Who you emulate determines where you go in life.
Updated: Dec 7, 2022
A young woman posted some questions in a cleaning forum I follow.
"How many homes do you typically clean a week or a month? How many employees do you have? I'm in Holland Michigan and am just looking for some comparison."
For some reason, the first person I thought of was Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric. Some find his penchant for holding his employees' feet to the fire and eliminating underachievers nauseating. As an entrepreneur, I found his strategy to be on target, even inspiring. No one can argue with the growth of GE under Mr. Welch's leadership. Think of all the "intrapreneurs" as he called them whose lives were changed for the better largely because a leader had the gall to expect the very best from his people!
Happy Window Cleaning was set up as a franchise so that our people can be intrapreneurs like the people at GE were under Mr. Welch. We haven't patterned our structure after Jack Welch's style, instead, we strive to meet people where they are and expect incremental improvements from them over time. The employment pool for window cleaners is not like attracting talent for a major league baseball team. We are getting outliers, generally, applicants who are vulnerable and often not really sure what they want to do long-term. So for our industry to meet the demand we must meet folks where they are at. When the work is difficult and the conditions can be miserable already people will walk away the second they feel unappreciated or even when they don't understand our standards yet. It takes time to make a difference.
The cleaning industry is quite a bit different from manufacturing in other ways as well. It's very fractured, and there are thousands of small mom-and-pop operations that do a really great job. But even with all of them, they can never come close to meeting the true demand for services. While that in some cases is really good for their clients, it also limits the possibilities for advancement for the business and their few employees. For those getting into cleaning for a profit, there is an important choice to make about what they really want for their futures.
Chemdry, Stanley Steemer, and Merry Maids are a few examples of cleaning companies with thousands of franchise locations. There isn't a window cleaning company on earth with so many franchises, not yet. The largest window cleaning franchise is just a few hundred units. I'd like to see this change. In any event, with a growing company, employees have the chance to get really good at what they do and possibly advance to higher positions and better compensation.
At Happy Window Cleaning here in Grand Rapids, Michigan we built higher education into our business model to ensure that our people have the structure to reach their goals. We have a partnership with my Alma Matter Christian Leaders College where people can get a degree through a combined scholarship, (Thanks to Henry Reyenga, his team, and the late Rich Devos) Our own fund covers administration fees making it so that Happy Window Cleaning employees have no out of pocket costs, and no debt when earning their college degree. What is more, Happy Window Cleaning employees are able to earn their credit hours in their free time, all online, (Note: Since each Franchise is individually owned and operated not every owner participates in what the flagship does).
Additionally, Happy Window Cleaning has technical certifications and our franchises get our in-house Business Lesson Series, which is equivalent to an MBA (sorry Mr. Welch, I know you have an MBA program going after retiring from GE). We put that in place so that if one of my employees should like to have an independently run Franchise Territory, after two years of excellent service with us, they have that opportunity. This way, employees know in their guts that they are prepared as they embark on entrepreneurship themselves. Of course, people can also use that training to change from a blue shirt to a white shirt someplace else one day.
So whether you are self-employed as a cleaner or have a number of employees, it really doesn't matter where you are today, so long as you are delivering great workmanship and earning money. What really counts is where you set your sights on the future. Ever try to get someplace that you have never been without a GPS or a map? You really don't know where you might end up without a plan. The same goes for business. It is good to make comparisons sometimes to measure your progress. The truth is that owning any size cleaning business is a whole lot of hard work, no matter how you slice those responsibilities up.
But working smart means building a business structure that supports teams and their individual paths to a better tomorrow. Anyone can learn to make a window or a countertop sparkle, but only a leader will make lives sparkle. We all have choices, and just one life to live, so why not go for the whole ball of wax and share the wealth with those you spend the majority of your life with? Why not make all the hard work worthwhile for yourself and the ones coming up under you? The cost of ignoring individual God-given talent is not living up to our potential. We must as leaders provide appropriate challenges. education and support for our people to live complete lives. Ignore that fact and your people may soon outgrow you. Embrace that challenge, love God and others, putting their lives first, and the rewards are more than legacy, they are eternal.