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CEO's success comes from clean floors, clean books

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Maureen Gray doesn’t feel like she needs to worry about a glass ceiling.

Gray, the CEO of KBM Facilities Solutions, started a house cleaning business in 1981 while attending junior college that has since evolved into a $30 million company with 500 employees and a client list including Gap (NYSE: GPS) and Boeing (NYSE: BA).

Gray spoke to California State University San Marcos students Wednesday and explained how in her line of work, she hasn’t seen the disparity between men and woman like one might expect in the business world.

“I’m not going to play the feminist card,” she said, noting women are statistically behind men in most fields when it comes to pay and management numbers.

“We’re equal but we’re different, right?” she asked about men and women leaders. “I think we are different and we tend to manage a little differently.”

KBM, which is partially employee-owned, has an open-book policy that allows employees to see where company money goes. While individual wages are not shown, money is broken into categories by position. For example, $250,000 might be spent on wages earned by managers.

Additionally, Gray said company profits are split among employees to encourage them to feel like they have a stake in the company.

KBM gives incentives with a “learn and earn” system that allows front-line employees to qualify for management positions. She said her company tries to hire from within and that many of her managers have been there for years.

“Retention is big,” she said. “The last thing I want to hear is somebody didn’t go to see their kid play softball because they had to work. I don’t want to hear that. Let’s make it work so they can and the bottom line is people really do appreciate that.”

Because buildings can need KBM’s services at all hours, Gray said the company does its best to create flexible schedules for employees.

Just as other CEOs throughout the semester have told the CSU San Marcos students, Gray said it is important for businesspeople to love what they do.

“It’s not necessarily the industry that’s your passion,” she said. “The passion is building a business. In my case it’s not cleaning buildings, it’s building a business and creating a place employees can enjoy coming to.”

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Related Video:

Effective corporate leadership: Maureen Gray


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