Learning from others is an excellent way to stay at the top of your game and run your business more efficiently. At the same time, we may fear that asking for help, especially from peers, could be perceived as a sign of weakness.
Take Tony, the head custodian at a large high school. When the school principal asked Tony to stop by his office before leaving for the day, Tony was concerned there might be a complaint about his work. He was even more concerned when he learned that the principal wanted him to set up a meeting with Betty, the head custodian at another school.
“Am I doing something wrong?” he asked.
“Not at all,” said the principal. “I just thought you two could learn from each other.”
Tony remained unconvinced until, over a cup of coffee, Betty happened to mention a new system she had implemented. She had drafted a list of cleaning procedures with frequencies, chemicals, and equipment needed. While her original purpose was to provide guidelines for substitute cleaners, she found that by having all of her cleaners follow the list, she could calculate just how long it would take one person to clean a specific room.
“But wouldn’t that time vary depending on the person doing the cleaning?” Tony asked.
“That’s what I thought,” Betty said, “but when everyone cleaned the same way with the same equipment and procedures, the times were quite close.”
Tony was impressed, and the school principal was happy to know the meeting had been fruitful.
“Lately, I’ve been meeting regularly with other principals to share ideas,” the principal said. “We’ve learned a lot from each other. That’s why I thought it would be a good idea for you and Betty to talk.”
Tony had to admit he had benefitted from the meeting. In fact, he and Betty started meeting regularly, and Tony soon found he had knowledge Betty could use, as well.
Engaging in Knowledge Sharing
A problem shared is cut in half. Don’t assume your years of experience have provided you with all the answers. There’s a wealth of new information you may not have and many ways of getting to it, such as the examples that follow.
Conferences, trade shows, and trade journals: The cleaning industry has gone far beyond buckets and mops. New chemicals, equipment, and software are constantly being developed. While it may cost a little extra to join organizations and attend conferences, those who don’t will find themselves losing out to those who do. Build into your budget the opportunity for you and others in your organization to get the knowledge necessary to do the job right.
Colleagues and counterparts: Imagine the power of a group that is assembled to solve a specific problem. Whether it’s an informal group that meets for lunch or a trade association, make sure you are part of a team. It’s not just about gaining exposure to new ideas, but it will also give you the opportunity to share your expertise with others.
Employees: They are your boots on the ground and can often identify issues you might not be aware of. Foster a culture of knowledge sharing between employees and supervisors, and ask questions. It may take a while for employees to feel comfortable making suggestions to the boss. Find ways to let them know their input is valued, for example, by awarding a prize for the best idea.
Clients: Keeping lines of communication open with your clients is essential to running a successful cleaning business. Don’t wait for a complaint. Knowledge sharing with clients can help you head off issues before they become serious problems.
Finally, don’t hide your problems or issues from others. In many cases, you will find they have experienced the same challenges and have either found a solution or are willing to work together to help you find one.