Birgit Rutledge is accustomed to hard work. A former U.S. Army corporal, she spent more than 20 years as a human resources (HR) director before starting her own cleaning business in
Memphis, Tennessee, with 360clean in 2021.
In the first days of her business, Rutledge took on a lot of the cleaning herself, working second shift after finishing her HR job. So, she knows first-hand how hard her employees work and strives to fairly compensate her most valuable business asset.
“It’s all about treating people with respect,” she said. “I know it’s not easy work, and I spent seven and a half years in the military, so I know about tough work.”
Investing in employees
Rutledge has a staff of more than 45 full- and part-time workers and about 36 clients in a wide range of facilities including churches and medical offices. “We have a little bit of everything,” she said.
Rutledge is committed to providing her staff with a living wage along with benefits. “Reflecting back on my HR experience, I know if you offer people a competitive wage and more robust
benefits, you are able to attract a better-quality candidate,” she said. “I believe it’s made a big difference, as we have excellent retention among our employees.”
From her HR background, Rutledge took away a very important lesson—take care of your employees. Rutledge provides all her workers—including her part-time staff—with medical,
vision, and dental insurance; a 401K; and paid vacation and holidays. “A lot of my workers didn’t have any benefits so offering them this is important to me,” she said. “Our job as business
owners is to remove obstacles from our employees, to help them do the best job they can do.”
Leadership brings success
As the labor market remains competitive, Rutledge lists recruiting qualified team leaders as her biggest challenge. “I think finding the right leadership is important, because you can’t do
everything yourself,” she said.
Rutledge’s strategy is to hire team leaders before she needs them, because she does not want to turn down clients due to lack of staff. “It’s really important for a growing company to have
everything in place before you need it,” she said. “Then when a large company wants your services, you won’t keep them waiting.”
Having the right staffing sets the stage for the favorite part of Rutledge’s career—the ability to provide her clients with top-notch service. Rutledge offers each new client an initial deep
cleaning at no extra charge. “It surprises some folks how well things turn out after the initial deep clean,” she said. “I like to offer it because it starts us off on the right foot and we can address
areas that have been neglected.”
Rutledge credits her staff for her success in keeping clients happy. “I enjoy the satisfaction of doing a better job than my competition. That comes with having the right leadership in place to
do quality inspections,” she said.