Surviving A Downturn While Making Turnover Irrelevant
June 9, 2020
Cleaning industry workers have historically been underpaid and undervalued. But Motivated Maids, Canada’s top professional house cleaners, is breaking this precedent to provide workers a livable wage. And they are positioned to scale in the process, despite going profitless amidst the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Cleaning to provide for his family
When Mark Baker’s first venture - a basketball coaching business - failed, he needed a reliable source of income to provide for his twin girls.
So, like his mother and aunt before him, he turned to cleaning houses to provide for his family. But while scrubbing the toilets of his former classmates, 40 hours a week, Mark was still struggling to scrape together a living for his family.
“It was humiliating,” Mark said. “Because, even though cleaners get billed out at a high rate, they don’t make much.” More than half of the billed rate goes toward overhead costs like training, supplies, and transportation.
Meanwhile, over 90% of customers are dissatisfied with their cleaners due to inconsistent service. Yet, most unhappy customers never share this with their cleaner or the cleaning company, so nothing changes.
Seeing both sides of this situation, Mark realized that if cleaners were paid more, they might be motivated to provide a better, more consistent service.
Mark’s ah-ha moment
Hoping it would open more opportunities than working for someone else, Mark launched Motivated Maids. He believed if he paid his cleaners a livable wage, they would provide his customers with consistent quality service. And he would incentivize cleaners to earn those wages using real-time customer satisfaction scores - hence, Motivated Maids.
Mark started sending followup surveys after every clean to gauge customer satisfaction from a scale of 1 to 10. Using this feedback, Mark calculates each cleaner's average score per 2-week period. If this score is above 9.2, the clean receives 50% of their billed rate. If they score above 9.75, they earn an additional 5% bonus.
Since 2016, Motivated Maids has received 95% satisfaction ratings on over 10,000 answered surveys. And while most other cleaners earned an average of $12 per hour, which is minimum wage, Motivated Maids was paying employees an average of $17 per hour plus health benefits.
But even with the substantial increase in compensation, Motivated Maids continued to see a high turnover rate. The cleaning industry as a whole has lower retention than most other industries. That’s because, as Marks puts it, “the work takes its toll. It is difficult to shift this job into a career.”
“People don’t want to stay in this career for any amount of time,” explains Mark. For a lot of people in the industry, cleaning was intended to be a means to provide for their families until they could find something less demanding or something that paid more.
Struggling to scale
Despite the turnover, Motivated Maids grew into a position where it could start scaling nationally within just a few years.
Mark and a small training team would travel to cities where Motivated Maids intended to set up a brick and mortar. There, they would train local cleaners, as Mark calls it, “the Motivated Maids way.”
But as soon as they stepped away, there would be turnover, leading to more frequent trips and higher overhead to train new cleaners.
Adding Trainual to the team
Mark knew he could only do so much to keep his cleaners around, especially when some of them would always see this job as temporary.
“Even with my pay system, I couldn’t pay the cleaners enough money to increase employee retainment.”
So, he focused on streamlining the training process to make it easier, faster, and less costly to get new hires totally up to speed without missing a beat when someone moves on.
After trying several traditional learning management systems (LMS) and feeling dissatisfied with all of them, Mark discovered a different kind of knowledge sharing software - Trainual.
Trainual organized all his company knowledge into one, searchable place. And with it, everyone on his team could access the how-tos and need-to-knows from anywhere. It was simpler to set up, easier to use, and more affordable.
“The other LMSs I tried were too complicated,” said Mark. “But Trainual has all the power I need, plus more. And it’s packaged in a way that I wasn’t afraid of breaking it. I didn’t feel like I had to have everything perfectly documented to move forward.”
Almost immediately after getting started, Trainual alleviated the need for Mark and his team to fly out and train new hires, saving his company thousands of dollars a year.
Motivated Maids increased their marketing efforts and increased their hiring. In the first month of marketing, they received over 5,000 new customer applications and with Trainual, trained enough cleaners to meet that demand.
Doubling down on documentation
But Mark still struggled to document the more specific how-tos and need-to-knows of his business, including the systematic processes of cleaning a home efficiently as well as the science behind the methods.
“The problem for me was that I couldn’t get my business out of my head,” he said. When there is so much to document, it can feel overwhelming to know where exactly to start. So, rather than taking on the challenge of documenting his business by himself, Mark invited his top cleaners to help.
Providing snacks, coffee, and anything else they would need, Mark set his team to work documenting the business. It didn’t matter how long it took, and it didn’t need to be perfect, Mark just wanted it done.
After 8 weeks of hard work, his team completed the first draft of the content.
Positioned for optimal growth
With the knowledge captured, Mark is currently in the process of cleaning up the content to ensure that it is user-friendly and consistent. But even without it documented perfectly, Motivated Maids has already reported that turnover has become less of an obstacle.
Today, new hires, regardless of where they are located, go through Trainual on their own. And the results are as good as - if not better than - when Mark would fly out to train and onboard.
Positioned for optimal growth with Trainual, Motivated Maids is up to 250 cleaners and is projected to have 4 times that and $10 million in annual sales within the next 2 years.
But these projections were made before COVID-19 shut businesses around the world, including Motivated Maids.
Profitless amid the pandemic
“It felt like we lost it all,” Mark told us.
Like most countries, Canada enforced strict shutdown measures in late March that disrupted how businesses operate. For industries that could not pivot their services online - like cleaning businesses - this meant revenue running dry for the duration of the shutdown.
Seemingly overnight, Mark felt strained yet again to provide for his two girls.
Meanwhile, he worried that he would lose the content that his team had invested so much time and energy into creating. This content, the company knowledge, felt like their business insurance promising that everything would be okay when Motivated Maids could get back to what they do.
“I reached out to Trainual and explained that my business and I were in trouble. There was not even a hesitation,” Mark remembers.
All businesses were feeling the weight of the pandemic, ours included. But with our relationships with our customers being our topmost priority, our team made a conscious decision to do what we could to help them get through this. This includes protecting the knowledge housed in Trainual, even at the cost of a few months of subscription revenue.
Moving forward with Trainual
There’s no clear end in sight to this pandemic. But as countries start loosening their restrictions to jumpstart their economies - Canada included - Mark credits Trainual to why his business survived the last few months.
“If it was not for Trainual, I would be personally bankrupt right now during this virus,” Mark said, choking up.
Motivated Maids hosted a soft reopen in late May, allowing his team to clean empty houses. Mark anticipates to fully open in mid-June. When this happens, his team will be able to clean occupied houses with these new measures in place.
During the shutdown, Mark created content in Trainual covering these new health and safety measures, following the advice of the Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization. And he is happy to report that thanks to Trainual, his entire team is already up-to-speed and feel confident about the transition back to work in this new world.