Monday, April 1, 2019

When Should You Give Discounts?

For some, discounts are a confusing area. You will see many a housekeeper stalking community pages on Social Networks, jumping in on a thread where a person is asking for a recommendation, to undercut everyone else's pricing by $10, $20 and even $40.  While I understand the motivation behind it, (you really need the income-now!) this is a terrible way to do business! This is a fear-based tactic and can never be a lucrative endeavor, especially for the solo-preneur.

My main reason for discouraging this practice of offering discounts is that it cheapens what you are doing. It undermines all your hard work. Why would you give away your expertise, your time, your knowledge, (not to mention your sweat, your back-aches, your knee problems, carpal tunnel and shoulder swelling) for practically free?

Most of you reading this post will respond that its because you want to be nice. Its definitely OK to be nice to people - however being nice in this case does not equate to a livable wage. You will promptly put your (nice) self out of business if you give discounts. You will feel discouraged and broke and go into fear mode. If you are doing this, (giving discounts) stop it right now. Don't do it any more. Be smart - not nice. Here's why:

  • You are undermining the value of your services. NOT just for you , but for ALL of the other housekeepers out there. It makes you look cheap and unskilled. The better quality clients will happily pay more money for your help, just as the more skilled housekeepers will charge more for their professional services.
  • You are undermining your own image - especially when your regular clients see you discounting services to gain new business. Now ALL of your clients will ALSO want discounts. This is not a financially sustainable situation. If you continue, you will go broke.
  • You are encouraging and attracting short term clients who will only use you for the discount then drop you like a hot potato. These are the clients who will complain more, and leave bad reviews when the discount is over, or when you attempt to charge them market rates. These clients only sign up because if the discount.
  • You are creating a habit of entitled expectation among the "discount" clients. They will feel you are easily taken advantage of and will want more & more from you - and will expect to continue to pay the same price or less. 
  • You will eventually feel used and taken advantage of, and your quality of work will suffer. This affects your self-confidence and puts you in an uncomfortable situation that you may or may not know how to get out of. You will go back into fear mode and sign up yet another client on a discount, and the cycle continues.

In the bigger picture, what you really want is to attract loyal, long term clients, and work to keep them, rather than signing up cheapskates, and then searching for new work to keep your schedule full each month.

So-the answer to the question,  When Should You Give Discounts? is: Never!

This is your livelihood. The way you live & support your family. The way you put gas in your car & get your nails/hair doe. The way you feed & clothe your kids. Don't take the food off your table by giving discounts.

BUT please do this instead: continue to educate yourself, work hard to make you clients happy and build up your clients and your business. Once you are making better money and are stabilized, (earning enough to pay all your bills by yourself and have some left over to save). THEN if you want to donate a service here and there-to someone recovering from illness, or to a single mom going through a tough time, or a military family, or to a grieving elderly widow...THAT is the time to be nice and to be charitable. You cannot truly help others until you have first helped yourself. Commit to yourself first-others second. And please don't give discounts.

Tell us in the comments below: Are you a "discount giver"? Why or why not?

Friday, March 8, 2019

Overcoming Forgetfulness: 5 Ways to Keep Better Track of Your Supplies

Has this ever happened to you?

You get to a job (or home after work) and you realize that you do not have your ... [fill in the blank] cleaning cloths, multi purpose spray, glass cloths, mop, cell phone, car keys, or in some cases, even your entire cleaning supply bag.

You go around looking for the missing items, retracing your steps and come up empty. Then you wrack your brain trying to remember where you might have left the item(s): Did you leave them at the previous client's house? In the previous client's driveway? Or did they fall off the roof of your car as you were driving home?

This is a scenario that has happened to many of us. While it seems a pretty mild oversight on the surface, and poses a seemingly minor inconvenience, the bigger problem with it is that it makes you look forgetful and disorganized which are two habits that are not only unprofessional, but can lead to diminished self-esteem. This is something that is easily addressed and needs to be taken seriously, or it could affect the way your clients perceive you.

Look at it this way: Would you hire someone to thoroughly detail-clean your house, if that person is disorganized or forgetful enough that they cannot remember to pick up after themselves and always leave their tools behind? To further put this into perspective: would you go to a mechanic, a dentist or a hairdresser who was not attentive enough to remember their tools and supplies to do their job? Would you hire a carpenter who did not keep track of or bring along his hammer and tool belt to remodel your home? I think its safe to say that none of us would.

The good news is that forgetfulness & disorganization are also habits that can be un-learned, and replaced with more professional ones so that your clients and everyone you come in contact with will look at you as the "go-to" expert in your field   We train for efficiency and quality, and if you improve your efficiency, you improve quality of work. So here are our 5 strategies that can be implemented right away to help you improve your efficiency by being better organized and keeping track of your supplies & equipment:

1- Lighten Your Load: Learn to Carry Less. You read that right. Less supplies carried in will be easier to keep track of during and when leaving a job. You do not need 6 different kinds of spray cleaners, 2 bags of cloths, and two rolls of paper towels. Figure out exactly how many supplies you need for each job and only carry what you need to complete it. (Bonus Tip: You only need 2 - 3 spray bottles at most : a Good All-purpose spray cleaner, a foamy bathroom tile cleaner, and possibly a glass cleaner-unless you use glass cloths. You can  read more about the Six Essential Tools and supply items here. )

2-Organize your Supplies:  Do this the night before. Do some preparation. Look at your schedule, and your client list and decide what you will need for each job. Fill bottles, fold cloths, pack it all neatly in your bag, and put everything by the door, next to your keys so you don't forget them in the morning when you leave. Taking 15 minutes to do this the night before will save you time and stress the next day. While you are working on a job, place supplies back in bag when finished using. (Bonus Tip: We don't recommend keeping supplies in your car overnight for several reasons, the biggest one being that temperature changes and humidity can affect the sprayers and effectiveness of cleaning chemicals.  Bring them in each evening to your home or office-basement, etc. to keep them in as much of a climate controlled environment as possible. More about this in another post.)

3-Organize Your Method: For many starting out, (and for many of our clients) house cleaning is "so easy a monkey could do it..." now on the surface this could have some truth to it, but its not all as simple as grabbing a bucket and mop, swishing some water around on the floors, spraying some Dollar Store Febreeze in the room, slamming your trunk and speeding to the next job...(No wonder you are leaving behind supplies!) House cleaning IS a specific skill set, that requires OTHER specific skills, organization being the most important one. You must develop a specific, organized approach to cleaning- and for everything you do-in order to feel more relaxed, confident and efficient AND to ultimately make more money. Do it the same way each time, no matter who the client is or the size/style of home. This enables you to become familiar with the tasks/home quickly, improve results and use time to your best advantage. When you are using the same method, it becomes a habit and part of that habit is keeping supplies close by so its unlikely that you will leave something behind. (Bonus Tip: we train our students to start in a specific area of the home and work through tasks in a specific order-each and every time. Using the same supplies for similar tasks, and keeping supplies and equipment in a specific spot while working.)

4- Don't "Borrow" Supplies: Use your own supplies-the ones you organized and packed the night before. Don't ever borrow from the bags of Co workers or cleaning partners. The inverse is also true: Don't allow anyone to borrow your supplies. Ever. Borrowing and lending not only wastes time but also enables forgetfulness, inefficiency and accidental loss/redistribution of borrowed items. It also leads to resentment among teams and partners. Be professional: Care enough about the job you are doing to be prepared and eliminate the need for borrowing AND care enough about your clients to force your partners to be responsible by not allowing them to borrow your supplies. Borrowed supplies get "lost" and left behind, and makes the whole team look and feel stressed and incompetent, making it less likely that a client will refer you to others. (Bonus Tip: A small, printed and laminated supply checklist kept in your caddy or bag will also help keep track of supplies.)

5- Focus only on what you are doing: Distractions support forgetfulness and inefficiency so when you are preparing for or working on a job you need to eliminate any and all distractions including: unnecessary conversation with teammates or clients, texting/phone calls to kids/significant other, rummaging for misplaced supplies, backtracking and re-cleaning something, playing with pets, smoking breaks, etc. Having an organized approach and organized supply caddy will help eliminate distractions, improve performance & make for a better end result. Get in on time, get the job done quickly and fantastically and get out (with all your supplies). (Bonus Tip: Schedule jobs properly, and be punctual when arriving to a job. This will help improve focus, and eliminate those situations where you are rushing around to get a job finished to get to the next one. Rushing leads to distractions, diminished focus, forgotten/misplaced items and sub-standard cleaning.)

Implementing these five strategies - even if only one at a time- will help save you time, money, stress and aggravation. Set a goal to implement one strategy a week for the next five weeks, and watch your stress level decrease, your efficiency increase and your quality of work reach the next level!

Please comment below: how have you used these 5 tips to improve your cleaning results? Did you find these difficult or easy to do? Why or why not?

Friday, March 1, 2019

When Should You Lower Your Rates?

This is a question that comes up a lot on message boards, groups and in our workshops. Housekeeping and hospitality professionals want to know: "when should I lower my rates?"

The short answer in one word, is NEVER. But that response goes with some small explanation.

One of the keys to success in a professional housekeeping business (or any service business) is to get really good at pricing, so that you are bringing in enough income to compensate & support yourself, but to not to overcharge the client so that you price yourself out of the neighborhood and nobody hires you.

The second key to success that goes along with that, is to be sure that you are providing top-notch  OUTSTANDING service, and adding value with every visit, so that your level of service matches your pricing. (Example: Don't charge $80 for a 4,000 square foot house deep clean-AND don't charge $200 for a 1,00 square foot home Touch/Up.).

With that being said, there are instances where the client hears the price and immediately says "Wow-that's expensive..." and your initial reaction will be (because you really need the work) to back off and lower your price. I highly discourage this practice because it causes two things:

1- It causes you to lose money for yourself
2- It causes the client to lose respect for you

In this circumstance especially, NEVER lower your rates! There is a very pervasive mindset that housekeeping (and other professional home services) is "unskilled labor" and therefore only worth $10/hr in the marketplace. There are also other training programs that will tell you "you are not worth bigger $$ until you gain 3 -4 years experience..."  I say bullsh*t! (Who has 4 years to wait around to be able to support themselves?)

You are providing a needed service for many who do not have time or the ability to do it for themselves. This is not unskilled labor. This is solving a big problem for your customers and if you know how to find the right clients and can bring them consistent, reliable top notch service, there is NO reason why you cannot earn $1,000 week or more-by yourself-your first or second year as a housekeeper. Learn as much as you can and constantly work hard to get better at what you are doing - but, under no circumstances would you ever lower your pricing.

Here's what to do instead:

1- Know your services and price accordingly. Decide how much you want to earn and what type of services you will offer. What is the value you are offering the client?  What will you charge for that?
2 - If client wants to pay less money for a service, then reduce the service to match what the client wants to pay.
3- Look for ways to build a valuable set of services for each individual client, that makes them feel like they are your only client. (See examples below:)

(Examples: Clean pet areas and refill water/food bowls; Organize kids play areas; water plants; fold the laundry that is in the dryer, etc. You are not going to do ALL Of the tasks-just one- and you will not spend any more than about 15 minutes on each of these tasks, but the client will be extra pleased that you went a bit over and above to help them.)

What are some ways that you can add value to your current client's services? Make a list of small helpful gestures for each of your clients that could have a big impact.

Friday, February 15, 2019

3 Steps to Help You Handle Overwhelm

Its a busy week: You have extra clients stacked on the schedule for Spring and holiday cleanings, with no time for error. You have clients who want to chat today, errands, estimates, someone who forgot to leave a check, a new cleaner in training and kids to take to practice at 3:30. You have not used the bathroom or eaten lunch. Overwhelm starts to set affects you mentally and physically - your focus, productivity and your effectiveness on your jobs is diminishing. Then it attacks your self confidence and creeps into all your personal interactions that day. You fall into bed hungry, sore and exhausted, and lay awake all night, tossing and turning, and then start all over again in the morning.

Long term overwhelm can increase your stress levels to a point where it can cause physical pain, directly impacting your day-to-day operations and can hold you back from your personal and professional progress.

So how do you handle overwhelm so that it doesn't over take your life?

Many small business owners & solo entrepreneurs, especially housekeepers and caregivers, experience overwhelm when they are wearing many hats, performing too many different tasks, and constantly adding items to accomplish to their daily schedule, with not enough time to get it all done. 

One thing to remember, is that overwhelm does not have to be a regular thing. There are steps you can take to minimize the effects. Realizing that overwhelm does not come from an outside force that sneaks up on you, but rather stems from things you can control, is the first step towards resolving it.

Here are our first three steps for handling overwhelm:

1- Eliminate Clutter: 
We mean visual/physical clutter as well as mental clutter. Every single item in your immediate surroundings represents something you need to take care of. And every thought in your head represents things you need to take care of or make a decision on. So, eliminate overwhelm by eliminating every thing that is not of vital importance to you, your family or your business, and, only thinking/focusing on those things that pertain to advancing your business or immediate family needs. Everything else can wait. (Trust me, it can wait.) Examples are old bills, circulars, e-mail, broken items, shoes (by the front/back door), (broken) sport equipment, and pet toys. Put or throw them away.

2- Identify what tasks, people or situations are creating the most stress: 
you must name it in order to get control of it and it is important to understand exactly what it is you need to address and what tasks you need to delegate. Make a list - written down - of what is stressing you, and the top 3 priorities for each day, and work on those first.  Priorities are those things that will help your family or advance your business, such as finding new clients, doing estimates and taking care of the clients you already have. Examples of non-priorities that waste time and do nothing to advance your business, are engaging in political commentary on Facebook or Twitter and watching cat videos on You Tube.

3-Begin to look at time differently:
Time is money. And money helps you, your family, your employees and your business flourish. Ask yourself each time you are engaging in a conversation or an activity, , "If my time was money, would I be spending it on this right now?" (What you discover may surprise you. ) Only spend your time on those task that add value to your business and your life.  Think of your day in blocks of time-not a large 24 hour block, but instead, look at it as 4 five to 6 hour blocks with each block representing a "day".  So-if you start your work day at 7 and it goes to 1PM, count that as day one. Aim to get all of your business tasks complete in that "day" (6 hours)-emails, phone calls, paying bills, cleaning, supply pick up, etc. Then from 1PM to 6 PM is your second block of time set aside for family-eat lunch, pick up groceries, get dinner ready-maybe lunches ready for the next day too, toss in a load of wash, help kids with homework, take kids to/from practice, eat dinner and clean up dinner dishes, (which by the way can be delegated) etc. That was your "day 2". Then comes your third block, or "day 3" from 6-11PM in which you can prepare for the following days work, confirm clients, respond to e-mails, finish blog posts, read bedtime stories, and spend time with a good book or significant other. 

Deliberately designing your schedule and your life in such a way that eliminates clutter, time wasters and excess things to manage, will help you minimize overwhelm and get back that spark you had before things got out of control. It requires an honest assessment of where you are and where you 'd like to be, and a commitment to eliminating time-wasters, getting more done and making better decisions. 

It takes some practice to overcome old habits-but keep moving forward-and chipping away at the overwhelm,  and soon you will be managing your time, your tasks and your life like a boss!

What are some of the ways you keep from getting overwhelmed? Please comment below!

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Building Your Cathedral

Barcelona Cathedral
I received an email today from one of our students that got me thinking about mindset and teamwork. The student asked, "How can I stay focused and motivated when my team member slacks and expects me to do all the work?

The definition of teamwork is when each person performs small acts-and each of those small act add up to something extraordinary in the end. Each person has a job to do that contributes a unique part of the end product.

We can apply this definition of teamwork to our daily lives and what we are trying to build right now. We can use this technique to change our mindset when we feel a bit drained, somewhat defeated, and like we are just "the cleaning lady."

My father called it work ethic. He told me and my brother as we were growing up, that no matter if we were doing brain surgery or digging a ditch, we should always do our best work. Each and every time. While I (foolishly) didn't follow much of my father's advice as a kid, this one I have always tried my best to apply!

There is a story I heard from one of my high school teachers that has stayed with me for the past 35 years and illustrates the idea of mindset and teamwork:

A traveler came upon three men working. He asked the first man what he was doing and the man said that he was laying bricks.

The traveler then asked the second man the same question and he replied that he was constructing a wall.

When the traveler got to the third man and asked him what he was doing, and the man replied that he was building a cathedral.

This is an excellent example of how mindset, changing our perspective, and surrounding ourselves with people who can see "the bigger picture"can help us to enjoy our lives and "the process" more, even when we feel like less.

The first man saw himself as having a job.
The second saw himself as having a career.
The third man saw himself as having a calling.

Which do you have?

Do you look at what you do every day as "laying bricks"?

Or can you see the bigger picture, and the difference you are making in helping to build a Cathedral?