What Hourly Rate Should You Pay?
How to calculate your commercial cleaning staff hourly wage
Today, Mike coaches Marcus Flakes CSI US Military Maintenance on how to determine what to pay his commercial cleaning staff. Marcus wants to pay his employees well but wants to ensure he doesn’t risk sinking his business with high payrolls. Read more about this in our guide to starting and successfully growing a cleaning business.
RESOURCE ALERT: Check out this podcast on choosing between hourly and flat rates for your employees https://www.growmycleaningcompany.com/how-to-pay-cleaning-employees/
This is a very common question among members of Cleaning Nation, and the answer is going to be different for everyone depending on where they are in the world. Instead of giving you a magic “one size fits all” answer, you will need to follow a simple process to determine what you should be paying your commercial cleaning staff.
Let’s start with the basics, in the US there is a minimum wage you have to pay your employees. That wage differs from state to state depending on the law. In Marcus’ state it’s $7.35, so that’s the bare minimum. What about the top end? It’s fair to say no one is going to be making 120k a year cleaning. In Marcus’ area, he believes the top end his competitors are paying their commercial cleaning staff in his area is $14/hr. So it’s safe to say the range for hourly pay is $7.35 to $14/hr.
BONUS TIP: Mike’s philosophy has always to pay 10-15% better than his competitors but you don’t want to focus on the pay being the reason they come to you
Another misconception about pay is that the dollar amount is solely what determines who get’s the “best” employees. Don’t focus on “Well my competitor pays $10/hr, I will pay $11/hr.” You don’t want the employees that come for that extra $1/hr because those are the people who will leave the second they can get .75 more somewhere else.
You are looking for people who buy into your vision and core values. The good news for Marcus is that he has a strong vision and the people that come work for him come because they believe in his mission as passionately as he does. Core Values is a concept that Mike touches on often, if you don’t have your core values clearly defined, take the time to do it! They should be clear to everyone form the moment they read your help wanted ad to how to deal with day to day operations.
RESOURCE ALERT: Check out this podcast on sharing your mission, vision and values with your cleaning crew
Understand that you are not swapping their time for your money. The true value is the opportunity for your commercial cleaning staff to be a part of something that is bigger than themselves. That they are going to work with people who are like themselves and believe in the same things that they do. Together they are going to create something that is truly unique that you can’t get working anywhere else. That is what attracts top notch talent that stays even if your competitor is paying $1/hr more. Obviously they are going to get paid fairly for their time, but that’s not why they are there.
So for Marcus’s area, if the rich cleaners are getting paid $10-$12/hr, Mike suggests he starts them at $9/hr and then in a year to 18 months, give them the opportunity to excel to $12/hr and not pay them more than that.
KEY POINT: Dollars for hours ins’t what is going to keep top talent on your commercial cleaning staff
What about raises? The way they get that raise is not just for being there and showing up, but for how many positive reviews they get, how well they exemplify your core values, what a team player they are, how quickly they clean etc.
Once you have your system for pay in place, always air on the side of your commercial cleaning staff. Always be a little more generous than you have to be. Of course you don’t want the pay to sink your company, but that has more to do with what you charge and how much margin there is.
Your prices should reflect what you pay your employees. So if you’re paying drive time and mileage, that is all going to get rolled into your bid. COGS (Cost of goods sold) should always be a % of your revenue. As long as you’re bidding right, what you pay your employees is never gong to bankrupt you. What is going to bankrupt you is trying to cheat your employees or getting a reputation for taking advantage of your employees and not being able to get good talent.
RESOURCE ALERT: Learn more about Cleaning Company Profit in this episode
People understand when you have to charge a certain amount to pay your employees fair wages and take better care of the customer. People don’t understand “I take advantage of my employees and make extra money by taking it from them”.
Finally, oddly enough, the things that are really going to attract and keep the top talent that you want and need to grow a successful cleaning company are free. Even more compelling than benefits, bonuses and health insurance is appreciation.
In any industry, but especially in the cleaning industry, people don’t feel appreciated for the hard work they do. It’s a very common problem for commercial cleaning staff to feel like they are just a commodity. You don’t learn their name until they’ve been with you for a long time, you expect them to disappoint you and expect to replace them shortly. And that cultivates a culture of the employees treating your company as just another crappy job and you treating them like just another crappy employees.
When you know them, love them and treat them with appreciation for the hard work they do they will return the favor! Give your commercial cleaning staff lots of praise when they do things right. Commend them publicly and often!
KEY POINT: One of the most valuable things you can give your employees is completely free!
Marcus shares the genius in the…
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