“This is what our philosophy is as a company: ‘Train people well enough so they can leave; treat them well enough, they don’t want to,’” said Marie Justice, the owner and co-founder of Community Cleaners, quoting Richard Branson, CEO and founder of Virgin Group.
Community Cleaners, a minority-owned, woman-owned commercial cleaning company in Madison that centers itself around morally and ethically responsible practices, was founded 10 years ago by local filmmakers and entrepreneurs Marie and Johnny Justice. However, it was only five years ago that the pair expanded and began to hire more staff members.
“What we noticed with the commercial cleaning industry, most folks in the industry were underpaid and overworked and not valued,” Justice told Madison365. “So that’s how this idea — when we decided to expand and to begin employing people — of being a morally and ethically responsible commercial cleaning company came to fruition.
“[A] morally and ethically responsible commercial cleaning company means that we pay livable wages, we treat people with respect and we value them, and we understand how important they are to our company … without them we don’t have a company,” she continued.
“We can have the best protocols, the best procedures, the best disinfectant, and we’re using top of the line products, but it really doesn’t matter if the folks who have to actually do those procedures and use these products aren’t trained well, aren’t treated well, and aren’t paid well … they don’t actually care,” Justice added. “So if you want people to care about what we’re doing, we’re paying people to not just train them well and treat them well but to care and to actually complete the task at hand. If you’re overwhelmed and stressed and you’re not treated well and your job doesn’t value you .. why would you do a great job?”
One of the many ways Community Cleaners supports their team members is through proving a system of upward mobility within the company via a three-tier mobility program (Bronze, Silver, and Gold). With each tier, employees receive higher wages; more flexibility with hours and schedule; increased managerial responsibilities; and opportunities to receive training in business management.
“We don’t look at the cleaning industry as a dead-end job and, especially for our company, we don’t look at that in that way and we’re really proud of what we built,” Justice said. “And we feel like the individuals that work for us are very proud of the work that they do, they really they care and so we want them to be rewarded in some way. You put time and energy into a company and you’ve been supporting that company and helping that company grow, there should be something for you to grow into.”
Along with providing internal means of supporting their staff, Community Cleaning encourages a “family-style” environment. The company hosts frequent company dinners, encourages feedback, and is offered flexible scheduling around employee needs.
“The feedback is so essential to me,” Justice said. “We’re not the all-seeing God here or these all-knowing guys. You’re in there every single day doing this work, [so] what can we do better? What do you know that we don’t know?
“The commercial cleaning industry is notorious for having huge, huge turnover rates… and so I just like having that idea that it was a good enough experience, that even if you need to take a break, people still come back and there are like no hard feelings or like we’re not gonna punish you.”
Most of the company’s clients are non-profit organizations and according to Vanessa McDowell, the CEO of YWCA Madison and one of Community Cleaners’ clients, that is what drew her to the cleaning company.
“Their vision and passion for what they’re doing and the way that they’re doing it in terms of the integrity, as well as the focus on employees, are rightfully treated and feel a sense of belonging and connection to the organization,” McDowell said. “That is right in line with our values at YWCA Madison.
“You treat your employees well then they will do well … that doesn’t often just mean monetarily,” McDowell continued. “I mean, I think culture is very important and conversations, as well, like, you got to make sure that your employees feel like they belong, that they’re respected and feel like they’re a part of the team.”
Justice added that Community Cleaners is proud to be forming partnerships with companies who are committed to helping the community in the same way that Community Cleaners is committed to ethically supporting their team members.
These practices are what, Justice assures, makes her business the best because with happy employees, you have happy clients.
“You know when I give this spiel or when I give this pitch [to the company’s clients], oftentimes, the response is like, ‘OK, yeah sure, what’s my bottom line though?’” Justice said. “Like that’s all they care about, and I’m like, ‘No, this is why it’s essential.’ Sure you can get something for less, but are you getting what you pay for? Are you’re getting what you thought you were buying? I don’t think so. I’m willing to bet you’re not because it’s just it’s not a sustainable model.”