that works in my company.
My integrity means more to me that any amount of money, and I won’t sacrifice it under any circumstances. So, while I’m not going to say that we are perfect, we are honest and you will always get more than fair value when you do business with us. I treat my employees, my clients, my suppliers and everyone I do business with, with respect and I make sure I don’t do things I wouldn’t want to see printed in the newspaper. It makes business and life really simple for me.
WHAT ABOUT WHEN SOMETHING GOES WRONG?
During my first 10 years in business I spent untold hours trying to make sure that nothing ever went wrong…..Of course that never worked out and I was very unhappy in my business for many years. What I’ve since learned is that I can do everything right and plan right down to the tiniest milliliter, but sometimes (even with the best plans) things go wrong. I’m dealing with human beings here, so there’s just no way to prepare for EVERYTHING.
So, what I do instead is I have lots of “back up plans” I have plans B, C, D, E and F so I can generally handle just about anything no matter how unexpected. And the thing I do that I think my clients appreciate is that I’m always honest, upfront and proactive in letting them know if there’s a problem. I never want them to have to call me to ask me about something that was broken or a service that didn’t go like it should have. I’m very upfront about letting my clients know when there’s a problem and how I plan to fix it. And, if I can’t fix it and need to call for help, I’ll do that. I won’t every try to hide or cover up an error or mistake.
The other thing I do is that if we mess up something, I usually do more than just fix it. That’s where our “money back” guarantee comes in. If I don’t get your service right for some reason, I always find a way to make you more than whole so that you feel good when it’s all said and done. So, we’ll either offer you a refund, some extra service, or do something special to make sure that you feel good about the way things have been handled.
I also make sure that my clients don’t have to keep calling me over and over about the same problem, That drives me crazy as a customer, so that’s one thing I make sure my clients never have to experience.
When we first start a new account, we want you to tell us EXACTLY how you like things, but what I can promise is that you won’t have to ask for the same things over and over. I can also promise that you won’t have to call me more than once. I am SUPER diligent about getting back to people in a timely matter. If they call with a complaint or request, I don’t pass the buck or try to “be right” in that scenario. I’d much rather be wrong and keep the client happy! I’ve had meetings with prospective clients where they describe to me how the janitorial company argued with them when they called to make a complaint…. Unbelievable!
HOW CAN I FEEL CONFIDENT THAT I’M GETTING EVERYTHING YOU PROMISED?
Because I’m so rigid about documentation, we have reports that we can share with our clients, depending on how involved they want to be. We have inspection reports and we keep records of all of the periodic tasks, attendance variance reports, we track complaints, special requests, everything.
Many of my clients like us to send them monthly status reports and we are happy to do that. I’ve actually had more than a few clients compliment me on the fact that they don’t feel worried or that they have to remind us about periodic tasks. I guess that’s where it’s good to be a “control freak.”
I have a list and a plan for everything and that’s how I service my clients. And also, I guess that’s where the personal integrity comes in. I’m not going to get paid for work that I didn’t do. That money is not worth being unable to look myself in the mirror each day. Some things are worth more than money.
WHAT’S THE NEXT STEP? HOW DO I REQUEST A PROPOSAL AND HIRE A-1 JANITORIAL SERVICES?
We have a contact form on the website, so you could either fill that out, or you could send me an email to Pam@a1janitorial.com or of course you can always call me. My number is 702 658-1900. I’ll personally return your call and schedule a time to come out to your facility & meet with you. I’ll have you show me what you need done, what your pet peeves are, and we can go from there. I look forward to meeting you!