Finding the Silver Lining
How Clean as Can Bee Harnessed New Opportunities
In March 2020, Clean as Can Bee business partners, Paul and Craig, walked out of a growth seminar brimming with ideas. They couldn’t wait to get started on restructuring the company to harness its organic growth. But when COVID-19 restrictions kicked in just days afterwards, they lost three quarters of their customers. Plans were about to change in a way they could never have predicted.
Cleaning is Not a Dirty Word
“We are sick and tired of the way people look down on the cleaning industry and its workers, considering both to be of low socio-economic worth.”
As I interview them in their home-based office, the vibrancy with which co-owners, Paul and Craig, explain their vision for Clean as Can Bee is refreshing.
“Whenever we get together, we want to talk about our passion – how we can grow our business to help more people and their families. Besides that we’re quite boring, really.”
Starting out fresh from Canada, Paul, his wife and his son combined their collective strengths to form a cleaning business. Gaining a reputation for quality real estate exit cleans, they expanded to residential and commercial jobs. But the business was never only about creating a family legacy. For Paul, it was about who they could bring with them on the journey.
“You only need to turn on the news to see the latest industrial relations breakdown within the cleaning industry. It’s not well regulated, resulting in a systemic problem of money-hungry cleaning services taking advantage of workers.”
Clean as Can Bee takes a different approach.
They have a catchy vision. Staff recruit more staff because they love their jobs. Their motto rings true as they raise the image of the cleaning industry: Teaching the world that cleaning is NOT a dirty word.
When COVID Hit
Business restrictions laid out by government on 22 March had immediate impact. All residential cleaning contracts were placed on hold to avoid the risk of contagion in peoples’ homes. In a knee-jerk reaction, fifty percent of commercial customers cancelled jobs, large and small.
There was no guarantee that Clean as Can Bee would get those customers back.
As the weeks passed, the remaining commercial customers had far less need for cleaning, since many of their employees were working from home. More work was lost.
Making it Work
Sourcing New Work
It was a dilemma. Clean as Can Bee had to let go of their reliable income streams – residential and commercial cleans. They were forced to seek new cleaning avenues.
But cancelled jobs meant more time to think, and ideas on the back burner became conversation pieces. What about mountain bike cleaning? Motorbike cleaning? Carpets?
They had nothing to lose by activating new ideas.
Over the next 2 months they identified an additional three vertical markets that could make them a better business. Aiming to become a one-stop shop for real estate, they would make carpet cleaning and yard care their business. Decision made, they got cracking on streamlining the processes.
Finding Workers Got Harder
Quality cleaning staff had always been scarce, but with the government rollout of JobKeeper, few people were in desperate need of work. Recruitment agencies yielded nothing.
Applications from higher end income earners looking for supplements to their JobKeeper allowances were a short-lived glimmer of hope. Unused to manual labour, all of them fled at the first signs of hard graft, like cleaning blood off the floor of a medical clinic. Guarding against a high staff turnover, Clean as Can Bee quickly ended that path.
“Our customers often want to know who will be cleaning for them,” Paul said. “They love our cleaners, and they love the fact that the same cleaner stays on.”
The staffing roadblock facilitated a new idea.
Craig turned to contacts servicing the NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme) to explore employment of a person with a disability. The plan worked! More on that below.
Real-time number crunching
To qualify for JobKeeper for their staff, Clean as Can Bee had to provide clear numbers to the government. Eligibility required certain changes—the single touch payroll for a start. It sparked another opportunity.
Paul knew that their accounting processes could be better streamlined by adjusting business structures for organic growth. Now seemed like a good time for change.
Guided by ATO compliance guidelines for COVID-19, Clean as Can Bee permanently implemented new pay structures. Shifting workers from being subcontractors to employees meant they would secure employee benefits. While this was a lot of work, the restructure placed the business in a position to grow exponentially faster.
The Resilience Factor
Generosity – A Chance to Give Back
What would motivate a business to provide free services when everyone else was holding on tightly to their money? That question sparked this interview. The answer, it seems, sprang from a deep faith and the foundational company value of generosity.
“We’ve been very blessed,” says Paul.
He has always seen the business as a God-given assignment. “It’s not just a [marketing] strategy… I don’t drive a brand new car. We want to be genuinely generous. I want a large business to be able to help more people. The more you can give away, the more families you can help. Every employee has a family around them.” This is the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’. When the going gets tough – which it does – Paul draws strength from the meaning behind all that they do.
Once the business took stock of what they could still accomplish in the lockdown, they wanted to help their customers. Free cleaning for floundering businesses, like the one that could no longer afford their warehouse and needed an exit clean, was a no-brainer.
Another way they helped was by becoming government-approved to sanitise by COVID Safe protocol. They were able to relieve customers of mandatory extra cleaning regimes, and provided the additional time and disinfectant supplies free of charge.
A bright future with NDIS candidates
It took some trial and error before the new NDIS recruit found his groove, but once Clean as Can Bee identified a job that built on his strengths, it opened up a new section of business that they’d always considered – car detailing.
“He is keen, he is fun and he is really, really good at what he does,” Craig said.
They discovered that people with a disability are generally more eager to work than those without. It was a breath of fresh air at a time when there were many obstacles to overcome.
Tips from Clean As Can Bee
Let Go and Look For the Silver Lining
Too many businesses try to survive whatever event knocks them by holding onto the things they’ve always done. The secret is to let go when a strategy is no longer feasible and look for the silver lining in every situation. If you hold on too tightly, you might end up losing it anyway.
Seek New Opportunities
A business needs to continue to expand its borders and search for new opportunities. That way, when business is lost, which is inevitable, there is new business waiting in the wings to replace it. Roll with the punches and keep a finger on the pulse of what customers need from you right now.
New Plans Take Time to Grow
Implementing growth ideas during a crisis takes time. New products or services initially might only replace the business you’ve lost, but you won’t be going backwards. When the crisis is over, you’ll find yourself operating at a higher level, and better placed to thrive.
Paul and Craig view COVID-19 obstacles as a blessing. The need to survive the pandemic facilitated better understanding of their business, leading to a more complete business model.
And the other good news: They’ve re-signed contracts with ALL their previous residential and commercial customers.
Clean as Can Bee continues to grow at a remarkable rate year on year. Their future, says Craig, looks brighter than ever.
See For Yourself
Clean as Can Bee would love to hear from you.
- Do you have a similar story to theirs? They love a good chat.
- Do you know of potentially good cleaners looking for work in the North Brisbane area?
- Want a quote?
- Want to share a message of support?
You’ll find them here:
- Visit their website: www.cleanascanbee.com.au
- Phone or text to let them know how they can help: 0404 258 785
- Send an email: firstname.lastname@example.org