Joe McCutcheon saw the doubt in people’s faces when he announced he was going to quit his job as a restaurant manager to clean houses.
His boss at 518 West, an Italian restaurant in Raleigh, referred to him as Mary Poppins when he told the rest of the staff that McCutcheon was leaving.
Still, in September 2007, McCutcheon launched Triangle Green Cleaning, a Raleigh-based cleaning company that uses all-natural, environmentally friendly products in houses and offices across the Triangle.
Seven years later, his company employs 25 and has 12 company cars. The company handles about 800 cleanings a months and brings in more than $1 million in annual revenue.
Some of the company’s success, McCutcheon said, is linked to luck and timing. He started at the beginning of the green movement. He had just learned how to build a website. He had worked with some talented people and learned good business principles at 518 West, where he met all three of Triangle Green Cleaning’s managers.
However, many of McCutcheon’s successes can be tied to key small-business skills, such as his ability to connect to his target market through keyword optimization and distributing fliers at Whole Foods Markets. He also understands that the company has to be credible if people are going to let it into their homes, and he had the vision to write out policies and create a management team that safeguards the company’s customer service while revenue has increased by nearly 40 percent, year over year.
Triangle Green Cleaning got its start after McCutcheon met his now wife, Amy, in a prerequisite nursing class at Wake Tech about two months before he started his company.
“She asked me out,” said McCutcheon, now 33.
Amy, he learned, was cleaning houses with green products and made about $25 an hour, double what he was making as a manager at 518 West.
“I was like ‘Man, I will clean houses for that much money,’ ” he said.
By early 2009, he and six employees were doing about 250 cleanings a month.
“This was too much to handle on my own,” he said.
McCutcheon hired Derek Owen in May 2009 as general manager. Owen took over the day-to-day operations. McCutcheon took a class in search engine optimization and started setting up booths at Earth Day events. He explored networking groups and connected with the Association of Residential Cleaning Services International. He also revamped the company’s website and created an employee manual.
In 2010, McCutcheon and Owen turned their attention to refining the customer experience as growth appeared to be slowing.
They realized they needed to do more to ensure quality, they said. They hired Shea Ruffin as a quality control field manager to support crews when they needed help and ensure the cleanings are up to the company’s standard.
By 2012, the company was handling about 450 cleanings a month and they hired administrative assistant Brenda Stewart.
In 2013, Owen was promoted to president, Stewart to office manager and Ruffin to general manager.
The change allowed McCutcheon to focused on key projects, such as a Carolina Hurricanes sponsorship for Triangle Green Cleaning. He also started a second company, Carolina Castile Soap.
The cleaning products that Triangle Green Cleaning used were expensive and weren’t as effective or as environmentally friendly as McCutcheon would have liked. So he started making liquid soap for Triangle Green Cleaning.
Then, he started selling it on Amazon, at Whole Foods on Wade Avenue and his website. It brings in about $12,000 in revenue each month.