- Wake up sooner rather than later. It took me way too long to react to the recession because I was in denial for the first year and a half. The signs I missed back then were weekly clients converting to monthly, bi-weekly clients going to "occasional" service, and more and more people calling to set up a "one time" cleaning and really meaning it it. They were satisfied and not continuing with repeat service. This was happening at an alarming rate; completely different from the business model I was used to.
- Make changes that fit a business that's doing more one time cleans. I started taking credit cards, I stopped requiring in-home estimates when they said they were only looking for a one-time clean (since too many were not converting to weekly and bi-weekly it was too expensive to pay for an estimator to bid the job).
- Develop a compassion policy. In hindsight, when some of my long standing clients called sobbing that they had lost their job and had to cancel service for a while, I wish I had offered some of those clients a free cleaning every other month for a defined period of time, or half price for six months. Think about it, If they pay one month, and you pay the next month you'll have your labor costs mostly covered. You won't make any money, but you endear that client to you forever, you raise their spirits during a tough time, and you provide some much needed work for your crews that are going be hurting for jobs. It's a win-win, break even proposition that helps all parties involved. Can you imagine the wonderful things she will tell others about your company!? I would re-evaluate the situation every 90 days.
- When times get tough, guess what we cut? Marketing! How crazy is that? That was the biggest mistake of my recession experience. I should have gotten back out there, doing what made my company famous in those early days: teach a cleaning class, join networking groups, get in the newspaper, participate in local expos. I waited way too long to get back to the basics.
- Barter! I should have found people to barter for services I was struggling to afford during this tense time. I could have bartered printing, advertising, and even payroll services if I'd known better. This would have saved valuable cash resources when money was so tight.
When business is booming and customers are a dime a dozen we get lazy in our business because everything we touch seems to turn to gold. Then, the economy hiccups and all our bad habits come home to roost. The best thing that ever could have happened to my business was the recession. It forced us to tighten up our budget, move to a smaller cheaper office, and get back to knock-your-socks-off customer service! We're better for it, even though it was no fun at all. If you need help recusitating your business, call a maid service business coach that still owns a local residential cleaning business. I can help you plug the profit leaks and grow strong then BIG! www.themaidcoach.com