We had the good fortune of connecting with Courtney Cluett-Suarez and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Courtney, what’s the most important lesson your business/career has taught you?
That there is so much I don’t know! I consider myself, and I think most people consider me to be a REALLY nice person. But if I’m honest with myself, as well as I performed in my responsibilities as an employee prior to being a business owner, internally I had a bad attitude. Perhaps this is just human nature, and I’m being overly hard on myself which I typically do. But from my vantage point, I’d reflect upon what wasn’t working in whatever job I was in, and I’d be judgy. Like: they’ve been in business for 30 years, why don’t they have this figured out? Why do they seem not to care about XYZ? Why am I not paid more? Why is there such an imbalance of pay? They really come down hard on me for not staying on task. Why don’t they see or reward me for the above-and-beyond work I do? And somehow in my head, the shortcomings of these businesses gave me permission to somewhat coast. I’d master my job and as I grew to be more disgruntled, I’d coast. I’d stop trying so hard. This is what I mean about an attitude problem. As a business owner, oh my gosh have my eyes been opened. I now see why processes are still being refined, or scrapped and something else is tried. I see why certain things are good enough to not mess with, because higher priority action items are the focus. And I see that as the business owner, I may not take the time to share everything that I’m working on with my staff. I also acknowledge that as much as I wanted to understand the inner workings of those businesses, at that time, it wasn’t my place. I see why staying on task is so valuable to the bottom line. I’ve learned the costs associated with running a business legitimately and how grossly misunderstood these numbers are by non-business owners. I understand why so many businesses fail. It’s hard. It’s lonely, especially in the beginning. Owners get paid last, are the last ones to take time off, are the ones to carry the brunt of business stress: do I have enough to make next week’s payroll, do I have enough staff to make it through the height of our season, so-and-so is a no-call-no-show – are they in a ditch somewhere, and I need to be concerned or did they just decide this isn’t a good fit and this is their way of quitting. Either way, how do I cover today’s work? I say I’ve learned that there’s so much I don’t know, because I’ve been humbled by how misconstrued I was. We’re into our 6th year of business now. We have excellent systems in place. I have amazing employees. I AM intentional about treating my staff with kindness. But we are now in a growth phase, and I find myself in a whole new world of learning again.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
I’m the owner of Property Concierge LLC. We provide residential and commercial cleaning services to the Northern Front Range area: FTC, Loveland, Timnath, and Windsor. One of our areas of specialty is with vacation rentals: AirBnB/VRBO properties. One of my strengths is in processes/systems. I get lost in the refining of systems. How can we save time here? How can create this to be as error free as possible? In fact, apart from being a financially healthy, debt-free business with beautiful books, one of the things I’m most proud of is our linen rental program. Linens are a challenge with the larger vacation rentals. In order to keep costs down for owners, we need to be as efficient with our time as possible. The faster I can turn a property the more affordable the cleaning is. Processing laundry onsite is one of those time wasters. With our linen rental program, the owners rent the linens from us. We process off-site and arrive for the job with everything we need, ready to go. This way we don’t have any surprises. We don’t have to be concerned about stained/damaged or missing linens, or the stress of last minute replacements. We’re also saving the property owner from this as well. Their plate is already full. This is one less thing for them to be concerned about. The cost of our linen program is less than what it is to take them to the laundromat, and it covers the replacements as well. Plus they don’t have the ware and tear on their W/D or increased utility expenses. We really have a heart for service and understand the value of a satisfied guest and the importance of their review. Everything we do is directed to providing an excellent experience for the guest, and as a result the owner. Our linen program was created to address these problems. In fact, I almost walked away from vacation rentals all together. I noticed early on that we can clean faster than the w/d. So then we experimented with taking the laundry off-site. But the linens were getting mixed up between the units. And we still had the issue of replacements and communicating with the owners and hoping they replaced them before the next cleaning. It was a massive hurdle. A linen rental program helps because all the linens are the same. If a king flat sheet gets stained, we have a replacement on hand. I don’t need to be concerned about an incomplete or miss matched set. It allows us to provide consistent high-quality every time. One of the bigger learning curves for me were the finances. I didn’t know the first thing about a proper payroll, paying taxes, insurance, what my liabilities were as a business owner and that of an owner with employees. That’s a whole other intricacy. When I started, I priced my services too low. We grew too fast, and I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t cover my expenses. That’s when I reached out to the SBDC and got a mentor. In turn, they referred me to Debbi Allison, with Openbook Consulting, so I could learn Quickbooks, understand my numbers, and make better business decisions. I think it’s fair to say I probably would not be here, still in business, without their help. As part of our growth phase, this year I’m taking what I’ve learned over the last 6 years of professional cleaning and writing an E-Book teaching DIY’ers the tricks of the trade for a less-stress move out clean. I’m excited to share what I’ve learned: what products we use, cleaning checklists, budgeting time, what NOT to do, and videos galore to show all the details. Deep cleaning is a bit of a lost art. When I first started cleaning, I really had to figure it out on my own. I’d walk the aisle of cleaning supplies at the grocery store, and cross my fingers this new bottle that claimed to be THE ANSWER would get me great results. Fortunately, I had lots of opportunities to experiment and improve. In fact, I looked at our numbers. We have more than 2200 hours recorded in providing move out cleaning services. That’s the equivalent of 55-40 hours work weeks. That doesn’t include the vacation rentals or routine residential jobs. That’s a lot of time refining best practices, right? When someone is planning to do their own move out clean, for the most part it’s a one-time job. There’s really no time for products that don’t work. Packing and moving is grueling. Folks are tired, sore, stressed and just ready to move on. Without the right tools, they wind up frustrated. They’re not getting the results they want and are running out of time. Maybe they are counting on getting their security deposit back, and now they’re worried about that too. Wouldn’t it be AMAZING to have a guide, all consolidated in one source, to make it easier? My intention is not only to teach what we do, but to empower and equip people to feel in control, feel good about what they’ve accomplished, and how they are leaving their home. Plus, it’s a skill they can take with them.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
We live 15 minutes East of Fort Collins on a little hobby farm. I find joy in areas where there is a slower pace. But if my best friend had not been here before, I’d make sure to show them Old Town Fort Collins, the trial flower gardens at CSU (if it was the right season), Horsetooth reservoir, and a day trip up to Estes. Dinner at the Blue Agave. Breakfast at Grey’s Cafe in Ault on main street. They have the biggest cinnamon rolls you’ve ever seen. Multiple trips to the Human Bean. We have beautiful sunrises and sunsets here at the farm. A favorite is to hang out at our koy pond, watch the sun set and the stars shine, warmed by the fire pit, roasting marshmallows and sipping wine.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
The SBDC, Debbi Allison owner of Open Book Consulting, my family, and my dedicated employees.
Facebook: Property Concierge LLC