For most of us, cleaning is something we want to spend less time doing, not more. But that’s not the case for one entrepreneurial visitor to our shores, who understood that one person’s problem is simply someone else’s opportunity to help.
When Marta Meszaros arrived in New Zealand in August 2014, it was in search of fun and adventure, and hoping to improve her English skills. The sustainable cleaning company she has since started and grown from scratch, is a classic tale of entrepreneurship and hard work by migrants like Meszaros.
On a working holiday visa from her homeland of Hungary, Marta travelled around New Zealand doing the standard range of backpacker jobs – working in hospitality, horticulture, and as a supermarket checkout operator. She fell in love not only with the country, but also with her future husband, and eventually also found a way to earn a living from one of her other great loves – cleaning.
What started with just one client, combined with her joy of cleaning and some slightly OCD tendencies, quickly grew by word of mouth, not only making Marta much happier in her work, but also building a very loyal client base. Soon Marta had more clients than she could handle on her own and her cleaning company was born.
From the outset, Marta has held two priority values in her business that sets The Cleaning Lady apart in the cleaning industry.
Firstly, to be environmentally sustainable. “Working with chemicals is a dead-end road, so I was determined to find solutions that would provide a quality clean and also be environmentally friendly”, says Meszaros.
Chemical cleaning products are often hazardous to both the environment and the humans exposed to them. Meszaros is proud that her company is completely chemical free and instead utilises deep steam cleaning and fibre technology. These methods also reduce the company’s plastic and water usage – additional wins for the environment.
Equally important to Meszaros is to treat her employees well. Unfortunately, the industry has a reputation for treating people badly, resulting in high staff turnover and poor service. “I wanted to prove that it is possible in this industry to have a successful business, providing a quality service, with well treated employees. Staff are the most valuable asset in my business so it’s vital to always treat them well.”
Treating staff well doesn’t stop at simply paying them above the industry average, it is engrained in The Cleaning Lady’s company culture. Staff are well trained in the company’s systems and procedures, and consistency in both communication and service are key. Meszaros is very strict that all promises are delivered on, and there is a clear company culture that ‘everyone is responsible for their actions’.
What matters most to the employees at The Cleaning Lady is not so much the higher pay rate (although this is obviously appreciated), but that their boss is kind and appreciates them, demonstrating this with positive feedback and acknowledgement for a job well done. They know she is happy with their work, which in turn makes them feel good.
“I love my job. I enjoy cleaning, and making things look nice makes me happy. I teach my team to enjoy their work, too, and then it makes it effortless.
These simple values of honesty, kindness and sustainability really are what we stand for – and we deliver a lovely clean home.”
As for many business owners, the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns were an unanticipated disruption requiring every ounce of resilience Meszaros could muster.
“The key lesson for me from lockdown is that we have to find a way to keep calm and focus on opportunities that align with our values.
“Was it hard? Yes. Was it crazy to handle? Yes. Was my business on the line? Yes. But if we focus and are really determined no obstacle can stand in our way.”
Meszaros says learning to look for the ‘silver lining’ in every situation is also key when dealing with challenges like the lockdowns. “I had time to improve systems and processes that serve my customers better and I was able to secure two fantastic business coaches to help me develop a strong and sustainable business.”