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Swan's Carpet Cleaning

When Richard Swan, the owner of Swan's Carpet Cleaning, explains how he improved his business, he freely states, "It was not a cake walk." His innovative approach for getting control took time and effort. When he started improving, he said his blood pressure went up. Now he says, his production is what is going up.

In a two and one-half year period he increased business revenue by 70%. His results are beyond impressive when you consider he made these accomplishments with 50% fewer technicians. He credits what he is doing as coming from his "priceless lessons." These are the lessons he learned during his most productive years using the principles found in The Game of Work. Richard Swan heard about The Game of Work at a Bridgepoint Carpet Cleaning Network Conference. At the conference, Chuck Coonradt, author and founder of The Game of Work, spoke. After the conference, Richard met with him and talked about his business.

From the beginning, Richard was a believer in The Game of Work principles. Now he practices those principles. Using what he learned when he installed The Game of Work at his business, he actively manages his company and gets results. Richard runs a tighter, more efficient operation and he has more productive and motivated employees. His office staff and technicians have a way to get daily feedback that emphasizes individual and group productivity. At management meetings, he focuses on results and improvements with his head technician and office manager. Regular listening and coaching sessions are common. Everyone has clear expectations and performance standards. His office manager tracks and reports results in relation to those standards. Richard says, "When people choose not to follow the company standards they choose to work somewhere else. We can celebrate our accomplishments rather than focusing on what we did not achieve. And most important, we have a team."

His team makes things happen. Richard explains, "In 1995 we experienced 19% redos. (A redo is when a technician had to return to a job to handle a customer complaint.) It was a critical situation and extremely costly." The Game of Work helped Swan's technicians reduce the number of redos to 11%. That gave them a customer satisfaction increase from 81% to 92%. The next year they improved by an additional 6% in reduced redos. Customer satisfaction was at 98%. They held at 98% until October 1997. During that month the technicians successfully achieved a 15-day running average of 100% Customer Satisfaction. "We did this by making changes from what we did in 1994 and 1995, and we just kept changing." Other changes increased add-on sales, improved record keeping, and created a more efficient office. Richard explains, "Today, accelerating change is an understatement and we are getting better."

It's true, The Game of Work has a way of making good companies better and it opens opportunities for them to become champions in their market. The Game of Work uses five principles that occur naturally in all recreational activities. When installed in a business these principles improve on-the-job performance.

The first principle is Feedback. Psychologists explain that the denial or withholding of feedback is the most severe form of psychological punishment. However, in American business withholding of feedback is a standard operating procedure. Frequent feedback provides the motivation to continue. Lack of feedback causes the motivation to decline and eventually disappear all together. With The Game of Work, Swan's has developed a way of giving immediate feedback. With it, each employee knows exactly where he or she stands with every job completed. Richard recalled, "A couple of years ago we were concerned with our redos. Once we started talking about it and showing each other how we were doing, the number of redos decreased."

The second principle is scorekeeping. In our recreational activities, whatever they are, (from video games to volleyball to home canning projects) the scorekeeping is superior to what we find in most businesses. Recreational scorekeeping is objective, self-administered, peer audited, dynamic, and gives the player a comparison of present performance with past personal performance. In recreation players are measured against the accepted standards of their game. Swan's Carpet Cleaning technicians have individual scorecards that they maintain. In their office and sales area, the staff displays performance scorecards. Displayed scorecards highlight daily activities and how those activities support monthly goals. The scorecards let everyone know what needs to improve and when to expect a celebration.

Third is the Goal Setting principle. Goals in recreational activities do not shift. They are intrinsic to the game and are inseparable from the activity. When goals are clearly defined and grown with the group, rather than imposed, goal achievement improves. Richard was never much of a goal setter before The Game of Work. Now he sets both company and his personal goals, keeping score to achieve those goals. His rate of goal completion has increased.

The fourth principle is Consistent Coaching. Great coaches talk to their people in ways that inspire their people to improve. Their secret is to simply talk. At Swan's, Richard has early morning technicians' meetings that occasionally start with donuts and always conclude with discussions on procedures and results. Aside from their regular meetings, Richard talks to individuals about their work, their improvements, discusses progress toward goals, and celebrates with the winners.

Individual Choice is the fifth principle. When people are able to choose how they accomplish their job, their ownership in the outcome increases and results improve. The technical and office staff at Swan's is closely connected to the business success. Richard describes his staff as people who are setting, achieving and exceeding company goals. "They," he says, "are 2 car lengths and 10 minutes ahead of me in improving the business and their performance." Their level of involvement strengthens their willingness to improve. At Swan's Carpet Cleaning many innovations come from the staff. His office manager, Sandy Kay Briggs, introduced a motivational incentive plan so everyone shares in the results of their efforts. This frees Richard to focus and direct the business. He has the time to get away, develop marketing strategies, write technicians' manuals, and fine-tune his systems. His results are similar to other companies that use The Game of Work.

Shortly after he developed the principles that drive The Game of Work, Chuck Coonradt made a surprisingly accurate observation: People are willing to pay for the privilege of working harder than they will work when they are paid. In the mid-1970's, he was at a manufacturing facility and meeting with the company owner. As they sat overlooking the production floor, the lunch bell interrupted the meeting. The production line stopped. The floor came alive with men rushing from their workstations as if they were late for an important appointment. As they neared the factory door, some workers were seen stripping off their shirts. The owner proudly explained that he had recently converted a parking lot into basketball courts. The men were anxious to play their lunch league basketball games. Forty-five minutes passed. The bell signaling the return to work sounded. From the office, Chuck and the owner watched the workers return to their stations. They observed that the workers returned to their job with much less enthusiasm than they showed at the beginning of their lunch break. Some men, as they slowly walked back to the job, quickly ate their lunch sandwiches. The owner commented that the basketball courts seemed like a good idea. Then wished he could get the workers to be as excited on the job as they were to play basketball. From that observation, that people are willing and anxious to work harder off the job The Game of Work evolved into a way to get business results with the same enthusiasm that people pursue their recreation activities.

Today, The Game of Work is a powerful work place improvement process that harnesses leader and worker motivation to increase productivity, profitability and job satisfaction. Its principles have the power to make good employees champions. With The Game of Work, company champions become consistent superstars.

Swan's Carpet Cleaning in Provo, Utah, proved how well The Game of Work works. Richard says that he is far from having a perfect business, he is still learning after all these years, and says he has miles to go. Now Richard says he uses "the best information he has ever received from his technicians and office staff." That information comes from feedback and scorekeeping. He explains that scorekeeping lets him and his technicians know that they are winning and to what degree they are winning. His goals are clearly defined in performance terms. There is freedom to perform and a choice of methods to reach the goals. Richard's coaching is frequent and his rules do not change in the middle of the game. When combined with the uniqueness of his market, the way he does business, along with the staff's drive for success and an overall winning attitude, The Game of Work helps people improve.

Richard has something that is enviable in any business. He accelerates changes that improve production and strengthen staff attitudes. He has a new way to resolve problems and is intensely proud of his people. Richard has a combination of Jim Henson's persistence, Walt Disney's expectations and Monty Python's humor. With that and an intense love for his customers, he quietly leads his company with process that he says, "not only improves the business -- it improves our lives. With help from The Game of Work I took a leap from micro managing every detail to creating where I want this business to go. And with my people, we are getting there."

To learn more about how The Game of Work can help your business win call (800) 438-6074.

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