Ms. Gin Lim: Cleaning Her Way to Success
Urban Shine Cleaning Services
Not even Gin Lim herself, the owner of Urban Shine Cleaning Services, imagined putting up a cleaning service back in 2010. As she was used to a life of luxury, managing a group of cleaners who would clean houses and offices was the last thing on Ms. Lim’s mind.
And yet, she has been an unstoppable force in the cleaning industry, going against the bigwigs in the cleaning service industry in Singapore. In a matter of four years, Urban Shine Cleaning Services quickly established itself as a business heavyweight, having landed itself in the Top 100 SME for its excellent customer service and quality from 2014 to 2015.
Offering both office cleaning and home cleaning services, Urban Shine prides itself for its professionalism and reliability. Ms. Lim recognizes that the secret to the growth of her business is a group of well-trained and experienced cleaners, who are some of the most trustworthy, professional, and enthusiastic in the industry.
In her interview, Ms. Lim candidly describes the several difficulties she experienced when setting up Urban Shine, and she slowly established a
name for herself in the cleaning service industry.
Off to A Rough Start: The Labor Pains of Urban Shine
When Ms. Lim started Urban Shine, she was not fully focused on growing it as a business. In fact, she only focused on providing home cleaning services to her clients. She says, “The first year, we were doing home. The profit margin was really, really, very low.” When she was separated from her then full-time employment, that’s when she decided to take Urban Shine to the next level.
Her first two years was challenging, to say the least. She built the business from the ground up and singlehandedly made decisions for Urban Shine, from the number of cleaners to the kind of places that they would clean. She relates, “During that time, it was just a one-man show. Though I had seventeen cleaners, but actually not many would like to do home [cleaning] for the first year. So for the second year, I moved on to office [cleaning]. From about twenty cleaners, and after three and a half years since we’ve formed, we have moved on to about fifty cleaners.”
Asked to describe just how difficult setting up Urban Shine was, she minced no words: “It was very tough. During that time I had no experience, nothing at all.” And yet that didn’t stop her from pursuing her business plans.
Her strategy, in order to get the best cleaners and make sure that they stay with Urban Shine, is to treat them well. She beams with pride as she says that the cleaners are paid really well and are treated fairly. In an industry where cleaners often complain of being underpaid and mistreated, Ms. Lim has proven her professionalism then and again by not only paying them well above the average price of cleaners in Singapore and by not overworking them. Ms. Lim is truly a diamond in the rough, as she says, “[They] only work Monday to Friday, because I put myself in my cleaner’s position.” She then goes on to make an excellent point: if she doesn’t want to work on weekends, why should she ask her cleaners to do so? Moreover, she says, “Every time there’s an inquiry [to work on weekends], we have to charge you high. But the higher rate goes to the cleaner.” Clearly, if there’s one thing that sets Ms. Lim as a businesswoman, that’s her being an honest service provider, not only to her clients, but also to her employees.
Quick and Steady Growth: The Next Five-Year Plan of Urban Shine
Ms. Lim talks with a clearer vision of what she wants for Urban Shine, having conquered some pretty rough patches. One of them is finance, especially when clients didn’t pay on time. Another is manpower. Would you believe that she herself would step in for a cleaner whenever the latter would make a last-minute cancellation? She says, “We have to put down your dignity and pride, to replace yourself as a cleaner if you don’t have the manpower.
She is proud to have conquered the first four years of Urban Shine, and she’s set to make the five years a bigger success for Urban Shine. She says, “To set up this business was no idea at all. But the vision for the next five years, of course I would like it to grow.” Unlike other cleaning services, she doesn’t mind low profit margins. In fact, according to her, “Less profit is okay, as long as I have enough money to pay my office, my admin, my rental.” Profit may not be her top concern, but, for sure, Urban Shine will continue to grow leaps and bounds. After all, her top concern isn’t high profit margins. For her, what’s important is the satisfaction of her clients and her employees. Satisfied clients and employees can only lead to one conclusion: booming business in the next five years.
Be honest and trust your clients.Nuggets of Wisdom for Entrepreneurs
“The first three years of a startup is not easy, but whether you succeed or not, [depends on] the service you provide, the trust you give to your client,” says Ms. Lim.
For her, being a businesswoman did not come naturally. According to her, “I’ve never been a boss before. I didn’t know how to be a boss.” Back when she was starting a business, she didn’t have a clue what to do. And yet, with her compassion for other people matched by her unquestionable grit, she learned the ropes of running a business all by herself.
For sure, running a business isn’t easy. Asked what her biggest fear is, she quips, “Getting a call at 5:30 AM when a cleaner cancels, and driving up to the client do the work!” She also fears her client not paying her on time. But her tolerance is very high. Any other businessman would have quit right there and then, but she refused to give up.
And it’s not easy either. She had to sacrifice time, and she was no longer able to meet her friends, in lieu of talking to clients, answering inquiries, and making phone calls. And yet, for all her sacrifices, she says, “If you give me a chance to go back, NO, this is not only challenging and exciting. This challenge is also proof that I can make it without luxury. Because I have been told that I will not be able to survive because I’m used to a luxurious life. And I survived!”
Ms. Lim is just on her way to making bigger plans for Urban Shine. When asked if she views herself as a successful person, she says, “I don’t see myself as a success. Maybe I set too high a goal!”
Without a doubt, with her compassion for her employees and commitment to providing excellent service, she will certainly reach that goal.
Urban Shine Cleaning Services Pte Ltd8 Boon Lay Way #10-15, Tradehub 21 Postal Code 609964 Website: www.urbanshine.com.sg