Let's Clean Up
Let’s talk about cleanliness. I mean really clean, not just on the surface.
By Frank Scandura
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
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
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
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 they're walking through your shop.
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? 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.