The business of cleaning: How to prepare for sustainable growth
September 19, 2010
When Gary and Trish Walker started Magic Touch Cleaning 17 years ago, their goal was not to be the biggest cleaning company in Kansas City, but the best.
Since then, the couple worked toward that goal and the company got bigger and better.
Today, Magic Touch Cleaning cleans 165 buildings — 161 more than when the company started — and is one of the first 17 organizations to not only achieve CIMS (ISSA’s Cleaning Industry Management Standard) certification, but to do so with honors.
Though they were busy keeping up with their growing business, the Walkers were set on achieving the highest standard available in the industry.
“CIMS gave us the opportunity to stop working in the business and start working on the business and to really put everything under the microscope,” Gary says. “We wanted to know where the cracks were and where we could improve.
We also wanted validation that we are doing well where we think we are doing well.”
The CIMS toolbox
CIMS helps building service contractors and in-house service providers develop quality, customer-centered organizations.
The standard has five quality principles: Quality Systems, Service Delivery, Human Resources, Health, Safety and Environmental Stewardship, and Management Commitment.
To comply with the standard, organizations are required to provide extensive documentation on all five areas.
“The process is very rigorous, but CIMS is exactly what companies serious about being a professional organization — especially those in growth mode — need to move forward,” Gary says. “CIMS makes you document everything it takes to run a business. It’s the ultimate toolbox for moving to the next level — getting from mom-and-pop to corporation.”
Though the Walkers started Magic Touch Cleaning and molded it into a company, they did not have a quality plan that was detailed and specific enough for the business.
Working to comply with CIMS included documenting all the information needed to put together a plan for doing everything right internally and externally.
“The human resources, safety and training documentation made us stop looking at the business from 30,000 feet and made us get down in the dirt,” Gary says. “CIMS made us turn our game up.”
CIMS can be a learning experience especially for small businesses that might not have a human resources department or even policies in place.
Now Magic Touch Cleaning has a human resources plan and an outsourced consultant who takes care of payroll and makes sure the company is compliant.
Having a third-party expert CIMS consultant come in to assess the business and offer advice was another helpful tool included in the certification process.
“There is nothing else out there where you can have access to a qualified expert who can tell you how to do better and will come and show you how to do better,” Gary says.
Putting tools to work
Once everything is documented, it can easily be shared with customers and employees.
Customers of Magic Touch Cleaning receive a copy of the company’s quality plan, tailored to their facility.
This written document closes the triangle between the customer, Magic Touch Cleaning and the Magic Touch Cleaning associate and ensures everyone is on the same page.
“That’s where a lot of janitorial companies fail and where we can win,” Gary says. “We bring A, B and C to the table, not just A. We find out where the customer was unhappy before and build (that solution) into the quality plan.”
Written documentation of every aspect of the business is saved in binders and is easily accessible to employees.
When orienting a new operations manager recently, Gary was able to share the company’s communication plan by simply pulling a binder off the shelf.
“It is easy to delegate another piece of the business and help someone else understand that this is how the business runs,” Gary says. “We have a foundation now to build on with everything in our library now; we just pull it, document, and update.”
CIMS certification does not just help cleaning organizations improve operations.
The certification can make a difference between one cleaning organization and another in a competitive marketplace.
“Competition is tough and it’s a dollar-driven marketplace,” Gary says. “With CIMS, you separate yourself, offer value, and more of an investment because you’ve covered the bases.”
Since achieving certification last fall, Magic Touch Cleaning has secured 26 new accounts.
I’d say that’s a sign of a company ready for the next level.
David Frank is a 30-year industry veteran and the president of the American Institute for Cleaning Science. AICS is the registrar for the ISSA Cleaning Industry Management Standards certification program.