Hiring Your First Cleaning Company Employee/s
So you’ve picked out a catchy cleaning company name, doodled a cool logo, maybe you’ve got a short list of clients you’ve been cleaning on your own and a list of referrals you can’t squeeze in anymore, so you’re ready to take the plunge and hire your first professional cleaner! First, Congratulations! Second, I hate to break it to you, but you don’t need to hire your first cleaner, you need to hire your first FOUR cleaners! Most people starting out balk when they hear that number, saying things like they don’t have enough client referrals to hire 4 and they can’t afford to hire 4 and they want to start small and grow gradually…..but as valid as all these objections are, the reality is that in professional cleaning, if you start out too small you’ll never get big!
Why do I need so many, you ask? Great question! The answer is one word: Turnover. The cleaning industry averages 75% annual turnover, which already is horrific, but those numbers are actually artificially suppressed by a bunch of tiny cleaning companies where the “employees” are a husband, wife, sister in laws and some cousins, so the turnover is almost non-existent unless they get a divorce. When it comes to hiring strangers off the street, cleaning companies climb to 200% turnover, even up to 400% when hiring contract cleaners! Breaking down the percentages into real usable numbers, a cleaning company should expect to hire at least double what they need just to keep their nose above water, nevermind grow.
In your case of a business starting out, you really need at minimum one cleaner and one trainer to teach future staff as you grow. Hiring 4 means you can have an annual turnover of 50% and still have what you need. As the owner of a cleaning company, one of your first goals needs to be to sunset your role as cleaner as quickly as possible, so you have time to provide the sales, customer service, marketing, employee management, inventory management, bookkeeping, and so many other roles your growing business needs you to fill. You’re the captain of your ship, so your hands have to stay on the wheel, not swabbing the decks, if you want to steer your business where it needs to go.
Without 4 employees to start, when one or two quit, you inevitably have to take your hands off the wheel to train new cleaners and cover abandoned cleans, leaving your poor business drifting in stormy seas. Potential client calls get missed, current client customer service gets neglected, and the potential employees you need to get you out of this pickle never get hired because you weren’t there when they came by to fill out an application because you were out cleaning. Simply put, hiring too small traps you in an endless cycle of neglecting business ownership to scramble to make up for inevitable turnover, so you never break free. The employees you do have see your desperation and use their power to ignore your policies, knowing you’re too busy to fire them. In the end, under-hiring to start will cap your business size AND make the daily operation of the business exponentially more stressful, which is why most cleaning companies stay trapped small and eventually close due to owner burnout.
If you are committed to not putting a ceiling over your business and ready to hire your first 4 employees, your next obvious question is how do I afford to pay all 4? The answer is frankly, you won’t actually pay all 4….but we’re not suggesting anything illegal, we promise! Cleaning is an hourly wage position, so at the end of the day you’re paying for the hours worked, not the heads hired. If you are very upfront about the job opportunity during your interviews, explaining to your potential hires that you are a new cleaning company building their client list, so the work will be part time for the first couple of months as the business grows, your potential employees will be able to make an informed decision if they are financially comfortable with working part time temporarily. You can also make clear to the initial applicants that one of the first 4 hires will be promoted almost immediately to trainer, which usually comes with a higher hourly wage, further incentivizing them to want to stick around for the part time timeframe.
Most importantly, the reality is that not all 4 of your first hires will work out and for some of them the mismatch will be apparent VERY quickly. Hiring and training 4 at once will mostly likely mean that at least one won’t be a great match within the first couple of days, another dropping off after a month, as they get to know the realities of the position and you get to know the realities of their skill, personality, and work ethic. Your job is to be an amazing boss to all of them as the cream naturally rises to the top, because who makes it for the long haul might surprise you. The great news is that since you hired and trained 4 to start, natural attrition can be handled smoothly while you continue to interview new candidates, easily backfilling openings as they happen and training them with your field trainer, so you can stay at the helm steering your ship. In professional cleaning, hiring and training will always be a part of daily operations, not a side project to be done as needed, perpetually keeping your business ahead of that 200% attrition and eventually finding rockstars that become your anchor employees for years to come.
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