Here's a question from About.com: I am looking to start a local cleaning business; how do I go about doing that? Any comment will help! I am from Billings, Montana, this is my first business, and it is very low budget, also, I have no other job or references I could use to get my business going. Also, on how to get my business going, what are some ways I could do some of this at home? Oh! And does anyone know how to make homemade business cards? - Jodiann K There is a mistaken impression out there that you can start up a cleaning business without any money or experience and make a great deal of money quickly. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. The fact of the matter is that in this industry (as in any other) you need to have some resources in order to be successful. Yes, it’s true that the barriers to entry in this industry are less than in many others (like the license needed to practice law or medicine) but without references and a small budget, you are starting at a disadvantage. I’m going to assume that you are a really good cleaner and you don’t need...

(The following was a question posed in the “Janitorial Management” group on LinkedIn) What is the best way to handle the problem of commercial cleaning equipment being damaged by employees?  I understand normal wear and tear, but when a machine comes back with missing parts, bent and mangled I want to fire someone. Recently, I made an offending employee come in and repair something on his own time, but I'm still steamed. Any better suggestions? Well, the good news is that you recognize your initial reactionary desire to fire someone may not be the best course of action. So far, so good! Congratulate yourself for taking a step back and looking for constructive solutions. In my 25+ years of hiring and managing employees there are 5 “keys to success” I have discovered will solve or prevent almost all H.R. problems. Communicate often and clearly. Let your employee know how much you pay for equipment, how long you need it to last, what they can do to contribute, and why it’s in their interest to do so. Some cleaning company owners use an 'incentive plan' where the equipment is given to the employees after it's expected life span. This motivates staff to care for the...

To ensure your company’s success, you must understand that consistent and varied marketing of your cleaning business is key to providing a steady stream of income. Even those companies who provide great pricing and stellar service will lose accounts from time to time, sometimes through no fault of their own. Clients move, go out of business, change hands, get new facility managers… the reasons why you may lose a good account are endless. So, the time to start marketing is not when you need new accounts. The time to start marketing is now and marketing should be something that you do on a continual basis to provide you with the steady supply of prospects and new accounts you’ll need to maintain your growth and reach your income goals. Get help building or growing your cleaning business. For many cleaning companies, direct mail marketing is one component of the “marketing pie” they've created for their business. While the best direct mail marketing campaigns involve multiple mailings and may include follow up via email and or phone calls, the central component is the actual mailing piece. If that’s not done well, the whole campaign may be doomed. With that in mind, here are the 4 things you must...

This post is part of a series on “marketing your cleaning business.” When you have an opportunity to get out in front of your ideal clients for your cleaning business, be sure to take advantage of it in few key ways.  Do something unique to draw people to your booth or table. Food, balloons (especially if they’re up high enough to be seen from afar) music, and of course, drawings, contests and giveaways are all good ideas! But, once you get them there, here are the 2 things you MUST do: 1. Make a positive impression your goal for today. Today is not the day, time or place to try to “close the sale”. It’s just the first date. So make sure you make a good impression by: Looking the prospect in the eye (don’t stare, but be sure to maintain eye contact). This will require some concentration in a busy exhibit hall but it’s important to do and will pay big dividends because it differentiates the encounter with you from all the other booths. Shaking hands, and smiling at the same time. Don’t try to impress strangers with your “power grip” by crushing their hand in yours. Likewise please don’t do that wimpy,...

Losing is always hard. Learning you are the loser in a deal you worked hard on and really had your heart set on is a frustrating, humbling, and embarrassing event. In this circumstance, perhaps it’s time to honestly ask yourself the following two questions. 1. Did I truly know the decision-maker’s motivations and values? Great business people always delve beneath the surface, the technical and business criteria, to uncover individual motivations. Customers may have their “official” reasons for purchase decisions; however, there is also an “off the record” truth. The final decision is really driven by the desire to fulfill self-centered needs on the part of a few individuals. Make sure you know the top reasons why people make buying decisions. Find out which ones are at play in each case and that you address them through your “solutions” oriented proposal. Therefore, make sure you ask plenty of questions and accurately assess the “sub-plot”. Try to determine the principles, standards, incentives, and priorities of the key decision makers. Always in the back of your mind should be the question, “What is driving this person’s behavior and how will my product help achieve their needs?” Studying their website, brochures, facility, and any internal documents...

As a coach to cleaning business owners, one of the questions I always get revolves around how to get more cleaning (or better) clients and customers for a cleaning business. So I compiled this "20 Simple Ways to Get More Cleaning Clients" information. Customers start off as prospects and they can be cold (purchased), leads (warm) or referrals (hot). Wherever they start off, your goal is to move them into the “customer” stage as quickly as possible and keep them there. So, I’m going to give you some suggested ways to get these first 2 prospect types (cold, and warm). Any combination will enable you to get more cleaning clients. Key is on understanding that marketing is an ongoing function of running a successful cleaning service business and is how to get clients for a cleaning business. How to Get More Cleaning Clients video: What you need to know is that a well-rounded and consistently implemented marketing plan will yield all three types. There is no “magic bullet” that will relieve you of the necessity of embracing marketing as a crucial step to get more cleaning clients. If you’re truly serious about growing your cleaning service business Once you accept the fact that...

Question: Whether you clean commercial or residential - do you charge more for the first cleaning? (via LinkedIn) Some of the things I suggest you take into consideration are: What is the anticipated “long term” value of this account? You can arrive at this a number of ways: based on historical data taking into account whether or not you have a contract are you likely to get other facilities or services from this client in the future are they a good source of potential referral in the future, etc… How much “extra” is involved in the initial cleaning? Use the margin calculator below to know what the true cost is to you before deciding how much (if any) you want to give away Decide in advance what your gift “margin” would be. So, for example: let’s say you decided you want to “gift” 1% of the account value on an annual basis. You calculate this in “General and Administrative” just like any other cost of doing business (advertising, etc.) on my balance sheet. So, if the account pays $1000 per month and I keep it for one year, you’ve made $12,000. If you’ve decided on the 1% margin this means you have $120 to...

On a typical Post-Construction cleaning job, what do you feel is a reasonable timeline to perform and complete the cleanup? I’m sure you hate to hear “it depends” but that’s the best answer because there are so many variables to consider. Here are the major ones: 1. What’s “reasonable” to your client? In this economy (or any economy) good clients are a valuable resource and something you want to protect. Because the (general contractor) GC can’t get paid until the job is “complete” (including the final clean) he’ll always be in a rush to get you in and out. Many contracts have additional daily fess so you maybe costing him money for every day that you’re cleaning. Find out in advance what the GC’s expectations are and then you can tailor your workload, schedule and price accordingly. 2. Like in any other business, customers pay extra for “rush jobs.” While your customer may initially give you a date on which they anticipate being able to have you start, it frequently changes as do all things construction related. The best way to mitigate against this is to be in daily contact with your client as the start date approaches so you can by ready to...

Many cleaning business owners have the idea in their heads that writing a business plan is a long, difficult and tedious process that will take up valuable time they could be spending marketing and growing or working in their business. They either fear they don’t have the financial background to address that part of the plan or they decide that since they plan to self-fund the startup themselves there’s no need for a plan to show lenders or investors. The reason many entrepreneurs neglect this important step is because they are unclear how developing the plan will bring value to their business. The truth is that the plan itself only adds very little value to your venture. The actual process of researching your industry, market and competitors while planning your financing, outreach and implementation plan is the important part. Read that again. Researching your industry, market and competitors while planning your financing, outreach and implementation plan is the first and most important step towards the success of your cleaning business. You may believe that you have every little detail laid out in your head, including Plan B and Plan C, but unless you have written a detailed business plan, you don’t. The time...

Losing is always hard. Learning you are the loser in a deal you worked hard on and really had your heart set on is a frustrating, humbling, and embarrassing event. In this circumstance, perhaps it’s time to honestly ask yourself the following 2 questions: Did I miss a turning point? Every deal has a critical moment or turning point that determines the winner and the losers. In some cases, the turning point is easy to spot. For example, a salesperson may be presenting a solution and encounters a deal-breaking objection that he or she is unable to overcome. Even though the customer remains cordial for the rest of the meeting, a turning point has occurred and the deal is lost. In many (but not all) cases, the turning point occurs when the salesperson isn't present. Make sure you keep your antennae finely tuned when you doing the walk-through, dropping off the proposal and doing follow up to answer questions and overcome objections. Ask outright if you sense the energy shifting away from you. While most people are socialized to avoid confrontation, they will appreciate the opportunity to be frank and this provides you with an opportunity to demonstrate your dynamic “problem solving” skills. Do this, and the account...