Here’s a question (and my answer) from FaceBook

My husband and I have been owners and sole operators of a home services business for almost 9 years, We provide rental cleaning services and residential cleaning plus home maintenance services. Our business is growing and struggle with hiring a part time cleaner to lessen our work load. Many of my residential and rental clients have been with us for several years and because they are only used to “me” cleaning for them, it makes it difficult. So my question is, how do I transition my clients into having someone else clean their home or vacation property? I also have a hard time with hiring someone because of differences in work ethic, trusting someone to do their job and showing up on time and doing a good job. This business is our only income and I’m always afraid of jeopardizing that. Any suggestions you can give in helping to hire the right person would be appreciated.

What an EXCELLENT question! Without meaning to sound overly dramatic, I believe that the way you handle (or mishandle) this challenge could be a defining moment in the success/failure of your business.

Here’s why: Unless you are able to wean your clients away from having you doing all the cleaning, your business can never grow beyond the 8,10, or 12 hours per days that you are able to work.

What happens as you age?

What if you get sick?

Can you never take a vacation?

The way things stand now, you may have gotten yourself into a “job” without the real freedom that comes from managing a business.

The struggle you (and many entrepreneurs have) is that the skill set that enabled you to start your business; determination, willingness to work hard, attention to detail, commitment to your clients, is different from the skill set that’s now required to grow your business. Now, you’ll need to call on your ability (or develop it) to lead others in the direction of your vision (both clients and employees). You’ll use all your best communication and people skills, to recruit, hire, train, and manage as you delegate and supervise the tasks that you used to do. I know it seems hard and maybe even scary, but I believe you can do it.

I believe you can; because I was faced with the same dilemma many years ago. It was about 18 months or so after I started my business and I was having a conversation with my Dad (who was also self-employed) and I remember him asking me how the business was going. I proudly told him that I had many new accounts, 2 employees, and I had personal income of about $30,000 a year (this was in 1995). Now, $30K a year meant an hourly wage of $15 an hr. and that was OK money in those days.

And then I mentioned that I still cleaned a few of my “special” accounts. So he asked me how much I paid my employees and I replied $8.00 per hour (wages were a LOT lower then). My Dad said- “So, you’re making $8.00 an hour”. That came as quite a shock to me but the more I thought about, the more I realized he was right! If I was doing work that I could pay someone to do for $8.00 an hour (maybe $10-$15 today), then I was making a LOT less than I thought- and I lot less than I should be making as the owner of the business.

I know it seems scary, to trust someone else with the work you’ve been doing, and I’m not a big fan of Ronald Reagan, but I do like his famous line “Trust, but Verify”!

Here’s how I begin my odyssey (that eventually lead to me having over 60 employees).

1. Write down EVERYTHING that you do, EXACTLY the way you do it- For me, this took the form of a “checklist”. But first, just get it down on paper. You can convert it to the checklist later.

The easiest way to get everything down completely and accurately is to either write it down as you do it, or have someone (maybe your husband?) right next to you that you are dictating to as you do it. Don’t leave anything out. This is THE most critical step.

2. The next step is to start training your employee. The hiring process is beyond what I can cover in this reply but here are some articles on hiring and quality control. Initially, have the employee accompany you as you do the job, but have them do nothing but observe. They can have the written version with them and make their own notes as needed, so they understand fully. Have them watch the entire job at least once, maybe even twice. You can verbally explain as you go along, but keep them by your side for the entire job.

3. The 3rd step is to let them take over a small portion of the job (maybe 25%) as you watch. If that goes well, let them do another section alone and the 2 of you share the balance of the job tasks for that visit.

4. Fourth (this is SUPER important) have them accompany you as you check over everything that they did. Point our any areas that need improvement to them and then demonstrate how it should be done.

5. On the next servicing, have them do 50% of the job while you do the other 50% and repeat the checking/correction process. By now, they should be using the written checklist to complete their section.

6. Now, they are ready to do the whole job alone. Let them go do everything, and then you meet them at the jobsite as they are finishing. You repeat the checking/correction process again. Depending on how well they are performing, you’ll make a decision at that point on whether they can do the whole job alone again, or if the need more training.

7. At this point, you are ready to start letting them fly on their own (a little bit) not completely. Based on what you find when you check their work (which you will gradually decrease the frequency of) you’ll see if they have what it takes to work for you or not. If you start with checking their work every 2 times, then go every 3rd time, every 4th time, etc. Be lavish with your praise, and even if you find things wrong, make sure to spend time on the many things that are done right as well. People hear criticism twice as loudly as they do praise, so you want to give criticism “sandwiched” in between two pieces of praise.

If you are still unsure, they may need to work (side by side) with you for a few more days. If they can’t meet your standards after that, they probably never will and it’s best to let them go and move on to the next applicant. This may seem like a lot of work – and initially it is. But it’s well worth it when you have 3, 4, 5, or 10 people working the 8-10 hours each day that you were working. Think of them as “multipliers” for your income. Now, you’re getting paid for 80 hours of work each day (with 10 employees), something you could never do if you were still cleaning! That makes it pretty attractive, right? Then what’s really great is when you hire a supervisor to manage the 10 people, and you move on to doing more of the things you love to do – inside or outside of your business!