I recently heard a familiar story from a jan/san distributor. He was telling me about a medium-sized building service contractor he had been supplying since the BSC started its business. He had noticed purchases from this contractor had dropped off in the past few months and was concerned.

The supervisor who normally takes care of ordering supplies for this BSC came in recently to leave a scrubber for repair. The distributor manager mentioned the slow down in orders and asked if everything was OK with the distributor’s service, pricing, etc. Over coffee, the supervisor brought the manager up to date with events at the company.

The supervisor explained that the BSC now had been in business a few years and that he was one of the first employees hired. With good service and quality work, the business grew. As a result, the supervisor was promoted to his current position and given responsibilities for inspections, hiring, training and ordering. Tag jobs were also his responsibility; if personnel were not available to do the work, he would be on site himself.

Everything was great until a few months ago when customer complaints began to increase but more importantly, the contractor began losing customers at a faster rate than new customers were signing up.

The distributor manager responded to the story with a question: “How many other supervisors are there now?” The answer: zero. This one supervisor was now responsible for all operations. At some point, additional duties were thrown into his lap, such as bidding jobs and meeting with key customers. Instead of complaining about the workload, the supervisor was actually proud of his abilities and the fact he was a key team member. In addition, no programs, other than handwritten notes, were put in place to track inspections, training, customer communication, inventory, ordering, equipment preventative maintenance, etc.

At first glance, one might think bringing on more supervision could solve the problem. However, the lack of personnel may only be a symptom. This situation is more complex. As a contractor grows, all tasks become more time consuming and more difficult to manage.

In the beginning, building service contractor owners and managers have time for that personal touch; making sure the quality is there and personally making sure the customer is happy, as well as myriad other tasks involved in running a successful business. As business increases, the owner and key personnel are pulled in more directions, in which case the “personal touch” with customers may be lost.

The No. 1 challenge for owners and managers is managing growth so as to be assured the customer is happy and quality levels are maintained. Simply hiring more supervisors is not the only answer. Structured programs are required. The program can use a simple spreadsheet, CRM software or a workloading program designed for BSCs.

Structured programs are time-consuming to run and may cost substantial dollars to implement. But they are also a necessity to run a growing cleaning business that still delivers consistent, accurate service with the desired “personal touch.”

Skip Seal is a trainer and consultant with more than 30 years management experience in the cleaning industry. He is a LEED Accredited Professional and a Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS) ISSA Certification Expert (I.C.E.). Seal and his team offer support across the country with sales and operation analysis, new market penetration, and sales training. He can be reached at skip@seal-360.com.