When Jeff Skinner and Jim Tinney were the casualties of a corporate layoff in Denver a little more than five years ago, they knew they were ready for a change. They packed up, hopped in their car and made a beeline for Fargo. They had a friend in the area and were intrigued by the job prospects the city offered, but mostly, as Skinner puts it, they were “closing their eyes and pointing their finger on a map.”
Tinney got a job at a trucking company, and Skinner, who says he “grew up cleaning,” started cleaning houses to help make ends meet. Eventually, the two caught entrepreneurial fever and decided to start their own cleaning company, which they say is aimed at the higher-end client, and in just a few years, have gone from pulling in around $75 a month to a client list north of 140.
The thing that jumps out to me about you guys is, well, you’re guys. You just don’t see a lot of guys in the cleaning business.
Skinner: I think it’s what separates us from everybody else is that we’re two guys. And really, that’s what Home Helper is all about. We want to totally separate ourselves from all of these mom-and-pop cleaning shops around here. Because there are a lot of them.
Tinney: You get the older folks who kind of go, ‘Oh, I never thought two guys would be here.’ But it hasn’t been a barrier. In fact, I think some people gravitate toward the novelty of it.
Why are you guys targeting the higher-end residential and commercial consumer?
Skinner: It didn’t start out that way. I was going to save hoarders when I moved here. My first client was a hoarder, and I couldn’t handle that. It was just a little too much. Then we started cleaning semi trucks, which was nasty as well. So we backed off that. Then, we put an ad on Craigslist, one lady replied and it just grew from references from there. And it just happened to go the way of higher-end, and I think we’re kind of glad that happened.
Tinney: There’s a personal touch we bring. We’ll take kids’ toys and arrange them in different and funky ways, put sunglasses on them, make them hang from the rafters. One of our biggest clients said their kids would run home to go see what was changed in their room. And it was something they looked forward to, as opposed to, ‘Okay, what was stolen this week?’
I’d imagine the higher-end client is a particular type. Does that present any unique challenges?
Skinner: In the beginning, we were a little challenged by it. But they’re just people. Do they have higher expectations? Yes. But so do we in our own house. So I think we can vibe off that.
Tinney: They’re more, ‘I don’t want to have to deal with this. I don’t want to have to come back after you. I don’t want to have to re-do it. I want you to come in and have the confidence that you guys are going to come in, not miss anything and everything is done.’
The thing with our clientele is that we have to almost become experts on any floor type, counter type, wood type. The products we buy are pricier so you know you’re going to get your money’s worth. It’s not just Pine Sol or stuff from Walmart.
Also, we’re not showing up in cars labeled with cartoon characters or bright colors. I don’t think our clientele wants it broadcasted that they’re having their house cleaned.
Skinner: You have to be on your game. We’re a little pricier, and they expect that. They expect a clean for their money. So it’s a challenge every day, and we love it.
What are some of the specific challenges you guys have run into with your business model?
Skinner: Finding the right employees. This market is so saturated with jobs, you get people who you hire on, and then they leave because they can just leapfrog to another job. We have a pretty good team now, but it’s been a challenge in the past.
Home Helper Services, LLC
417 Main Ave., Fargo