Spend five minutes or less with Christine McDannell and her infectious enthusiasm and positive attitude will over take you! It is this outlook that has driven her to succeed in an industry known for stressful and difficult situations. In just five short years she has grown Cleanology to over half a million dollars year in sales in the highly competitive San Diego Downtown Market.
Christine was attracted to starting a home cleaning company because she saw a lack of professionalism in the industry. Her background was in real estate and she dealt with cleaning companies regularly. She knew that she wanted to be in business for herself. Low start-up costs, combined with a personal challenge to “do it better”, caused her to take the plunge and get into the house cleaning industry.
She knew from day one she would grow Cleanology into a large company. She started out with a few pieces of equipment and other needed items charged on a credit card. Her first two employees actually taught her how to clean homes; they literally trained her how to clean.
Cleaning homes herself early on in her business, Christine envisioned her company, even on the long hot sweaty days scrubbing toilets; she knew in her mind what Cleanology ultimately would be. She often, and still does, refer to a quote that has stuck with her, “The difference between real entrepreneurs and “wanna bes” is that “wanna bes” fear looking stupid in front of friends and family, true entrepreneurs willingly risk making fools of themselves knowing that long term success is good trade off for short term loss of dignity.”
Christine held on to this vision during her time working out in the field along side her cleaning employees. She knew it was a stepping stone to get her company and herself to where she wanted and knew it would be. She felt this quote fit her situation perfectly. She traded her sharp business outfits for a cleaning uniform and went to work cleaning in the same buildings she worked as a real estate agent.
Five years later she has built Cleanology into the largest cleaning company in downtown San Diego. She runs 6 crews and has over 168 repeat customers each month. Revenues are over $500K a year and continue to grow, even in the current economical climate.
Christine recently won the prestigious “Make Mine a Million” contest from American Express. She was flown to Florida for the final competition. She was competing against thousands of other companies. Her no-nonsense style and dedication to excellence naturally made her stand out and take the awards highest honor!
Launched in 2005 by Count Me In for Women’s Economic Independence and founding partner American Express OPEN, the Make Mine a Million $ Business program was created to help post-start up, women-owned businesses grow to one million dollars in annual revenue. Since its inception, the program has hosted 19 competitions in cities around the country and grown into a nationwide movement. For the Florida event, more than 1,500 applications were submitted in hopes of securing one of the finalist spots.
Described as a cross between “The Apprentice” and “American Idol,” the competition provides these twenty five finalists the opportunity to present their business in a 3 minute “elevator pitch” to a panel of business experts and a live audience.
Running and sustaining a successful home cleaning company is not an easy task. There are many complex relationships and situations that have to be navigated with finesse. Christine’s advice to other home cleaning service owners is to develop a board of advisers; other service owners and colleagues you can use as a sounding board to help grow and keep you on the track to the success you want.
She is intrigued by how much the industry is changing and the changes she has experienced first hand. This change is evident in all aspects of the industry. In particular she sees major change in increased awareness around green cleaning. This area is especially important to her. The platform of her entire company is built around “green” healthy cleaning. She sees it as a personal challenge to continuously educate herself and develop her company as ‘green”, Christine defines green cleaning as, using non-toxic supplies and equipment to create a non toxic living environment for her customers, rather than cleaning a home and creating a toxic environment with harsh chemicals. This also creates a safer work environment for her employees.
Christine’s motivation to have Cleanology be a green company comes from her upbringing, growing up in Southern California conservation and protecting the environment has been ingrained in her.
She also feels that cleaning supplies and products have caught up with technology and green products are just as effective as other products. As an astute business owner she sees opportunity to position Cleanology as a leader in the area of green cleaning. It is not only the right thing to do, it is the future.
Her outlook for 2009 is bright; she feels it is going to be a great year. She has positioned herself to expand by drastically increasing her marketing efforts. Recently she has more than tripled her marketing budget to facilitate expected growth.
She feels frustrated when she sees home cleaning service owners self impose their own glass ceilings. Everyone in the industry talks about a million dollar company, Christine asks, “why not 5 million, why not more”. Looking back on lessons learned the hard way; she says that she would have figured out early on to get rid of the bad apples right away before they spoil the whole bunch. Because of a problem she let go too long, she lost half of her staff in one day in March of 2007. Hire slow, fire fast; don’t wait to take care of a problem.
The best piece of advice she would give to someone just getting into the industry, is value the complaints you get, even welcome them. If you are willing to listen to the customer that will take their time to share complaints, you can take that valuable information to build a better, stronger company.
Editor’s note: Since this article was originally published Christine has sold Cleanology and launched Social Starfish a social media company committed to helping business owners build a presence and position their businesses to increase ROI on social media efforts. Christine shares her knowledge and success as leverage for home cleaning service owners.
To learn more about Christine and Social Starfish visit her company website at www.socialstarfish.com.
Service owners that enjoyed this article and want to read about other successful service owners that have been featured might also like “Survival in the Home Cleaning Industry” about service owner Renee Rawcliffe, “Respect is Key for this Home Cleaning Service Owner“, about Enid Tate-Shephard, and “The New Face of the Professional Home Cleaning Industry“, featuring Amy Boggs.