- Business: Polished to Perfection
- Location: Fort Dodge, Iowa
- One Interesting Fact about Julie: She loves to stay busy. In addition to running her company, Julie is a part-time customer service agent for Delta Airlines.
- One interesting Fact about Polished to Perfection: All Julie’s kids have spent time working in the family business. Her eldest son now owns the window cleaning business that used to be part of Polished to Perfection; he bought the company from his parents.
Running a janitorial business is as much about trust as it is about cleaning, says Julie Kuhlmann of Polished to Perfection janitorial services. Mindful of the time needed to perfectly clean her contracted facilities’, Julie relies on her employees to hit that sweet spot while also respecting the spaces in which they work. So when Julie got wind of a potential time-theft incident in her crew, she turned to ezClocker to help her root out dishonestly.
Polished to Perfection started when a friend told Julie Kuhlmann that she wasn’t happy with her cleaning person.
Julie listened. She knew a thing or two about cleaning: both she and her husband Scott had worked for janitorial companies. She said to her friend, “I think we can help you out.”
That was 30 years ago. “It’s been word-of-mouth ever since,” says Julie, owner of the Fort Dodge-based janitorial company. “Our business has evolved because people we clean for have said, ‘Polished to Perfection does an excellent job. You should call Julie.’”
Today, Polished to Perfection handles janitorial contracts for eight facilities in the city and employs anywhere from six to nine people at a given time. Theirs is a family business: Julie and Scott clean alongside their employees. Their kids have pitched in over the years, and the eldest son took over the window cleaning business that used to be part of Polished to Perfection. “It’s nice to see him taking pride in it,” says Julie. “He finally understands what his parents went through to keep the company running over the years.”
Measuring Trust Through Time-Tracking
For a while, Julie started each new contract the same way. She and Scott would handle the first few rounds of cleaning. “We never send a person to a new facility before we’ve cleaned it ourselves,” she says. “We need to understand the dynamics, and get a sense of how long it takes to clean the space and what needs to be done.”
Next, they’d dispatch one of their employees. If the person took substantially more or less time to finish the job than Julie and Scott estimated, they’d follow up to see what was being done differently. It was bound to happen: some employees are meticulous, but slower; others are fast, but less thorough. “You’ve got to manage your employees’ cleaning habits,” explains Julie, “because it all comes down to time.”
Until last year, Julie’s employees submitted self-reported timesheets. The process was informal: they’d track their clock-in and clock-out times for the week, and send the numbers to Julie via text message. She’d add them up and pass them on to her accountant, who’d double check Julie’s work before running payroll. It was, says Julie, “time-consuming.”
“I thought often, ‘This is not working. I don’t want to do this every week,’” she recalls.
Worse, the data was prone to error–some of it intentional. About a year ago, Julie learned from a client that some of her employees were rarely on site for the number of hours indicated on their timesheets. So she looked for a time-keeping app with a GPS function that pinned a location each time an employee clocked in or out. She came across ezClocker and put it to the test.
After a few pay periods, she discovered discrepancies, and dealt with the problem. Lack of trust is not a business risk Julie is willing to take.
“We’re going into office buildings and people’s places of work, where valuables are left out, so I have to employ trustworthy people,” she says. “We’ve done enough business in the community for people to know that we are trustworthy and honest. It only takes one incident to damage our reputation and destroy the business.”
Staying small and polishing to perfection
Now in its fourth decade of business, Polished to Perfection is going strong. It lost just one contract due to the pandemic, and Julie is confident they’ll pick up others. In the meantime, she and Scott will continue to make visits to every facility and help their employees clean.
“We’ve always wanted to step back,” says Julie, “but it seems that as soon as you get comfortable, you lose a trusted employee. That’s just the nature of the janitorial business. It’s tough work! We own the company and we’re invested in it, so it’s easier to stick with it.”
What’s more important to Julie than time off is the long-term sustainability of her company–something ezClocker can help with. “We chose to stay smaller so that we can manage our employees as well as our own workload. That way, we can keep everyone happy.”