How we cleaned 35 student properties with 4 team members

Within the cleaning industry, the 30th June – 1st of July is a big day, it’s student clean day!

From 9 am on the 30th June to 9 am on the 1st July a cleaning team has to work in partnership with the letting agent to check out all the tenants, do an audit of the property, the cleaning team has to then go in do a full clean including all appliances, get it checked once again by the letting agent ready for the new tenants to move in.

If the cleaning company aren’t organised and methodical it can go very wrong very quickly and if you fall behind in the first few hours it can be a disaster.

During the 24 hours between 30th June 2021 and 1st July 2021 Sparkle Cleaning completed cleans on 35, 4-bed properties including all appliances using a small team of only 4 people, usually a cleaning company will staff a lot higher however while planning in the weeks before and having additional staff on hand just in case we decided that this was all we needed.

We came to this decision because of the simple rules of teams, many successful companies have rules of only working in small teams, Steve Jobs, for example, had a 2 pizza rule, if 2 pizzas couldn’t feed everyone on a team then the team was too large.

There was always the possibility that it would go wrong but we had fallbacks in place. We had time and standard checks throughout the 24 hours, if at any point we missed 2 fallbacks (Usually set about 2 hours apart) then we had teams on standby that we could call in for support.

However, we were confident that we didn’t just have a good team we had a GREAT team and therefore we wouldn’t need the fallbacks.

What makes a good team

A good and a great team can use very similar strategies on this sort of job however it doesn’t take a lot to go wrong even with a good strategy in place, previously I was talking with someone who used to work for another cleaning company. The other cleaning company had a similar number of properties to clean in the same time frame, there was a strategy put in place of we will send in 2 teams of 6 people, they would do the clean then the supervisors would go in and check the work making any corrections that were needed.

Needless to say, there wasn’t enough substance within the strategy and within a few hours, the supervisors were falling behind doing so many of the corrections that we lost touch with the cleaning teams and what property they were in.

As the supervisors lost connection with the teams, they also lost the opportunity to get ahead of the issues arising which meant that although they were supposed to be giving instructions to the teams, the teams ended up doing their own thing, the standards got worse and the supervising team spent more and more time doing the corrections. The supervisors then ended staying well into the night as the teams knew that they had to ‘clean’ a certain number of properties as they were on a day rate, then left, so once everyone had gone home the supervisors still had to reclean, so that the letting agent was happy with the standards.

The teams that were used in this example weren’t cleaners for the company, they had been bought in on a day contract to increase the numbers, the challenge with doing this is cleaners clean, people don’t clean to the same standard so you have to work closely with them to make sure that everything is being done. As the supervisors found, the team weren’t strong and therefore more numbers doesn’t mean an easier life. Especially if the supervisors are meeting these people for the first time, ob a big job that needs to be done to a good standard.

They would have instantly lost the first hour because they would have had to give the teams training on how to use the equipment and make sure the company was compliant with Health & Safety.

Working with such a new group of people communication would be one of the biggest challenges, especially if the supervisors haven’t had any training in communications. In this instance the supervisors had mainly been used for cover and therefore didn’t know how to efficiently communicate with the teams especially started to go wrong, they also didn’t have the confidence to ask for help from the management team who were back in the office.

At the end of the 24 hours, several problems meant that the supervisors had to work through the night and for a further 24 hours solid to make sure that the letting agents were happy. they weren’t happy, the company which had a great reputation in Bristol lost the contract and didn’t get those clean the following year and the supervisor also decided to leave the company.

What makes a great team

When Sparkle Cleaning started to plan for the 35 student cleans we spent a lot of time working out how many team members we would need and how we would run the day, we decided to run the day with a smaller team having others on standby if we missed the fallback. We allocated each member of staff a particular role meaning that they were only responsible for there one area, once they were done they could move on rather than everyone chopping and changing to a different area if you were in the bathrooms, you cleaned your bathroom then moved onto the next property.

The 4 members of the team we used had all been working for the company for over 12 months and all had been trained to train, so they could all allwork in every area because they knew how to train other people they knew how to audit and therefore were experts in the standards we expected from the work.

Before we started the day we spent 15 minutes briefing everyone on the day, who would be responsible for what, who to talk to if we had any challenges through the day when we would stop for breaks, lunch and dinner.
We also outlaid the use of the kit, everyone had their own and if they needed a top-up where to collect it from.
We wanted everyone to be working as independent as they could while also being part of a team, the reason for this is so that every team member can be fully responsible for their work and there isn’t any of the common ” so and so took my cleaning spray so I had to make so with something else” It’s your spray, write your name on it and keep it in your bucket.

The culture we live and breathe in the office and our core values

Family Comes First
Keep it Simple
Add Value
Make Money
Have Fun

Had to be lived during the 2 days, we were expecting a very long day to get it all done but we knew we could make it a fun experience, for example, one of the guys we had working with us insisted on singing none stop from the moment we started and by the end of the day we were all singing along, we had lunch set up for the teams and we provided dinner aswel just in case someone didn’t remember to bring food or didn’t bring enough and we also made sure we stayed on-site until every tenant had been checked in just in case any issues needed to be resolved.

Communication was going to be a key component to the day, what we didn’t want to happen was to be halfway through and realise we had been missing something or we weren’t working to the correct standard so once we had the first 3 properties done I walked around with the letting agents while they checked the work (it was all good) we then had a break while we discussed this with the rest of the team and gathered any feedback. What we were looking for specifically was any challenges they may have started to notice, was there a particular bit of kit that we hadn’t bought with us that would have been useful? Do we think we were going to run out of anything?

The most important part of the communication throughout the day was to give the team an overview of the task and the detail of their section. The team member cleaning the bathroom didn’t need to know the spec the kitchen had to be cleaned too and therefore didn’t get the checklist that went with the bathroom

The difference

The difference between a good and a great team especially in the cleaning industry can be minimal, it can be as simple as giving a team member too much information and them, therefore, being confused about what needs to be done or not building the team correctly.

The size of a team is often a common misconception one of the reasons we decided on a team on 4 to do 35 student end of tenancy cleans is so that we weren’t getting in each other way, this is also why we asked each team member to only do their allocated role until the very end and then leapfrog each other rather than working alongside. Student properties are generally not that big, with bedrooms, 1 shared bathroom and a kitchen, lounge and dining room all in the same room meaning 2 people working together can very quickly get in each other’s way.

Our result

The size of a team is often a common misconception one of the reasons we decided on a team on 4 to do 35 student end of tenancy cleans is so that we weren’t getting in each other way, this is also why we asked each team member to only do their allocated role until the very end and then leapfrog each other rather than working alongside. Student properties are generally not that big, with bedrooms, 1 shared bathroom and a kitchen, lounge and dining room all in the same room meaning 2 people working together can very quickly get in each other’s way.

The 4 people we chose to attend the site were based on experience. We have a policy that within 3 months of joining Sparkle Cleaning every team member should be able to train another team member because this policy means that all of our teams become upskilled quickly and when we have large jobs we don’t need to try and choose the top 2 or 3 team members in the company we have a massive pool to choose from. For this particular job we selected on a basis of who would want to do the full amount of time because we didn’t want to change teams halfway through the day as this would interrupt the flow, and who was audit trained we were hoping if we took trainers who were audit trained then we wouldn’t have to check the work so much as they would be able to audit their work.

Everyone had their particular tasks, there wasn’t any cross over and there was no kit sharing, you got your kit, wrote your name on it and it was yours for the day, we gave the team enough to last each set (time between breaks) at break time you bring your kit and top it up for the next set, everyone started the same set with the same amount of kit.

We had 35 4 bed properties to clean, started at 9 am and finished at 10 pm that evening, we had several breaks including 30-minute lunch and a 1-hour dinner.

Every tenant got checked into their new flats and we were asked to rewipe 1 cupboard that was missed, the team started and finished on a high and the letting agent was extremely happy with everything that was achieved.

We had a catch up with the letting agent 2 days after the cleans happened to make sure that there wasn’t anything else that came to light, which there wasn’t.

As with all these things, there’s only so much you can plan and the rest is luck however when the 4 of us sat down with a few beers on the evening and discussed what had happened if anything had gone wrong it wouldn’t have been in our control, we had the right team, the right plan and the plan was executed with precision, we originally aimed to complete all the cleans in 17 hours but got them done ahead of schedule in 13 hours.

We have already been awarded 2 more blocks of 35 both in September and been rebooked for next year.

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