Changing the Face of Maid Service
March 2014 issue of Business in Edmonton
Dust Queen celebrates 25 years of serving the Greater Edmonton community
With a bucket in hand, Shelly Barless began cleaning two houses per day in 1989. She had no idea that 25 years later she would be sitting at the helm of Edmonton’s largest residential cleaning service. President and CEO of Dust Queen Maid Service, Barless and her team are excited to celebrate 25 years of success as they look ahead to further growth in the future.
With the tireless drive of an entrepreneur, Barless expanded her cleaning service only two years later, moving into her first office and hiring additional staff in 1991. Today, that office is a stunning, bright and modern 5,200-square-foot building located in Edmonton’s south side. It is the hub of all business activity where 35 cleaning technicians and seven office staff – including Barless – start their day with the aim of being the best cleaning service in the city.
“It is so much more than just going out and cleaning a house,” says Barless. “From our manuals, procedures, polices and best practices to our job descriptions it is about being the best at what we do. I would describe myself as a passionate entrepreneur with a vision and that vision is making a difference in people’s lives, and that is what we do every day. Every day we are helping people, and our staff takes great pride in knowing that.”
Barless is quick to point out that Dust Queen’s success cannot be attributed to one person. It is the result of the entire team and their enthusiasm for sharing the company’s core values of teamwork, service excellence, integrity, respect, accountability, professionalism, reliability and growth.
“Yes I am leader of the company, but it certainly takes a team to get to where we are today. It is commitment and accountability that has made Dust Queen a multiple-year recipient of the Consumer Choice Award for Business Excellence and a Top Choice Award winner.”
In addition, Dust Queen is a 20-year member of the Better Business Bureau and maintains an A+ rating. Barless was also awarded the 2011 Consumer Choice Business Woman of the Year Award and this year has been nominated for the Alberta Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Award.
“We have changed the face of maid service,” explains Barless of the company’s growth and success. “We have a very structured professional system that has been developed over the past 25 years. From our administrative staff to our field technicians, we have the system down pat.”
Barless continues, “We see all our staff every morning at 7:30. The day starts with a change out of all previous day’s cleaning supplies and a 15-minute meeting. As part of our inventory system, they drop off their duffel bag from the previous day and each team receives another duffel bag of clean cloths and full bottles of cleaning solutions – that are environmentally safe and biodegradable. If there is a problem with any hardware it too is switched out. Then they are out the door by 8:00 a.m. cleaning over 60 homes per day in the Edmonton area.”
Since Dust Queen recognizes that every client has unique needs, they offer a number of cleaning options from their “complete cleaning package” to a more customized solution. And whether clients have booked a regular schedule of service or a onetime cleaning request, the guarantee is always the same – clients can depend on Dust Queen each and every time and if they are not satisfied, the company will gladly send a crew to redo whatever is in question at no extra charge.
Barless has worked hard to engage staff in every facet of the business. Several years ago, she developed official job descriptions. New hires begin as cleaning technicians – following an extensive two-week training program – and through hard work and dedication can move up to more advanced roles including team leader and certified trainer. The company also boasts a field supervisor as well as an office administrator, customer service representatives and administration associates. Having a full office complement to support the technicians working in their clients’ homes every day ensures the phone is always answered by a live and knowledgeable person during office hours.
“What is exciting to me is that as we grow that creates more opportunity for our staff both in the field and in the office to further their career,” says Barless.
There is no doubt that Barless is just as committed about her staff choices as she is about ensuring every clients’ house is squeaky clean. The company boasts an extensive interview process and all staff are subjected to background checks, reference checks and a police clearance. According to Barless, any potential employee has to fit with the company culture, and once hired must comply with a strict safety code compliant with Occupational Health and Safety. However, in addition to growth opportunities, employees are rewarded consistently for their hard work.
“There are many things we have developed to engage our staff,” says Barless. “There are five criteria for our outstanding performance bonus program for safety and exceptional service, and we present awards at the end of the year. We also have an employee of the month and our staff receive extra bonuses.”
While success in the past is obvious by looking at the well-oiled machine that has become the Dust Queen empire, Barless and her team are not finished yet. Two years ago, they hired a consultant to help develop a strategic growth plan and business optimization process. Barless says the process was life changing and altered every facet of the business going forward.
“Our strategic growth plan is to double in size by the year 2017,” says Barless. “As we continue to grow, we create more opportunities for our staff and that to me is really exciting.”
While the 25th anniversary celebration plans are currently being finalized, Barless is grateful for the community support over the years – and returns her gratitude by supporting a number of local charities including WIN House, the SPCA and numerous others with financial donations and gift certificates for cleaning services to use in fundraising efforts.
“One of the things that is really important to me is to give back to the community because without the people of Greater Edmonton, we wouldn’t be where we are today. We are truly grateful to the thousands of customers who trust us with their home-cleaning needs every day.”