By Chayse Roth
Following my final deployment in the Marine Corps, I knew I wanted to go into business for myself—a feat that didn’t come without roadblocks. My military experience didn’t directly translate to the civilian workforce, and I had no idea what kind of business would be a good fit for me and my family. Like many business owners before me, it took a “failed” venture for me to understand my strengths and find my niche.
The military had given me plenty of skills that lent themselves to success in the civilian world, including managing a budget, making critical decisions, and keeping a cool head under pressure. And it nurtured a strong moral foundation by instilling in me the principles of respect, integrity, and trust. I just needed to learn how to harness and apply those skills to a business—and I have.
In the almost five years I’ve been running my carpet cleaning business, I’ve learned there are five keys to operating any service business successfully.
1 | Bottlenecks hurt growth.
Every company has bottlenecks that can prevent growth and limit productivity. Take a step back and look at your entire operation to identify points that limit your ability to act quickly and efficiently, and work to eliminate them.
You may find your biggest problem is you, the owner or manager. You may be spread too thin, unable to give attention to important aspects of the business that require your involvement. If this is the case, perhaps it’s time to hire an assistant or office manager in order to free up your time for other activities, such as business development.
2 | People matter.
Your business wouldn’t exist without your customers and your employees; these people are your most important asset. As a manager, you’re a role model for your team and set the standard for work ethic and professionalism. It’s important that you foster an environment of integrity and teamwork.
Get to know your employees and understand what motivates them (hint: it might not always be money). There are many ways to show your team you care about them and that what they do is important. It can be as simple as complimenting their effort or rewarding them by taking them out to lunch. By showing appreciation, you’ll build camaraderie and create a workplace that people want to stick with.
On the flip side, be selective when it comes to building your team; not everyone is a good fit. You can teach skills, but you can’t teach personality and character.
The only people possibly more important than your employees are your customers. They’re your lifeblood and should be treated as such.
That said, not everyone is a good customer. Sometimes it’s better to cut ties with a customer if they’re inhibiting your ability to do your best work. Determine when it’s appropriate to fire a bad customer (like if they verbally abuse your employees), and do everything you can to maintain relationships with the great ones.
3 | Communication is critical.
No matter how much you think you’re communicating with your team, your customers, and your industry partners, it’s not nearly enough. Be proactive, provide clear instructions, and explicitly state that you’re open to feedback.
Communication is just as much about listening as it is about talking. Pay attention to how your messages are being received and adjust your approach as often as needed to improve results. Become an excellent communicator and it will positively impact your marketing efforts, your leadership abilities, your customer experience, and your business.
4 | Keep it simple.
It’s easy to overcomplicate everything. There are so many options, from the chemicals to tools to social media platforms. Don’t overwhelm yourself unnecessarily. Choose your favorite chemical for each application and cut out the rest. Buy equipment that can serve multiple purposes and train your employees so they become experts.
For social media, instead of trying to be everywhere on every platform, focus your efforts on the sites you’ll get the best return on investment from. Keep everything as simple as possible, so the excellent service you provide becomes the main attraction.
5 | Enjoy your work!
You should have a passion for your work and recognize the value in what you’re doing. You’ve chosen to be a part of an industry that exists to help people and make their lives better. Radiate positive energy that makes employees and customers want to work with your company.
There’s a lot of satisfaction that comes with providing an important and needed service. Take time to reflect on all the good you do each day and remember why you chose this industry to begin with. Leaving a customer’s home or workplace better than you found it and seeing the smile on their face is often the biggest reward.
Above all, don’t be discouraged when starting your business. You may encounter roadblocks and you may even fail, but stay true to yourself and your skills, and let your life experiences guide you. Prioritize the things and people who will help your business grow and thrive, and you’ll find that you’re more satisfied in your career because of it.
Take advantage of the lessons I learned (in some cases, the hard way). As a business leader, you have an opportunity to be a force of change for your employees, your customers, and your industry. With these five keys in mind, you’re already on your way.
Chayse Roth is the president and CEO of JDog Carpet Cleaning, a veteran-owned and operated franchise system. He served nearly 13 years in the U.S. Marine Corps and has opened and run many successful businesses since joining the civilian workforce.