Inspiration through Connection

Do you speak to others in your profession?  More specifically, do you utilize the knowledge, the expertise, of people who have been doing the same job as you for longer or with more success?  Better yet, can you help someone else by connecting?

When we started Freedom Cleaning, we knew the basics of cleaning.  We knew how to clean.  We knew the basics of business, all about profit margins and basic accounting practices and such.  What we lacked was specific information on the cleaning business; attracting customers, the going rate for a cleaning service, etc..  We found a ton of people who, for a price (some quite hefty, I might add), would be willing to share their information on how to start and run a cleaning business.  What were their credentials, though?  They claimed to have started and run cleaning businesses, but we only had their word for that. 

And then we stumbled across a couple of websites that yes, required a small fee to join, but also had a vast amount of information for free.  Information from other cleaning service owners, some who had been in business for years and years and were doing quite well.  One of these websites, MyHouseCleaningBiz.com, has discussion forums where you can ask questions about running your business.  Jean and her husband Steve (who runs the commercial cleaning website, The Janitorial Store), are amazing sources of information on how to run a cleaning business.  We were fortunate enough to meet them a couple of times.  At their websites you can find out anything.  Want to know how to hire a quality employee?  Just ask and you will get answers from several different cleaning service owners who have had employees for years.  They will tell you the ins and outs, the ups and downs and help you avoid all the mistakes that, perhaps, they made.  It was like finding a gold mine.

But then, something happened.  Maybe I got cocky.  Maybe I got wrapped up in my business and thought I didn’t have time to connect, even if it was just electronically.  Maybe I figured I had eclipsed these learned people and didn’t need them anymore.  Perhaps I thought, ‘What good can these people do my business?’.  Whatever the reason, I stopped contributing to the forums.  I stopped asking questions.  I stopped connecting.

When I joined Facebook a couple of years ago, I found cleaning service owners and mentors again.  Some were very near to me.  Near enough to be considered competitors.  Some were in other states.  But they all had ideas and advice.  They all had something to contribute to me and vice versa.  The same could be said for Linked In and Twitter.  Social Media had opened yet another door for me to learn and grow as a business person. 

But what if you want to connect face to face?  One of the tight ropes you walk when you are the owner and operator of a small business is conventions or conferences.  There are several in our chosen profession every year.  They are held all over the country and offer an opportunity to meet the people we come in contact with online.  To speak, face to face.  The trouble with these is that they usually run hundreds of dollars just to get in, not mention the airfare to get to them, hotel costs, meals, etc.  Sure, you could write it all off, but it’s an up-front cost that maybe you just can’t justify.  Plus, as the operator of your business, who is going to do the job while you’re gone?  Sure, there are networking events, but there is no guarantee that someone from your industry will be attending.

Last week I was fortunate enough to be able to meet Amy Boggs.  Amy runs Sparkling Palaces Cleaning in Portland, Oregon.  Amy is one of the most driven women I have ever met.  She has big plans for her business and my opinion is; you’d better not stand in her way.  She was in town shooting a training video for Activeion, a revolutionary new cleaning tool that I can’t possibly try to explain here.  We met for an hour and I left wishing that I had several more hours to pick her brain.  She had so many thoughts and ideas, that my head was spinning when I left.

Ok, I’ve gotten really long-winded on this one.  My point is, seek out others in your profession.  Connect on a personal level and you will find answers to questions you may not even know you had.  This doesn’t work just for the cleaning business, but for any business.  If you own a business, if you work in a business, look for others and connect with them.  You will find yourself to be energized and inspired, I promise.

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