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Peopleworks Cleaning Services
Putting people first pays off
Wendy Crawford overcame physical and financial challenges to keep her people-oriented cleaning business on track, thanks partly to help from the Small Business Mentoring Service.
Wendy started Peopleworks Cleaning Services in 1999. The business is customer focused and services homes, offices, schools and corporate clients. It's also people centred and values based, providing a friendly and responsible workplace.
It has not all been plain sailing, as Wendy was struck down with an undiagnosed condition which produced severe muscular pain, exhaustion and migraines. Wendy needed to use a wheelchair and adhere to a strict routine to keep her pain under control. This only made her more determined to succeed and to provide an inclusive workplace.
While Peopleworks Cleaning Services had a terrific work ethic and inclusive practices, Wendy felt it needed to reassess what it was achieving and where it was heading. Risk management was a big issue with the Labour Hire Department. While having a million dollar turnover, Wendy was embarrassed by the fact it could not turn a profit. Among other things, she needed to reassess the mission and vision of her business.
Wendy decided to end a large labour hire contract because the WorkCover risk outweighed any benefit. This was a difficult decision as it meant losing more than 60 employees. Unsure how the business was going to survive, she was desperate for professional advice.
Wendy found SBMS through the Small Business Victoria website. She selected Joseph D'Souza from the list of mentors because of the specific training sessions he offered. Joseph has more than 30 years professional experience including senior management, management consultancy, executive coaching, facilitating and mentoring leaders and businesses.
The SBMS is a non-government, non-profit organization of volunteer expert mentors who give their time and experience to help small business. It is supported by Small Business Victoria, which refers clients to it.
Wendy and her two managers, Domestic Operations Manager Kaylene Passmore and commercial operations manager Kerri Painter, had 12 sessions under the SBMS Overcoming Problems in Finance and Accounting program.
Joseph said the company appeared to have a good operational track record, but it needed a strategic review. This would cover things such as the relevance of its original business vision and mission, marketing, business strategies, service delivery processes and operations, use of resources and potential as well as a SWOT analysis to assess Peopleworks Cleaning's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
Wendy was keen for confirmation that ending the labour hire contract was the right decision and if so, were the formulas used to set the various charge out rates accurate for the home and commercial cleaning work. While numerous reports in the company's accountancy program showed income and all expenses, Wendy could never understand how to formulate scenarios that would tell her accurately and simply things such as how many more cleaning jobs were needed to give her management team a wage rise.
Mentoring sessions were conducted over eight weeks with two hour sessions each week. Joseph took the managers through their reasons for running the business and why they came to work each day. He helped Wendy and Kerri with the financials, fine tuning their quoting formulas to meet the business's needs without its large labour hire turnover.
When Joseph suggested looking at developing another vision and mission, Wendy was most concerned that the sessions would end up talking “airy-fairy nonsense with a vision that meant nothing and had no impact on the business”. She was pleasantly surprised when Joseph immediately developed a good rapport with each of them and encouraged frank discussion. Among other things, Joseph helped the business:
- re-assess its mission and clarify its vision and value proposition
- understand how to read financial performance for business management
- use a 'traffic light' system to monitor profits
- have a tool to generate 'what-if' scenarios to support decision making
- use the energy that comes from confidence in yourself and your business model
- grow the client base beyond just advertising e.g. by target, scope and region
- recruit by networking as well as traditional means
- enhance client communication for retention and referrals using a personalised “in the real post” card system
- potentially increase the range of business offerings via value added services such as cards
From this a vision was written with the managers' own words, feelings and wishes. “It wasn't airy fairy nonsense after all!” Wendy says. “In fact it became a valuable tool for staff morale and the future of the business!”
Home Office/Commercial School
The team's generosity of spirit impressed Joseph, who says everyone provided all the necessary inputs and follow through. He says the company is now a leader in the cleaning industry in metropolitan Melbourne and Victoria's rural community.
“I have never come across a business with such a stunning degree of teaming, collaboration and comradeship,” Joseph says. “This factor alone, in my opinion has sustained Peopleworks Cleaning through thick and thin.
“I believe that the business now has for the first time a better understanding of how to manage and steer the company using basic but essential financial performance views on not just a daily, weekly, fortnightly view, but, critically, on a per job basis.
“Peopleworks Cleaning were at the right time, in the right place on the company's journey, with the right intention led by the right person in Wendy Crawford, supported by the perfect team in Kerri and Kaylene, fully committed to taking the right actions from new knowledge and learnings! And that's my prescribed formula for the success to any business.”
Joseph also helped give Wendy the confidence to follow through with the changes she had made. “Now projections include gross profit and net profit with a built in tolerance,” Wendy says. “Joseph taught us how to build a Range and Reach document that has all our formulated rates in it, our fortnightly sales figures, our fixed expenses have been broken down into fortnights and finally we can see at a glance how we are travelling. We are able to play with the figures creating “what if” scenarios.
“Kerri … and I have never been able to work out how to do this and it has been a very big frustration of ours. Joseph has been like a breath of fresh air to my business. Now projects include gross profit and net profit with built in tolerance.”
Since seeing Joseph, Peopleworks Cleaning has developed a new vision/mission with words and thoughts from all the management team. In one two week period, home cleaning sales rose by 40 permanent hours and commercial by six hours. Wendy is working on more contracts and would like to secure at least one more school within the next six months. She is aiming high by tendering for large commercial contracts.
The business is also advertising with Leader Newspapers' True Local website, and is in the top three hits for the Upwey and Lilydale regions. Its own website has been updated and now includes cleaning vouchers and PayPal. It also sells Peopleworks Cards and Gifts.
“We now operate with confidence knowing how profitable each job is,” Wendy says. “I have had to increase our charge out rate in home cleaning but can now be sure that each job is making a profit. Now every single hour of our home, office, school, corporate and campus cleaning makes a profit. How wonderful is that?! This added confidence really shows in our sales pitch and conversations with customers and ensures that I stay away from grabbing the quick fix/high risk labour hire jobs.”
Joseph says Peopleworks has an excellent management team which works together well. This is a huge asset which he says should help it move forward. Wendy agrees, and says it has always been a priority. She has also committed to working on the company's sustainability, accountability and responsibility, terminating unviable contracts and ensured all new customers provide their credit card details to avoid non-payment.
“We have worked together for so long that we can just about finish each other's sentences!” she says of her team. “We know how to pull together when needed, we do each other's jobs when the need arises but most importantly we laugh together. Enjoying where you work and who you work with is very high on my list of priorities. If you have to work you should enjoy it, challenges and all. We have the ability of turning a stressful situation into something funny. For goodness sake, it's only cleaning after all!”
Wendy is very happy with Joseph's advice and the changes so far, but admits there is a long way to go. “I do believe that after following all the above changes the business has turned around, however I am not foolish enough to think that this is all I need to do.” she says. “Running a business is hard work, unexpected things happen, expenses not planned for arise. One of the best things I have done was to go on the Small Business Mentoring Service website and book Joseph. We should never stop learning, reading, teaching and being taught.”