By the headline, you can see that this topic is spanning several issues of Cleanfax. You can see what we have covered thus far in the May, July and August 2013 issues.

This month, we will consider two vital points you must consider when trying to build your cleaning or restoration business.

The first…

Excellence starts with you!

I’m sure you know that defining your expectations and communicating them, while very important and necessary steps, are not nearly enough to create excellence throughout your company. Excellence starts with you.

If your company is as small as Lucy’s Lemonade Stand or as large as a multi-national conglomerate, the leader must be the hub, the icon, the exemplar of excellence. 

Lucy (she is wise beyond her years) arrives at her lemonade stand ready for work wearing crisp, clean clothing, not her ripped, dirty clothes she wears to play football on the empty lot. She knows that excellence starts with her and that her staff (that’s her friend Charlie) is watching; she doesn’t want him to present her “freshly squeezed, icy-cold lemonade” to her customers and prospects with anything other than excellence, a sprig of fresh mint, a straw and a napkin and a smile to the customers. 

That’s how Lucy has defined excellence for her product/service. How do you define excellence for yours?

Lucy delivers excellence on every transaction. Do you deliver excellence on every transaction?

She has communicated her excellence expectations to her staff. Have you communicated your excellence expectations to your staff?

She expects Charlie to deliver excellence on every transaction. Do you expect your staff to deliver excellence on every transaction? 

If you have communicated that you are working to build a company based on excellence, it is important to recognize that you are constantly being judged against the excellence standards you have created and communicated:

  • If you talk about serving your clients with integrity, you must actually treat your clients, your staff and your vendors with integrity, because “excellence starts with you.”
  • If you talk about providing quality service and quality work, you can’t “shave” your quality or service to make an extra buck when you feel your clients are not looking, because “excellence starts with you.”
  • If you talk about treating everyone with fairness, you can’t cheat customers, vendors and staff, because “excellence starts with you.”
  • If you make promises, you must keep them, because “excellence starts with you.”

And if excellence starts with you, then — quite frankly — you must always be excellent, not “OK,” not “good enough,” not “mediocre,” not “pretty good,” not even “good most of the time.”

Being excellent means you are setting an example for the entire company. You are the person who sets the excellence standards, the one person who has communicated your excellence standards, and the one person who must insist that those excellence standards are adhered to. 

Now, we all know that we are not perfect. We all make mistakes. We all make errors in judgment. 

Many people recognize their imperfections and leave it at, figuring they, and their businesses, are “good enough.” Others, especially those who aspire to own and manage a business that is known for excellence of product, service and relationships with their prospects, clients, staff, vendors and stakeholders recognize that “good enough” really isn’t “good enough” and so they work at becoming better.

What does that mean? It means that you have personal standards for your own performance. When you are known and respected for your excellence, it becomes so much easier to hold others accountable.

  • If you have deadlines, you meet those deadlines; if you are known for meeting your own deadlines, it is much easier to insist that others meet their deadlines. They can’t give you those lame “the dog ate my homework” excuses because the dog doesn’t eat your homework.
  • If you have made promises to others, you keep them; if you are known for keeping your promises, it is much easier to insist that others keep their promises to you.
  • If you have said something that was misunderstood, instead of doubting their ability to listen, you seek to understand how you can be more clearly understood the next time. It becomes much easier to insist others communicate clearly as well.
  • If you make a mistake, instead of pointing fingers to hide your guilt, take ownership of the error and make it right immediately. Most people understand that you are fallible (since they know they are fallible also) and will respect you for not trying to cover up the error — as long as you amend the error quickly. If you doubt this point, think of the politicians and business leaders who get caught making a mistake of some kind.

If your culture of excellence starts with you, and once you become that icon, you will lead your whole company to excellence!

Measure results publically

The standards you set need to be measurable. Put pressure on yourself and staff by making the results public (inside the company). It’s the only way to hold you and the whole company accountable. 

There is a large steel mill in the town I grew up in. At the entrance of the mill there was, and probably still is, a large billboard with a simple message: “Days Without a Work-Loss Accident.” Below that statement was a number which was changed every day. That number would get larger each day until there was a work-loss injury, when the number would be reset to “0.”

Now, a steel mill is a very dangerous place to work. Huge overhead ladles hold molten steel, people work next to red-hot slabs, railroad tracks transverse the plant, cranes carry rolls of steel throughout the plant; there are hundreds, if not thousands, of ways someone can, in the blink of an eye, be injured and even killed because of a momentary oversight. Safety is a big, important issue. That billboard was just one way of monitoring the results of safety campaigns by calling attention to this one metric: Days without a time-loss accident.

So why should this story be of interest to you? Your business is not a steel mill. Your business is, by comparison to a steel mill, a simple and safe business. Yet, by measuring important excellence points and announcing them to everyone concerned, you are announcing their importance and that you are monitoring them. It makes your staff aware that they are accountable for excellence and makes them aspire to reach those standards. 

You can emphasize your standards and whether they are achieving them in meetings or charts on the wall of the break room or office. And these topics should come up in performance reviews. The goal is to get the attention of everyone in the company and help them concentrate on elevating the company to your excellence standards. 

When you lead with excellence and measure for excellence and hold everyone accountable, you are well on your way to achieving a culture of excellence for your company.

Test yourself and your company with my free “Culture of Excellence” self-assessment. It is a list of 12 questions to discover where you are on the “excellence spectrum.” Send an e-mail to Larry@LarryGaller.com. Put “Excellence” in the subject line along with your name, company name, city and state.

Larry Galler specializes in coaching owners of small businesses to grow their business through effective marketing, customer retention programs and systemizing their business practices. Explore how he can help you during a free coaching session by calling (219) 464-9463 or e-mail Larry@LarryGaller.com. Visit his website at www.OneYearToGreatness.com.