Drake's Blog


Janitorial Fair Wages

Ask Drake

President and Co-founder of CleanGuidePro

With the truly, humbling success of CleanGuidePro, we’ve received a lot of questions (from companies all over the world) about a variety of topics in the janitorial industry. Allow me to share yet another one of them with you.

Question: I’m new in the business and have been doing all the work myself, along with my wife helping. I want to go after larger accounts that will require me to start hiring employees.

I feel that if I pay my cleaners $14-$15 an hour, they will all do a great job, thereby eliminating complaints. Also, I’ll let my potential customers know this and be able to charge more. What do you think?

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Answer: Sounds good in theory.  Pay them more, they’ll perform better and my customers will gladly pay me more!

Unfortunately, after 26 years in business, hiring 1,500+ employees, experimenting with wages and interacting with hundreds of customers, this approach simply does not work in practice. Your question has two parts. let’s take a closer look..

  • Q1: Pay entry level cleaners $14-$15 an hour, (when the prevailing wages are $8.05 -$9.00) and they’ll perform better.

    A1: Maybe, maybe not. My experience has been that the vast majority of “poor performers” will perform just as poorly at $12.00 an hour as they will at $9.00.  However,  a market–rate employee should quickly move up to higher wages as their performance warrants it.  (And performance can be improved with proper training, supervision and followup.)  In other words, higher wages are earned, not a given. So definitely reward your top performers in short order, but don’t assume that starting a new hire at “above market” rates will guarantee a high performance.

  • Q2: My customers will pay me more to get better service, “if” I pay my employees more.

    A2: Good luck with that. Listen for the deafening silence of the “crickets” when you approach your clients with that logic. Customers today “expect” great performance and outstanding value in their selected service providers. They want and deserve great service at a fair market price. Take great care of them, cherish and yes “love” them. You will make more money though extra project work, carpets, floors, supply sales, customer loyalty and invaluable references!

Trust me on this one. Pay the fair and prevailing wage, provide training, supervision and followup. Increase pay based on performance and charge your customer a fair market price, then take care of them and watch your profits and business increase!

CleanGuidePro Successful Residential Cleaning bidderDrake


Janitorial Employees versus Subcontractors?

Who cleans your buildings? Your janitorial employees or subcontractors? Not sure what the difference is? Well, as a business owner you should know the difference and be committed to classify your cleaners correctly. It’s not difficult to determine and it would behoove you to do it right, thereby avoiding costly IRS penalties, fines and tax levies for unpaid payroll tax liabilities on misclassified workers.

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Over the course of 25 years in the janitorial business, this has been my experience…

An employee: If you have the right to control or direct not only what is to be done, but also how it is to be done, then your workers are most likely employees. Basically, if they answer to you, wear your uniform, use your equipment or vehicles, use your chemicals and you train them how to perform the tasks, they are definitely your employee. Therefore, you must deduct and pay the appropriate employee payroll tax liabilities of your state or jurisdiction.

There are numerous accounting software programs and payroll companies that can handle this for a nominal fee. They calculate the correct payroll tax deductions, write the payroll checks, file timely and accurate quarterly reports, such as 940’s, 941’s, UCT6’s, etc..


  1. They do it your way! You hire your own people, train, supervise, inspect and personally control the quality.
  2. You know exactly who’s in your buildings.
  3. You make a higher profit margin percentage than using subcontractors.

A Subcontractor: If you can direct or control only the result of the work done and not the means and methods of accomplishing the result — then your workers are probably independent subcontractors (whose wages are reported to the IRS via form 1099). An example of using a legitimate subcontractor would be to pay another janitorial service company – (that has their own license, liability and workers comp insurance) – a percentage of your total contract revenue to clean a building.

I’ve used subcontractors on select projects and I’ve also been been a subcontractor for some huge national companies (on statewide cleaning contracts). I’ve made a legitimate and legally classified profit in both scenarios. But 99% of the time, I use my own employees…


  1. When you’re awarded contracts in other cities or states and the logistics and distance of the location behooves – (I just like that word) – you to use a local cleaning company.
  2. You just set the guidelines and expected results. The subcontractor hires their own people, trains, supervises, inspects and personally controls the quality.
  3. You cut one monthly check to your subcontractor, minus your profit.

Keep in mind my friends, whether using your own employees or a subcontractor to fulfill your contract service requirements, classify them properly.  (There are plenty of IRS guidelines and accountants to help you.) Want to sleep well at night? Pay the tax man correctly!

CleanGuidePro Successful Residential Cleaning bidderDrake


Janitorial Company Newsletters

How necessary are Janitorial Company Newsletters to the success of your business? In your own mind, you can make a case for or against just about anything and be satisfied with your decision. “It’s time consuming, it costs money, probably no one will read it anyway, blah blah blah.” Then be content with your decision, right or wrong. Let me challenge you to make a right decision concerning all things, but specifically Company Newsletters.

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As the Good Book tells us to spread the “good news” and admonishes us to focus on, “whatever is good, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy, to think and report on such things.” In the same spirit, a “Good Newsletter” that recognizes and praises employees for outstanding performance, perfect attendance, anniversaries or birthdays, just to name a few, is invaluable to your company as a whole!

In the janitorial business, especially, where only one or two employees are assigned to a single building with little or no contact with other employees, newsletters are a great way to keep them feeling part of the team. Let me give you my Top Company Newsletter sections, (in no particular order), that have shown the love to my many employees and customers over the years!

  1. Customer Spotlight: We send our newsletters to our customers as well. We highlight one of our customer’s facility managers in each of our monthly newsletters. We put their pic and a brief Bio of them. We tout their good qualities and what a pleasure it is to team up with them. Everyone loves to see their name and pic in print and it strengthens our business relationship. Win-win!
  2. Helpful Customer Tip: Things such as, “Did you know that using Roll Towels vs Multifold Towels, Jumbo Roll Tissue vs Household Toilet Tissue can save you 20% in annual supply cost?” They (accurately) view your company as a valued partner in keeping their costs in control, plus you’re seen as an expert in the industry.
  3. Employee Milestones: New employees, 6 month, 1 year, 2 year, 5 year anniversary, birthdays, etc.., whatever to put their name in print. As I said earlier, everyone loves to see their name in print, for whatever reason.
  4. Employee Praise: If you, one of your supervisors or a customer reports an exceptional job done well, performance, or anything good about your employees, tell it/give a shout out in your newsletter.
  5. News Updates: “We were just awarded the contract for ABC or XYZ companies”, “We just implemented such n such software to better serve our customers and employees”, etc. Shows your employees and customers that your company is highly in demand and the real deal!
  6. Safety Tip: Reminders to put out wet floor signs at all times, never push down on trash cans with your hands or how to deal with a bloody spill at a medical job site all convey that you as a company are concerned with your employees safety and well being.
  7. Crossword Puzzle: You can find these all over the internet to copy and paste. Try to use questions and answers that are cleaning related. Such as, what floor cleaner is best to use on waxed floors..? Answer: Neutral Cleaner. I was actually surprised, but people love crossword puzzles!
  8. Offer Services to your Customers: Let them know that you offer janitorial supplies, residential carpet cleaning services, tile/grout cleaning, etc.. You will get extra work.
  9. Training: Offer reminder monthly training tips, such as restroom training, vacuuming, detail vacuuming or dusting tips. Keep emphasizing the basics!
  10. Message from President: Offer an encouraging word to your biggest asset, your employees. Give an uplifting message that inspires from you or a quote from someone that inspires like Zig Ziglar, that said “people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care, about them”.. Inspire and empower your employees!

Spread the Good News my friends. Month after month. You won’t be sorry, I guarantee it!

CleanGuidePro Successful Residential Cleaning bidderDrake


Janitorial Employee Training – Top Tips!

Who needs janitorial employee training? Let me give you three groups that benefit greatly from it… Your company, your employees and your customers!

Janitorial Instructor

“Hey, come on..” you say. “Who needs training to sweep, mop floors and empty trash?  Besides, on the job training is good enough, right?”  Well yes, if you want your company to be “good enough”, with average employee turnover, average customer retention and average to below average company growth. But, if you want an exceptional company, with exceptional employee retention, exceptional customer retention and exceptional company growth you will definitely need to have a formal Employee Training Program.

Yes, training employees costs money, but that’s the wrong way to look at it. Training is actually an investment in your company that always provides a return on investment from day one.  After 25 years in the janitorial business, I’ve learned that for every dollar I’ve invested in training, I’ve seen a minimum of three to ten fold  return to my bottom line!

I can’t emphasize strongly enough that your customers need to see consistent cleaning results from your company every single day in order to keep cutting you a check each month. Training your employees, supervisors and managers from day one in the proper techniques, procedures, policies and systems will keep those checks coming in!

As I’ve developed and tweaked my Employee Training Program over the years, I’ve found that covering the following (high level) topics have produced consistently well trained employees:

  1. New Employee Handbook, Company Policy: (Part 1 of Orientation Class): This is a classroom training session where new employees are given their employee handbooks, uniforms, clock-in instructions, etc.. The handbooks are reviewed and they sign a form that they have received, understand and will comply by them.
  2. New Employee Safety Training Manual: (Part 2 of Orientation Class): This is a classroom training session where employees are trained in regards to safety and hazards on the job? Employees are given a safety test, results are verified and corrected until everyone understands the correct answer and a copy is placed in each employee’s file.
  3. New Employee Basic Cleaning 101 Training Manual: (Part 3 of Orientation Class): This is a classroom training session where all the basic cleaning tasks are explained and reviewed. Things such as, dusting, detail work, trashing, sweeping, mopping, vacuuming, restroom, direct supervisor and customer interaction.
  4. Restroom Cleaning Training Manual: (Part 4 of Orientation Class): This is a classroom training session, where step by step restroom cleaning procedures are demonstrated and emphasized. Restroom cleanliness is one of the top areas of your customers will judge your performance. Keep them clean!
  5. Supervisor Training Manual: This is a classroom training session, where multiple topics are covered. Your site supervisors need to be trained to be leaders, trainers, problem solvers and mentors. This training will cover everything from basic cleaning and stain removal to budgets, work loading, specialty work, supply ordering, employee evaluations, customer relations and much more.
  6. Floor Care Training: This is classroom and on the job training sessions, primarily for your “Floor Techs”, where floor care cleaning techniques (primarily waxed floors) and procedures are explained, reviewed, demonstrated and learned. Things such as floor stripping, scrubbing, auto scrubbing and buffing/burnishing.
  7. Carpet Care Training: This is classroom and on the job training sessions, primarily for your “Carpet Techs”, where carpet care cleaning techniques and procedures are explained, reviewed, demonstrated and learned. Things such as spot cleaning, fiber identification, portable units, truck-mount units and general carpet cleaning maintenance techniques are explained.
  8. Specialty Work Training: This is classroom and on the job training sessions, primarily for your “Floor Techs and Carpet Techs”, where specialty cleaning techniques and procedures are explained, reviewed, demonstrated and learned. Things such as tile and grout cleaning, pressure washing, upholstery cleaning and exterior window squeegee cleaning to name a few.


I’ll go into more detail on each of these training topics in future posts. But however you structure your employee training, you’ll never regret making this winning investment in your business!


CleanGuidePro Successful Residential Cleaning bidderDrake


Janitorial Employee Time Keeping

Ask Drake

President and Co-founder of CleanGuidePro

With the truly, humbling success of CleanGuidePro, we’ve received great questions by companies all over the world about varying topics in the janitorial industry. Allow me share one of them with you.

Dear Drake: We’ve been in the janitorial business a little over a year now and are ready to start hiring a few employees to help with our workload. Managing employee’s time is new to us. Any suggestions on how to track their weekly hours for payroll? Should we put in time clocks, have a “self write-in sheet” for them to write their own times down, or just pay them for a set amount of hours? .

Answer: Great question! First, let me get you thinking the right way. You don’t manage employees time, but rather you “manage” the “system” that manages your employees hourly timekeeping.

Having employees write their own time down or paying them for a set amount of time is a system allright, but it’s a system of the employees managing you! Learn from my early mistakes. I’ve stopped by to check buildings with write-in sheets at 8pm, with all employees gone and the times written down are 6pm in and 10pm out. I’ve also paid employees for 3 hrs a night, received customer complaints that things were getting missed, then find out the employee was only there for 1 hour each night!

Time-clocks are an OK system, but have drawbacks. Units are expensive, travel time to get time cards and manually entering in payroll data are all time consuming. Cliche yes, but “time is money” off your bottom line.

Here’s the hands down, best system to keep track of your employee hours for payroll. Telephone Clock-in Systems! This is online computer software that allows employees to clock in/out from their jobsite using caller id. It’s in real time and sends email or text alerts to you if someone is late, no shows, etc. You can see reports, print or email timesheets, export payroll and much more with the click of a button. It saves you time and money and it’s affordable to even the smallest of companies. That’s managing a system that works!

These systems are not put in place to control or manipulate “bad” people/employees at all. Employees should be cherished, appreciated, taken care of, paid well and yes, even loved! Systems are put in place to create a work environment that reduces chaos, creates structure and a sense of order. Systems foster harmony and peace in the workplace and i’snt that what it’s all about anyway my friend!

CleanGuidePro Successful Residential Cleaning bidderDrake


Janitorial Site Supervisor Incentives That Work!

If you want to stay in the janitorial industry for very long – and you should because it can be extremely rewarding, both personally and financially – you’ll have to do the math.

Goal + Incentive = Happy Customer

There’s a lot to be said about the first part of the equation – your Goal – and I’ll talk about that in detail at another time. For now, suffice it to say that your goal is to maintain a high level of cleanliness for your customer at a profit. But as we all know, that objective is hard to consistently execute within a narrow profit margin.

That’s where the essential but overlooked second part of the equation comes in, an Incentive for your Site Supervisor. You might ask, “Why should I have to motivate someone to do their job? Isn’t a decent paycheck incentive enough?” Well, after 25 long years of dealing with hundreds of job sites and thousands of employees, I’ve got a short answer for you – NO.

I’m not saying that people are bad or lazy or ungrateful. But when I’m asking folks for above average and excellent work on a consistent basis, the carrot approach has more than paid for itself in my operations. (Just ask my happy customers.)

Any incentive program should be a Win/Win for both you and your supervisors. It should have numerically measurable results and your team should consider its targets to be reasonable and attainable.

Plus the incentive should be adequately enticing. Over the years, I found that nothing works better than a monthly, cash bonus. It doesn’t have to be huge, but it does have to be green. “Attaboys” and name recognition in the newsletter are nice – and we issue plenty of these at my company – but those don’t cover the cable bill.

So, for those site supervisors that oversee cleaning crews of three or more people, I offer 3 simple bonuses.

  1. Cleaning Quality Bonus ( $25): Achieved via inspections. A written, quality inspection score of 90-100 earns a bonus of $25.
  2. Customer Satisfaction Bonus ( $25): Achieved via a customer satisfaction survey. A score of 90-100 earns a bonus of $25.
  3. Labor Under Budget Bonus ($2.50 per hour): Between 5 hours under budget and 20 hours under budget, a supervisor earns $2.50 for each labor hour saved (for a maximum payout of $50). Note: Attempting to save more than 20 labor hours per month at a job site will cut into quality.

As you can see, this isn’t an expensive incentive plan, maxing out at $100 per month, per supervisor. But my supervisors love it and the results are undeniable! I just wish that someone had told me early in my career, like I’m telling you now, how effective a simple little program like this can be. In addition to facilitating labor savings, my supervisors have embraced two key metrics – inspections and company surveys – as their score sheets. We’ve all gained quality and productivity and profits that we wouldn’t have attained without a motivation program.

Bottom line: A good janitorial site supervisor incentive program does not cost – it pays!

Get it? Got it? Good! I’d love to hear about any incentive plans that have worked for you or any that you’re considering…