It took courage to start a cleaning company when Ronke and I did. I was an MBA student at McGill, having worked as a star banker at GT Bank, an elite Nigerian bank, and in Nigeria’s oil and gas industry. Being slightly rebellious, I proceeded partly because being a cleaner was contrary to everything my society expected of me.
The clients, friends and associates who have engaged with us have had a sense that there was something different about Zenith Cleaners from the onset. Our first major commercial contract was with Best Buy when we were only two and I was still at McGill, and even then we did not secure the contract based on any experience our company had but because the manager sensed our hearts.
While the quality of our service is paramount as clients will testify, associates know we are not so much about cleaning as about living and loving. After all, “after the dust of centuries has passed over our cities, we will be remembered not for how well we cleaned but how well we loved,” to paraphrase a JFK quote. I have always thought no job is worth it if all we do is do the job well without alignment with a transcendental purpose that enriches us and our world.
Still, we have not been as radical as we could be. There was constant pressure to conform to the “industry” we found ourselves in, which we succumbed to many times, slowly sterilizing ourselves. We have refrained from showing up for our clients and for each other to the fullest extent, partly because of the pressure we put on ourselves to be “cleaners,” when in reality we are humans who happen to clean.
We are beginning to take a bold step to change that, to be who we are unapologetically, at the risk of polarizing but trusting that if it makes us come alive, it will resonate with enough people. One of the steps we are taking is to bring the transcendental aspect of our work to the fore, in practice. We are beginning to take steps to be much more intentional about doing cleaning as a transformative practice rather than as a mere job or contract.
We are now ensuring that we get more than just pay cheques – that we are transformed through the highly portable practices in cleaning like mindfulness, presence, discipline, integrity, empathy, and humility. We are no longer fighting the high turnover rate we are confronted with but actually embracing it as a gift that allows us to see each relationship as a metaphor for life – too short not to love, laugh and be fully present with each other while we can.
Our most recent job ad below titled “Cleaning for a Change” is an example of how we are beginning to put this into practice.
We seek people with no cleaning experience, especially those who have no reason to work as cleaners, to work a few hours per week or month for one year or less. We see cleaning not just as a job but as art, as a learning opportunity, a chance to experience the world differently, a chance to clean up our minds and be inspired while cleaning up physical spaces, a chance to move our bodies, a chance to learn humility and be better servant leaders. Are you up to it? Visit our website and our blog and contact us. In addition to being paid as a cleaner, you will be changed, for the better.
We intend to transmit to our clients not only clean spaces, but also the same spirit of work as practice, rather than work as a job or a contract performed by people stripped of their humanness. More than ever, we want to select clients who want who we are and will give us as much freedom to be ourselves as we give them to be themselves. Our website and promotional materials are being redesigned to reflect this change, in the hope that they will assist in self-selecting.
Bringing the transformative lens to our work is in itself transformative, at least for me, because it gives me freedom to fully express myself. I feel as though I have hitherto been hiding parts of myself from myself and the world in a bid to fit into existing molds. In making this conscious shift, I already feel more alive.