Growth and evolution are natural processes in life and should also apply in your professional field. You cannot stay put forever, doing the same thing over and over again as the years pass you by. For me, the ambition to become better and more skilled at my job, to take on greater challenges and strive for the top tier of my industry has always been the driving force that made me get out of bed at 6 in the morning and working till late in the evening.
I have been in the cleaning industry for more than two decades now, and I will be the first to admit that I never foresaw this journey. Back in the day, I thought it was an easy job that paid relatively well, and did not require any specific accreditations. I could not have been more wrong. Soon I realised I had three paths ahead of me – to remain a low-tier cleaner, to start learning fast and aspire to create my own business or to leave the industry altogether.
Option one was never really in the picture – I am too ambitious a person to drift along. For the time being, I decided to eliminate the third option as well and concentrate entirely on the second one. I am sure hundreds, if not thousands of executives can recognise themselves in the same description. I will, however, write specifically about the cleaning industry and share my story of professional advancement and how I went about the different stages of it.
The Learning Curve
Let’s call stage number one the “learning curve”. You may hear the old cleaners boast that you can never learn everything about the different fields of sanitary upkeep. While this is undoubtedly true, you can pick up a lot in a very short time. It took me about six months to become a decent house cleaner and twelve more to start acquiring the next-level skills you need to make the next step.
What would that step be? I do not know a single cleaner who hasn’t started working on homes, doing basic-level housekeeping or window cleaning. The next step would be to aim for the more specific fields of sanitary work like carpet, rug or upholstery cleaning or service packages that require more versatile skills like end of tenancy cleaning or after-builders clean-ups. In other words, you improve your portfolio and include more cleaning options in your professional resume.
Let’s assume you have started your career in an already established contractor as a junior cleaner. You know you have reached the next step when your manager/supervisor/boss calls you one day and tells you that you have to teach the fresh recruits everything you know, and quickly. Be very careful at this crucial point, as it may determine the whole outlook of your future career. Many people make the mistake of considering this a promotion – though it is, in fact, the opposite. You get to work more, you take responsibility for other people, and you rarely get a pay raise. How is that a promotion exactly? Managers, however, rely on the centuries-old trick of rights and privileges – if they convince you that you are closer to the management than the average worker, you may overlook the already mentioned negatives.
Making The Crucial Step
I did not overlook them, though. I knew it was my time to move forward. I left my job and decided to start my own business, which leads me to the next stage. It is arguably the trickiest one of them all – I call it the “trust” phase. There is no way you can run a successful cleaning business on your own. You need a team of like-minded professionals who share your passion, and an administrative team to put it effectively into action. I strongly recommend that you do not make any compromises with the first people you hire – you must trust them wholeheartedly and be willing to delegate the full set of tasks that a cleaning business faces daily.
It is only the start of your journey as a manager, though. Even at such an early stage, you have to set your goals and priorities straight. Where do you want to be in two or five years? How quickly do you want to achieve your immediate goals? Do not let the mundane stuff cloud your perspective – you must be able to separate yourself from the small-scale problems and look at the big picture.
In the cleaning industry, this big picture is pretty simple – are you going to make the decisive step into commercial cleaning or not. A lot of local or small sanitary businesses are content to remain in the residential sector, which is perfectly fine. What are the necessary watershed marks you need to achieve before you make the fateful leap into the unknown?
Are You Ready To Go Into Commercial Cleaning?
First and foremost, your staff. It will be a catastrophic mistake even to contact a large-scale business with a sanitary proposal unless you have the people to perform it. Trust me, you cannot imagine the volume of work you will have to cover every day – it has nothing to do with the housekeeping appointments you have known so far. There is no such thing as too many cleaners when it comes to office or commercial cleaning jobs – if your company has less than twenty technicians right now, you should concentrate on building up your team first.
Second but equally important, the available funds for investment. If you want to be competitive and efficient, you will have to purchase the requisite equipment for the job – and it does not come cheap. You will need much bigger funds for detergents and additional tools before you can cash in the first monthly billing. If you are not sure about that, sit down with your accountant and have an open and honest evaluation of your spending range and the average monthly turnover you expect.
The third issue is often overlooked by aspiring managers who want to take the next step for their company. I myself did not pay attention to it before I faced its consequences. It is the higher levels of stress you experience every day. Let’s be honest – housekeeping can prove very easygoing, especially if you build a friendly and accommodating relationship with your customers. There is no such chance in commercial cleaning, where you always have to be on edge, on top of your game, chasing deadlines, settling conflicts or further requirements.
As you can see, going into corporate and office cleaning is not for everybody – if you prefer the leisurely speed and routine of domestic cleaning, you should stay in your comfort zone. If, however, you are all about the challenge and dynamic pace of cleaning, give it a try – the lessons you will learn about yourself and your company will be priceless!