It was 26 years ago when Kim Robitaille's mother, Rose, needed a change. As a hard working mother, Rose decided her priority was being able to see her daughter off to school and being home when she got off of the bus.
So, Rose took out an ad in the local paper offering her housekeeping services. This lifestyle worked well for a number of years and when Kim started a family of her own, Rose decided to get a job at a local hospital in their cleaning department.
When the hospital outsourced the cleaning of several outpatient buildings, Rose was a natural shoe-in for the role and Rose's Commercial Cleaning was born.
Today, Kim is a managing partner in her mother's growing cleaning business, a role that has led Kim to build stronger relationships, improve communication and confidence, and increase profits for the family business.
I recently sat down with Kim to learn more about what challenges they were facing as a small business and what steps they were taking to overcome them.
What were your biggest challenges as a small, family-owned business?
Kim Robitaille: Because it's a family owned business, there were struggles trying to define our roles inside the company. How do you have a disagreement at work and then set it aside when you're at family time? How do you help a parent run a company without feeling like you're overstepping? How does a parent respond to their daughter's new ideas? Learning to be equal partners and respecting each other's views is a lot of work. Since management had difficulty communicating with each other, we also had struggles communicating with our employees.
In my first year, the company had 123 percent growth; the second and third year, we had 75 percent and 35 percent growth, respectively. Neither of us had a college education; but we knew how to provide a good service. The chaos was abounding. We went from three employees to 20 in three years; from six accounts to 30. We needed help.
What steps did you take to overcome these challenges?
KR: We attended a local B2B trade show, and met Kurk Lalemand, of Next Level Business Coaching. It didn't take long to realize bringing in a business coach was exactly what we needed.
How did working with a business coach help you both personally and professionally?
KR: First, he helped us define boundaries for work and personal lives. This helped us establish coworker and mother/daughter boundaries. It took a lot of work, but now, at work, Rose is Rose, not mom. Simple, but powerful.
Our coach taught us how to be more direct. How we can balance compassion for our employees without being taken advantage of. He also gave us the techniques and tips for negotiating contracts. A lot of times, in the beginning of doing commercial projects, we would accept whatever conditions were laid out for us.
He helped us with networking, hiring employees, disciplining employees, having tighter contracts and getting a handle on payables and receivables.
So what's next for Rose's Commercial Cleaning?
KR: We are working on a few things; mostly to do with employee management, such as how to pay an employee fairly while keeping costs down. This year, I've resolved to spend more time on the books, focusing on profit and loss and Rose has an aggressive sales plan for 2013. She is a master networker, marketer and saleswoman.
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