“Having someone clean your house is no longer a privilege, it’s a necessity,” said Diane Butler, 51, who has seen her Boston-area cleaning business change over the last twenty five years. “Now you have both parents working and people don’t have time to clean their own house anymore.”
Diane started working in mutual funds for Fidelity when she was nineteen, but gave up the cushy desk job after a few years. “I was very good at it, but I was at a desk with headphones on in the city. I like to move, I like to go, I like not being in the same place all the time. It’s all about the journey,” she said.
She took that energy and, with her sister Maureen, founded D. Butler’s Cleaning. The transition to physical work was easy for her. “I loved it. The flexibility and diversity of places… it was like a holiday stroll every place you went in, seeing these big beautiful houses,” Diane said. She also played up the pun on her name, adding the tagline to her business, “The Maid didn’t do it, the Butler did.”
Diane, a Boston native, said that construction is on the upswing in the area, so she’s getting a crew together to handle night jobs cleaning up post-construction sites. Things weren’t always so rosy, as the city periodically had its ups and downs. “Construction is finally coming back. Fifteen years ago, I was shoveling and raking leaves, doing anything to stay afloat. But now it’s all coming back.” She’s investing in new equipment to help her new team stay on top of the cleanup work. In addition to the post-construction staff, she has a team of four full-time workers, along with 3-6 additional part-time helpers. Despite this, Diane is still out there every day helping to clean clients’ homes. “I work a lot of hours,” she admitted.
Besides running herself ragged by managing a busy cleaning business, Diane finds time to relax by hiking, biking, and rollerblading. “I’m going to Maine to hike next weekend,” she said. With such a demanding job, she also finds it necessary to remain grounded. “I love Reiki. I love to meditate… because I have to! I’m always on the go, I need to slow down and ground myself.”
One of her most reliable workers is friend Cheri Young, who has been with Diane for the last seven years. “She’s 63 now, still a hustler, out here every day scrubbing and working hard. She stays at it, and goes the extra mile,” said Diane.
Part of the reason the crew is so dedicated is the commitment the business has to giving back to the community. “We clean cancer patients’ homes when they’re going through chemotherapy,” Diane said. “We work through Cleaning for a Reason, who helps women with cancer. But we aren’t offering this service just for women, we help kids and men as well. If anybody who has cancer calls me, we clean their house for free.”
And Diane knows how to take care of her workers. “I pay them from the first job in the morning until they finish the last job of the day, which includes travel. I try to treat them well, and they’ve been with me for years. I give them Christmas bonuses, too.” How does she find high quality workers? “I know a lot of people in the area, so it’s mostly word of mouth. People are always calling me, either family or family friends, or people who have owned cleaning businesses in the past.”
When they go into a client’s home, they are precise, thorough, and efficient. “We go in like the Marines, start high and go low, dust everything, then vacuum at the end and sweep our way out. We work in teams, everybody picks up and helps the next person, we all work together,” she said. The crew favors Shaklee’s green cleaning products (“They make a great paste for bathrooms!”) and Oreck vacuums.
Despite running her cleaning operation like a well-oiled machine, occasionally there are slip ups. “One time the girls went and cleaned the wrong house, the house next door to the one they were supposed to clean. The guy who was at home thought the cleaning service was scheduled for that day, so he didn’t say anything. Meanwhile, they were supposed to be next door. Everybody got a good laugh out it,” said Diane.
Advice for someone just starting their own cleaning business? This veteran cleaner suggests that you “don’t give up, it will get better. Tomorrow is another day.”