In March this year, Dale and Tammy Ryan from Southern Cross Commercial Cleaning were awarded the BCU Bill Ussher Enterprise and Innovation Award. Mel talked to them about their business success, and discovered their secret lies in the simple things.
Mel: Congratulations on winning the Bill Ussher Award. Why do you think you won?
Dale: One of the judges said we stood out because we didn’t say we wanted to be the biggest; we just said we wanted to be the best. We’re not about becoming a major conglomeration. We just want our customers to think we’re the best.
Mel: How do you go about making your customers think you’re the best?
Dale: I say to our guys all the time, “No one notices what we do, they only notice what we don’t do.” It’s the simple stuff. It could be sweeping under the front mat or cleaning their front glass. I might send out a text to my guys saying, “It’s phone week. If you haven’t cleaned the phones this week, do ‘em.”
Tammy: We are constantly in contact with our customers too. We ask, “Does this still suit your needs?” We understand that businesses change.
Mel: You may not want to be the biggest, but you’ve gone from nothing to 14 staff in six years. How have you done that?
Dale: I just started hitting the pavement and talking to people. We got our first customers, Accent Bathrooms, after we’d been in Coffs Harbour two months. That was my only regular job – one hour every Thursday. It was tough times. But then once it did start to go, it just went!
Tammy: We used to advertise to start with. But now we don’t. It’s all word of mouth.
Mel: Have you ever lost a client?
Dale: We’ve only ever lost a client because their businesses shut down. We still have Accent Bathrooms, our first customer. We’ve very proud of that.
Mel: And now you are managing 14 staff out of your home. Is that difficult?
Tammy: That part’s fine. I’ve always been a people person. We hire most of our staff through word of mouth. Our staff is family. We don’t want to be the type of boss that lords it over people. I think that’s why our staff has stuck with us from the beginning.
Mel: Do you have any special technology to help manage all those people on the road?
Dale: Phones. And they come here for their supplies so we get to chat to them face to face. That’s basically it. I don’t need to monitor what they’re doing because I can see when I walk into a site. I’ve got a key to all the sites so I can follow on through and say, “You’ve missed this.”
Mel: What would you recommend to someone else starting a new business locally?
Tammy: Talk to people. Make sure you’re providing the service that’s needed; not what you think is needed.
Dale: And have a plan, but be prepared to change it.
Mel: Did you have a plan from the very beginning?
Tammy: Yes. One thing they said about our award application was, “You actually have a business plan.” According to the judges a lot of businesses start up without any sort of plan at all. I was surprised. If you don’t have a business plan you’ve got no idea where you’re going.