Jessica Jankoski started her cleaning business, Master Clean USA, over 23 years ago in Santa Barbara when she was a wise 22 year old who wanted to build something of value and to create a service dedicated to providing high quality cleaning and the best customer service. After having her first child, she realized she wanted to be more in control of earning her own living, and knew someone in Northern California who had been successful at starting a cleaning business.
Not having a lot of cash on hand, she wanted to get into a business with low overhead. “All I needed was a vacuum and cleaning supplies!” said Jessica. She handled all the cleaning and, after scouring the yellow pages for leads, sent typewritten letters to offices to solicit their janitorial business. This approach worked and she got a few offices on her cleaning rotation. From there the business built by word of mouth. She managed a daycare service in the morning and would clean offices at night.
Jessica’s father always told her that it didn’t matter what you did for work as long as you did the best that you could and found pride in your work. Jessica took this work ethic to heart and worked hard as a teenager waitressing and working for Kentucky Fried Chicken in order to make money to travel and study abroad in Spain. Learning Spanish in Málaga has served her well in her career as she is able to communicate with those members of her staff whose English-speaking skills need a bit of work; Jessica also offers English classes for anyone looking to brush up on those skills.
Master Clean USA is a family-run business, as Jessica works alongside her sister and husband, Skip, who offered a ton of valuable advice on revamping the company during a pivotal point in its history. “We took a close look at the culture of the company and made significant changes for the better, demanding excellence from our employees and providing them with a profession. We helped them see they were part of something bigger, and started giving bonuses and paying more. Since then we’ve more than tripled our business,” said Jessica. They diversified the services they offered by partnering with professional window and carpet cleaners and branching into services like stone restoration.
“Our employees are part of the family… we don’t want the wrong people working for us.”
The focus of Master Clean USA is on finding and retaining top-quality employees to provide the best and friendliest cleaning services in Santa Barbara—excellent, ethical, and hardworking employees. Jessica shared some of the secrets she’s learned about hiring: “We build a culture where the value of their position is so great that they don’t want to lose it. We’re paying people much better rates than most other companies in our area. We create incentives and bonuses for excellence, and have an employee of the month program. We demonstrate that everyone is held accountable, require respect between people, and when we see employees come in that disrupt teams with gossip or hurtful behavior, we get rid of them.” By focusing on providing a protected atmosphere where employees are valued, Master Clean is able to keep their best team members around and have them recruit other people they know would be a good fit for the company. Word of mouth is the best method by far in attracting the kind of top notch talent that Jessica wants on her staff. She pays her employees a referral bonus for new hires that pass a probationary period.
This focus on the staff spills over into monthly meetings where all the staff gathers around a smorgasbord of snacks and talks about the business. Employee of the month nominations and voting takes place during these meetings, and Jessica always tells a story to create awareness of the bigger picture that the employees are involved in, such as a client success story or a detail from the history of the company. These meetings are also where reminders are given about safety or procedure, like taking photos of damage discovered at a client’s home. The most valuable part of the meetings is the opportunity for the team to give feedback on what the company can do to make their jobs better. This is where the idea for profit sharing came from, which was implemented this year. Last year the group asked for and received health insurance, and there are plans to offer a retirement package in a few months.
“We recognize that our success is built on employees who buy into our vision, and they need to see that they are important to us.”
Jessica believes in providing her team a wage that allows them not to have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet or to live in an apartment packed with a dozen people. “This is about more than just getting by. I want them to see that they are not just stuck in this position. We’re investing in the people who are going to help us become profitable.”
“We change lives.”
There is a real sense of accomplishment that Jessica thrives on when she receives a happy phone call from a client satisfied that their money was well spent on the cleaning that Master Clean USA provided. This is amplified whenever the client mentions how cheerful the team was and how pleasant they were to have around, that the cleaning staff made the client feel important and that they really cared about treating the client’s personal space with respect. This is Jessica’s favorite part of the job, and she said, “It’s really satisfying to provide a spectrum of help, from remediating a hoarding situation to helping clean a home up after a fire or helping someone overwhelmed with kids and work.”
Serving the Santa Barbara area, Master Clean USA is frequently tasked to help clean up UC-Santa Barbara students’ mess when they leave for the summer. “We do some crazy move- out cleans. There is story after story of messes that we’ve had to clean up. Every summer we sit around and throw up our hands because these students are the next generation of adults and they have things growing in carpets, toilets and bathtubs that are black with mold, trash everywhere. We’re always amazed by what we see, and it’s not just one or two cases but 80-90% of the student move-out cleans.”
While running a successful business can take up a lot of owners’ lives, Jessica finds time to have fun by going on road trips with her husband on their Harley Davidson motorcycle, fixing up a recently purchased property, and gardening. If you’re looking for a high quality cleaning in the Santa Barbara area, book a professional cleaning with Master Clean USA.
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