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Reliability in Carpet Cleaning

I own a carpet cleaning company in Dakota County, Minnesota.  The other day, the head of public works for the city of Hopkins informed me that the last company he hired to clean the carpets stood him up.  This was a job large enough to send two vans out.  Neither van showed up.  He was surprised because he hears their commercials on the radio several times a day and they claim to be the best in the industry.  City accounts are very large and lucrative accounts.  I don’t understand how any company, no matter how large or how fast they grew, could overlook any account, let alone one as large as a city government.

The problem with standing up a client is not as simple as just losing that account.  Everyone he speaks to about carpet cleaning now will hear about his negative experience.

There needs to be checks and balances to make sure that no account gets overlooked.  Phone calls should be made at the earliest sign that crews might be late to a job, even if only by a few minutes.  Waiting and wondering if a vendor will show up on time, or at all, is not a comforting feeling.  This anxiety leaves a bad taste in the mouth of the client, even if the job does end up being completed in the end, and the carpet cleaning turns out well.

At the very least, being late or standing up a client removes any chance for referrals, though usually the account is also lost forever.  To large franchises that advertise to get their business, this may appear less important, however, to any growing business referrals and satisfaction is a matter of survival.

Sales Force or Carpet Cleaners?

Carpet cleaners have earned themselves a bad reputation for several reasons.  Many of the reasons, like rusted white vans, are not practiced by a large portion of the industry, but still affect this perception.  One behavior, above all others, is practiced by nearly every carpet cleaning company.  Whether you call it shotgun sales, overcoming objections, or simply upselling, the difference between a financially stable carpet cleaner and one scraping by is their ability to achieve difficult sales bonuses.  These bonuses are usually based on an average increase in the size of a customer’s bill.  This means the main focus of each carpet cleaner is getting the customer to pay more money than they originally were quoted.  This is the job of a marketing company or sales force, not the job of a carpet cleaner.

This also means that once a carpet cleaner has realized that his sale is not going well, he either tries to overcome the objections of the client, or move on to the next client as fast as possible.  Often on two man teams, the crew chief can be found acting as a salesman nearly the whole job while his assistant does all the cleaning.  This is not conducive of ensuring they provide the best service possible.

Another problem these actions pose is that these carpet cleaners are being trained in sales instead of carpet cleaning.  This valuable time would be much better spent training in the technical aspects of carpet cleaning.  Keep in mind: “service” should be the main focus of the “service” industry.  My family owns the Commercial Steam Team, a commercial heavy carpet cleaning company in the Twin Cities Area of Minnesota.  Personally, I believe in training and rewarding carpet cleaners for cleaning carpets, not sales.  I do understand the temptation to become a sales-heavy company; everyone would like more money in their pockets.  I just think we can be a little more patient and let that growth happen through the volume increase associated with referrals and quality, instead of marketing through advertising and then marketing to them again in the home.  The more put off the public is from these bad experiences, the more difficult it is to overcome their objections.  This increases the sales pressure, which in turn, increases the negative outlook on carpet cleaners, and the cycle continues.  If we all did it the right way, the industry would have a much better reputation, there would be more consumers for our services, meaning we would all make more money.  It would not occur overnight, however, but as Obie Wan said,  “Patience, my young Pad Wan.”

The Importance of Responsible Driving in a Service Vehicle

I own a commercial carpet cleaning company in the Twin Cities Area of Minnesota and my crews are always on the road.  Usually, they are traveling from our shop in Burnsville, Minnesota to a carpet cleaning job at a Plymouth, Minnesota home to an upholstery cleaning job in Northfield, Minnesota then up to Roseville, Minnesota to clean the carpets at a restaurant and then back to Burnsville, Minnesota to pack it in for the night.  With all this driving it is so very important to drive carefully for several reasons:

  • A van with a logo and phone number is a moving billboard.  Every move made on the road can affect public opinion of our company.
  • Repairs after an accident can be very expensive.
  • You can’t clean carpet while the van is being repaired.  This lost time is lost money.
  • Employees can get injured in an accident.  This is bad on both a personal and business level.  These employees have families that love and depend on them.  Also they can’t clean carpets if they are too hurt to do so.
  • Injuries to others out on the road can be tragic and costly.  Although insurance should cover it, rates are sure to go up.  These people also have families and loved ones that can suffer for their injuries as well.

I’m sure there are many more reasons to be safe out on the road, but these stand out to me.  Nothing is more tragic than the loss of life or quality of life due to a senseless accident.  I am so proud that my employees have never had an accident, both for the safety of my employees and for the safety of everyone else in the Minneapolis/St. Paul and surrounding areas of Minnesota.  Keep up the great work guys.

40 Years of Marriage

Russell Hamline Zakariasen ll, or as we call him Russ Sr. and his wife Lynda, formerly Lynda Lee, have been married for 40 years as of January 16, 2011.  I could not be more proud of my business partner and father (for hanging onto a catch like my mother).  And I couldn’t be more proud of my mom (for hanging in there)  Just kidding, they have done what each of us hope to do in our lives and that is live them to the fullest and share it with those we love.  Both born and raised in Hopkins Minnesota.  As an elementary school teacher my mother, Lynda, has achieved her Masters degree and influenced not only the lives of her own children but also those of hundreds of children in her classes in Burnsville Minnesota as well.  Dad has been an adventurous soul from building Cedar Hills Golf and Ski club with his father in Eden Prarie Minnesota, to gold mining in Quincy California, then came home to opening one of the first quit smoking clinics in the country right here in Edina Minnesota.  He finally found his place in the world by teaming up with his two sons Ryan and Russ Jr. in the carpet cleaning industry.  Together, with the unimaginable patience and faith of Mom, the three of them started the Commercial Steam Team and have enjoyed every moment of this rollercoaster ride.

Congratulations Mom and Dad for 40 years that I couldn’t begin to describe in a short blog post.  May you have another 40 years even greater than the last.

Meet The Team: Russ Sr.

Hiring a carpet cleaning company is a big decision.  The right company makes your life easier and the wrong company makes your life temporarily revolve around something or someone who shouldn’t be the center of your universe.  Here at Commercial Steam Team we want you to know who you will be working with.  Today we focus on Russ Sr.  He is one of the owners and does the carpet and upholstery estimates for commercial clients.

In addition to my business partner Russ Sr. is also my father.  Raised in Hopkins Mn, he married a beautiful Hopkins native and elementary school teacher named “Mom”. Lol. j/k.  Her name was Lynda Lee, now Lynda Zakariasen for the past 40 years.

Dad has had a varied work life since he was a child.  He has done everything from ski instructor to gold miner, landscaper to stock broker.  He has finally sat still in Burnsville MN for the last 13 years working with his two sons, Ryan and Russ, and his daughter-in-law, Angie.

Russ has a passion for the sport of Golf and has won many tournaments and club championships.  Belonging to Northfield Golf Club, “Zak”, as he’s known at the club, has found the friendships and competition that he has always been looking for.  I can say from watching my father that he has never been happier than he is now.  Having found places that he truly belongs in both his social and work life he is bursting with joy.

Here’s a little Q&A to get to know him better.

Q. Why did you get into the carpet cleaning industry?

A. My two sons were working in the industry and I thought what greater dream could a proud papa have then to work side by side with my children.

Q. What do you like about the carpet cleaning industry?

A. I like that I can see the results on each job when we are done.  There aren’t a lot of industries that have such tangible results.

Q. Why commercial estimating?

A. I do all the estimates because that is the best opportunity to meet and get to know every customer.

Q. What was most important to you when starting Commercial Steam Team?

A. That we treat every customer and every employee with respect and honesty.

Q. What is it like working with your family?

A. It is by far the best work experience I have ever had.

In a side note, Dad would pay our employees out of his own mortgage when we didn’t even have enough money to pay ourselves.  This is one of the reasons that I am so proud to be both his son and his business partner.  I would hope every client see him for who he is, one of the “good guys”.