Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Nicola S Davies, Tranquil Home: Business Challenges & Successes

Welcome to the interview series with Jesse Samberg! In this edition, we have the pleasure of speaking with Nicola S Davies, the founder of Tranquil Home. Nicola shares her journey of starting her eco-friendly housekeeping company out of necessity and how she overcame challenges, such as a difficult audit by the California Employment Development Department. She also discusses the ongoing struggle of finding reliable employees and the memorable experience of a loyal client supporting her business during a shutdown. Looking ahead, Nicola shares her plans for expanding Tranquil Home’s services and licensing opportunities. Stay tuned as she also delves into the marketing strategies that have worked best for her business. Let’s dive into this insightful conversation with Nicola S Davies!

Interviewee Name: Nicola S Davies

Company: Tranquil Home

Intervirew Host: Jesse Samberg

The Interview

Let’s get started. First, we’d like to know more about how you started your business journey

Nicola S Davies : I started Tranquil Home really out of necessity. I was burned out with my current career (mortgage industry,) and decide to go back to school to get my paralegal degree. While in school I needed supplemental income. I decided to go back to waiting tables as that’s something I had a lot of experience in. For some strange reason that particular season that I was looking for a job in a restaurant proved to be extremely difficult, no matter what tactics I used. Time was running out and I needed income immediately or would not be able to pay my rent. I started thinking creatively and thought to myself, “I should start an eco-friendly housekeeping company.” The idea stemmed from an old Oprah episode I had watched. Oprah had a guest she was speaking with that started an eco-friendly cleaning company and generated a million dollars in revenue her first year. I remember being so impressed when I watched the episode that it formulated a solid memory for me. I really loved the idea, so I ran with it. By the time I finished my paralegal degree (2 years later,) I was making almost triple what any San Diego attorney would pay me to be their paralegal.

Reflecting on your business history, what stands out as the single greatest challenge you’ve successfully navigated, and how did you overcome it?

Nicola S Davies : One of the scariest challenges we went through as a business was when we were audited by the California Employment Development Department. It was a long arduous process. We hired an expensive attorney to help us navigate the process (that proved to be relatively useless.) In order to pay our cleaners are higher wage or fee, we built our business model with independent contractors. The state of California does not like it when businesses have contractors because it means they do not collect state payroll taxes. It was scary process and in the end we decided to change our business model to employees due to the pressure from the state. While we have to pay our employees less hourly now (because we have to make room in our margins to give back to the state,) we have overcome this obstacle by really focusing on employee experience and offering non monetary benefits that make the job of working for Tranquil Home more fun.

Businesses often face ongoing challenges. What does your business consistently grapple with, and how do you tackle these challenges head-on?

Nicola S Davies : Our biggest challenge by far is finding reliable, competent and professional employees. It’s very expensive using INDEED (which really is the most effective way to hire, in my experience.) I tackle the challenge by really focusing on the individual candidate before we hire them. Finding out what their hobbies are, where are they going in life, do they have goals, what is their schedule like and how do we fit into their lives as an employer. At times I do feel more like a high school guidance counselor but I’m happy to offer my knowledge to help the candidates decide if the position is a good fit for them. Additionally, we really focus on backdoor references, this enables us to see if the candidate is really reliable and eligible to be rehired at their past jobs. The state makes it difficult because they have rules on what you can ask applicants past jobs (for example, you’re not even allowed to ask if the person is eligible for rehire,) but we do our best with whatever info we can gather. Lastly, San Diego is a very expensive place to live, because you can’t survive on $20 an hour, even with tips, we really seek out candidates that “don’t need the money,” but are mostly looking for some supplemental income; college students, stay at home military spouses etc.

Can you share with us the most unforgettable story involving a customer or client? What made it memorable, and what lessons did you draw from the experience?

Nicola S Davies : One of our most memorable experiences was when we had to shut down our business for 3-months. We had a client (who we still service to this day,) who continued to pay for cleanings every week despite us not cleaning her home. She did this to support our business and I was really blown away. I think I even cried.

Looking ahead, what are your current plans for your business when you retire?

Nicola S Davies : Our currently plans for Tranquil Home are to expand our services. We have already started with professional non-toxic carpet cleaning, and plan to offer window cleaning, and professional organizing. We are actively working on licensing Tranquil Home to international entrepreneurs that want to start a business in the US using the E2 Visa.

Navigating the small business landscape can be both challenging and rewarding. Can you share a bit about the specific hurdles you’ve encountered in areas like sales, marketing, and adapting to changing customer trends?

Nicola S Davies : Tranquil Home has had a lot of success using YELP. We started Tranquil Home with the intent of really going all-in with YELP and it has paid off for us. We can’t seem to generate any good leads with Google, or SEO. I would say we have spent tens of thousands on SEO and it has always proven futile for us. I think the lesson I have learned from marketing is really to be flexible and give things a try multiple times, use different companies (as not all are competent,) and to be flexible in your thinking. We are going back to Google ads this year, and still use Google Guarantee, but so far, in my experience anyway, Google leads are not as valuable as YELP leads. It really depends on what city you’re doing business in. San Diego is a huge YELP city, so what works for us might not work for someone in another part of the country.

Leaders Perception magazine would like to thank Nicola S Davies and “Tranquil Home” for the time dedicated to completing this interview and sharing their valuable insights with our readers!

Interested in connecting with the host of this interview series? Feel free to reach out to Jesse Samberg on LinkedIn: Jesse Samberg’s LinkedIn Profile

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