• Target Market
The cleaning business has two primary market business groups: consumer and commercial. The consumer field consists primarily of residential maid services, along with carpet cleaners, window cleaners and a selection of other cleaning services required on a less-frequent basis. The commercial field is subjugated by janitorial services, which typically present a wider range of services than maid services, along with other cleaning companies, such as carpet and window cleaners that target businesses rather than individual consumers. While it’s suggested that you decide on a niche and focus on building a business that will serve your selected market, it’s fully realistic to expect to be able to provide multiple markets successfully.
Earlier than you leap into the cleaning business, it’s main to look at it with 20/20 vision. Though technology has surely had a contact on cleaning services, this is not a high-tech business. Nor is there any glitz to it. And there will be times when you’ll have as much trouble as Rodney Dangerfield getting high opinion.
But the advantage is that you can build a really profitable business that will generate revenue very quickly. Mainly cleaning service businesses can be operated on either a part-time or full-time basis, either from home or from a commercial location. That flexibility gives this industry a physically powerful appeal to a wide range of people with a variety of goals.
One more positive aspect of the industry is that within each category of cleaning businesses are market niches and operating styles that vary extremely. We present a wide range of services to a very limited clientele. We have refined our customer base to a group that we feel we can top serve in a way that will allow us to maintain those customers permanently.
This means you can assemble a company that suits your individual style and talents. If you like doing the work yourself, you can stay small and do so. If your skills are more administrative in nature, you can make and manage teams to do the work. For people who like working outside, the opportunities in service areas such as window cleaning and pressure washing are abundant. Residential maid services present fairly predictable hours; disaster restoration and cleanup can mean calls at all hours of the day or night.
Mainly the cleaning services operators we spoke with used personal savings to start their businesses, and then reinvested their early profits to fund growth.
If you require purchasing equipment, you should be able to find financing, Mainly if you can show that you’ve put some of your own cash into the business. Beyond traditional financing, you have a variety of options when it comes to raising money. Some suggestions:
Your own resources. Do a systematic list of your assets. People commonly have more assets than they directly realize. This could include savings accounts, equity in real estate, retirement accounts, vehicles, recreation tools, collections and other investments. You may opt to sell assets for cash or use them as security for a loan. Take a look, too, at your personal line of credit. Many a successful business has been started with credit cards.
Friends and family. The next valid step after gathering your own resources is to approach friends and relatives who believe in you and want to help you succeed. Be cautious with these arrangements; no matter how close you are, present yourself professionally, put everything in writing, and be sure the individuals you approach can afford to take the risk of investing in your business. Never ask a friend or family member to invest or loan you money they can’t afford to lose.
Partners. With the “strength in numbers” principle, look around for someone who may want to team up with you in your venture. You may select someone who has financial resources and wants to work side-by-side with you in the business. Or you may find someone who has money to invest but no interest in doing the actual work. Be sure to create a written partnership agreement that clearly defines your respective responsibilities and obligations.
Government programs. Take help of the abundance of local, state and federal programs designed to support small businesses. Create your first stop the U.S. Small Business Administration; then investigate various other programs. Women, minorities and veterans should check out niche financing possibilities designed to help these groups get into business. The business section of your local library is a good place to begin your research.
A Home based Location
One of the newest business trends today is to be home based, and cleaning services are excellent candidates for this type of setup. After all, your customers will likely never come to your facility since all your work is done on their premises. But that’s not the only matter influencing your decision to operate from a home based office or a commercial location.
Many municipalities have ordinances that edge the nature and volume of commercial activities that can occur in residential areas. Some outright prohibit the establishment of home based businesses. Others may permit such enterprises but place limits regarding issues such as signage, traffic, employees, commercially marked vehicles and noise. Previous to you apply for your business license, find out what ordinances govern home based businesses; you may need to adjust your plan to be in compliance.
Opening a Commercial Location
A lot of industry veterans think that in order to achieve authentic business growth, you must get out of the home and into a commercial facility. Surely, doing so will help you make a successful and professional image, but before you begin shopping for an office, think carefully about what you’ll need.
Your office area should be huge enough to have a small reception area, work space for yourself and your administrative staff, and a storage area for equipment and supplies. You may also desire to have space for a laundry and probably even a small work area where you can handle minor equipment repairs. Depending on the size of your staff, consider allowing for a small break area.
Since your work is completed at your customers’ sites, vehicles are as important to your business as the location of your office. In fact, your vehicles are basically your company on wheels. They need to be carefully chosen and well-maintained to adequately serve and represent you.
Do You Need Employees?
For a Maid Service Business: Your first staffing needs will depend on how much capital you have, how huge a business you want to have, and the volume of customers you can sensibly expect to service. Many independent maid services start with just the owner. Others will launch with the owner and an appropriate number of maids. If you handle the administrative chores, chances are you won’t need to hire office help right away.
For a Carpet Cleaning Business: Depending on the strength of your pre-opening campaign and your startup budget, hire at least one service person and probably two as you’re getting ongoing, along with an employee experienced in clerical work who can book appointments and handle administrative chores. Though one person can likely handle most of the residential jobs you’ll get, you may want to consider staffing each truck with two people: a senior technician and a helper.
Pricing can be tedious and time-consuming, especially if you don’t have ability for crunching numbers. Mainly in the beginning, don’t rush through this process. If your quote is too low, you’ll either rob yourself of some profit or be forced to lower the quality of your work to meet the price. If you estimate too high, you may lose the contract altogether, especially if you’re in a competitive bidding situation. Remember, in many cleaning situations, you may be competing against the customer himself; if your quote is high, he or she may think, “For that much money, I can just do this myself.”
During the first days of your operation, you should go back and look at the real costs of each job when it’s completed to see how close your estimate was to truth. Learning how to accurately estimate labor and correctly calculate overhead will let you set a competitive pricing schedule and still make the profit you require.
Though the whole market for cleaning services is tremendous, you must decide on the particular niche you will target. If you want to do residential cleaning, do you want to clean private homes, condos and apartments, or empty rental units? If you’re starting a janitorial business, will you focus on offices, retail operations or manufacturing facilities? And will you target small, medium or large customers?
Once you’ve decided on a market niche, you must then look at the geographic area you want to serve. If you’re starting a maid service, you want to be able to schedule cleanings in a way that keeps your travel time to a minimum. The same applies to carpet cleaners. Janitorial crews that must move from building to building have a similar concern.
You can make a very successful cleaning business on referrals, but you need those first customers to get started. Where are they? Indianapolis-based Bane-Cline Corp. propose you launch by contacting the following groups:
• friends and relatives
• your neighbors
• former co-workers and employers
• social groups and clubs, including card clubs, bowling teams, athletic leagues, lodges, fraternities, alumni groups, and neighborhood associations
• church or religious acquaintances
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