Taking back your sanity
At Janitor University, I teach classes comprised of all types of cleaning managers. I always can tell the building service contractors from the other students.
The BSCs rush in a few minutes late each morning, still talking on their cell phones. They have a pager, or two, on their hip and it always takes them a bit longer to settle down than the rest of the students.
They dash out of class on breaks or at lunch, dialing as they run, and return from lunch about five minutes later than the rest of the group.
I’ve been watching this phenomenon for almost a decade. It’s not that these individuals are careless or thoughtless. They’re wired – and that wire often leads directly to the panic button.
If this sounds like you, there’s a way to disconnect the wire, reduce your stress and still run a successful cleaning business.
Typically, there are five common stress builders. They are: hub-of-the- wheel management; too many tools; too many systems; lack of a common vocabulary; and lack of training. Here’s what these terms mean and how they create stress.
Hub of the Wheel
BSCs often have a hard time relinquishing any control when it comes to making decisions. The fact that many of their companies are family businesses can complicate the picture. This creates the perfect climate for hub-of-the-wheel management – an environment where all spokes lead to the boss.
With this management style, the boss must be involved in every decision. But that person often is busy, so there is no approval; work stops and things get clogged. No one really is empowered to take care of things without express approval.
Then, decisions stack up until situations reach crisis proportions. This results in heat-of-the-moment reactions that can be just as disastrous as no reaction at all.
Spread the power and let qualified employees actually do something. That will drop your stress level — and theirs — dramatically.
Too Many Tools
One night I watched a program featuring a stress-reduction consultant. Her client was a young professional who, despite his 18-hour workdays, could not get everything done. After he lamented his professional life she said, “I’ll bet your house is stuffed with things you don’t need.” Astounded, he replied, “How did you know?”
The consultant and her client visited his apartment to find she was absolutely right. Stuffed with old newspapers, magazines and memorabilia, they could hardly open the apartment door. It was more like a cave than a home! The consultant spent the next three weeks “de-junking” the apartment.
With space to think, her client discovered he could organize his work as well and proceeded to do so. His performance improved as his stress reduced. Stress often is a result of having to deal with too many things.
Look around your business. Go into the equipment and supply room. What are you never going to use again? Sell it to your competitors, give it to your employees or throw it away.
What’s dirty or broken? Fix it or get rid of it. What duplication of products do you have? Weed those 25 brands of glass cleaner down to just one. Or better yet, get a glass cleaner that also handles Formica.
What does your desk look like? Many banks have a policy that everyone’s desk area must be totally clean each night before going home. Make a conscious effort to handle a piece of paper only once before acting on it, filing it away or discarding it.
Too Many Systems
When each employee has his or her own way of cleaning, it creates a tremendous amount of stress, not to mention confusion. Some of the chemicals and equipment even are brought from home. One person cleans with bleach and another uses an all-purpose cleaner. One employee uses an upright vacuum while another prefers a backpack.
Stress results from workers who feel they must defend their particular way of cleaning, customers who receive different results, bosses who aren’t sure what’s going on and owners who have no way to project costs.
Some cleaning systems may be too complex. There are too many tools coming from too many places and no one really is accountable.
You can reduce stress by standardizing and simplifying the cleaning process and the equipment needed to complete the process.
Lack of a Common Vocabulary
Most BSCs work for companies that are bi-lingual or even tri-lingual. Communicating effectively can be difficult. You can help bridge the gap by calling equipment and supplies by their proper names. Train your staff using the correct terms and it will help minimize confusion and frustration down the line. Everyone will be speaking the same language at least when it comes to cleaning.
Lack of Effective Training
I read recently that 85 percent of the people surveyed say they learned to clean from their mother. While your mom may have taught you one way to clean, my mom might have preferred another.
Recognize that when you train people to clean you may be going against some long-held beliefs that are near and dear to them. There really is an emotional attachment to the way many people clean. Learning any new procedure can be stressful.
An effective training program can minimize everyone’s anxiety. Some of the best companies I know use a combination of hands-on, video and workbooks to help their staff learn exactly how to perform cleaning tasks. Then they reward employees with certificates and graduation pins.
I recently received an e-mail from a gentleman who works as a trainer for NISH – an organization that promotes the employment of people with disabilities — who had been in a class I taught for ISSA this summer. He wrote to say he has revamped NISH’s entire training program and has never gotten such a positive response. Ask around to find training programs that can help your company.
Finally, go after the biggest stress buster of all — operational unknowns. Most BSCs track very few things. And when they do, they often measure the wrong things.
Instead of counting only hours, pay rates and square footage, track the real culprits: who is doing what, where, when and how. When you can answer those questions you’re well on your way to controlling your stress and your business. Then you’ll have time to tackle that house of yours.
John Walker is a regular Contracting Profits columnist. He is a veteran building service contractor; owner of ManageMen consulting services, Salt Lake City; and founder of Janitor University, a hands-on cleaning management training program.