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Meet Greg Shepard of Dallas Maids

Today we’d like to introduce you to Greg Shepard.

Greg, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I moved to Texas from Tennessee in 93 to attend Baylor University. After graduating IBM became my new home where I worked with, what was then, the fastest supercomputers in the world; the SP RS/6000. They were used for some pretty cool tasks such as simulating nuclear explosions for the U.S. government and defeating World Chess Champions. You may have heard of Deep Blue, the first computer to do so, defeating the reigning World Chess Champion and legend Garry Kasparov.

Later I joined the tech team at Bank of America where I was responsible for the computer systems that supported the banks Trusts. In 2004 I left the high tech world to start a maid service.

Why a Maid Service?
A question I am often asked. After all, I had an amazing career in high tech working at fortune 500 companies. What was I thinking?… A thought that often crossed my mind those first couples of years after starting Dallas Maids. Anyway, to answer that question… Building a business was what I wanted to do. I wanted to create something of value. And I wanted to see people, both customers and employees, benefit from that value. This is much more fulfilling than hacking away behind a glowing computer screen all day.

I wanted this SO bad my mind just started focusing on it. I started reading books on how to start a business. Ideas started flowing forth. I wrote them all down in a pocketbook I kept on me. After a year I had a long list of good ideas. And the best way to have a winning idea is to have many good ideas. Maid Service was one of them. I chose it because I felt there was no way I could fail. The feeling was so absolute and compelling I quit my job and jumped in 100%.

I created an embarrassing amateurish website, hired two housecleaners and an office manager, rented an office… Well, they said it was an office though I think it was meant to be a closet. Starting out you need to be frugal. The office building was nice enough. It was located off of Harry Hines and Northwest highway across the street from a strip club… Yeah, sometimes we got calls for a special type of maid service we definitely did not offer… anyway, Dallas Maids was born.

My programming skills easily transferred to starting a cleaning service company: Building a business is like writing code: You write the code (i.e. business’s operation manual) then continually debug it until you have a program (cleaning service system) that produces the same quality results (housecleaning) for the user (customer).

One of the first things I did was form close relationships with other maid service owners. I quickly found the ones that excelled at what they did and incorporated the best of what I saw there for Dallas Maids, adding to our operation manual.

I also innovated our own proprietary systems such as our 5 step hiring process. It is the most selective hiring process I know of among any of the maid services in Dallas. The key to any business is finding and keeping the best people. In an industry where the average turnover rate is 300% per year, Dallas Maids has fortunately been a fraction of that.

Low turnover and keeping talent is integral to creating a quality maid service. Why? Because it allows you to send the same team to your customer which is important for a few reasons:
First, customers have the comfort knowing that the team providing cleaning service yesterday will be the one that will be there tomorrow. After all, it’s nice to know who is cleaning your home. The maids often become part of the family.

Second, by sending the same team, they develop a sense of ownership. That’s their house. They know how best to clean it. They know the family. And total responsibility for it being cleaned keeps the praise or blame on that one team. Third, assigning customers to a team gives a sense of order for their work week. Routine is comforting. It’s less stressful. And the less stress, the more they can focus on their job – making our customers happy!

Fourth, and most importantly, there is a learning curve. The team learns how to clean your home, making for a more efficient and consistent clean over time. They also learn what you and your family expect so the cleaning can be more tailored to your needs. And learning how to clean your home results in less breakage. Something everyone wants to avoid!… And if there is an accident, Dallas Maids is insured for 1 million dollars.

These benefits can only be realized when you send the same cleaners to a home. And this is the biggest mistake I saw with other maid services: switching teams on customers to accommodate logistics. It’s why we mop up the competition. Working on logistics is tough. However it is in the best interest of the customer, the employee, and the business to send the same cleaning crew each time. Retaining the best talent and sending the same team to our customers lets us offer the most value to our customers.

Learning from other maid service owners, creating a system that works, having the best people and sending those people to the same customers has paid off. It has been an honor to have been recognized for our work. Dallas Maids has been recommended by D Magazine, awarded Living Magazine’s Reader’s Choice Award, and had been invited as a recurring guest and local cleaning expert on The Broadcast, a morning TV show that had aired in Dallas.

They’re no longer on air but you can view the segments we were in at youtube.com/dallasmaid under “Our Television Appearances”. Thank you for the chance to share a little about my story and how I made what Dallas Maids is today.

Has it been a smooth road?
Building a business is a great deal of work. From the beginning, my employees were the most important part of the business, more so than the customer, more so than myself. I worked 12 to 14 hours a day to make sure my staff had a livelihood. Waking at 3 am in the morning to pass out flyers all day to ensure there was enough work. Cleaning myself so I could learn the job and take up the extra slack until I had enough work for an additional cleaner.

Taking calls all hours of the day and night because every job counted. Sometimes I would use our credit card checks to pay staff because we didn’t have the money. I was barely hanging on. The first year I lost money. Fortunately, I had stocks that could be liquidated, keeping Dallas Maids going. The second year no money was made or lost. The third year I paid myself a humble $150 a week. The fourth year was when the danger was over, paying myself a modest salary of $40,000.

Today, my hours are much shorter, I no longer clean, and I have a wonderful staff that is taking calls and providing award-winning service to our awesome customers. It’s the people of Dallas Maids that make it a success. I’ve been lucky to have them.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
We specialize in residential home cleaning and are pretty good at it. I’m proud of the recognition Dallas Maids has received for our services. We’ve received a glowing recommendation D Magazine, are accredited and have an A+ rating with the BBB, we’ve even starred on a Reality TV show – Primetime Love, episode 2, season 1. We have more awards listed here: http://www.dallasmaids.com/awards-recognitions

What sets you apart from others? Good question and I actually wrote an article a few years ago entitles “What Sets Us Apart”. It was one of those times where the words flowed out and I simply had to write them down. It can be found at http://www.dallasmaids.com/what-sets-us-apart/ though I pasted it below for you:

What sets you apart from all those other maid services out there?
This is a question we often receive, and understandably so. As one real estate agent recently told me (after happily discovering us 🙂 that finding a good maid service is “hit or miss”. So what makes Dallas Maids a “hit”? What sets us apart from the others? Glad you asked…

Years ago, when I organized Dallas Maids, I wanted to create a system that guaranteed to create the highest value for our customers. The first thing I did was form close relationships with other House Cleaning services. I quickly found the ones that excelled in providing the best service, incorporating the best I saw there for here at Dallas Maids. In addition, I quickly discovered what did and did not work, innovating my own systems such as Dallas Maids’ highly selective interviewing process. The key is having and keeping the BEST people.

Dallas Maids has the MOST selective interviewing process that I know of among any of the local and national chains in Dallas. This has been one of the most important factors in creating a quality business for several reasons. First, we look for integrity. We know you entrust us with your home and personal belongings. Knowing that the potential employee does not have a criminal record is NOT enough for us. If any dishonesty is detected the applicant is out. Did they say employment at a previous job ended in May when it really ended in April – Out? Any resume embellishments no matter how small – Out. Did they show non-verbal signs that they are being dishonest – Out.

As for this last one, one of the wonderful things I have picked up is the ability to read people and understand how the mind works. Some books I have read (usually more than once) on the subject are “The Definitive Book of Body Language”, “Essentials of the Reid Technique: Criminal Interrogations and Confessions”, “Unlimited Power”. Did you know when telling a true story, it has a different structure than telling a false story? That is the word “honestly” precedes a statement, that statement is usually false, as in “Honestly, I never stole…” I have integrated this knowledge into the interviewing process and as a result, there has NEVER been a case of theft at Dallas Maids. Your possessions are protected.

Second, in addition to a moral ethics, we look for a solid work ethic. Do they have a stable work history with superior performance? If they hop from job to job – Out. If their references state they were anything but exemplary in their work – Out. If they show up to the interview one minute late – Out. Indeed, one of the “problems” is that our ladies work too efficiently, too effective. A complaint we sometimes receive is that the ladies were not there long enough. When asked, “how was the clean?” they often reply, “it was perfect!” We prefer this complaint than hearing “the job was horrible but they were around all day”. Your home will sparkle.

Finally, we have an extraordinary low turn over rate. Other services play the numbers game, hiring and firing hoping to find a star while playing Russian roulette with a customer’s home! We pick the best from the beginning, paying a salary above the industry average (this is a hard job; tips are welcome!) and treating them with the respect they deserve. In an industry that has an average of 300% turnover rate a year, last year [2007] Dallas Maids was 0%. You have the comfort knowing that the person providing service yesterday will be the one that will be there tomorrow. We send the same person every time. It allows a friendly relationship to form between the professional house cleaner and client.

Our ladies learn what you and your family expect so we can tailor the cleaning to your needs. They learn how to clean your house making for a more efficient and effective clean while greatly lessening the chance of breakage. They feel a sense of ownership. That’s their house for they know what is how best to clean the house. This can’t be done constantly switching teams. Many other services switch teams for they think it is necessary to accommodate the logistics; though we have found the benefits of having the same person at your home greatly outweighs logistic pains. Whichever service you decide on, ensure they are in the practice of sending the same team!

Integrity in this industry is awfully important, in my opinion, more so than the actual cleaning provided. With any business, the employees take their cue from management. Management that cut ethical corners can expect the same from their employees. You do not want that in your home. A couple of things to ask are “in a job that is hard, physical labor, does the company do all it can to lessen distractions that hinder the from cleaners doing quality work?” and “Is the business conducting business legally?”. First, does the company management work hard to minimize any distractions that could affect the cleaner’s work? As mentioned before, management should ensure employees have assigned jobs.

Having employees take ownership of a house, and thus total responsibility for it being cleaned keeps the praise or blame located on one team. Also, having assigned jobs gives a sense of order in their week, finding comfort in routine. Working around the logistics is tough. Though it is in the best interest of the customer, the employee, and the business to send the same person. Companies that don’t are taking an easy/lazy way out.

Management that works hard to make it easier for their professional cleaners to do their job earns the employees respect and gets quality work. Second, is the management conducting business in an ethical manner? Ask if the workers are employees or contract workers.

Having contract workers is a red flag for several reasons: One, it is illegal (law requires all workers to be employed by the company). Two, they tend to be illegal immigrants (checking their legality is laxer than that of hiring an employee, who requires a proper social security number, id, etc). Three, it limits the liability of the company if something goes wrong. Contract workers in this industry rarely have proper protection such as insurance. Important if bleach accidentally ruins a wood floor finish, an heirloom accidentally is broken, or theft occurs. Ignoring the law of the land for cheap labor, eluding taxes, and liability is not the proper mindset when in an industry that requires integrity.

If management can’t be expected to act honestly, how can the employees? Also, see if the company sends teams of 3 or more people. The optimal number of professional cleaners to send are teams of two or one. More than this adds the cost of idle time while driving between jobs. Also, there is more chance of a team member not pulling their weight. Both costs may be passed on to you. Companies that send teams of three or more usually indicates that one or more of the employees do not drive usually due to their inability to get a driver license or car insurance – a red flag that they are not residing in this country legally.

As you can see, our hard work and dedication to excellence have paid off. It has been an honor to be recommended by D-home Magazine, to be voted Best House Cleaner in Dallas on CitySearch for 2006 and 2007, and to have an A rating on Angie’s List, a website whose businesses are reviewed by customer’s like you. I hope this helps in determining the right business for you and your family. I hope this explains what distinguishes us from the rest and why we are a hit. There is so much more to say about Dallas Maids. If you have any questions just give us a call. One of the Office Managers or I would be happy to hear from you.

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
Dallas is the perfect place to start a cleaning business! The population is continually growing providing plenty of homes to clean. There is an eager pool of potential employees wanting to work. Dallas is friendly to good businesses.

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