Hours after class, I was still grading stacks of papers when Timo popped in to chat and to ask how long I would be. He was ready to lock up the building and on his way out of the classroom, he cleared away debris left behind by the students and straightened chairs as he went. I waved Good Night as I left school a few minutes later and noticed Timo tidying up the other classrooms as he made the rounds to turn out lights.
Timo’s cleaning efforts instantly struck a cord with me. What’s the big deal, you ask? Well, Timo is not the Janitor, he is actually the Dean of the School. But this is not an ordinary school, it is New Business School Amsterdam. NBS is a private enterprise; Timo and the Management Team are entrepreneurs. This is quite a shift from the typical bureaucratic academic institution, which brings me back to the trash.
Through Timo’s efforts, I recognized my own sense of responsibility for all things janitorial at the Women’s Business Initiative. In addition to my Director’s duties, ensuring that the toilet paper is adequately stocked also falls squarely on my shoulders. While many of these glamorous “extra” duties are due to the same tight budget that keep my salary at the WBII hovering between nothing and nearly nothing, there is more than cost cutting at work. The NBS has both an adequate budget and cleaning crew, so what drives busy business owners into a subconscious cleaning mode?
The reason became evident when I saw Timo in action. Entrepreneurs have a clear vision of their business and that vision is seldom littered with trash. The trash stands in the way of the realization of that dream, so we instinctively react to sweep it away. Picking up the trash ourselves isn’t exactly part of the dream either, but it is a worthwhile sacrifice.
It is very likely that the next time you walk into a business, the guy in the business suit picking up trash (or taking it out) is the Founder of the company. The real trick to creating a successful business is building a team that shares your vision and can see your business through the eyes of a prospective customer walking through the door for the very first time. Spot cleaning is a good sign!