By Frank Scandura
Let’s talk about cleanliness. I mean really clean, not just on the surface. Ever walk into a business that looked clean initially, but really wasn’t? You could just tell. The next thing you know you’re looking closer at the places under tables and chairs, and then it’s pretty obvious it’s not very clean at all.
I have very fond memories of my paternal grandfather. I called him Papa. He and my father were both barbers. I remember one time a customer asking my grandfather if he could use the men’s room. It was only a two chair shop with one small restroom. My grandfather responded with humor, as he always did, that there was no men’s room, but feel free to use the ladies room.
After the customer emerged, he looked my grandfather in the eye and said that was the dirtiest ladies room he ever saw, and proceeded to leave. I stood in shock and watched Papa walk into the restroom and come out and announce, “He’s right, it’s filthy.” He was actually embarrassed.
That day I saw this man do something I never saw before. He got cleaning supplies and cleaned the restroom. This lesson was repeated when I got my first real job, at age 14 or 15, at the Exxon gas station across the street from that barber shop. My duties were clean up, and that included the ladies room. I remember old Pat Beatty telling me how important it was for the ladies to have a clean restroom to use.
Fast forward a few years and I’m at the Sunoco gas station that had two restrooms, one for the owner’s wife and one for customers. Richard Brady never let his wife used a dirty restroom, do you? I cleaned that one, too.
I remember my mom visiting me at work one day and using that restroom, and then making the comment that it was the cleanest gas station restroom she had ever been in. She asked who cleaned it (I don’t think she believed me when I told her I did, after all she still remembers my bedroom growing up).
Why did I bore you with my history lesson in a clean restroom? Because it matters today even more than it did 35 years ago. Only now I don’t stop at the restroom. The entire building inside and out needs to set the tone for our customers.
We don’t call the landlord to paint the fire lane curbs red, we get the paint and do it. Whatever we can control, we do. We clean the exterior windows on a regular basis, not when you can’t see out of them. The counters, the customer chairs, the coffee bar, everything should be spotless. For us, we’re in a building with multiple tenants and it helps us stand out, you can too.
Think about how easy it would be to hire someone part time to help with the cleaning, or hire a professional company to come in after hours, one or two times a week. Get the floors polished at least once a year, or more depending on traffic. There should not be any finger prints anywhere.
Is your shop as nice or nicer than your dentist or doctor’s office? It should be.
I challenge you to take a close hard look at your entire shop. Pay special attention to the areas the customers have access to. I always tell shop owners to take pictures of every bench, wall, chair, door, nook and cranny. Get them printed so you can hold them in your hands. Look at the pictures away from the daily grind and pick a couple of pictures at a time to work on, that way you’re not spending an entire day on housekeeping. Walk around and imagine what your customer is paying attention to when you’re walking them to get something out of their car, or when you want to show them what you found while working on the car.
When you bring a customer to the shop, your focus is on the walk, but the customer will be focused on everything else: the shop floor, the equipment, parts shelves, and my favorite technician work benches. Ever notice how some parts get saved for months, except the ones you want to show a customer when the car is picked up? Are new parts on nice shelves and well organized or just thrown in there? The oil drains and oil tanks should look perfect; we’re about to repaint ours, they’re getting a little worse for wear now. Paint the shop every few years. I prefer white walls because they reflect light better and it just look cleaner. If you must have some color, add an accent stripe, design or get some colorful metal signs from your venders. Oil companies and battery suppliers love when we advertise for them. Make sure they’re metal and that they’ll last a long time.
Believe it or not, the employees like a clean work environment. They may not admit it, but they like it. When equipment is clean and in proper working order, they will be more productive. Let’s all do a better job showing our customers we are professional and we care enough about them and our employees to provide a clean, safe and inviting area for them.
This article was contributed by Frank Scandura, the owner of two of the most successful, state-of-the art, green shops in North America, and one of the coaches who offers shop owners 1-on-1 guidance through the Elite Coaching Program.