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  • Diem Tran

How I Am Able to Run My $58K/Mo Referral Agency in 4 Hrs/Wk

Updated: May 13, 2020

I am a lifelong learner. Can you relate? I’m always interested in understanding how things work, how they can apply to my life, how I can improve my business or my habits, continuously working towards something.

I remember back when I first opened my cleaning business in 2011. My goal was to create a self sustaining business in 5 years so that I could have the option of being a stay at home mom while still being a strong financial contributor to the family I dreamed of having one day. Despite having such an ambitious goal, I never found myself working more than 40 hours a week, even when I first started. The many people who see my success and amount of leisure time nowadays always say something like, “Well, you earned it! You probably put in 60-80 hours a week when you first started.” Sometimes I correct them; sometimes I let them go on thinking I must have worked blood, sweat and tears to get where I am.

Funny thing is…I don’t believe that you have to work THAT hard to create a comfortable life. So, I didn’t. I figured if I couldn’t get done what I needed to do in the 40 hours that I had, then it wasn’t worth doing because life is short and I won’t give up another hour that I could be spending with my family, my friends, or myself. If owning my own business meant that I give up my life’s time, then I may as well go get a corporate job that worked me 60 hours because at least then I’d get some damn benefits.

It was that mindset, and the book The 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferris, that gave me no choice but to put all my efforts into shrinking 40 hours to 4 in 5 years.

#1 Employee to Referral Agency Model

After 4 years of running my employee based cleaning company and putting various operating systems in place, I had to close it down to open a cleaning referral agency due to various struggles that came with the original business model.

You can hear more about my story here.

That change from employee model to referral agency model catapulted me from what were still 30 hour work weeks down to 20. Now, I want to share with you what I did to get from 20 to 4.

Listen to Launch 27’s podcast interviewing me about my transition and how it affected my business.

I’ve used many cleaning company training programs as well as business training programs out there.

Foundations of Success

Sharon Tinberg

DesignIt The Now Academy

Referral Institute

BNI Trainings


I’ve read multitudes of business books.

The Ultimate Sales Machine

E Myth

The Answer

The 4-Hour Work Week

1 Minute Manager


They all harp on one idea: Creating Systems!

Well that’s exactly what I did. I created systems for recruiting, systems for customer service, systems for paying cleaners, email automation and drip campaign systems, systems for complaint handling, systems for terminating contracts…and so much more. Find some of my systems in the online shop.

Well, what I failed to realize was: I was still the one running these systems. When these systems were implemented, I went from 20 hours a week to about 10-15 hours. How could I possibly get my business down to 4 hours a week?! I didn’t have any other areas in my business that was lacking a system!

Well after having on boarding and terminating a handful of office assistants and account managers through the years, I realized that I needed a system to manage my systems. That was when the Resource Center was created.

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#2 Have a System for Your Systems

We all know that work flow is more consistent with systems. Systems allow us to train someone else how to perform the same tasks so we don’t have to anymore as the business owner. Systems expand our output capacity while reducing the time we invest into getting something done. But as long as I continued to be the one implementing these systems, I could not reduce my work week any further.

After many trial and errors over the past few years, I finally found a fantastic Account Manager (probably because I finally had the right systems in place to support her in her role). When she onboarded, I already had an internal website that I called the Resource Center where I logged instructions for her daily routine and weekly routine tasks. From there, whenever we came across an issue in her training, I would show her how to handle the situation and ask her to add this issue and the solution/instruction in the Resource Center under the appropriate category. Meanwhile I added instructions for any areas that were not directly related to her job role.

After she made the updates, I went back to verify the info was correct and instructions were clear. As time went on the questions got fewer and farther in between and before you know the Resource Center was robust and thriving. If she ever decided to move on, how easy would it be to train another Account Manager? When I am ready to sell the business, how valuable would this resource center be? How much more confidence would a buyer have or how much more are they willing to pay for such a turnkey business?

Once this Resource Center and all the systems documented within it were up and running, my work week has been reduced from 10-15 hours down to 4 hours a week over the course of 6 months.

Mondays 30 min- meeting with Recruiter VA to discuss progress of applicants

Tuesdays 1 hour- meeting with account manager and recap the performance of the previous week.

Wednesdays 1 hour- ongoing training with Account Manager to continue developing her skills

Whenever 1.5 hours- miscellaneous work to improve or add systems

Thursday thru Sunday - OFF

#2.5 Automate Your Business

This is just another system to implement but once you’ve been able to automate email responders to save time, drip campaigns to boost sales, follow up email sequence to retain customers and increase sales conversion, and online orientations to streamline onboarding save even more time for your staff so they can focus on other skills required to grow your business even more. I wrote an entire blog post on this already so you can read more about my automation processes.

#3 Inspect What You Expect

It’s not good enough to achieve the 4 hour work week life. One must maintain it!

In order to maintain my business with consistent growth trajectory, I must inspect key performance indicators to ensure that the business isn’t running into the ground while I’m off traveling the world.

I always knew the acronym KPI but I never really implemented because I was so involved with my business. Now that I am more hands off, I see the critical importance of KPIs when entrusting your daily operations to someone else.

Using Zapier to transfer data to Google Sheets, these are some of the key metrics I measure.

Customer Service Performance:

# inbound calls

# calls answered

% calls answered

# calls missed

# customer complaints, review the issues

Growth Performance:

# recurring clients gained

# recurring clients lost

# net new recurring clients

# total recurring clients

$ Revenue from recurring

Company Culture Performance:

# of cleaner issues forms submitted

Recruiting Performance:

# application inquiries submitted

# of interviews

# of cleaners onboarded


# of new clients

$ spent on marketing- per marketing channel and in total

$ revenue from new clients

…and much more. I hope this is a helpful shortlist.

So, in the end it took me more than 5 years to achieve the 4 hour work week but 7 years of progressively less working hours, increasing income and improving the business foundation is still pretty good.

I believe taking all the courses I could get my hands on and reading all the books helped me achieve this lifestyle in 8 years but I wish I had something to help me achieve in half the time. I had to pull all these resources together and figure how they will apply to my referral agency.The reason why Cleaning Cash Flow exists is to hopefully help those who want to own a cleaning referral agency do it in half the time.

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