Small Business Mentoring Case Study

Peopleworks Cleaning Services

A case study on Small Business Mentoring for increased confidence & frofitability


Wendy Crawford started Peopleworks Cleaning Services in 1999.  The business is customer focused and services homes, offices, schools and corporate clients.  It’s also people centred and values based, providing a friendly and responsible workplace.

It has not all been plain sailing, as Wendy was struck with an undiagnosed condition with severe muscular pain, exhaustion and migraines.  Even though she needed to use a wheelchair and adhere to a strict routine to keep her pain under control, this only made her more determined to succeed and to provide an inclusive workplace.



While Peopleworks Cleaning Services had a terrific work ethic and inclusive practices, Wendy felt it needed to reassess what it was achieving and where it was heading.  Risk management was a big issue with the Labour Hire Department. While having a million dollar turnover, Wendy was embarrassed by the fact it could not turn a profit.

Wendy decided to end a large labour hire contract because the WorkCover risk outweighed any benefit.  This was a difficult decision as it meant losing more than 60 employees. Unsure how the business was going to survive, she was desperate for professional advice.

She was keen for confirmation that ending the labour hire contract was the right decision and if so, were the formulas used to set the various charge out rates accurate for the home and commercial cleaning work.  While numerous reports in the company’s accountancy program showed income and all expenses, Wendy could never understand how to formulate scenarios that would tell her accurately and simply things such as how many more cleaning jobs were needed to give her management team a wage rise.

Wendy turned to the Small Business Mentoring Service, a non-government, non-profit organisation of volunteer expert mentors, supported by Small Business Victoria, who give their time and experience to help small business.



Wendy, her domestic operations manager Kaylene Passmore, and commercial operations manager Kerri Painter, had 12 sessions under the SBMS Overcoming Problems in Finance and Accounting program.

“While the company had a good operational track record, it needed a strategic review covering things like the relevance of its original business vision and mission, marketing, business strategies, service delivery processes and operations, use of resources and potential as well as a SWOT analysis to assess strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats,” said SBMS mentor Joseph D’souza.

“Initially I was concerned that the sessions would end up talking airy-fairy nonsense with a vision that meant nothing and had no impact on the business, but I was pleasantly surprised. In fact it became a valuable tool for staff morale and the future of the business,” said Wendy.

Joseph assisted Wendy and her team in reassessing the business mission, clarifying its vision and value proposition, generating accurate financial models for the business and advised on business growth and marketing strategies.



“We now operate with confidence knowing how profitable each job is,” said Wendy.  “I have had to increase our charge out rate in home cleaning but can now be sure that each job is making a profit. Now every single hour of our home, office, school, corporate and campus cleaning makes a profit. How wonderful is that!  This added confidence really shows in our sales pitch and conversations with customers and ensures that I stay away from grabbing the quick fix/high risk labour hire jobs.”

Since seeing Joseph, Peopleworks Cleaning has developed a new vision/mission with words and thoughts from all the management team. In one two-week period, home cleaning sales rose by 40 permanent hours and commercial by six hours.  Wendy is working on more contracts and would like to secure at least one more school within the next six months.  She is aiming high by tendering for large commercial contracts.

The business is also advertising with Leader Newspapers’ True Local website, and is in the top three hits for the Upwey and Lilydale regions.  Its own website has been updated and now includes cleaning vouchers and PayPal.  It also sells Peopleworks Cards and Gifts.

“I have never come across a business with such a stunning degree of teaming, collaboration and comradeship,” said Joseph.  “I believe that the business now has for the first time a better understanding of how to manage and steer the company using basic but essential financial performance views on not just a daily, weekly, fortnightly view, but, critically, on a per job basis.”