Shields Bialasik – April 21, 2013
Eric Grace began Graceworks Housecleaning Services five years ago with a focus on cleaning for a handful of clients with chemical and environmental sensitivities.
Since then his business has grown and he now employs a team of five cleaners serving individuals and businesses throughout the Rogue Valley. His specialty is eco-friendly cleaning with careful attention to details, while using only non-toxic, green cleaning supplies. The result is homes and businesses that look beautiful, feel clean, and smell fresh, without the nasty effects of harsh chemicals and artificial additives that can negatively affect adults, children, and pets. I met with Eric to talk about his business, the care and attention he brings to every cleaning and the inspiration behind his growing company.
Eric, thanks for taking the time to speak with us today. I’m very impressed to hear that you have been so successful with all of your work and yet you have actually never advertised. What’s the secret behind your success?
Hi Shields, Thank you. I really appreciate what you have created here with the LocalsGuide. It is such a gift and resource to our community. I love how it puts names and faces to members of our community alongside their local businesses. I believe it makes us less of strangers to one another and cultivates a sense of connectedness and friendliness, which is a precious thing in this day and age.
So yes, in answer to your question, we have done quite well with word of mouth referrals and no paid advertising. Our secret is to give excellent quality and effective cleaning along with superb customer service at a good price. As our clients have had good experiences they have shared those good experiences with others.
I never intended to start my own housecleaning business. Several years ago I used to work with my friend Michael Kozak’s New Age Natural & Organic Carpet Cleaning business. I loved seeing how he was giving great service with his non-toxic carpet cleaning by making clients happy with how the places looked and felt afterwards. I noticed how I had gotten headaches around toxic cleaning agents in the past but not when I was helping Michael with his organic cleaning system. Then he referred me to a housecleaning job for a community member that needed me to use green cleaning supplies because they had chemical sensitivities that often caused migraines.
As I began to work with them and learn how to clean efficiently and effectively, I learned more about green cleaning. Word began to spread that I was cleaning and I gained new clients until I could no longer take any more in my schedule. I decided to begin hiring others to take on the requests of the people that I could not assist. I saw it as a niche need in the community and voila!, Graceworks Ecofriendly Housecleaning was born.
One of the really wonderful things about developing my business was that I found I enjoyed creating the relationships with clients and then supporting my crew to do the same. Many of our clients have become like family.
Let’s talk about the relationship building aspect side of your business. Going into someone’s home and cleaning requires a level of trust and integrity. Can you share a little bit about your own expectations for yourself and then how these have translated into your business?
When I first began cleaning I realized how important it was to establish a relationship of open communication and trust with each client. I recognized that a person’s home is often their sanctuary. It has their precious valuables that need to be tended to with the utmost care and it is often the place where they feel most secure in the world. With this sense in mind, we get to know each client’s unique needs and orient our cleaning to them, respecting their home, tending to their precious valuables, and giving them the sense that everything has been well taken care of in their home so they can be at ease.
House cleaning happens to be just one facet of what your company can do. Often times you might end up helping out with additional errands, chores or things that a home owner just needs an extra hand with.
As I began cleaning I discovered clients needed more than just housecleaning. Many times there are odd jobs around their home, organization, personal assistance, or errands that need to be done. As I mentioned earlier, we have a focus on building relationships. One of the benefits of this orientation is that we can help clients with the things they don’t know how to get help with, such as getting mail when they are out of town, or housesitting, or shopping. Some individuals don’t have friends or family that live close by or neighbors that can assist with these things. As we get to know our clients and as they get to know us, we really enjoy offering resources in these situations either by offering to do them ourselves or finding someone who can. It is a little bit like when I was a concierge at a 4 star resort years ago. It can really help to have someone from the area that can help link you to the resources you need to make your life that much more easeful.
Eric can you tell us about the eco-friendly side of house cleaning and how the products you use can make a big difference for home owners, their pets and children?
Environmentally friendly cleaning products help improve indoor air quality and reduce the health problems that traditional products cause. Clients, pets, and children experience fewer incidents of skin, eye and respiratory irritations or burns; allergies; multiple-chemical sensitivities; headaches; nausea or other gastrointestinal ailments and poisoning. Eco-friendly products are also very unlikely to contribute to cancer; reproductive hazards and/or damage to internal organs.
Healthier clients and their loved ones mean happier lives. Statistics of green cleaning routines show increased life satisfaction, improved affect, reduced sicknesses, and increased productivity and efficiency!
Implementing a green cleaning routine also can reduce the negative effect cleaning has on the environment. Using environmentally friendly cleaning products in the right manner helps decrease air pollution, water pollution, ozone depletion and global climate change. Green practices also promote recycling, reduce the use of raw materials and minimize toxic products requiring disposal.
Clients often appreciate knowing that green practices and environmentally friendly cleaning products are used in their homes or businesses. Going green helps them market their business as a socially conscious one and it encourages the feeling that they are supporting sustainability.
I know many people out there might have some horror stories when it comes to house cleaning. Tell us about one you hear often and how your company works differently?
Surprisingly, I have heard many times about how clients have hired cleaners that don’t show up on time or don’t show up at all with no communication. I’ve also heard people share stories of how their past cleaners were not giving them the level of quality that they were seeking in a variety of ways. I’ve sought to learn from these mistakes and insure that each client really receive the best possible cleaning experience.
When we meet with our clients we do a walk-through of the house and have a duties list as a reference to make sure that all the bases are covered. We call before the day of the cleaning to confirm the appointment and we commit to always being on time and being in good communication with our client. After the initial cleaning, we call and check in with the client to make sure everything was up to their satisfaction. In the rare case where it isn’t, we make it right immediately. In addition to this, our cleaners continue to stay in touch with our clients over time to make any necessary adjustments or rotation of duties and this insures that our clients are getting the best value and optimum cleaning.
Can you walk us through setting up and establishing a regular house cleaning routine?
When a person calls in, I talk with them about their situation. I get a sense of how big their space is, how often they want cleanings, if they want one or two cleaners, if they have had any past negative or positive cleaning experiences, and what their ideal day and times would be. When I assign a cleaner, I consider whose personality, past cleaning experience, and cleaning style most fits what the person is seeking. Finally, the assigned cleaner checks in with the client before their initial cleaning to confirm the day, time, and location as well as to get acquainted.
Do you ever switch cleaners around?
Most people like to have one cleaner or one cleaning team to be their set cleaners. This helps a more trusting relationship over time, which lends to a more enjoyable working environment, and the cleaners get to know the unique needs of each client and can tend to those needs. Also, if the cleaners were to rotate all the time, they would use more time. We keep our cleaners on the same jobs as they then can get a sense of the most efficient use of time and then repeat and fine-tune that routine in subsequent cleanings.
What can you say about your rates?
We charge a flat rate for one cleaner, and a flat rate for a team of two. We like to keep things simple and affordable. At the same time we recognize that each home is unique. I hire and pay my cleaners at a rate that affords them a living wage in an area that has high living costs. I really see this business as a way to create a win-win-win situation. The clients receive excellent cleaning, the cleaners enjoy their work while being paid well, and I enjoy the creative process of entrepreneurship, helping my cleaners excel and make a good living while helping our clients have the freedom to attend to the things in their lives that are really important to them.
You told me on the phone that you only hire people who love to clean. Tell us more about this.
I have found out over time that if a cleaner doesn’t really love to clean it begins to wear on them quickly and eventually they burn out. Cleaning is hard work, but it can be enjoyable if you have a certain orientation to it. I have found that either people find it really satisfying, almost meditative, or it’s just a job and it gets boring and tiring. The people that love to clean bring good energy and attitudes into the home they are cleaning giving the clients a better cleaning experience. This why I only hire people who have experience and really love cleaning.
Right now as you look to grow your business and introduce yourself to the larger community, can you tell us about what types of clients you might best be able to assist with house cleaning needs?
Our ideal clients are those who are seeking some assistance on a routine basis (weekly, bi-monthly, or monthly) with their household chores to ease their workload. They are looking to use green cleaning products while not diminishing the level of cleanliness and order brought to their home.
Our ideal clients are also local business owners of retreat centers, property management companies, and wellness clinics, homeowners with a home about to go on the market, and small businesses who are looking to give their environments a sense of freshness, order, and beauty without the chemicals.
Eric have you considered doing an educational lecture for the public to share more about what you know in the realm of green cleaning products?
Since I was a teenager I was passionate about sustainability. I am always looking for more ecologically oriented approaches to living. I am considering doing a talk in the area about greening your home as several clients have expressed a desire for it. We like helping educate our clients about the harmful effects of toxic cleaning supplies and procedures on their health. Ecological awareness and the impact of chemical toxicity on individuals and the environment is a growing trend in the U.S. We offer the Rogue Valley a resource to address those concerns. For clients who have never heard of green cleaning we provide them excellent service, a fresh and clean home, and our use of green products is an added bonus!
When someone is interested in more information they can call me and I am happy to take time to talk about it. A good example of a topic that comes up is air quality. People don’t often realize how much dust is in their air. Just because they can’t see it doesn’t mean that it isn’t there. Many vacuums do not pick up most of the dust and bacteria in the air and some do not retain what they do pick up. Instead they spew it back out while cleaning! We just purchased brand new ProForce vacuums that have a four level HEPA filtration system which captures and contains 99.97% of particulates down to .3 microns. These vacuums are backed by the American Lung Association and have an excellent system for notifying us when we need to replace the filters. We have had several clients with illnesses find a great reduction in their symptoms due to cleaner air from replacing duct filters, getting a good air purifier system, and having routine excellent dusting and vacuuming of their home.
Another example is how the fragrances and chemicals that are put in many cleaning products actually can cause or exacerbate illnesses. Past studies have linked exposure to many cleaning supplies to occupational asthma and other respiratory illnesses. Some products can irritate the eyes, the throat, cause headaches or other health problems. These products release dangerous chemicals, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs). My question has always been, once we learn about this, why would we ever want to be putting toxins in our home environment which impacts our family, pets, earth, water and food supply, as well as our own health? These are the types of topics I would love to share in a public talk.
You take viewing the home as a personal sanctuary to heart. Can you say more about this?
I’ve seen over and over how important a person’s space is to their sense of fulfillment in life. Having a disorganized and dirty home can impact a person’s sense of well-being, access to their creativity, and their productivity. So often if the person can feel that they can come to a fresh clean home and just really relax it renews them so they can re-enter the world refreshed.
Many of our clients have a spiritual or religious orientation and see their home as a place of sacredness. We love to clean for these clients by giving positive energy to their home and treating it as a sanctuary.
What’s the best book you have read in the past three months and your favorite place to go in Ashland when you want to relax?
I am more of a movie buff and the best films that I have seen lately were Ruby Sparks, Silver Linings Playbook, and Les Miserables. I loved singing along with Les Mis. I enjoyed the humor, depth, and emotional complexity of Ruby Sparks and Silver Linings Playbook. My favorite place to go is into the rectangle area of grass in Lithia Park or to soak in the hot pool at the Wellsprings. These are my places of sanctuary where I get refreshed.
Finally, any last comments for our readers?
A lot of people don’t realize how much getting their home cleaned on a regular basis frees up energy, time, and creativity to put towards their career, family, hobbies, and community service. We look forward to talking with any of you who have read this and think it might be time to focus a little more on the things that really are important to you, and to have your home cared for so it can be a beautiful, fresh environment to nourish your life.
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Graceworks Ecofriendly Housecleaning Services