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Build Your Business for the Long Term

We all want our businesses to be successful and continue long term. In order to do so, we can look to examples of success to provide us with ideas of how to this.

Meet Marlo Kanipe, owner at Deserved Comfort House Cleaning in Columbia, SC (www.deservedcomfort.com). In business since 1986, the company is a member of the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce and the Better Business Bureau and has been providing service to many of the same clients for years. She has been an ARCSI/ISSA member since 2014. The business has a total of 14 full- and part-time employees.

Our Q&A discussion with Kanipe can give us insight on how to build our own businesses for the long term.

You’ve owned and managed a successful residential cleaning services company for 33 years. How did it all begin?

When I was in college, I worked at a bank full–time, and to make extra money, I cleaned for a few people. My mom was also in banking, and one day we started talking about how home cleaning would make a great business in our area. There was only one locally owned cleaning service and there were no franchises in our city yet.  

My mom did all the research and legwork to get our business started. We hired people, sent them out to clean, and just hoped that they’d do a good job. We only charged $20 for service back then, and it didn’t even matter what size the houses were! After a year, I quit the bank and worked full time in the company while I finished college. After graduation, I decided to build my career with Deserved Comfort.  

In 2000, my mother retired, and I began to manage the business on my own. It was then that I decided that as long as I could earn a decent living, I wanted to keep the business small. I figured, the more employees and clients, the more headaches!  

A 33-year track record of success doesn’t happen by accident, and at the ISSA Show North America 2019 in Las Vegas, you’re organizing a workshop entitled Build Your Business for the Long Term. Can you share a sneak peek at what attendees can look forward to at this workshop?

It has been my honor to serve as the chair for our Residential Show Committee this year. Our committee has planned a workshop to provide an interactive forum where business owners can help each other. Liz Trotter, owner of American Maid Cleaning in Olympia, WA, will lead this session that is designed to share stories, experiences, information, and ideas. There will be time for questions, and we expect a lively discussion.  

What new and emerging challenges is your business facing these days? Why?

It’s very difficult finding the right people for the job. Unemployment is low, and it seems we have a generation of people who do not want to do hard physical work. Cleaning houses is very demanding physically. Not everyone is willing or able to do this job all day, every day. In addition to being physically fit, successful employees must be able to follow procedures, provide attention to detail, and deliver great customer service. It’s a challenge.

Has anything become easier over the years? Why?

Today’s technology has made things much easier for me! Plus, a lot of things are easier because there’s not much I haven’t experienced in this business!  

Relationships that I’ve formed with other cleaning company owners through ARCSI also make things easier. It’s incredibly helpful to be able to learn from other people’s mistakes, take advantage of their discoveries, and have knowledgeable people ready and willing to talk with me about my challenges and ideas. It’s much faster and easier than recreating the wheel!

How has being a member of ARCSI/ISSA contributed to your success?

I attended my first convention in 2014 and I was blown away! I had no idea that there were other business owners out there just like me. There is a wealth of knowledge to be gained by attending the educational sessions and walking the trade show floor, but the real value is in the relationships that are formed.  

Since I joined five years ago, I have made many changes in the way we do things, and my revenue has nearly doubled. Most of our techs are certified house cleaning technicians.

What advice would you offer to other ARCSI/ISSA members who have recently started cleaning companies? How can they build their businesses for the long term?  

  1. Don’t try to be everything to everybody. Decide on a scope of work for your company, stick to it, and perfect it.  
  2. When problems arise, figure out how and why, and then develop or modify policies and procedures to avoid similar problems in the future.
  3. Hang in there! Understand that there will be highs and lows at every stage of business.
  4. Be sure to renew your membership with ARCSI!

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