How to weed out homemade competitors from your business.


This actually comes with experience, it’s not 100% because humans can be unpredictable but what I am about to tell you may help you cut the head off any homegrown future competitor you might have in the future.

Firstly let, me explain what I mean by homemade competition. These are employees that benefit from your training and support but have then decided to jump your ship and start paddling their own dingy in your paddling pool. Lets face it; we are in the business of making a business not in the business of training up one-man bands. That is just a waste of everyone’s time.

Annoying to say the least, but this does not have to be a toxic relationship (I will discuss this more in a later blog called Home Grown Competition – How to keep it Civil)

The fact of the matter is this. You have worked hard to build your business and you have set your goal. You might want 5 vans in your fleet, you might want 10, you might want 100… your business plan might be 100% residential or your plan might be the store king of your region. Whatever that goal is, sounds like you need a lot of good staff.

Employing crew for your window cleaning business can sometimes be a nightmare but there are protection elements you can utilise and risk assessments you can carry out that will minimise your exposure to the ‘homemade competitor syndrome’.

Most of this filtering work is done at the interview stage. I will discuss this further in another blog called ‘Interviewing for staff -how to filter out the rubbish’.

Once you have selected your new crewmember and they have checked all your filtering boxes, that employee becomes subject to a 3-month trial period. The interview and assessment is continued.

You will study this employee over the next 3 months… how do they gel with the rest of the team? Are they on time? What is the work quality really like? How do they act around your customers? What types of questions do they ask about your business?

What sounds do they make relating to pay Vs prices the company charges your customers?

You will be looking at where your goals are for your business. If you want to expand then you may be looking at leadership skills. Somebody that questions you over your business and operations may be of interest, however, somebody that asks how much you charge or why do you charge that price should be looked at a little more closely. I must stress this all needs to be done in context of the wider picture.

It may be that the person’s good nature Vs their seemingly intrusive questions surrounding your pricing or how much you pay a contractor for example, may point towards a great supervisor or manager but it may be somebody you need to watch.

Here are some signs to look out for and how to deal with them.

Do they complain a lot? – Complaining is a sure sign of discord and needs to be stamped out. Some examples to watch are as follows.

If a job is hard they may complain about the difficulty Vs the wages they are paid.

If you have decided to install tracking devices into your vehicles, they may complain and say it’s like ‘big brother’ watching you.

They may complain about working hours a lot.

Arrange a meeting with the employee. Discuss the issues. Ask if they are happy? If not why? In this meeting you can apply your filters again. Compare them with the initial interview. Go with your gut feeling and not what work you have on…. Is this person working out for your business? Discord amongst employees can be cancerous so deal with it head on. You don’t need it in your business.

Asking intrusive questions -The employee might ask questions about your business and operation, this may even extend into questions relating to financial aspects. Some of this may be completely innocent but as always you will know when the line is being crossed. They may ask:

How much do you charge for gutters and how did you get to that price?

How much did you pay that contractor?

How do you quote a house then?

How much does that cost?

What was the price of that powered access hire?

In my opinion this employee may be asking far too many financial questions than what is considered normal far above their job, they really do not need to know all of this information. This information is reserved for you and your immediate management staff.

Call a meeting with the employee and ask them directly why they ask the questions they have? Explain that this information is reserved for management.

Don’t allow them to carry out private work – This forms part of your employment T&C’s and other legal documents. This is prohibited during employment. How do you know if they are carrying out private work with your equipment and van?

They are not achieving the daily target for the same time.

They disappear a lot or unavailable on the phone.

They take unexplained days of work.

Their work hours are all over the place.

Customers calling to book another clean, customers you have never heard of before.

Missing cash/cheques.

Job sheet does not tally.

Unusual stops spotted on tracking devices.

Call a meeting with the employee with evidence of the prohibited work and ask them to explain. Use the disciplinary procedure and depending on the severity of the situation and the T&C’s of employment you may wish to apply an instant dismissal. An employee acting like this is not right for your business.

They come across as knowing better than you do – When a supervisor thinks they know better than you when it comes to running your business and acts like it, this behaviour needs to be addressed immediately. They may display the following attributes:

Showing signs of grandiose.

Act untouchable – ‘you need me.’

Make sensitive business decisions on your behalf without consultation.

Showing signs of entitlement.

Argue with you over work.

Once a ‘can do’ guy now refuses to help any more than they have to.

This is a bad situation. One would assume warnings and chats about behaviour and conduct has taken place along the way. This person is not right for your business and is ready to fly the cope. They may even be waiting for the right time to leave you in the poop. Act fast, act swiftly within the law, be ahead of the curve and catch them out. You cannot bring this employee back into the fold as they are not listening… they are already planning their own business.

Constantly asking for pay rises – This I have personal experience of. First – pay a fair wage, pay on time and be consistent. I guarantee you, paying staff higher than normal rates does not mean they will not leave. There are other ways of showing gratitude in good work.

One passed employee (supervisor) would constantly ask for a pay rise. It was never enough. He was on a good wage, had use of a company vehicle and mobile. I helped him a lot with cash bonuses, even brand new furniture from my house and paid off his credit card debt. Now you’d think that would buy a little loyalty wouldn’t you?

Staff that hold you over a barrel for more money are not the staff for you, but you should explain to the employee the best way of approaching the subject of pay rises with management. Those that say, “ I been offered more money to work over at Low Shine Ltd. If you don’t pay me a 2-pound increase I will be leaving High Shine Ltd” – let them go. They are not the right employees for you and your business.

Other ways that help protect you.

1 – Interview filters.

2 – Ongoing assessment.

3 – Have legal documents signed.

A training agreement ties the employee to refunding part or all of provided training if they leave the company before a set date. A restrictive covenant agreement that is realistic and stands up in a court of law will need to be signed. This document will set out non-poaching of staff, confidentiality, copyright, intellectual property, a clause on social media, non compete together with a non solicitation and non dealing covenants.

Lastly, so what is a good employee?

A good quality window cleaner that knows how to tackle quality issues.

One that is good at dealing with customers.

One who hardly ever misses a day at work.

One that respects management and shares the company’s vision.

One you could see running your business in your absence.

One that has routine.

A good leader and team player.

Easily likable and approachable.

Not afraid of hard work or pulling up the sides or working unsociable hours.

Can motivate staff.

Can train staff and communicate instructions well.

Can discipline staff if needed

Can navigate challenges outside their comfort zone.

Is a company person.

One that’s looking for a stable long career.

You want to grow your business with employees that want to see it grow too, that have pride in their work and the logo on their shirt. The logo you designed in the early days of your business. Remember you dont need the wrong employee’s, dont ever let them think that. You will end up with a great crew and in fact you may never even come across this situation again.