The 5 Secrets to Thriving in a Business Crisis

March 19, 2020 in Business, Mindset

Last Updated on August 11, 2023 by The ZenMaid Team

This article was created from a live talk that Debbie Sardone gave live in her Facebook group. You can view the video here.

The 5 Secrets to Thriving in a Business Crisis

At the time of writing, there is a great deal of uncertainty in the maid service industry as the Covid-19 (coronavirus) is spreading across the globe. There’s no denying that these are challenging times: many nations have closed their borders, and entire cities and countries are on lockdown.

Of course, this is the first time that we have been hit by this particular crisis. But this is not the first business crisis that entrepreneurs as seasoned as Debbie Sardone will have experienced. This is likely to be Debbie’s fourth business crisis. And she’s learned a few things about how to weather a storm.

Debbie Sardone – founder of Cleaning Business Fundamentals – has been in business for 39 years. That’s long enough to have gone through three major crises in her business life cycle. She’s about to go through a fourth. The reason she is so confident that she will come through the fourth major crisis is because the other three felt pretty apocalyptic and at the time: the low unemployment rate in the 1990s, 9/11 and the 2006 recession.

In this article, you’ll learn Debbie’s tried and tested principles to thrive in a business crisis:

  1. Be a leader
  2. Over-communicate 
  3. Give, don’t take
  4. Pivot quickly
  5. Reframe

Everything passes. And this too shall pass. Maid service owners who remain encouraged and motivated and inspired are the ones who will succeed on the other side of this.

With the right approach, we can get better when we go through a storm. We get better as business owners when we survive a crisis. And when times are prosperous, we get lazy, careless, and complacent. We become too comfortable.

It is more important now than ever to have a healthy business. Ideally, you would make sure of that in good times, to weather the storm easier when crises hit. 

A crisis can become your strongest hour or your darkest hour. It is your choice. Winners always find a way. 

Are you a buffalo or a cow?

Here’s a fun fact about buffalos and cows. When there is a huge storm coming in, cows run away from the storm. They see the storm coming and they begin to run. Buffalo, on the other hand, charge head on into the storm. 

Cows don’t run very fast. And so eventually the storm catches up with the cows and they keep running and running to get away from the storm. They keep running and running, until they wear out, because they can’t outrun the storm. Because they’re running with the storm, they prolong the time they are experiencing it. 

The buffaloes on the other hand, charge the storm head on. And they run through it and they come through the storm much faster. And it’s over and there’s the sunlight. 

In these situations, you can choose to be a buffalo or a cow. It’s your response to the storm that will determine how you come through it. 

Number 1: Be a Leader

At times like this, everyone is panicked. Everyone is unsure what to do. Or what is going to happen.

During a crisis, people look to leadership – good leadership – to be a reassuring voice. It’s so important that you are not the voice of panic with your employees and your customers. They are feeling very nervous right now.

Act wisely, rather than out of panic or fear. Fear is the worst place to work from. It makes us do stupid things. Your employees need you to be a calm and reassuring leader at this moment. This is the time to be calm, and confident. This is the time to practice your confidence. 

Instead of adding to the panic, reframe it. You need to be confident and authoritative. And here’s how to do it:

The fearful voice: 

“if you need to cancel, please just cancel one or two cleanings and then come back because our employees need work.” – this comes from a place of “I need this. So you should buy it.” It will not work. 

confident woman in a suit

The reassuring voice: 

“We have held two emergency Coronavirus training meetings at our office to make sure our employees are fully aware and trained of some new policies we have implemented to keep you safe in your home. Because we know you need us more than ever before and we are there for you. 

So let me share with you the policies that we have put into place and are enforcing. Number one, every no employee is allowed to come to work sick. Every employee is required to stay home if they are sick. We are committed to sending only healthy employees into your home. 

We know how important it is right now for your home to be cleaned. We have allowed a little bit extra time during this period of time to disinfect things that we normally wouldn’t disinfect on normal routine cleanings in your home. We’re carrying disinfectants for if you’ve run out because you can’t get any. We’re asking all of our clients who have disinfectants to allow us to use them and we’ll wipe down your remote controls, your lights, switch plates. We will wipe down flush handles on the toilet. We’re working to the best of our ability to keep you safe in your home instead of if you have to cancel, we understand. We will waive our cancellation fees.”

You can see from these two examples how the different tone you take with your cleaning clients and your staff can make a huge difference to how safe and calm they may feel in this situation.

Take a moment to think how you can implement this into your own communications at this time.

Number 2: Over-Communicate

It’s so important to over-communicate during a crisis. Regular emails, posts and texts are actually appreciated by clients and employees.


Make sure you have strategically created a series of emails that are reassuring your customers. You want to show that you’re on top of it. That your employees are healthy. You have provided more gloves that you have instituted some additional sanitizing measures to clean the handles of the vacuums, the mops, and the caddies. You’ve instructed your employees to wash their hands thoroughly upon entering and exiting their home.

In Debbie’s maid service, during this time, she will have three or four emails going out per week to her customers. There will also be a series of meetings with employees regarding the fear and the panic and all of their questions: ‘what’s next’ and ‘what’s happening’ and ‘will I be paid?’ ‘Will there be a job for me?’. 

They will also be putting in place a series of regular automated voice messages and text messages to go out to employees. 

All of these measures are to make sure that staff and customers feel as safe and calm as possible given the current situation.

Number 3: Give, Don’t Take

This one is easy to forget in moments where everyone is thinking largely of themselves and their family. But it’s so important. Instead of taking, give whatever and however you can.

There are so many different things that you can do in this situation. Here are just a few great ideas:

  • Find somebody in the line at Walmart that clearly looks like they’re on rough times. Just pay their bill if you can afford it.
  • Give a larger than normal tip to a waiter to make up for their loss in earnings as many people are stuck indoors.
  • Help the elderly to run errands so that they do not have to go out.
  • Give cleanings to those who really need or deserve them – we’ll talk more about this one in section number 4.

There are so many people that you can serve, especially at a time like this. Don’t forget that anything you can choose to do could make a huge difference to someone who is perhaps less fortunate than yourself.

Not only will this help other people, but it will also help your business in the long run as you strengthen brand loyalty and links within your community.

Number 4: Pivot Quickly

Debbie learned this one the hard way. During her first two crises, she didn’t know anything about pivoting. 

Hard times call for a fast pivot. Often to weather the storm, the best thing you can do is to pivot. You must be nimble. You have to be on your toes and open to changing the way you do things.

You can’t say ‘we don’t do it that way’. If you’re a green cleaning company and don’t use bleach or we don’t use disinfectants, because they’re harsh chemicals. Well this is the time to pivot, right? You can go back to being green. 

This is the time where you reframe the message and you say: 

“you all know we’re green cleaners. We’ve always used safe, healthy products in your home. And we are committed to green cleaning. But during this time of crisis, we are using stronger disinfectants because your health comes first.”

Find the products that help our customers feel more at ease and use them. Anything that makes employees feel less fearful and customers more confident that you’re on top of things. 

It’s also important to maximize the opportunity. This is a great time to be interviewed on local TV or radio about maid services at this time. People want their house clean or their offices clean, so maximize that opportunity. Promote that you are offering deep cleans and you do have staff that are available, healthy, well-trained in disinfection. 

You could offer steam cleaning for clients that are thinking about skipping their appointment. This is a great opportunity when a client calls and says, ‘I hate to do this to you, but we’re sick.’ Ask them to pay for the appointment now, and then later when you return, you’ll bring the steam cleaner and provide an extra two hours at no charge of steam cleaning things for disinfection. It’s a great option because it requires no harsh chemicals. 

Or take advantage of the moment and say: “well, do you guys happen to have an office? Because with these openings available, if you’re willing to pay for the cleaning anyway, even though you’re skipping your home, we’ll go to your office. We have a long list of things that we can sanitize to keep your employees safe and healthy.”

Maybe you don’t usually do offices, just houses. And that’s fine. Now is the time to pivot. Think about opportunities to pivot so that instead of the customers canceling and not paying, you create another option.

Another option – and we just LOVE this one: if a customer is skipping instead of just letting them off the hook, make a suggestion. Say “I don’t know how you feel about this, but if you would like to pay for the cleaning anyway, even though you’re skipping a, we will give a gift card in the amount of your cleaning value to someone in the medical profession. When all of this dies down, those people are going to be exhausted and they’ve been putting their lives on the line to care for people in medical clinics and hospitals. There are nurses, PAs, doctors, assistants that work in these hospitals that we would love to thank them with the gift of a free cleaning in the amount of your service. If you’d like to pay for it, we’ll donate it to someone when the storm blows over in your name with a small thank you note.”

A lot of your clients will be relatively wealthy. They’re not going to be hurting financially. It’s your employees who are going to be hurting more. If you just make the suggestion, they might think that’s a great idea. Maybe they’d love to donate to the medical profession. 

You can also do this if you have cancer patients: “many of our cancer patients are extremely vulnerable during this period of time. If you’d like to pay for your cleaning, we will give a gift of clean and additional gift of clean to one of the cancer patients that we serve because more important now, their immune system is compromised, it is more important than ever that they have a clean home.”

These are some great ways that you can not only keep your staff in work, but also do something good for the community at the same time. What’s not to love?!

Number 5: Reframe

Reframing is an art that allows you to answer the question they didn’t ask, but you wanted to be asked to change the narrative. So you change the narrative. If you look for it, you’ll see celebrities and politicians do it all the time.

You reframe when instead of saying, “Oh okay, you’re going to cancel. Well, our employees really do need you. I’m hoping you only cancel one or two cleanings. We really do need your support. Okay?” 

If you reframe the conversation, you’re in control of the conversation with your clients.

Try something like: “I just want to let you know we are committed to our clients and we want you to know that even though there’s a very high demand during this critical period of time where everybody needs their home cleaned, that our regular customers get top priority on our schedules. 

We will not bump you for a higher paying one time deep clean, you are our top priority. So don’t worry, we will not bump you for higher paying cleans. And we know you need us more now than ever, especially if you’re one of our elderly clients.” Then talk about anything you’ve enacted in your specific company to keep customers safe. (This is a beautiful example of reframing from Debbie’s CBF members.)

So, will you be a buffalo or a cow?

Ultimately, it is times like these that really test our mettle as business owners. To succeed, we need to be like the buffalo and tackle these challenges head on.

By remembering these 5 principles and using them wherever possible in your business, you’ll give yourself the best chance possible:

  1. Be a leader
  2. Over-communicate
  3. Pivot quickly
  4. Give, don’t take
  5. Reframe

Can you survive this health emergency?

Let’s THRIVE…together! Join Debbie Sardone’s Coronavirus Response Challenge for 10 days of daily advice, tips and inspiration to help you help your customers, your employees and your business thrive through this health emergency.

This challenge is now over. But you can see more from Debbie Sardone on her website: The Maid Coach

Know that your Challenge $97 registration fee will be donated to charity. We can help others while we work through this crisis together! 


Amar is the founder and CEO of ZenMaid Software, Inc. He started and ran Fast Friendly Spotless, a maid service in Orange County, CA. With the help of customized software to automate work he successfully operated the service in under 30 minutes per day. He created ZenMaid scheduling software to help other maid service owners do the same.

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