CEO Interview - Exparole Officer talks about how she hires house cleaning employees

Hiring house cleaning employees is a responsibility. Allison Mckinney takes it very seriously as part of his company goal to provide quality services for those she serves.

 min. read
March 8, 2023

Hiring house cleaning employees is a responsibility. Alison Mckinney takes it very seriously as part of his company goal to provide quality services for those she serves.

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Key Take Aways:

  1. Employees must understand that feedback is a tool; it's not a criticism; it's how we succeed.
  2. Be extremely specific; provide as much information as you can upfront. People literally didn't expect to clean dirty places.
  3. Exit interviews are the ultimate tool to investigate why employees quit. Things that came out of the exit interviews can be shocking.

Interview Transcript:

Juan Chaparro (00:04):

Okay, everyone welcome to this call; I have Alison McKinney here from Above the Line Cleaning, and she's here to share with us some of her success in her business. And we want to start by telling us how you started the cleaning business, Alison.

Alison McKinney (00:20):

Okay. So, um, basically, I started the business for several different reasons. Um, I, uh, had gone through a divorce and, and needed some extra income at the same time. 

Um, my oldest son, um, had, uh, uh, graduated from college, um, by, at, at age 20. And, um, then got in a car accident and got a TBI and, um, was not able to use his degree anymore because of the damage done to his brain. 

And he was literally starving to death, um, working at a lengthy job because he wouldn't ask me for any money. So this would be a great way to help him, you know, better support himself, hopefully, help rebuild his, um, self-esteem because of the complete change in life trajectory, um, as a result of the head injury. And then also teach, I thought this would be a family based business where, um, then my younger sons could help in commercial work after, um, school.


So, you know, they could learn how to work and budget and save and support themselves. Um, and I also, at that time, I was working for the department as corrections as a parole officer. 

And, um, at that time, I thought I wanted to be a second chance employer to give, um, you know, there were certainly many people that I'd come across throughout my career that, yeah, they'd made some bad decisions, but overall, you know, I felt like they would be a good employee. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So that was why I started, um, the business. Okay. Um, however, um, I quickly learned that, um, my part of, uh, my son's, um, injuries to his brain created a lot of anxiety. Um, and he really had a hard time with schedule changes, um, that that was very difficult for him. Um, so that was one of the things I learned early on is, um, this isn't a great job for people who have anxiety issues, um, particularly if they're perfectionists and, um, you know, they're, they're doing their best for our client.


And, you know, the client is, um, the feedback can be difficult with people with who are pleasers, who have a lot of anxiety issues. And then, um, I quickly discovered, um, that being a second chance employer was not going to work in this capacity. Um, for obvious reasons. 

People were very concerned about, um, you know, the security of their home and their businesses. But bigger to me was, um, the chaos factor that mm-hmm. <affirmative> is prevalent in, you know, the majority of that population. Um, they, what I discovered was while, um, you know, yes, it might have been one poor decision that got them into trouble, it was a lifetime of short-term thinking, unpreparedness, just, um, uh, just an inability to be organized enough to be successful to clean for me. Um, I, I'm not saying that, um, you know, they might not have been successful in other places, but I have policies and procedures for how we do everything.


It's essential to me that we learn from our mistakes. And, um, if there's ever a scenario that, um, you know, things didn't go as well as planned, I like to take a step back, examine it and mm-hmm. <affirmative>, see what we could do differently in, in the future. Um, and what I've discovered is clients, or I'm sorry, staff that was raised in chaos, that their brains just don't work that way. And so that just wasn't a great fit, um, uh, for me. But like I said earlier, um, that was a big reason why I was drawn to your app because I was already, you know, I'd already had a list of characteristics that I knew made great cleaners and characteristics that I knew, you know, weren't good fits for me. 

And so I was trying to create in my own assessment mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, to, you know, use my time, um, better in making hiring decisions when I came across, um, you know, your app and realized that you'd done so much of that work for me already. So, yeah.

Juan Chaparro (05:17):

And what particular questions are you asking that are kind of very unique to your, uh, type of worker? Uh, that's, uh, Pipehire helping you, you know, achieve and save time?

Alison McKinney (05:30):

There's, um, a couple of different ones in there. And then, uh, um, I have one in there that is a make or break with me. It's a mindset question. And, um, you know,  I ask in your application process for them to briefly describe a situation where they received, um, feedback and how they responded to it. And if they, a lot of times, they'll just put dash s they won't put anything there, and that's it. I archive them. I don't, you know, or, or I'll, I'll get the, um, the, you know, 40 year old person who says they've never received critical feedback in the <laugh> life, you know? Um, and in this business, particularly in my business, you have to recognize feedback as a tool for our success. 

It's not a criticism; it's just correct additional information. And that, that is, at least for me, probably the most important factor in your success here because, when I'm doing walkthroughs, I'm, setting the client up what the expectation that, you know, we're a team together, we're going to rely on you to let us know if we missed anything or if, um, you know, there is anything that we could do better.


Um, I can't tell you how many clients I have picked up because they were either afraid to tell their prior health cleaner that, you know, that they wanted something done differently, or they had asked for that and the client and the cleaner blew up and got defensive, and it ruined a relationship. 

So if you're working for me, it's very important that you understand feedback is a tool; it's not a criticism; it's how we succeed. 

Wow. Um, yeah. So that's one of the questions that I added there. And then if people look good on your application, um, then my next step again, cuz I worked in law enforcement here for almost 25 years, so, and it's a small community.You know, I can't tell you how many people have scored really well on, on the assessment. And I'm like, yeah, but I know you were the getaway driver on this, you know, drive by that, you know, so yeah. You don't have any felonies, but, you know, I'm not hiring, um, you, because I know your associations.

Juan Chaparro (08:08):

Wow. Do, do they definitely have a very different angle, uh, than any other cleaning business owner I've met ever. Cuz I mean, you're in a small town. And you were a parole officer, so I mean, this is really a unique, very unique case. Yeah. What other questions do you ask to kind of help you discover these, these people that, you know, should w should be working for you or shouldn't?

Alison McKinney (08:33):

So on that, I should look at my application. So I kind of, um, I've added some things to yours, and then, as I said, if they look good and I don't know their names, I will then I promise I will run it by my D o c EXCO workers and say, Hey, you know, is this name familiar to you whatsoever? Um, and, you know, if everything looks good on my that end, and I run 'em by my staff too because, you know, as you know, like the staff are the best resource as far as sit, um, for our team. 

If all looks good, then I will send them, um, an email with some information about me, the business, what working for me looks like. Because I, I definitely am an atypical employer. Um, you either love working for me, or you hate it.


And again, I don't wanna waste their time. I don't want them to waste our time. So I like to be, provide as much information as I can upfront. And then I have a second assessment that I use and, um, I have them rate where they fall on a scale of one to five. And it's questions like, um, you know, when you are working in a cleaning business, sometimes you're going to be cleaning absolutely disgusting things. You know, rate how you feel about that. 

Because that's one of the things I've learned during, during exit interviews is people literally didn't expect to clean dirty places. 

You know, I've thought people tell me, you know, I didn't know I would be, you know, cleaning something so, so dirty or, you know, I wanted to quit because I walked into, you know, this thing. So, you know,  I, that's when the questions, um, I have been, and this is on my application, um, you know, to rate the adage there's a place for everything and everything in its place and how well that applies to your, your life.


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Um, because again, like you've gotta be uber organized to be successful in this field. Um, and, uh, I have several more mindset-related questions in, um, that second assessment. More general, like, again, I'm trying to feel out, cause I do, you know, you and I crossed paths a little over probably about a year and a half ago. And at that point I had completely wiped my slate clean. I'd left d o C to run this full-time and had to basically rebuild my staff because of the toxic environment, um, credit by my prior manager. 

So that's kind of where I sat back and I came up and I'd been doing exit interviews prior to that to figure out why we were having such a turnover issue. And so I used that information, um, to create this second assessment because some of the things that came out in those exit interviews really surprised me. You know, the, the fact that there's a lot of schedule changes, um, and, and I do cleaners that have come from other businesses say that, uh, there's way fewer with me than there were with our prior employer, but we can't avoid it, you know, particularly.

In the last couple years. Um, but if people are going to be upset about that or doing a lot of driving, just the pain points that have come out to me, um, either during the exit interviewers or what I have observed are, you know, personality pluses or minuses.

Juan Chaparro (12:32):

Okay. So what I can extract from your hiring process is that you really dive deep into their mindset, how they behave, how they answer. 

Cuz obviously you have this background, uh, in, you know, in law enforcement, uh, that you, you, you come in with the different eyes that most people do. So, uh, I love to hear that you're able to use Pipehire to customize your questions up to the point that you can pinpoint the right people. Is that correct?

Alison McKinney (13:01):

Yes, absolutely.

Juan Chaparro (13:03):

Yeah. Okay, cool. Now, uh, how do you go about finding these people? 

I mean, do you pretty much rely on word of mouth? Are you posting ads? Uh, cuz you're in a small town, so I'm sure you have a different strategy that most people that live in big metro areas.

Alison McKinney (13:20):

Yeah. Yeah. And that has been very interesting in my journey, um, trying to get help because, you know, so many people are used to that. I'm like, there,  literally no one on that board here. So, um, you know, I talked to a lot of staff, um, you know, about where they went to look for jobs and really in our area, um, the only real resource is Indeed, um, I've tried, uh, I did try our unemployment office, and I think I've had two applicants from there in six years, so that's interesting. Um, and I, you know, I used to, I think Facebook has taken away their job, um, functionality thing. 

I will still post in there, but that was a ridiculous waste of time. Um, yeah, from my perspective, it just seemed like all they had to do is click, you know, apply and there was never any follow-through. They weren't interested. They had to click on your link, um, to apply. 

They wouldn't even go that far, you know.

Alison McKinney (14:35):

It's,  primarily Indeed I do carry cards with me. I ask staff to carry cards with them so that if they're out, you know, and they get excellent service somewhere, you know, they can, um, so it's a card that I have made up just for recruiting purposes and, you know, they can share that. 

And the first thing I do when it looks like, you know, we need to bring someone else on is ask staff, um, if they know of anyone. And I think half of my staff were referrals from wow coworkers. So that, that those

Juan Chaparro (15:17):

So that, that those are the best.

Alison McKinney (15:18):

Yes, yes. Yeah. That's been the greatest resource for me because then they,  really do have a, a realistic view of what the job looks.

Juan Chaparro (15:29):

Like. Yeah, definitely. I see, I hear a lot of people saying that. Uh, and a lot of people rely on reviews, excuse me, on referrals, uhhuh, and, and I think those are like, you know, when you, when a customer refers to another customers very low hanging fruit, there's really no selling to do you just right go and get the customer or going hire this person. Yeah. So I see a lot of people doing it. Do you happen to have a way to  pay them with some bonus, some tips, some, some wavey, uh, you know, rewarding them for their effort? Yeah.

Alison McKinney (16:04):

So they get, um, a little bonus, you know, at if the, uh, new employee makes it , I think through probation Okay. Through their first 90 days. And then they get more so up until the first year they get a additional bonuses because that was something I learned. I wanna like, you know, yeah, you made it through your 90 day probation and you got your retention and then day 91 you know, you're pounding sand. So I want not only, you know, to do my part to make them wanna stick around longer, but, you know, have their teammates help continue, um, to make them welcome and want to stick around longer so everyone's incentivized.

Juan Chaparro (16:57):

You know, to refer others

Alison McKinney (16:58):

The yeah. For the newest staff to stick around for, uh, up, up to a year. There's kind of some staff in

Juan Chaparro (17:03):

There. Okay. Uh, as far as, um, you mentioned Indeed, what is your typical budget, uh, per month or per application, uh, that you're spending in a small rural area?

Alison McKinney (17:16):

So, um, I'm not, honestly, I don't usually have to advertise even for the whole month. Um it usually takes me about two, maybe three weeks to, um, I usually hire two at a time. Um, you know, just to be safe. It is Right. You know, difficult work. Yeah. Um, so, uh, in a couple hundred dollars, it's really, again, I am lucky in that it's, in some ways I'm lucky because it's such a small, um, community. I don't, I mean, indeed tells me I need to pay like $1,500 to get my ad posted, and I say, okay, whatever. And, um, like I said, I can usually find someone, but again, you know, probably less money staff referrals.

Juan Chaparro (18:18):


Alison McKinney (18:19):

Oh, I am the best paid employer here as well, so that doesn't hurt. Um, yeah,

Juan Chaparro (18:27):

Yeah. Definitely.

Alison McKinney (18:28):

Yeah. My biggest competition, doesn't have a great reputation in within the cleaning community about how they treat their staff and, um, I have a different reputation, so between all of that Yeah. Um, I don't have to put a ton of money into.

Juan Chaparro (18:46):

Finding Yeah. Your cost of acquiring employees though, obviously goes down. Yes. Uh, because good reputation you have, uh, you know, employees refer to other employees plus, you know, uh, other pieces of information that most people do not have access to. Right. So definitely an amazing position to be a Yeah. Um, now let's switch to management and, excuse me, to retention of these employees what practices, what things are you doing to retain people longer with you besides maybe a pay, right? What other strategies are you implementing to, to achieve, uh, you know, a better retention with these, uh, home cleaning employees?

Alison McKinney (19:26):

Well, I think, again, and it goes back to a making the right hiring choice in the first place. And don't get me wrong, there you go. It's not like I haven't, um, hired people that I thought were going to be phenomenal and then wrong. But yeah. Um, when my, when people were managing the company for me, when I, so when I was working full-time, I had a full-time manager Okay. Present it for me. And while I shared this information and my expectations, I don't think she really understood or, um, embraced it. And so she didn't make the greatest hiring decision maybe, or put as much thought in soon as I did. Yeah. And, um, just being a hundred percent, she did not have a growth mindset. Um, and so, you know, I, there was a, um, there's definitely a morale issue, um, that could be traced back to the way things were being handled in my business.


Um, which is a big reason why I decided to step away from DOC and run this full-time. So I feel like the difference is, um, now, cause almost all of my staff have been with me now for a year or more so since I left DOC. 

Um, and again, I don't mean to be obnoxious, but They say they love working for me. Um, I try, I guess I want to be there for my staff in whatever capacity I can. And so, um, we're, we are a small team, I'm available to them. They've got any personal issues. Um, if something goes awry, again, like, to me, that's a learning experience. Now, if you keep making the same mistake, you know, and expecting a different result, that's a different thing. But otherwise, you know, people don't be so worried that they're gonna get in trouble for whatever. And I'm like, you know, you're human. Like, so what can we do differently next time? And I think that, I mean, you'd probably have to ask them, but I feel like that maybe is a big reason why people like working for me. 

They don't, you know, um, I'm not easy to work for, but I, um, I don't know. I'm reasonable.

Juan Chaparro (22:10):

Okay. Uh, no, I got it. And, uh, let's, uh, let's switch to kind of the last, uh, closing questions here. uh, what would you say to somebody that's, uh, just getting started in the cleaning business? Uh, I, you know, you have all these knowledge that you've acquired through the years. What do you think is the most important thing they need to know about hiring, uh, house lending, uh, employees? Hmm. If you could put it in like one or two sentences or words. Yes. What will be that for you?

Alison McKinney (22:47):

You? I, I'm a big proponent of smart or not harder. Um, you need to use your time wisely mm-hmm and there are so many, you know, apps and different people who are experts in, in these fields or whatever. So instead of trying to do, be a jack of all trade, you know, and do everything halfassed, I feel like it's worth investing in, you know, with you in Zen made, um, in Qds. Like, you know, there, there's, the best decision I made was joining QDS. Um, I learned a ton of information from that. Yeah. But the better part, it is all the connections I've made. Um, so whenever I run into a hurdle or question, I immediately go to those mastermind groups and I search in. They're, um, there, there's been so many wonderful people like you, like Courtney Wisely, um, you know, Ammar like that have just been, there's a wealth of information. Definitely don't recreate the wheel. It is out there. Um, yeah. Yeah. And so many amazing people who just wanna help. Like, we are a community of helpers,

Juan Chaparro (24:06):

So definitely, I definitely agree. I jump on those groups still chair and ask questions and always, you know, get tons of valuable questions. Yeah. And I think the CBF communities, um, is one of the best, most valuable communities out there for residential clinics. So thanks to, you know, Debbie Sardone for her team. I'm glad. Love, love that question. And now, uh, last thing, uh, what's your favorite podcast or blog or anything related? Who do you follow in the home service space or residential cleaning space?

Alison McKinney (24:40):

Well, again, um, I'm, I'm really a nerd. Um, and so whatever I'm doing, I'm listening to something constantly and there's really probably too many, um, I, I can't narrow that down to one person, but, you know, Angela Brown is just a wealth of information. Yeah. Um, and again, you know, so, and her professional health cleaners group, is it fantastic Facebook group mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, the, the Made Mastermind group is, is awesome. Um, but I, you know, there, there's really too many, too many resources out there for me to, to narrow down.

Juan Chaparro (25:21):

Yeah. Okay. No problem. Yeah. There's like a constantly new groups popping up Yeah. In Facebook for cleaning and, and I think the, there is no secret for this business. It's all out there. It's really putting the work, the effort finding, uh, the ideal employee for your company. In your case, you have a unique person, uh, that you're looking for. And I've seen that throughout the, all the companies that we've held in. Pipehire is a, people have to find the ideal employee for their business. Right. You know, it's, it's similar to the rest, but it's unique to your market, to your city, to the way you operate. Right. So, uh, that will be kind of my, my take on what I've seen across all these companies is, you know, finding your ideal employee, putting the work out there and following all the mentors and the people that are experts in this business, and you will succeed this business is, is somewhat tricky, but it's not impossible. Right. Uh, so what

Alison McKinney (26:18):

Did you learn? All you have to do is learn, you know? Yeah. I tried this didn't work. Big deal. We're moving on. Yeah. You know? Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Juan Chaparro (26:25):

Cool. Yeah. Well, uh, that's it. And thank you, Alison, for today. It's been a pleasure chatting. I'm, glad we connected again, always here to help reach me with any questions, anything that I can support, and, uh, we'll be chatting. We'll see you soon.

Alison McKinney (26:41):

All right. Thank

Juan Chaparro (26:42):

You. Have a great Thank you. God bless. Have a good one. Bye. Bye. C 

Remember to like, subscribe and comment on this video and tell us your biggest takeaway from the interview. 

Also, follow us on Instagram at Pipehirehrm and join our Facebook group so you can learn how to hire, manage, and retain more employees in your home service business.

Don't forget to like, subscribe and comment on this video and tell us what was your biggest takeaway of the interview.

Also, follow us on Instagram at Pipehire HRM and join our Facebook group so you can learn how to hire, manage, and retain more employees in your home service business.

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