We caught up with Allison Kernan, owner of Kyla Kleaning, before she headed to Cancun for a much needed vacation with her husband and three kids. As a type-A personality, she’ll still be working on her business pool-side, but it will be a nice burst of warm weather for the Victoria, British Columbia-based family. The business is named after Allison’s oldest daughter, who was a baby when Allison first started the business in 2009.
Looking to earn a bit of extra cash after she had her baby, Allison started her cleaning business, taking her daughter with her as she cleaned. “I would put her in one room and then clean the rest of the house. I could get a good four hours of cleaning done before she woke up around eight or nine in the morning,” said Allison.
She quickly realized that her talents lay in managing the business, not in doing the actual cleaning, so she hired people to work for her and built the business up to a staff of twenty-eight cleaners. Allison is very proud of her business, welcoming the income support it provides her family and the flexibility of being able to make her own hours and stay at home with her kids. “I’m proud of it. It’s my company. My friends and family are surprised to find out that I own a cleaning company with a staff of twenty-eight people. It’s something I created, and I love being an entrepreneur.”
Everyone loves the Dragonlady
She earned the nickname “Dragonlady” from her friends as they saw her work her way up from waitressing to property management and real estate, to finally running her own business. “I’m a highly competitive, type-A, aggressive person,” she said. “I focus on making this the best company possible. Of course, I am no Dragonlady to my staff– they are what make this company what it is today. They are amazing; treat them with respect, and they in turn respect you.”
Her staff has reason to love working for Allison, since she is open to their needs. She prefers hiring single parents who are a bit older, finding them reliable, hardworking, and looking for long-term work. She’s able to match them with clients that meet their schedules, giving them clients while their kids are at school. “They’re able to pick up their kids from school–I can cater to those hours. I have so many single parents working for me.”
Secrets to success
One of the secrets to her success is that she doesn’t use teams. “Instead of sending random teams, I assign clients to particular cleaners. That way the client knows the cleaner and the cleaner knows where she’s going, has the key to the house, knows the instructions. It’s less stressful for my staff than to have to drive around trying to find the location and it’s nice for the clients–they’d rather just have one person they know come into their home,” she said.
And she performs a bit of match-making magic as well. “Someone calls me, and I can tell right off the bat the type of client they are,” Allison said. She matches chatty clients with chatty cleaners, and clients with very particular standards to her more OCD cleaners. “I know my staff and I can match good clients to them. They can tell me they don’t want a client at any time, for whatever reason. I want them to be happy and feel comfortable.” When pressed, Allison admitted that there was one client who she had to turn down because his place was simply too much for her cleaners to handle.
Another of her secrets to success was inherited from her mother. “My mom is very well-organized, and most of [running a business] is organization and customer service. Whenever someone is unhappy I will make them happy, 100% of the time. I do not want a single person walking away.”
Green cleaning is healthier
Battling Crohns disease, Allison finds it easier to manage her illness while working from the comfort of her home. Her doctor prescribed her medicine to manage the disease but the medication had possible side effects of lupus and even death, so she found other options by fighting it naturally with a healthy diet and lifestyle. “Green cleaning promotes good health for everyone, especially people with health issues, it’s also easier on the planet, and a safer alternative for homes with kids and pets,” Allison said.
Cleaning company for the middle class
Allison said that a lot of people don’t realize that they can afford a cleaning service. “It’s not just for rich people. We’re the cleaning company for the middle class. It’s absolutely affordable. Two hours every two weeks is affordable with our rates.” Working parents realize how much they need her service and rely on Kyla Kleaning to restore their homes to livable spaces every few weeks.
Desired superpower = being awake for 24 hours of the day
While it seems like Allison already has the superpower of running a successful organization, we asked her if there was anything she wishes she could have. “To never need sleep, to be awake for twenty-four hours, so I could have enough time to play more with my kids, garden, do hobbies, while still being able to maintain the business.”