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Priority Setting Guide for Cleaning Business Owners in 2018

So, it’s finally the end of the year and the start of a new one. While this is the perfect time to take a few days off to recover, it’s important for us to be completely honest with ourselves and our business about how we’ve done this past year, and what we want to accomplish in 2018.

With that in mind, I’ve written an in-depth guide for cleaning business owners that will prove incredibly useful in growing your business while decreasing your stress from running it.

I am going to show you the quick and dirty way to set your goals, organize them, focus on what’s important, and delegate the rest.

And I’m going to do it using Think Maids, my own cleaning business, as an example for you all.

Let’s get started!

Goal setting

We all have dozens of goals that we want to see accomplished, but for this exercise I want you to choose the three most important goals of 2018 for your business. You will have time for your other goals later, but by focusing on your 3 big goals the others should naturally fit into your plans.

For Think Maids in 2018 here are our three goals for 2018:

1. Triple revenue from our Window & Carpet Cleaning Services.

2. Reach $75,000/mo total (with $15k+ from carpet/windows)

3. Donate 5% of total revenue to local autism charities.

This is important: Only choose three goals for now. Because if you do this right, and if execute on your plan you will reach your three goals well before the end of 2018, and it will allow you to work on your other ones

Work backwards and turn your goals into to-do lists

After you have clarity on your 2018 business goals, the next crucial step is to break each goal down into actionable daily, weekly, and quarterly steps.

While this may sound like an enormous task, and you probably have visions of a dozen different to-do lists with hundreds of tasks, you can actually flesh out most of it in around an hour. Spend 20-30 minutes writing down what actions and tasks you need to do for each of the three goals.

This is worth doing because the most important thing in achieving your goals is holding yourself accountable, and a to-do list not only serves as a reminder but as a most powerful way to hold yourself consistently accountable.

Here’s just one of my to-do list for Think Maids. It is an end-of-year one with some miscellaneous tasks I need to get done.

Our main to-do lists are: Marketing (Free/Paid), Sales, Follow-up, Teams, and Daily. This gets a little granular because we have a main section for each list, and then have subtasks for each task within it. Once it’s organized everything runs like a charm though.

Now, if you read the above image carefully you’ll notice that in front of each of task there is a letter. This is what is called the ABCDE system of prioritization. Equally super simple and super powerful. Once you have your goals and to-do lists complete the next step is to assign a letter to each of the to-dos depending on how important they are. An ‘A’ is crucial, a ‘B’ is very important, all the way down to an ‘E’ which basically means it would be nice if it got done eventually.

This is one of the simplest ways to stay on track because it prevents overwhelm by giving you a visual on what the most important task to do is at any given time.

I can’t stress this enough: You need to get organized, because one of the biggest sources of stress as a cleaning business owner is jumping between a million different things every day, especially when you have calls coming in every 5 minutes, texts coming in asking where your team is, emails when you’re on the phone, your teams are late, a customer is accusing a team of stealing something, there’s no parking, you just got a big bill you forgot about, and on and on. We have half a dozen things happening simultaneously and without clarity you have no hope of getting anything important done.

Prioritize, then delegate

Okay, now you know what your goals are, and you know exactly what needs to be done. The next step is to figure out what YOU need to do and what someone else can do. Here’s a hint… You only need to do 10% of it.

Here a few examples of things that might be doing now, but you shouldn’t be doing forever:

– Answering phones

– Managing customers or teams

– Playing around with your website

– Handling complaints

– Switching tasks every 10 minutes for the newest thing that comes up

– Trying to explain why your team forgot their vacuum, but yes we’re a real cleaning company I promise.

You get the gist. Anything that is mind numbing or stressful you should hand off to someone better suited for it. You shouldn’t be doing any of the C, D or E tasks on your to-do list. You should only be doing A and B tasks.

But what are A and B tasks?:

– Leading your company’s brand and direction

– Growing your company (marketing/sales)

– Fostering a great company culture

That’s it.

Go back through your to-do list one more time. For every task or duty that you don’t need to do yourself mark it as “delegate”. You will see why shortly.

Now I know it’s all well and good to just tell you to start delegating everything you don’t want to do, but I actually have a lot of experience doing this. As the owner of Inova Local I train virtual assistants and virtual managers for cleaning businesses every week. So I know the stuff works and I know how important it is because I’m inside dozens of cleaning business owners businesses every week giving suggestions and helping optimize their business.

One of the hardest things is letting someone else come into your business and start handling core tasks for you. Physically it can be a huge stress relief, but mentally you will be anxious about how competent they are, that only you know how to do it the right way etc. It’s a huge mindset shift, but one that must happen otherwise you can never grow beyond a certain threshold…because it will become simply too much for one person to handle.

How to Start Delegating

Note: If you don’t have a virtual assistant or virtual manager yet I am happy to help you get a trained professional who will transform your business. I own Inova Local, a virtual assistant company that works with cleaning businesses to handle all the tasks you hate for you. We handle your customers, your teams, phones, email and follow-up. I currently offer 20% off to people connected with me through LinkedIn. You can schedule a call here:

1. Have an honest conversation with your VA or manager about what their duties are. Find out where their strengths overlap with the job, and more importantly what they are NOT good at.

2. Assign duties they are strong at or have experience with. For example, if they have prior customer support experience they should be great handling incoming phone calls or customer complaints.

3. Remember the to-do list I had you do earlier? On all the to-dos you marked “delegate” start transitioning some of those into your VAs to-do list.

4. Don’t forget to set an ABCDE priority to each of their tasks just like you did. They need direction from you at the beginning, and you can’t just drop all your tasks on them at once, otherwise they will quickly burn out.

5. When you assign specific tasks the wording is very important. For example, earlier last year I told my two VAs that we just started offering carpet cleaning and to upsell people on the phone. But because I was not specific enough about it they were unsure of how to do that. As a result the task wasn’t being done properly. When I went back and reviewed that at our weekly review I made the task more specific for them and I said “When someone books a deep or move-in/move-out cleaning offer them our Carpet Cleaning Service as an add-on”. Since I made that task clearer we have been selling around 1/4 customers people who book a deep or move-out clean on our carpet cleaning service.

Specific Delegation tips:

– For small 2-20 minute tasks that pop up during the day use WhatsApp to message your team.

-Batch small tasks together. For example, at Think Maids this is our batching schedule:

Batch 1 (9-10am): Charge customers from the day before, do next-day follow up, answer hiring ads, answer support emails.

Batch 2 (12-1pm): Book recurring appointments, find teams for unassigned bookings, handle complaints/disputes (trust me, try waiting a couple hours before handling minor complaints and assign a time to handle them, otherwise you will be handling them all day and it’ll ruin your day).

Batch 3: (4-5pm) Put customer cards on hold, handle any team issues, renew ads/marketing, send out team schedule, miscellaneous tasks.

Keeping on course during the year

It’s all well and good to write out the plan, create a beautiful to-do list, get a VA and get excited. However, one of the biggest problems you will face throughout the year is a lack of focus, and a lack of accountability.

Let’s look at a couple good strategies that can keep you accountable on the micro (weekly) and macro (quarterly, yearly) level.

Weekly reviews

A weekly review is actually very easy to do and should only take you a few minutes. Because you’ve already set out your goals, and the tasks needed to achieve those goals, you simply need to measure honestly how consistently you did those tasks and if they brought you closer to your goals.

For example, on goal 2 for Think Maids ($75k/mo total revenue), my main task is “Bring in 4 new recurring customers each week”. At the weekly review I can simply ask myself “Did I accomplish this?”

You can take it one step further and ask yourself “Where did those recurring customers come from?” or “Why didn’t I accomplish this?” and then make adjustments for the week ahead.

A weekly review should not be complicated. I have seen too many business and goal-setting programs where they make your weekly reviews so complicated they take up 60 minutes. If your review takes you an hour every week the chances of you doing it consistently…are slim at best.

Instead, aim to have your weekly review take no more than 10 minutes by asking yourself the most important questions for each of your three goals.

Quarterly reviews

The other type of review that you should do is a quarterly review. As your business evolves over time and as you get busier, your goals and realistic expectations will naturally shift.

Things such as which marketing channel is most effective can also change for you over time. So it’s very important to regularly assess what is working best to to accomplish your goals. I know for Think Maids, in 2016 and the first half of 2017 we were earning more than 10K per month from Thumbtack every single month. Until a few months ago when Thumbtack changed their entire platform and we had to increase our spending dramatically in order to continue gaining that much new business from it each month. Now the marketing platforms that we’re going after the hardest have naturally shifted to the ones that have the best cost/conversion ratio.

At your quarterly review expect to spend around 1 to 2 hours going over everything. What you’re going to do is do the exact same thing as the weekly review, just in more detail. Assess how much closer your actions brought you to achieving you three big goals. You are also going to take the time to go through all of your to-do list, projects and other goals, reorganize them, cut out a lot of the fat that has developed over time, and finally assess if what you’re doing with your time is the most productive or if you can spend your time doing something better.

What to do with all your extra time

This last part is just to clarify what you should be doing with your time as the business owner. You should be marketing, creating partnerships, getting press for your business, and leading the direction of your team.

If your goal at the end of 2018 is to double or triple your revenue then you cannot spend your time worrying about what you need to do, or being constantly interrupted or you will never achieve those goals. You must structure your time and your business to allow you to have a laser focus on value-adding tasks.


1. Set your Big 3 business goals for 2018.

2. Flesh each of the goals out into projects and to-do lists.

3. Prioritize your tasks using the ABCDE system.

4. Figure out what YOU need to do, and delegate the rest.

5. Become comfortable with delegating simple tasks first, then bigger tasks as your team gets comfortable handling them.

6. Add Weekly/Quarterly reviews to hold you and your team accountable to the goals set.

7. Always find ways to spend more time and energy on your A/B tasks and less time and energy on your C/D/E tasks.

For most of us January is the slowest month of the year. This makes it the perfect time to figure out the best way to grow your business and make sure everything is running smoothly. Take the next few days to think hard about all of this and get started now!

Christopher Schwab.

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