“Tell me again, Des, why we’re cleaning the office before the client visits tomorrow?”

Mr. CleanWe have an important potential client visiting tomorrow so I’ve lassoed the troops and we just cleaned the office.  One of the younger guys asked, “Des, this company will be buying our technology, not our office space.  So tell me again why we’re cleaning the office before they arrive.”  To which one of the other guys said, “Tell them your story Des.”  Here goes. 

My first job out of school was working for a large computer company. A few years into the gig, I had an assignment on the New England District staff, one of five guys working for the District manager who managed two dozen Branches.

One of our tasks was for the District Manager and his staff to go to each branch once a year and do an all-day review of everything:  sales forecasts, accounts receivable, quality of service, installations, inventory etc.  The first time I did one of these reviews, when we arrived at the office, I headed straight for the conference room for the presentations to begin.

But the boss said, “No, Des, we start in the back room at the loading dock, work our way back though the inventory room, the engineering area, then the kitchen and bathroom, then the Sales room, and then the conference room.”  When I protested, he said, “Des, you’ll learn that a company that has a neat loading dock, an organized inventory room, a clean kitchen, a bathroom with paper towel and soap dispensers full – those companies will have a clean sales forecast, an account receivable that is not delinquent, a low number of old service calls, clean code, etc.” 

I thought by boss crazy.  But I quickly learned him to be right.

To this day, when I go to a company to “check it out” (usually as a potential supplier; sometimes as a company we’re going to buy) I always ask for an impromptu walk around the facility first.  And I’ve found a direct correlation between the cleanliness of the office and the quality of the product I’m buying.

Maybe my believing “clean office equals clean business” makes me an odd duck.  But whenever we have a visitor we have to presume that he/she might be an odd duck too.

3 Responses to ““Tell me again, Des, why we’re cleaning the office before the client visits tomorrow?””

  1. What shasta daisies and full soap dispensers say about a business « Jules Pieri Says:

    […] husband wrote a great blog post about his own experience in this area.  Why a well-cared for office often signals the quality of […]

  2. Claire Says:

    Of course the question is whether the office is always clean, or just “suddenly clean” (the “suddenly clean” office might not have such a high association with clean operations…).

    Of course I can related to the “suddenly clean” office. When I was working as an associate at a NYC investment bank and my out of town boss came to town, everyone teased me for emptying the top of my (usually messy) desk. They said I had cleared it off so much it looked like no work was happening.

    • Change Agent Des Says:

      Claire, you’re right about the ‘always vs. suddenly.’ Very big difference. Reminds me of two stories. When a teenager, I worked at Star Market and we always lived in fear of the guys from Home Office dropping buy to check on things. But we always got a 10 minute warning of their arrival so we could clean up first. The warning came because when they left one store, they would announce, “We’re heading to Canton (or Norwood, or wherever) next.” When I questioned the logic of the 10 minute warning coming from the manager of the last store visited, I was told, “Des, they know each store can’t be spotless all the time, but they want a store to at least be clean enough so that it can be cleaned up in 10 minutes or less.” Made sense; the store was never worse than ‘almost clean.’ Second story; When cleaning up at Everypoint this week, one of the guys (from South Africa) told of a company he was at that was really a mess. When the guys from Home Office were coming to visit, the plant manager said, “Let’s make it spotless.” But there was just too much crap (old computers, parts, etc.) to clean up so the decsion was made to put all the extra crap up on the roof of the building. The place looked great and everyone was smugly waiting for the home office guys to show up when suddenly they heard a helicopter. The home office guys arrived by helicopter! Needless to say, the first question they asked of the plant manger was, “What’s all that crap doing up on the roof.” The guy didn’t last the week.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: