Jesus Herrera followed his heart to San Jose, California, from Mexico in 1996 after his (now ex-)girlfriend moved there. He gave up a great job as the head of a publishing company in Mexico and found himself working in a restaurant, running dishes out of the kitchen to customers. After hearing an ad on the radio about job opportunities with H&R Block, he became a tax accountant, but was soon convinced by a friend to start his own cleaning business. CalMaids was formed in 2004 and Jesus was running the show.
Looking back, he’s somewhat surprised that he ended up in the industry. “To be honest, I didn’t want to do cleaning. But tax preparation is just a seasonal business for two or three months out of the year,” Jesus said.
CalMaids operates in the San Jose area helping busy families with their house cleaning, with a focus on using green cleaning products. Jesus’s wife, Hermila, also helps run the business, and they employ six other people.
Turn to professionals for advice
When he was first starting out, Jesus didn’t quite know what to do. “Cleaning your own house is not the same as cleaning for someone else. We learned from our mistakes and figured it out,” he said. For example, the apartments he was going into were much dirtier than what he was used to in his own home. But he rolled up his sleeves and started learning, tapping into internet forums and finding a mentor.
That’s how he met Teresa Peterson, who runs a cleaning company in a nearby town. “She’s great. She shares her knowledge and she’s been there for me,” Jesus said. It’s a strategy that he highly recommends to anyone else starting their own cleaning business. “Try to get as much information as possible from many different sources, like internet forums, or from experts like Debbie Sardone,” he said.
Cleaning tools he can’t live without
Starting from scratch, Jesus has learned a lot about the various cleaning products out there. Originally he was using scrubbing sponges and sandpaper to attack the ring around the toilet, until he discovered how much better pumice stones were for the task.
And like other owners who are still out handling cleaning jobs, he’s a believer in the power of Magic Erasers. “Those are really good. You can use them on the bath, the sink, everywhere except glass or stainless steel,” he said.
Everyone has a hoarders story
It seems like almost every cleaning company I’ve spoken with has encountered a hoarder or two, and CalMaids is no exception. “We took 85 plastic garbage bags from a one bedroom apartment. It wasn’t even a big apartment! I couldn’t step anywhere, just had to jump from spot to spot. It took two of us two days, and it was just one lady who was living there.”
Biggest challenges cleaning companies face
Jesus went through a laundry list of challenges he encounters on a daily basis, from hiring and training staff, to finding customers.
- Hiring and motivating staff: “Hiring is the main problem,” he said. San Jose is a particularly tight labor pool right now, with very low unemployment, so laborers know they have the upper hand. “If your staff notices that you don’t have enough employees, they do whatever they want and take days off or flake on finishing all the appointments of the day. They know that you need them.”
- Training your team: Jesus’s company has a one month training program that the staff goes through when they are hired, but it doesn’t seem to be enough. “You train one way and when you go back to check on them, you find that they clean the way that they want to, not the way you trained them,” he said.
- Finding and retaining customers. Jesus is constantly on the lookout for new ways to find customers. One way he’s done this is by spreading the word about his business while he works for a good cause. CalMaids is one of the Cleaning for a Reason companies that provide free cleaning services to women undergoing cancer treatment.
Other than running his successful cleaning business, Jesus has been playing soccer with a league for the last ten years, and enjoys spending quality time with his fourteen-year-old son. If you live in the San Jose area, book a cleaning appointment with CalMaids to take advantage of his high-quality service.