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The Exclusive Magazine for the Building Service Contracting Industry Since 1981

Quality Labor and Increasing Minimum Wage

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With recent mandates in minimum wage increases across the US, hiring a quality staff has become a challenge for BSCs. Hiring professional, dependable, and motivated employees, while keeping rates low enough to win bids is a real challenge. As the President and CEO of The Kleane Kare Team, I have learned by trial and error how to run a successful business. I find the most demanding aspect of my job continues to be striking a balance between how to keep prices low enough be competitive, and paying my staff enough to keep them productive and dedicated.

What I have discovered is that my employees often need to be reminded of the true value of their time, especially now that the minimum wage increases mean Kleanekare must compete with fast food franchises and big retail for employees. Over the 30 years that I have been in business, I have never paid my employees minimum wage. The reason that I’ve always paid more is in an attempt to maintain a satisfied staff who understands and supports the mission of my company.

Labor: The cost of doing business

Time and time again, I’ve heard employees request wage increases because they can get better wages at Walmart and McDonalds. According to the Bureau of Labor, the commercial cleaning labor force is growing and is projected to grow 12% by the year 2022. Based on 2012 statistics, the average rate of pay for these workers is $10.73. Compared to retail, the commercial cleaning mean wage is slightly under the $13.16 average wage for department store labor. So the staff has a point. If you compare dollar for dollar they can make more working retail. But, the commercial cleaning industry offers benefits that retail does not. In most cases, the BSC enjoys set hours. This gives the employees more autonomy in managing their own time and affords them the opportunity to spend more time with family and to do things enjoy. For many employees the benefits of a consistent schedule, holidays off, and more weekends off outweigh a few cents more an hour that they could earn in a typical fast-food or retail setting. I feel compelled to share this perspective with employees so they can decide what best suits them and their individual situation.

What clean environments mean to businesses

When business owners think about opening a business, few put ‘Find a Commercial Cleaning Company,’ at the top of their list. But, what most soon discover is that maintaining a clean environment for employees and for customers is a crucial aspect of managing a successful organization. Once the search is on, business owners discover there is no shortage of companies who are willing to do the work.

I have had the pleasure of meeting many business owners or decision makers who want every service imaginable—and then they get the quote. When they look at the bottom line of the proposal, some businesses want to reduce services that they wanted initially or even look for a company who may be less expensive, or in some cases, attempt to handle the cleaning in-house. I have never traded low prices in exchange for marginal service.

My company strives to provide the highest value for our services. But when my quote is presented, my prices are scrutinized. Fortunately, I can explain and show the potential client that my service fees are very competitive while providing a value that is unsurpassed. Eliminating the uncontrollable costs such as supplies and products, companies are left with the cost of labor.

‘Clean’ is a marketing line item

Try explaining to a potential client that the cost of commercial cleaning should be a marketing line item and I assure that you will be looked at as a creature from another planet. When attempting to land a contract, we treat the areas to be cleaned as ‘service-scapes.’ Much like a well-manicured lawn, a clean office, restroom, or lobby adds to the business’ image and ultimately their bottom line.

Aesthetically, a clean area is welcoming and sends a message that the business cares about its employees and customers. How many times have you walked into a business, and the restroom was not clean or it was out of pertinent items such as soap or paper towels, or even worse, toilet paper? There were unclean surfaces, and trashcans were overflowing? Customers remember those experiences.

Studies have shown dirt and disorder trigger negative emotions versus the feelings of trust, pleasure, and a perception of prestige that comes with a clean service environment. The clean space adds to the potential for increased revenue through longer visits to the business as well as increasing the probability for return visits. Longer and more frequent visits most often equates to a healthier bottom line. Workplace cleanliness also decreases absenteeism of employees, which adds to productivity. Again, this is another plus to company profits and something BSCs should communicate to their customers.

Create value in your service by engaging in honest dialogue with customers about the quality of staff you employ, training they have had, methods your company practices as well as the products and equipment you use. Once your value is established, they won’t mind paying a little more to have the quality service they need to grow their bottom line. Efficient and consistent communication to our customers has been one of the key reasons KleaneKare has been a success over the past thirty years.

Kleankare team members Eric Jewell and Nikki Hawkins confer with Sharon Dabney-Wooldridge, President/CEO.
Photo Courtesy of OEP Media

The perks of strong relationships

The benefits of hiring dependable, trustworthy, and committed staff is immeasurable and labor is a significant contributor to the success or demise of any commercial cleaning company. Client satisfaction does not exist without a quality pool of employees that exhibit consistency in their work and take ownership of the tasks at hand. 

Professional staff members have a tendency to build rapport with the client which facilitates decision making processes and hastens the handling of uncommon situations that may arise. Trust is built and maintained with lower staff turnover and that relationship gives the client a more comfortable feeling that their workspaces will be cared for properly. In order to get that consistency, trust, and lower staff turnover, BSC owners must pay staff compelling wages, and of course, that cost has to be passed along to the client.



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