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February 2006
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April 2006

Consistency and Quality Cleaning Opens Doors

We recently found out that one of our clients bought a large building because they're outgrowing their existing location. Over the next few months they'll be remodeling, and then as it gets closer to moving in, they'll decide if they're going to take out bids for cleaning or just take us with them.

Many companies who are moving into a new location find this to be a good excuse to take out cleaning bids. Why is that? Because they're not all that happy with the existing contractor, so by taking bids, they could replace the contractor and then make an excuse that someone else gave them a better price. That's sometimes easier than having to tell you they're not all that happy with the cleaning.

Our experience has shown however, that if customers are happy with their current cleaning company, they don't want to take the time to go through the bid process, as there is already so much to do. They'd rather have the existing company grow with them.

From talking with our contact person, I get the feeling they'll be taking us with them. They're happy with the work we do. In fact, it's a rare occasion that any of our clients who have moved have taken out cleaning bids.

This is what every cleaning contractor should strive for - consistency in the cleaning and quality cleaning. This will help to ensure your customers take you with them when they move to a new location. It's also a great way to increase your income because most companies are moving into larger buildings.


New Approach to Marketing Cleaning Business

One of our members at TheJanitorialStore has decide to take a new approach to marketing his cleaning business. He wants to offer "green cleaning" services to medical facilities so we've been helping him increase his knowledge of different aspects of green cleaning.

One of the things that you can incorporate into your cleaning business is the use of microfiber cleaning cloths and microfiber flat mops. You're able to color-code your cloths so that each color is used for one purpose only, which helps to avoid cross-contamination. For example, use red cloths for cleaning toilets and urinals and blue cloths for cleaning glass and mirrors.

We'll stay in touch with our member to see how his marketing goes and report back here. If you'd like to learn more about using microfibers in your cleaning business, you can receive an ecourse called "Microfibers: 6 Steps to Cleaning to Perfection" -- this is free when you sign up for our weekly newsletter, Trash Talk: Tip of the Week.


Cleaning Equipment Bargains

A few months ago I attended an IICRC upholstery cleaning certification class. I was talking to a cleaning contractor during a break and found out that he had a ride-on scrubber that he wanted to sell and was wondering if I knew anyone who might be interested. I asked him how much he wanted for it and he said $1000 - pretty cheap for a ride-on scrubber.

I got to thinking about it after coming home and thought that I just might have a use for it myself!  We had a client who was in the middle of a building expansion, and they were going to enlarge their garage as part of the project. One of the things we do for them is clean their garage floor with our automatic scrubber. It's a good-sized garage and the new one was going to be even larger.

I called him up and asked if I could take a look at it. After closer observation, I decided that $1000 was a good buy for this piece of equipment even though I'd probably have to stick another $500 + into it. We sealed the deal and I now have my own ride-on scrubber that works great for this floor. The machine paid for itself in only two months!

When shopping for equipment, look at your options -- you don't always have to buy new. If money is tight, or if buying it new would be too much of a burden, then check with other contractors or with your local janitorial distributor to see if they have any used equipment for sale. Just be sure to check it out thoroughly and run the machine if possible. You don't want to be stuck with a lemon.


How We Got Our First Cleaning Client

Believe it or not, I never actually set out to start a cleaning business. Back in the 80's I was working for a construction company and happened to get laid off. A couple weeks later, the owner of the construction company called me up. He owned a number of commercial buildings and was running into some problems with the cleaning crew. He asked if I'd be interested in working for him as a janitor, cleaning a 5-building office complex. The pay was pretty low, but I needed a job so I said yes.

I had done some janitorial work before, so I knew the work wasn't difficult (as least not for me), so I began to wonder if I could turn this into a business. I'd always been entrepreneurial, having had my own part-time businesses, so my wife and I started looking into what it would take to start a business in Idaho.

Within a few months of being employed as a janitor, I started my cleaning business. My boss agreed to a price for the office complex and so I took over as the cleaning contractor. I was fortunate that he was in the construction business, because he would call me up as they completed each new building and have me come in to do the construction clean up. Once that was done and the tenant moved in, it was an easy transition to give them a cleaning bid. And since I had done the construction cleanup, it gave me one foot in the door.

This is basically how I built my first cleaning business. I was very fortunate that I really didn't have to get out there and pound the pavement looking for new customers...they pretty much came to me. If you can find a great property manager, or construction manager or owner who is frustrated with their existing cleaning service, then you have a huge opportunity to "show your stuff".  Most people in this position don't want to deal with the headaches of cleaning, so if they find someone reliable, whom they know will always do quality work and is dependable, they'll always throw more work your way.


Which Customers Get Most of Your Attention?

When we started our two cleaning businesses, it was easier to get started with smaller clients, rather than going after the big accounts too soon. Then as we gained a reputation and started getting more referrals, larger accounts started coming our way. So now we have a combination of small accounts that get cleaned once a week for a couple hundred dollars a month and large accounts that get cleaned 5 days a week for several thousand dollars a month. So who do you think we should pay more attention to?

Of course it's important to give the best service possible to each and every cleaning account, but it's also important to keep in mind which customers generate most of your income. Does it ever seem that you're spending too much time catering to a small, not-so-profitable account?  If so, that's a red flag that you need to pay attention to. If any of your clients seem to be dragging you down, making unreasonable demands, and are basically becoming a pain in your neck, then it might be time to think about moving on from that account.

A few years ago we decided to take a close look at these small accounts that seemed to be a time and energy drain and decided to let a few of them go. What we found is that we freed up time to take on a new larger account that replaced three of the smaller accounts, and lots of headaches all at the same time. Plus we only had one contact person to deal with, rather than three.

When thinking about which customers should be getting most of your time, consider the following:

  • Which of your customers sing your praises?
  • Which of your customers give you their extra services like carpet cleaning and hard floor care (those profitable add-on services)?
  • Which of your customers go out of their way to give you compliments or positive feedback on your cleaning services (not just the complaints)?

Don't these customers deserve more of your attention?  Call them up occasionally to ask, "What can I do for you?"  And be sincere when asking the question. The power of building these relationships will help build value and trust for years to come.


Referrals From Employees Working in Your Buildings

Twice in the past year we've gotten referrals from employees who had once worked at one of our accounts and then changed jobs and told their new employer about us. People DO notice when you do a good job of cleaning their building, especially when they move to a new job and they notice that the cleaning isn't as good as they were used to.

In the first instance, the employee happened to work at a bank we cleaned. Then she moved on to a new job at a new bank. A couple months later, we received a call from the bank she had moved to and they asked us to come over and bid on two of their branches. She gave us such a glowing recommendation that it was a breeze getting the account and now we're  taking care of all four branches in town - it's turned into one of our most profitable accounts!

This week we received a phone call asking us to bid on a mortgage company's cleaning. It's a national company and we used to clean one of their offices in Boise so we thought that's where the referral came from. However it turns out that the referral actually came from another bank employee at one of our locations who changed jobs and went to work for the mortgage company.

As you can see, it's not only the "big shots" you need to impress when cleaning buildings. The employees notice how good a job you are doing and are happy to offer referrals when the opportunity arises.


Did You Know? People Like to Buy, But They Don't Like to be Sold

When was the last time someone tried to sell you something? Maybe you were tagging along with your wife on a shopping trip and really didn't have any intention of buying anything - you were just "browsing". Did you find yourself feeling resistant, not wanting to be bothered?

Now think about the last time someone helped you buy the item you were looking for. Perhaps this time you were shopping for a birthday gift for your 7 year old and needed help figuring out what the popular toys are today. Did you find yourself welcoming the sales associate's help so you could buy just the right gift?

The key remember is that people DO like to buy, but they DON'T like to be sold.

People respond more readily to someone who cares about what THEY want and need, and who are willing to help them buy the product or service that will best fit their needs. When you help people buy, you're providing the value they're looking for. If you're simply trying to sell, there's no percieved value so the customer will likely be resistant to your sales tactics.

So what are you going to focus on in your cleaning business - selling?  Or helping people to buy?


Bonus Incentives for Employees

A few months ago we decided to try out a new bonus program for our employees. The idea is to keep them motivated to keep up the high quality appearance we expect at all our buildings. Sometimes when a person has been cleaning for a while, they get bored and start skipping little details that are important to our clients. And when the little details are missing, we've lost our edge over the competition, which is something we can't tolerate.

We were also trying to figure out a way to get building walk-offs done more often, so we can give regular feedback to our employees. So in a brainstorming meeting with our supervisors, we decided to implement an incentive program that involved walk-offs performed in their buildings. It's pretty simple, actually. When we walk-off an account, we use a rating system of 1 to 5. If the employee(s) who work at that account receive an average of at least 3 out of 5, they'll each receive a $25 Bonus on their next paycheck.

So far so good...many of the employees who really take pride in their work actually look forward to the walk-offs so they can prove they deserve the bonus. It's worth it to us to pay the bonuses because those accounts are looking great and the customers are happy!


Be Creative and Ask Advice When Bidding on Cleaning Accounts

One of our members at TheJanitorialStore.com has been sharing their experience with a new account. It's an apartment complex that had been calling around looking for bids from cleaning contractors. Most of the contractors simply gave prices over the phone. I find this incredible -- how can you give a price over the phone when you haven't seen what you're going to be cleaning?  And how do you expect to build a relationship with a prospective client if you simply give them a price over the phone?

Well our member knew better and was the only one that actually went to the apartment complex to give a bid in person. Since this was their first move in/move out cleaning bid, they asked for some advice on pricing and got lots of opinions and feedback from other members. They agreed to do a trial service so the apartment complex could evaluate the value of their service compared to the existing cleaning service. They did end up getting the account after doing some more negotiating on price. They initially bid a little high, but re-negotiated the price to get additional services like carpet cleaning. But that's just the beginning of the story.

Recently the apartment manager asked them to take a walk with her because she had some questions. First she asked if they could give her a price for doing their model unit once a month. Then she asked how soon they could pressure wash the pool and patio cement. Then, she asked if they could clean all 11 outside breezeways by Memorial Day weekend. And finally, she asked if they could do the courtesy carpet cleanings that they give their one-year renewal residents. They are now the only cleaning contractor for ALL their cleaning needs, not just move in/out, which is what they originally bid on.

This is a great cleaning success story and I appreciate our member sharing their journey of how they went the extra mile to get this account. One of the benefits of joining us at The Janitorial Store is the opportunity to ask advice of other members so you don't have to reinvent the wheel while building your business. Other members shared their experiences with this type of cleaning, so they were able to use the feedback they received to make a more informed bid.


Part 2 - Take Advantage of Business Growth in Your Area

In my last post I talked about how we came to start our second cleaning and janitorial supplies business and how the growth of the area was the deciding factor on choosing this new location. In order to take advantage of growth in your community you need to stay on top of what's happening. There are a few ways to do this:

Continue reading "Part 2 - Take Advantage of Business Growth in Your Area" »