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Entrepreneurs
Business Observer Friday, Jul. 7, 2017 1 year ago

Clean Machines

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Pursuit of perfection has led to a successful business for a Naples couple. A lingering challenge: Hiring enough people to meet demand.
by: Mark Gordon Managing Editor

Fred Bachmann, a Bronx-born orthopedics salesman-turned-entrepreneur, didn't hesitate one day in 2012 when a client of his residential handyman services business asked if Bachmann also cleaned homes.

Bachmann told the client sure, we clean homes. Bachmann left the house and quickly called his wife and business partner, Gigi Bachmann. He asked her the same question: We clean houses, right?

Turns out the couple didn't have any experience cleaning homes professionally at the time. But they decided to give it a shot. Five years later, their company, Naples-based Gigi Clean, is on a fast growth track. Its niche is in working in the toniest of tony Naples neighborhoods, including Port Royal — one of the priciest ZIP codes in Florida. The homes the company cleans, on average, are 3,500 square feet. Many are double that.

“One house became five,” says Fred Bachmann, who declines to disclose specific sales figures for the business. “Next thing you know we were doing it full time.”

The biggest hurdle of late, says Bachmann, is to find and retain enough trusted and skilled people to keep up with the demand, which now includes a waiting list of potential clients. The couple books the jobs themselves, and they also clean the houses themselves. “We've had to turn customers away because we don't have the people,” says Bachmann.

The goal with Gigi Clean, he says, is to offer a premium service for people who will pay a premium price. But that means the company has to be extra-careful about who it hires, using drug tests and extensive background checks to weed out problem candidates.

The company also seeks to hire people who are as meticulous and perfection-driven about cleaning houses as they are. The type of people who can clean houses with expensive artwork and furniture, not to mention high, hard-to-reach ceilings. In a tight labor market, those candidates, the Bachmanns have discovered, are rare finds.

“We don't like to call ourselves house cleaners,” says Bachmann. “We don't clean houses. We detail homes.”

Fred Bachmann says Gigi Clean's competitive advantage stems from the company's commitment to use environmentally friendly equipment and products. That includes water-filtered vacuums, microfiber mops and floor steamers.

The cleaning products are made with botanicals and other ingredients that are environmentally safe for people and pets. The Bachmanns vet every cleaning product they use, and even import some from Germany when they can't find one that fits their needs in the United States. Says Bachmann: “We make the home a better place to live.”
Bachmann says another key entrepreneurial lesson he has learned in owning a business is to take the time to enjoy the satisfaction of providing a good service for clients. “This has been very fulfilling and gratifying,” he says. “The only thing I regret is not doing it much sooner.”

Small but mighty

For a house cleaning business that caters to high-end clients in Naples — not exactly a young demographic — Gigi Clean excels at utilizing social media.

The company, staffed by husband-wife team Fred and Gigi Bachmann, frequently posts content on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube. Posts range from quirky in-action cleaning shots to funny pictures to serious cleaning tips of the day. The YouTube videos are professionally produced, but Fred Bachmann does most of the other work himself. “Social media is a big part of our success,” says Bachmann.

Bachmann says the key to a great social media strategy, he's learned, is to post early and often. Be serious about the brand and consistency of posting, but be light and funny in the posts. “You have to be relevant,” he says, “and be different.”

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