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Get financially organised and grow your profits

'We now operate with confidence knowing how profitable each job is.'
Wendy Crawford, Peopleworks Cleaning Services

Top tips

  • Know your breakeven point and price so you're covering costs and operating expenses
  • Do a SWOT analysis of your business strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats
  • Ask for expert advice, use mentors, take classes or hire an accountant
  • Make your payment methods easy for customers

The business

Wendy Crawford started Peopleworks Cleaning Services in 1999. The business is customer focused and services homes, offices, schools and corporate clients.

It hasn't all been plain sailing. Wendy was struck with an undiagnosed condition with severe muscular pain, exhaustion and migraines. Even though she needed to use a wheelchair and adhere to a strict routine, she was even more determined to succeed.

Updating the business plan and financial forecasting to turn a profit

While Peopleworks Cleaning Services had a terrific work ethic and inclusive practices, Wendy felt it needed to reassess the business and where it was heading. While having a million dollar turnover, Wendy was embarrassed by the fact it could not turn a profit.

After deciding to end a large labour hire contract and having to lose more than 60 employees, Wendy was unsure how the business was going to survive and was desperate for professional advice.

Seeking expert help from a mentor

She was keen for confirmation that ending the labour hire contract was the right decision. She also wanted advice on her charge out for home and commercial cleaning work. While numerous reports in the company's accountancy program showed income and all expenses, Wendy could never understand how to formulate scenarios that allow her to forecast financially.

Wendy turned to the Small Business Mentoring Service (SBMS), a non-government, non-profit organisation of volunteer expert mentors, supported by Small Business Victoria, who give their time and experience to help small business.

Wendy, her domestic operations manager Kaylene Passmore, and commercial operations manager Kerri Painter, had 12 sessions under the SBMS Overcoming Problems in Finance and Accounting program

While the company had a good operational track record, it needed a strategic review covering things like the relevance of its original business vision and mission, marketing, business strategies, service delivery processes and operations, use of resources and potential as well as a SWOT analysis to assess strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats,' said SBMS mentor Joseph D'souza.

'Initially I was concerned that the sessions would end up talking airy-fairy nonsense with a vision that meant nothing, but I was pleasantly surprised. In fact it became a valuable tool for staff morale and the future of the business,' said Wendy.

Joseph assisted Wendy and her team in reassessing the business mission, clarifying its vision and value proposition, generating accurate financial models for the business and advised on business growth and marketing strategies.

Business today

Since seeing Joseph, Peopleworks Cleaning has developed a new vision/mission with words and thoughts from all the management team. Wendy is working on more contracts and would like to secure at least one more school within the next six months. She is aiming high by tendering for large commercial contracts.

The business is also advertising with Leader newspapers' True Local website, and is in the top three hits for the Upwey and Lilydale regions. Its own website has been updated and now includes cleaning vouchers and PayPal. It also sells Peopleworks cards and gifts.

'I believe that the business now has a better understanding of how to manage and steer the company using basic but essential financial performance views on not just a daily, weekly, fortnightly view but on a per-job basis', said Joseph.

The result

'We now operate with confidence knowing how profitable each job is,' said Wendy. 'I have had to increase our charge-out rate in home cleaning but can now be sure that each job is making a profit. How wonderful is that! This added confidence really shows in our sales pitch and conversations with customers and ensures that I stay away from grabbing the quick fix/high risk labour hire jobs.'