It’s the time window cleaners both crave and dread: your company has grown so much that you could probably hire. But should you? If this was the Family Feud, the Top 5 answers to that question would be:
- I don’t wanna
- Employees are headaches
- It’s hard to find good employees
- Workers Comp
- The quality will drop
Number 5 is the one Steve Harvey would milk for laughs as the families struggle to guess. Yet, that is also the one in which you, as a business owner, have the most control over. Think about it. If you don’t want to hire now, you will probably never want to hire, even when you actually do. Employees WILL be headaches, no way around it. It will ALWAYS be hard to find good employees. Worker’s Comp IS expensive. But quality… you can do something about quality.
Before we get into the “hows”, lets talk about the “what”. Namely, what is the “A-Team/B-Team Syndrome”? It’s simple, really. When you first start your business as a Sole Proprietor, you do all the work. You are highly invested in your business’s success, so you go above and beyond. Your customers grow attached to you and your quality of work. Then you start bringing “helpers”. As long as you are there, whatever work your employees do is subsidized by your presence. Even if you only do 20% of the work, by virtue of you being on site and inspecting the quality of your employees efforts, they will be happy with the job. The problem comes when you send your employees… on their own… for the first time. It begins with the panic in the customer eyes when they don’t see you. It continues as they begin to pay way more attention to details that would not normally bother them.
In their eyes, you have sent an inferior team to deliver an inferior product.
I coined the name after a long-time customer kindly told me, while pointing out some obvious drips and streaks on the windows from the last cleaning, “It’s OK, Gabe. When you didn’t show up I knew I was getting the “B-Team”. I didn’t expect the quality to be as good as when you are here.” His intention was to be kind, but at that moment I would rather him punch me in the gut than to hear those words. I was completely thrown off-balance. “B-Team”???? There was no “B-Team” in my company! Yet, after hearing this customer say it, I had to concede that there was. What was I going to do about it? And what double entendre would Steve Harvey find to exploit for laughs?
After I ruminated on it for a couple months, I came up with a strategy to minimize the effects of the “A-Team/B-Team Syndrome”.
Let’s see what the survey said:
1 – Communicate with your customers
Part of the problem stems from your customer being caught off guard. Put yourself in their shoes. They are excited to see their friend come by and are already imagining the sparkling clean windows that you’re going to leave for them. Now, imagine their shock when they open the door and you *gulp* aren’t there! Their next natural reaction is to think about all the negative ramifications of your absence, which translates into dissatisfaction and pickiness. The easy solution to this problem is to remove the surprise. If you plan on sending your techs on their own to this customer’s home for the first time, let them know! Explain why you won’t be there, how you trust the crew you’re sending, and that you guarantee their work. Being open and honest with them may not remove all of their uneasiness at first, but it will let them know you are being considerate as you grow. Sometimes that’s all a customer needs to know to regain their comfort level with your company.
2 – Set clear benchmarks for your crew
Your employees are not you. It seems funny to even have to say that, but all employers are guilty of expecting it. We assume that all of our techs will automatically know what our customers are looking for and will provide it flawlessly. Well, they aren’t us, they won’t be as invested in your company as you are, and they can’t read your mind. Therefore, it is imperative that you clearly communicate actions and results that you expect on every job. You can do it through verbal, on-site training, you can have your systems written down, or a combination of both. Whatever you chose, these should be things that your customer base has come to expect from you and why they keep calling you back. Things such as good customer service, being neat and clean, respecting their property are good examples. Just be sure that you are not overly detailed or expect to micro-manage them. That will lead to frustration for your crew. Pick a few uncompromising standards and then be consistent in enforcing them. If you can do that, it will give the customer as seamless a transition as possible.
3 – Listen to your customer’s feedback and make adjustments
None of us like to hear complaints. In fact, the thought of receiving them can be the exact reason why an owner refuses to hire. The trick is to have the proper view of complaints. Instead of seeing them as a sign of the demise of your company, view them as valuable, objective data points that you can use to improve your business. If you can remove the emotional component from hearing a customer’s complaint, you avoid looking for reasons to excuse bad habits and possibly delay making needed changes. Most importantly, by listening to your customer’s concerns without bias, you give them reason to believe that you are not selling them an inferior product, but rather a continually improving one.
There is no easy way to make that transition from single owner/operator to employer. If you chose that path, you must be ready to face challenges. Your growth need not feel like there are already three X’s on the board. Communicate with your customers and crew, face your fears, and do all you can to set your business up for success. That’s a good answer if I ever heard one.
-By Gabriel Gutierrez