Thursday, January 31, 2013

Cancelled Cleaning Contracts and Endings at Three in the Morning

My only contract is gone!
Good to be back with you, it’s been a while. I want to talk to you about endings and how they feel at three o’clock in the morning. Things change, endings happen and you get to learn something.

At three in the morning wisdom gives way to exhaustion, fear and confusion. Every so often we get to see clearly what keeps us going. In adversity our foundations are laid bare but we may or may not like what we see.

Over the last year I helped a client take over a chain of health care centers. This account had been cleaned previously by two cleaning contractors. One contractor had half of these centers for seven years and the other contractor had his half for over twenty years. Both of these contractors had only one client and that one client cancelled the contract. These were very profitable accounts and this cancellation was the end of their businesses.

New equipment, new people, new keys (in the dark) and new alarms, all together provide for an “eventful evening”. Starting a chain of health care centers all on the same night has a few surprises even with good planning. Phone calls, checklists, spray bottles fly by at supersonic speed. Mini pep talks are dispensed. The same questions get the same answers, sometimes in English and sometimes not.

After the last building is done it takes a while to decompress and the date changed a few hours ago. This time I thought about those contractors who had lost their only account. This was the first night both of them were missing their one and only account. It’s three o’clock in the morning and I wonder if they are sleeping? I wonder if they were thinking what they could have done differently and not be out of business tonight. I wonder how much free time they had over the years while they sat comfortably with their one account.

I wonder if it occurred to them that by visiting the next closest health care center consistently, RIGHT next to the one they had, would have doubled the size of their businesses. Losing half of your business is bad but not as bad as losing the whole thing.

I have a firm ten percent rule about cleaning contracts and particularly those big ones. How much does your biggest client mean to you in dollars, to your company? Your biggest client is what percentage of your total revenue? No single contract should be more than ten percent of your total revenue. If you have one big cleaning contract then you better go find another and you better do it fast. If your biggest source of revenue is only 10% and they cancel, it’s a completely different matter. You can sleep just fine.

Having only one account leaves you vulnerable (and there was not ONE THING either of these two contractors could have done to save this account). Sit back and relax with just one client and late one night at about three in the morning it will feel like your whole world just ended.

Every single cleaning contract has a ticking clock attached. I can tell you with absolute authority that at three in the morning you can hear the movement of the minute hand on your clock in the dark with no problem at all.