By Dave Frank

Dave Frank is a 30-year industry veteran and the president of the American Institute for Cleaning Sciences, an independent third-party accreditation organization that establishes standards to improve the professional performance of the cleaning industry.
No matter how bold or ambitious your plans are to grow your business, the key to your business’s success lies in three critical, interdependent components: operational excellence, customer relations/communications and financial management.

The failure to focus on any one component will be an obstacle to the success of your business.

Operational excellence: Businesses require a general framework to ensure effective operations and continual improvement. Elements include definitions of systems and standards such as scope of work; quality plan and measurement; employee manual; organizational charts; hiring policies; training systems; and so on. These elements provide structure that can be seen, felt and replicated. In a successful business everyone at all levels must march along with these standard operating procedures that define who is doing what, where, and with what. If your business does not have operational excellence, you’ll have problems with the next two components.

Customer relations: Customers should be given an idea of, if not a copy of, your business’s operations framework. Based on this framework, invite customers to provide feedback. Maintain customer relationships by making yourself and your staff accessible. Many businesses are doing this through the use of technology, such as BlackBerries. Conduct customer surveys and evaluations, review the results and follow up with customers to make sure you are meeting the scope of work. In addition, include your customers’ customers — the building occupants — and make sure they are aware of your organization’s role.

Financial management: To manage your monetary deposits and withdrawals, you have got to have a financial management system or you will go broke. Business owners should always have an awareness of what accounts are profitable and what accounts are not (and give the latter to competitors). From bidding to budgeting, you should have a system in place for estimating costs. Systems should consider labor costs, materials, overhead, profit, taxes, insurance and miscellaneous costs.

Cost controls should exist and be used to ensure that work is completed within workloading, budgeting and costing parameters. All financial aspects should be documented. Finally, make sure to have a well-documented payroll system. You should have a handle on weekly hours, including hours of billing versus hours on payroll. Manage these hours regularly to make sure they mesh. Don’t wait until the end of the month to see if it all balances out because it will be too late.

It is crucial that billables and hours of work equal each other or you could send yourself into financial disaster.

Intertwined, the components of operational excellence, customer relations and financial management are critical to have a successful business. When operations are tight and relationships strong, you should be able to make money.