How Debbie Sardone built a 7-figure business by focusing on giving, not profits

May 28, 2022 in Business, Mindset

Last Updated on August 21, 2023 by The ZenMaid Team

The following article is based on a presentation by Debbie Sardone at the 2021 Maid Summit, hosted and organized by ZenMaid. Debbie is a cleaning industry expert, business consultant, and owner of Buckets and Bows maid service. She is also the founder of Cleaning for a Reason, a national nonprofit that has helped more than 33,000 women with cancer receive free home cleaning.

The call that changed Debbie Sardone’s business — and life — came in 2006. The woman on the phone wanted a quote for a home cleaning because she was undergoing cancer treatment and unable to clean. 

After Debbie gave her the price, the woman replied “Oh my goodness, I can’t really afford that right now. But when I get back to work, I’ll give you a call.”

It was business as usual. But soon after hanging up (without getting the woman’s contact information), Debbie understood that she had missed an opportunity. 

“Why didn’t I give her the cleaning for free?” Debbie says. “I realized the only reason I didn’t give her the cleaning is because it hadn’t occurred to me. I was just thinking about business. I wasn’t being selfish.”

And that’s when everything changed. Debbie gathered her staff to announce that going forward, any woman with cancer could have a free cleaning.

That year, Debbie founded a nonprofit called Cleaning for a Reason, which partners with other businesses to provide free home cleaning to cancer patients in the United States and Canada. Since launching, Cleaning for a Reason has served more than 50,000 cancer patients, with more 1,200 cleaning businesses volunteering their services. 

Debbie built this nonprofit while growing her cleaning service training academy and her $2 million residential cleaning company. She calls giving back and taking care of others “lifting as you climb.”

“You’ll be amazed at how the concept of lifting as you climb will change you personally and professionally,” Debbie says. “And how it will impact business in ways you never thought possible.”

When you lift up others, you pass your competition with lightning speed, attract better clients, and draw in top employees. How? It all comes down to three principles.

Principle 1: The more you give, the more you get

It may seem counterintuitive, but if you want to succeed at the highest levels, you have to give at the highest levels.

It’s about giving with an energy of abundance instead of giving from a place of scarcity or feeling that you can’t really afford to be giving. 

Business owners naturally understand that they won’t make money unless they create value for others. That’s why many don’t pay themselves until they turn a profit, a sign that what they’re delivering is being appreciated by clients. 

When Debbie started her coaching business over 15 years ago, she had no experience or certifications. How did she get started? She worked for free. She gave away hours of advice without ever charging a dime. 

“I think probably the reason that I’ve been able to build the number one residential cleaning business owners academy in the world, is because I started out working for free,” Debbie says. “I started out giving, I gave back before I charged.”

Debbie encourages business owners to adopt a give-first mentality. Who can you help? How can you give back? This doesn’t always mean writing checks or giving everyone free cleanings. You’re still running a business after all. 

Here’s an example of a give-first mentality: When you go to a networking event and interact with other vendors and colleagues, focus on how you can help them grow their business instead of what they can do for you. Can you do things like refer them to people or include their business in your newsletter?

When you approach a meeting with a give-first, instead of get-first attitude, that person will never forget you. 

Principle 2: Don’t hoard your success

Want to know the secret to zooming past the competition? It’s simple: Share your success. 

Again, this doesn’t necessarily mean giving away money. It could mean being generous with your time and participating in others’ charity programs and community events.

However you do it, make giving back part of your lifestyle, not just a one time thing.

If you ask people in Debbie’s community about her cleaning service, Buckets and Bows, they won’t tell you about price, quality, or experience. 

“Everybody in our town knows that if you have cancer, Buckets and Bows will come and clean for you for free,” Debbie says “We’ve won awards and received recognition and tons of publicity, radio shout outs… You can’t buy that kind of recognition. And all of those things were a result of giving back first.” 

Principle 3: Giving leads to growth and profits

If you believe giving will hurt your business’ bottom line, think again. 

A give-first mentality creates an opportunity for you to be known for something bigger than cleaning. For consumers, this often outweighs price and eliminates your competition. 

Your competition is always competing on price. They have a different coupon, a different offer, they’re cheaper than you. But when you’re known for something that has nothing to do with the prices you charge or the cleanings you do, you’re no longer competing with your lower priced competitors. 

When you’re known as that company who cares and gives back to the community, you’re on solid ground. People will choose you regardless of price because they love what your brand stands for – and they want to be associated with the values of your brand. 

But don’t take this as permission to slack on your services. Quality still matters. You still have to deliver on your promises, but you’ll be able to charge a premium rate while building a following of loyal customers and proud employees. 

Instead of asking yourself how you can win over leads, you’re asking: Do I have enough people to staff the demand? Do I have the opening when the customer wants it?

Lift as you climb. It will change your life and your business forever. 

Learn more:

For more resources on how to grow and perfect your cleaning business, check out the replays from the 2021 Maid Summit, hosted by ZenMaid. The summit featured more than 60 presentations from other maid service owners who shared tools and strategies to help you achieve the highest levels of success in your business. 

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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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