In March, my residential cleaning business had a huge growth spurt. The franchise was awarded an exclusive contract with a local employer to provide cleaning services to their employees. It was fantastic news. It was also scary news.
It meant I needed to hire and train new people to handle the new client base. That is all well and good, but it looked like the market had dried up. I had my definition of an ideal employee. I had 3 versions of my job posting copy that would attract this ideal employee. I posted in my usual places and in less-than-usual places. I asked my existing employees if they knew anyone. Every time someone asked how business was going, I’d say: “Great! Know anyone looking for work?”
What did I get? Crickets. And it wasn’t just me. My other franchise colleagues experienced the same thing.
Well, the show must go on. And, by the way, in addition to the corporate contract, I was still getting new clients on my own. (You must always be filling the funnel.)
So, here comes the pain.
First pain: I actually had to turn down work. That was painful. It happened twice and I still have a pain in the pit of my stomach when I think about it. One was a referral from a realtor. I wasn’t as worried about that one because I know my realtor colleagues have several cleaning companies in their toolkit. I am usually very good at fulfilling their needs, so I wasn’t afraid that they would never call back. The other was a referral from an existing client. That was the real pain. I had to apologize to both the existing client and the potential client. We just didn’t have capacity for the work.
Second pain: I ended up working ‘in’ my business. Every day. For months. You know when I say you need to work ‘on’ your business, not ‘in’ your business? Yeah. I was ‘in’ it and it was hard work. I know it is hard work. I did it for years alongside my team members. It is also fun when you have a good attitude. I did my ‘on’ my business work on my phone while being on the sidelines at soccer games. Or I would bring my laptop to cheerleading practice and spend time at Starbucks using their complimentary wifi. Networking meetings turned into quick chats through Facebook or running into people at Costco or the grocery store.
Third pain: I stopped taking care of me. My gym time was scheduled around cheerleading practice. Instead of working out, I was doing my working ‘on’ my business. Haircuts happened when I had a moment and could be a walk-in. No more 2-hour scalp-massage-aromatherapy-detox-tea haircuts. I did my own nail polish and watched it get destroyed at the first house I cleaned.
What did I learn? Growth can be painful if you aren’t ready for it. My cleaning business has a tight balance. If someone isn’t getting enough work, they’ll go elsewhere (this, despite being the only cleaning business I know that provides health care benefits to employees). If everyone is at capacity, my pains come in.
What would I do differently? I would do a better job of taking care of me. I would ask for more help in my personal life. Asking for help has been one of my weaknesses. I had asked for help with recruiting for my team, but nothing came of it. As I mentioned, they had trouble finding candidates, too. However, I did not ask a fellow sporting-parent for help getting my kids to their activities, although I would be the first to volunteer when one of the other parents was in a bind.
For now, my cleaning team is back on track. I see the tell-tale signs that it is time to start looking for another team member. (I signed two new clients this past week and it was a challenge to fit one of them in.) I am working on it. And I am enjoying being less ‘in’ my business and working more ‘on’ my business. I am back at the gym. And my have my 2-hour scalp-massage-aromatherapy-detox-tea haircut booked for the week the kids are back at school.