Liz Volk has been providing top quality housecleaning service to the northern suburbs of Seattle for over twenty-five years with her company, Broomstick Cleaning. Before starting her business, Liz worked for a large chain of discount stores and didn’t appreciate the unpredictability of scheduling or the way she was treated as an expendable employee. With a passion for horses, Liz rode competitively and found that her retail job didn’t give her the freedom she needed to pursue her equestrian interests. Thus, Broomstick Cleaning was born, and the community of Shoreline started to rely on her professional service to keep their homes clean.
Entrepreneurial experience helps grow the business
Eight years ago, Liz joined forces with Bruce McQuilken, who helped bring the business to the next level. “When we met, it was in the middle of the recession and Liz had started to lose clients. She didn’t really have a formal presence and wasn’t really doing any marketing except by word of mouth,” said Bruce.
Bruce had been an entrepreneur most of his life, launching and running his own company for fifteen years before selling it a few years prior to meeting Liz. He knew he could bring his business expertise to Broomstick Cleaning and start to increase sales. “Because of the economy, she stopped getting as many word of mouth referrals, so we put out a flier and I helped her clean as we brought in new customers,” he said.
30% rate hike with no client loss
Another thing Bruce did was to immediately raise the rates the company charged for cleaning services. “Liz’s rates were way too low. We raised the rates by about 30% and not a single client dropped their service,” he said. “That speaks a lot about the quality of the cleaning she provides. Liz takes great pride in doing things the right way. We still have clients that she started out with twenty-five years ago.” One of their clients mentioned being scared that Liz might be giving notice when she saw the letter in her mailbox but was relieved that it was only a reasonable rate increase after so many years.
The number of customers Broomstick Cleaning serves today is nearly six times the size it was when Bruce joined, and the pair have seven staff members helping clean homes.
“The market has really grown,” said Bruce. “The largest percentage of our client demographic are married couples with children and pets, who work full time, and who are between the ages of 30-55 years old.”
Treat employees well
Of their employees, Bruce said that no one is technically a full timer. “No one can consistently clean a house for eight hours a day. The work is too hard and people get burned out. We try to be a company that has a feeling of family, that takes an interest in our staff’s personal lives. This past Saturday we were at a staff’s son’s second birthday party.”
The company finds a lot of ways to go above and beyond for their staff. “The most they ever work per day is six hours. Most are moms, and the schedule is worked out so that they start early and finish between 1:30-3p, which allows them to be home when their kids get home from school. We also help find them time off to take children to appointments when needed,” said Bruce.
“We pay way above the minimum wage, and really believe that the people who run the company are, in fact, the company. We need to treat them well and respect them for the quality of the work they do. Our turnover is way less than industry average. People do come and go for various reasons, but we’ve had one woman who’s worked for us for five years, which is unheard of in the industry,” he said.
Besides a high hourly wage, Broomstick offers a 5% quarterly bonus to incentivize good behavior like showing up on time and doing good work. They also reimburse the tax deductible travel costs if employees use their own vehicles. With the Affordable Care Act providing subsidized health care for their staff’s income bracket, Bruce and Liz made sure that their employees got enrolled, and everyone now has health coverage.
When they noticed that their staff didn’t know the basic concepts of how to manage money properly, Liz and Bruce spent time teaching them so their employees would understand interest on auto loans, for example. “We talked about what additional things we could provide that would be useful for their lives,” said Bruce.
Every day the team is out on the job, Liz makes a nutritious lunch for everyone. “We’ve got to make sure they have the proper fuel for their engines,” Bruce said. “She makes them a quality lunch every day they work for us, like wrap sandwiches of flat bread with ham, cheese and lettuce, or tuna, or egg salad. Their favorite lunch is jalapeño bagels. And we bring bottled water so they always have something to drink.”
Perhaps most importantly, Bruce and Liz recently got all their staff to register to vote. “We’re just good citizens helping the people who help us have a decent company.”
Retirement? What retirement?
Bruce likes the work he does because it makes a contribution to people’s lives and it’s a way to still keep his hand in the business world. “I’m basically on social security, I’m 67 years old. This job allows me to be productive where I don’t have to do the physical work but I do fundamentally everything else, like keeping the books, payroll, purchasing, making sure we have the supplies we need, fixing vacuums, all sorts of things. I have never understood people who say they’re retired. What do they do when they get up in the morning? What keeps them engaged?”
For fun, Bruce plays golf when he can get away. Liz is an accomplished gardener, and Bruce laughed, “Our yard reflects this, which means there’s a lot of work to be done out there.”
To get a top-notch cleaning service in the North Seattle, North King County, or South Snohomish County areas, book with Broomstick Cleaning!