A dirty job, and sombody’s glad to do it
The founder of forensic cleaning company BVM Clean Scene loves her work, writes Fiona Smith of the Australian Financial Review
Australian Financial Review - 1st July, 2008 - Pam Marsden’s first job for her new venture was a corker. A biker had shot up the notorious sado-masochists Hellfire Club in the mean streets of Redfern. Two Bandidos died there, another died soon after in hospital.
The music was so loud, the barely-dressed revellers didn’t even realise what had happened.
But as soon as the bodies were removed, Marsden got the call to gather some troops and clean up the mess. For most people, that would have been the first and last day of their new career, but for former nurse Marsden, it was the beginning of a new life as a forensic cleaner.
Marsden started BVM Clean Scene nearly 12 years ago and she must have one of the dirtiest jobs around. Every day, she and her group of 25 contractors scrub away the evidence of murder, suicide, bodies that have been undiscovered for years, and derelict homes that are filled to the ceiling with putrefying rubbish.
It is most people’s idea of hell ... but she loves her job. Not just finds it satisfying, but loves it. You can hear the passion in her voice over the phone as she takes a break from a morning golf game to talk to the AFR.
"I derive enormous satisfaction from it. You are helping people who are in a desperate situation and you can make such a difference. You can solve problems for people," she says. What is more, most of her team (who come from nursing, police or forensic studies) have been with her since those early days more than a decade ago.
Marsden is living proof that, no matter how difficult the job, there is always someone who will do it and, probably, enjoy it.
Best-selling author Pat Lencioni would say that Marsden and her team benefit from three factors that can make the difference between a miserable job and a great one.
US-based Lencioni has recently published a management fable, called The Three Signs of a Miserable Job (Wiley, 2007), but is better known for his earlier book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, which has been on the Wall Street Journal best-seller list for six years running and has sold 6.5 million copies around the world.
Lencioni uses his new fable to demonstrate how managers can make all the difference by making sure their staff have three simple things: an understanding of why their job is important, a feeling of being known and understood by their manager (not anonymous), and an ability to measure their own performance.
The people at BVM Clean Scene have all these in spades.
"Why it is important? That’s obvious," Marsden says. Without the cleaners, the families, police or government authorities would have to take care of the mess themselves. Marsden only employs people she already knows, because she has to make sure they are able to handle the situation. So being anonymous is not a problem.
"It takes a special sort of person. They are people who have the same attitude as me and like to turn something ghastly into something acceptable - some of these scenes are gruesome," she says.
"The success of a job is also easily measured by the time it takes and the cleanliness achieved.
"I couldn’t agree more with what he says," Marsden says, after Lencioni’s simple formula for a happy job is explained.
Lencioni, a former management consultant with Bain & Company, says the beauty of his simple message is that it is being easily adopted by smaller organisations, franchisees and small business that do not have the resources to run major management training programs.
"All of my books try to embrace very simple wisdom because I think most people - we have enough knowledge, we just forget it. Samuel Johnstone, the great writer [the most quoted UK author after Shakespeare], once said people needed to be reminded more than they need to be instructed and I just think that is so true.
‘Whether it is parenting, or marriage, or finances, or leadership, or teamwork ... people need to be reminded about the basic stuff," Lencioni says from his office in California.