ESTELL MANOR — Donna Grzybowski may look sweet, but when she’s drilling her Saturday staff of 15 about the day’s cleaning work ahead, she could easily be mistaken for a tough football coach.
Referring to a clipboard detailing her plan of attack, she assembled them into crews, gave them their marching orders, mixed in a couple of pep talks, made sure they had their supplies and sent them off in two Volvo station wagons and a full-sized van.
This firm focus on organization and performance is one reason her Concept One Cleaning Systems — which does commercial, residential and carpet cleaning in Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland counties — is going strong after 24 years.
“One thing that has helped us stay in business is basically always being there when the customer needs us,” said Grzybowski, 49, of Estell Manor.
That requires flexible scheduling and motivated employees who understand the needs of clients.
“When I hire people, I tell them it’s a service industry and the flexibility needs to be there,” she said. “Finding the right people with the right attitude is so crucial” — people who are organized and work well as a team.
A former law secretary, Grzybowski and her husband, Jim, started Concept One Cleaning as a commercial and retail service.
Over the years it has cleaned department stores, supermarkets, churches, auto dealerships, restaurants and warehouses, she said.
After several years it added residential cleaning, and does a lot of seasonal rentals in Avalon and Stone Harbor, especially on changeover Saturdays.
Nancy Greenwood has had Concept One clean carpets in her high-end rental property in Avalon for a decade.
“I got their name from a real estate worker. They are the ultimate small-business professionals, and I recommend them unconditionally,” she said. “I wasn’t happy with anybody we had. We’re perfectionists. With them, we’ve never had any spots linger, they communicate well and they’re fair in their pricing.”
Concept One added carpet cleaning in 2002, investing in a $50,000 steam-cleaning machine that is “very powerful and leaves the carpet dry,” Grzybowski said.
For carpet cleaning, the firm charges 36 cents per square foot, with a minimum charge of $100.
“We don’t nickel-and-dime people by adding extra charges,” she said.
Flat rates for upholstery cleaning are $100 for a sofa, $75 for a loveseat and $50 for a living room chair.
General cleaning rates are $32.50 per man hour, with a three-hour minimum.
She said she charges by the hours actually spent cleaning, instead of calculating a cost at the start and then “overcharging somebody just because they agreed to it,” a too-common practice in the business.
Grzybowski said each client’s needs are detailed in a computer file and can be readily adjusted to focus on a different part of the house or business at different times.
Concept One also handles construction cleanup and one-time jobs of all kinds, in addition to regularly scheduled services.
The firm is insured and bonded, and all employees are screened, Grzybowski said.
Demand for cleaning fell off a bit during the economic downturn but is bouncing back, particularly for rental and investment properties, she said.
“We’re seeing a much better summer this year. We’re starting to go back to doing 30 rental houses on Saturdays,” she said.
That’s great for business, but it requires Grzybowski to be more flexible than her workers.
“This time of year the great disadvantage is I don’t get to spend any time with my family,” she said.
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