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In this episode, Lionel Strasbach, Managing Director of La Compagnie des Lavandières, shows us the power of words: cleaning lady becomes "Lavandière". A word that tells a story, that of a ritual along the water, lulled by sun and lavender.

The Company of washerwomen wants to give back its letters of nobility to this profession, to give confidence and to accompany the washerwomen towards autonomy. They have their own car, manage their own schedule and their own vacations. In the Company, they have general missions, because "the idea is that the agency becomes 'their' agency" explains Lionel.

  • agile
  • liberating company
  • management

The guest of theCorporate Culture podcast

Lionel Strasbach worked in management positions in the retail industry for ten years.

In 2016, he turned to personal services within the company OuiCare. In 2020, this company accompanied him in the creation of the Compagnie des Lavandières, the first company dedicated to home maintenance.

Washerwomen, a ritual along the water

Lionel Strasbach founded the Compagnie des Lavandières with the desire to promote a denigrated profession: "It starts with the name, often we don't even know what to call them: housekeepers, household assistants or cleaning agents?

So in 2020, when his entrepreneurial adventure began, Lionel Strasbach placed the employee at the heart of his model. The job is precarious, anonymous and lonely, he wants to offer interesting working conditions in a rewarding organization. Thus, the Compagnie des Lavandières offers a full-time permanent contract, bonuses, a lunch basket and a car.

Advantages that "may bring them here, but that's not what makes them stay". The valorization of the professions of service to the person thus begins with the title: "Lavandières", from the name of those who formerly washed the linen. A name originating from the Mediterranean region that breathes sunshine and lavender.

A "liberating" company

Valuing the human services profession also means not "infantilizing" it. Lionel Strasbach has built an organization that he calls "liberating": "Our objective is to allow them to grow at work, to participate in the life of the agency and not just to do housework.

Our washermen have never had autonomy, freedom..."explains Lionel Strasbach. The challenge is to accompany them without imposing. "We want to put them in a position to succeed," says Lionel Strasbach, "an in-between position with the possibility of having someone accompany them.

This is the difference between a liberating company and a liberated company. Each agency aims to improve the skills of its employees. After two years of existence, the company has already collected testimonies from employees: those who have been executors all their lives often take a few months to get the hang of it, but the supervised freedom given by La Compagnie des Lavandières gives them confidence. "We want them to take part in the life of the company and to evolve." explains Lionel Strasbach. Some washerwomen become referents: they represent areas such as HR, scheduling, vacations, etc., and pass on information to the branch managers.

The Company is a "springboard." "If I do this job, it's because of the human side of it: offering opportunities to people who haven't had them. admits Lionel Strasbach. He is particularly proud of this washerman who quickly became a referent and who is now going to open a new agency as director.

Learning the job of a liberated leader

In 2020, Lionel Strasbach did not embark on the adventure of La Compagnie des Lavandières alone: with him was his employer of four years, the OuiCare group. When he expressed his desire to enhance the value of the human services industry, the group supported him and helped him build a liberating model. One piece of advice particularly stands out for him: "mistakes are a diploma".

"It was new for me too" he recounts. "It was difficult to write the framework before we even launched, so we decided to open up by being close to the teams, and to build the limits little by little". At the beginning, he faces drifts. The absence of a framework and the benevolence advocated by management led to disorganization and abuse. "On our side, there was also a bad apprehension of the term liberating management: benevolence also means knowing how to say when things are not going well".

Today he defines the framework as a soccer field: you can have fun as you want as long as you stay in the field. This framework is constantly evolving according to the feedback from the washermen. A model that works, since from eight agencies in France in September 2022, the Compagnie des Lavandières will increase to 16 before the end of the year 2022. "A great success" for its managing director.