Cleaning Up Processes For Growth

Back in 2012, John Crum launched Crum Cleaning with little more than his hatchback, all-natural cleaning supplies and a small roster of clients.

It was a humble startup with Crum as the sole employee. But the residential and commercial cleaning business has grown considerably in five years. Crum has a staff of six and a large enough client base to keep his cleaning teams busy six days a week. It’s allowed Crum to net small financial gains each year.

Still, Crum knew he could achieve more.

It’s why the entrepreneur turned to ScaleUP! Kansas City this year to grow his business. Crum knew he needed help to increase revenue and achieve a dream of moving the business out of his home and into a commercial facility.

The free program, which is offered by the UMKC Innovation Center and U.S. Small Business Administration, offers classes, peer mentoring, professional guidance and more. It’s open to businesses operating in a market capable of supporting more than $1 million
in annual sales.

Crum knows he has the capacity to fulfill that financial mission, but he had hit an entrepreneurial hump. ScaleUP!, he said, has proven to be one of the best decisions he could make for his business.

He’s already begun making plans to move his business this spring. He credits ScaleUP! with providing the push he needed to make the leap.

Crum was surprised how connected he felt among the diverse ScaleUP! entrepreneurs. Crum went in thinking his business challenges wouldn’t apply to others.

“We all have very different businesses and very different backgrounds, but it was just so surprising how common the issues are,” he said.

Regardless of the industry, he learned, every entrepreneur at ScaleUP! understood and could offer advice, be it for retaining high-quality employees or setting up sound business plans.

One of the biggest lessons he learned from ScaleUP! advisers came early. It was a simple concept of writing down every business process. For Crum, that meant better utilizing an iPad application that he had already been planning to use.

ScaleUP! experts showed Crum why spelling out every task was critical if he was going to be able to step away from day-to-day cleaning and work on business growth.

The application allows Crum’s staff to maintain his attention to detail. If a client wants the blinds left at a precise angle, Crum remembers it. That detail—seemingly small—is exactly the type of element that Crum feared would be overlooked if he’s not on the job. But, he said, ScaleUP! experts helped point out that he can use the app and other tools to curb that problem. The app allows staff to post pictures of customer preferences in their account.

ScaleUP! experts also urged him to address his biggest challenges. For Crum, it was often things like equipment maintenance. If one staff member didn’t clean the vacuum properly, no one knew until it broke down. It caused considerable time lost. Again, ScaleUP! advisers reminded him to spell out assignments for staff and make everything routine.

Since ScaleUP!, Crum has slowly stepped away from daily cleaning, and customers say his product hasn’t slipped.

“I know that he values his reputation, so he’s not going to let somebody work for him that’s not going to uphold those values that he has,” said Amy Boren, longtime customer.

By stepping away from the day-to-day work, the ScaleUP! classes showed Crum how he can focus on the bigger picture. ScaleUP! advisers put pressure on Crum to set goals and focus on daily steps to carry out his mission.

“You want to build a better social media presence? Well, that’s not going to happen if you don’t take the time to build those posts,” he said.

ScaleUP! also showed Crum that he needed to focus on leadership. Employees need to understand his plan and their role in that strategy. Since taking the classes, Crum has changed his interactions with employees. He regularly talks with staff and includes his four success rules—show up, be aware, work hard and take responsibility.

“I’m using language that talks about our vision,” he said.

Hiring the right employees was something ScaleUP! advisers thought was critical, too.

“We’re hiring around the $10 price range,” Crum said. “The biggest problem is showing up.”

ScaleUP! experts pushed Crum to think about his employment package differently.

How else could he stand out?

It pushed Crum to find an Affordable Care Act adviser that his employees could speak to about health care. He’s also started networking with other entrepreneurs to find more unique avenues that could help retain high-quality employees.

Starting in January, Crum will sit down with all of his employees to hear their goals. Perhaps there will be creative ways for him
to help them achieve personal success, too.

ScaleUP! also encouraged him to make his next location accessible to transit.

“It’s got to be on the bus line,” Crum said.

Crum encourages other entrepreneurs to think about ScaleUP! and not be intimidated by the short-term class commitment.

“It is a big commitment, but the thing is, you’ve got to look at the long-term picture,” he said. “sometimes we don’t see the value in things because all we think about is the moment. You have to think about what it’s going to bring to me tomorrow.”

Entrepreneur // John Crum

Company // Crum Cleaning | 816-616-6266 |

Crum Cleaning provides full-service cleaning for commercial and residential properties.

ScaleUP! Kansas City—a free program for KC small businesses—is looking for companies that want to supercharge their growth. Learn more at