Today, I am reflecting on the past and pondering the future as I sit at my computer. This is not that I am having difficulty coming up with New Year’s resolutions even though it is a little late. It is because Affordable Cleaning Services – ACS has officially been in business for ten years as of this March 2022. And, yes, “We have come a long way, Baby!”
When the original business plan was drawn up by our owner, Nick Dreeszen, there was a little more than a dream to work with. He had almost 12 years of experience in the cleaning industry working for All. Clean Janitorial which eventually went out of business. Nick was fortunate enough to buy the client list and a handful of equipment.
The staff consisted of two very part-time employees. The list of equipment included a carpet shampooer that the previous owner hoped would last the year, a vacuum, a handful of chemicals, a couple of mops, brooms, and rags. There was no funding or advertising other than credibility built while working and playing in the Iowa City community. This was certainly not a recipe that spelled success, but that was not the whole story.
Nick was able to obtain two clients from his previous employers. One of these was a small account for the University of Iowa. With this meager beginning, he intuitively followed the steps to cleaning business success. First, he started with the vision and the goal which became the basis for the company mission statement to help ease the burden of others daily lives and help them accomplish their goals and improve their lives by assisting with their cleaning needs.
Nick determined to offer personalized services at fair prices. He used his hustle by going door-to-door, offering free estimates to build his customer base, making sure clients and employees were treated fairly often referring to them as the ACS family. He even gathered friends to make the first ACS commercial.
His goal was to operate his business with the concept of paying employees a wage at the upper end of community industry average. He believed that by setting prices at a point that for every $10 earned by an employee, he could earn $1, ten employees working one hour would provide all of them with $10. Thus, his concept of helping others while helping himself, pushed him to help his clients at the same time, making sure they got their monies worth from services received. He offered a satisfaction guarantee and has stood behind that over the years. This attitude has paid off in employee retention, loyalty, and client satisfaction.
As the customer list grew, Nick had to learn how to manage his time carefully. At first, this was easy, but after a couple of years, he found it necessary to relocate to Des Moines. He realized that an office staff would be needed to assist with management and brought Paula into the business. She helped organize the office, creating forms and procedures, researching products and equipment always looking for new and better ways to do things. She even helped in the field training employees and picking up the slack if workload was more than employees could handle.
Over the years, ACS has found its niche, serving a variety of clientele from residential to commercial providing quality performance at a reasonable price. ACS has excelled in this endeavor by looking for ways to be involved in the community, winning the “Best of Community Award” two years in a row in the University of Iowa homecoming parade, joining with the Iowa City Area Business Partnership, and achieving the City’s Best Award in 2021 and 2022.
ACS has also been heavily involved in Families United Action Network – FUAN, a nonprofit working to help educate the public and affect legislation for Family Law Reform legislation and awareness meant to help protect and preserve the children and families of Iowa. ACS has also partnered with the Iowa City Shelter House, Hope House, Goodwill, Veterans Association, Iowa City Housing Authority other wonderful community organizations both to help provide employment, ”Clean Starts” for disadvantaged and cleaning services to the community.
The best reward ACS has received, however, is the relationships with clients and employees. Earning the respect of others in the community by providing quality services at reasonable rates is priceless.
The ACS office staff now includes Nicole who lightens the load for Paula and has expertise in graphics and technology that Paula lacks. Roxanne rounds out the office personnel and provides sunshine to all when she comes in on Saturdays and during the busy summer moveout season.
The field staff has grown too with employees that have been with ACS for as long as six years. This is a huge achievement when the industry average is 3 months or less.
But to truly grasp the changes that have occurred for ACS, one needs to look at what has happened in our world during the last decade and see how those changes have affected our little company. An article from the Wall Street journal highlights some of those changes. For instance, people never really leave the office now. They receive text messages and emails 24/7…at the office or at home and even on vacations. More people now text instead of talking because it saves time. This is a benefit not only to ACS, but clients as well, making it easier to contact the office and/or document client needs and expectations.
In addition, the smart phones allow people to “outsource their brain” with apps that clock employee time and location and give them directions to any place they need to go, or answers to questions they have. This allows employees to be more accurate in recording time spent on jobs benefiting both ACS and clients.
The phones are also capable of taking better pictures than expensive cameras we used in the past and provide instant results. These changes have made before and after pictures of projects, time records, and employee and client communications easier. This documentation is invaluable for both ACS and the client.
People now find out about things going on in the world through a wide variety of podcasts, social media or internet searches whereas in 2012 employers relied heavily on newspapers to advertise their business and find employees. This change has definitely affected business as more than a passing knowledge of technology is needed to navigate all the advertising requirements for social media and Google. This has meant that ACS needed a website, a web designer, and support staff to go along with all of that in order to remain competitive and visible in today’s marketplace.
Another development during the last ten years is the rise of a sharing economy such as Airbnb’s. This has opened a new market for ACS creating a business type that is halfway between residential and hotel cleaning allowing us to respond to specific client needs.
In addition to these, the COVID pandemic has forced changes such as more work from home employees. Because this can be a challenge to balance an office space at home while surrounded by family because many schools also operated remotely, meant an increase in residential cleaning needs. ACS has been there to do not only routine cleaning but also deep clean and COVID disinfecting cleaning.
For those businesses remaining at brick-and-mortar sites, occasional COVID cleaning was a need there as well. Some companies opted for more thorough cleaning in order to be able to stay open to serve their customers. Again, ACS to the rescue to help achieve this.
The ability to do video conferencing with ease exploded with COVID and remote learning and at home employees. It also increased efficiency for ACS allowing staff and clients to meet “face-to-face” without being in the same location. This has been especially helpful allowing ACS to remain in communication with clientele on a personal level without the risk of exposure to COVID.
A 2017 study found that cleaning services have exploded because people are happier if they don’t have to clean or cook. In fact, there were over 2.4 million jobs in the cleaning industry in 2018 (1 million more than in 2016). This number is expected to increase by 7% from 2018 to 2028. These statistics confirm that the ACS mission is on target for being a needed presence in the community with or without COVID: Our goal is to ease our clients’ minds and free up their time by providing cleaning services and allowing them to pursue those things that are most important to them.
Unfortunately, even at a time when demand for cleaning services is expanding, statistics still show that 95% of cleaning businesses fail within the first year. This is in large part due to poor marketing and management. ACS can be very proud of achieving ten years in business and thank all those who have contributed to our success. As ACS goes forward into the future, the foundation the company has been built on will be the present that keeps them relevant in the community, providing services, building relationships by serving others, and expanding the ACS family in the future.
To show our appreciation, we ask everyone to join in our 10-year celebration. ACS is offering 10% off services from March 13ththru April 20th. Now is the time to think about starting Spring cleaning. Whether it is at the office or at home, ACS has a team ready to serve you. One time or on-going contracted services, daily, weekly, monthly…whatever suits your needs. General cleaning, deep cleaning, carpet shampooing. ACS cleans the way you like it. If it isn’t ACS clean, it isn’t clean.