Facility Support 8036 Madison Blvd. Suite S105
Madison, AL 35758
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Frequently asked industry questions and related issues
Starting, marketing and growing janitorial companies, commercial office cleaning or construction site cleaning businesses begins by asking "how can I start my own cleaning business?". Many people believe sample flyers for a cleaning business and/or fancy cleaning business clipart is the ticket. Others say free cleaning business layouts and office cleaning inspection sheets will get the job done. Well, if you’re thinking "I want to start my own business cleaning small offices" or you’re just starting to learn how to successfully operate a cleaning business, this site may offer you a little guidance. Whether you’re considering a janitorial company, commercial office cleaning or construction site cleaning business, you will quickly learn that it’s all about communication, documentation and accountability.
Author - Thomas Anthony
Founder—Facility Support client/contractor communication team
Plan the work—work the plan. Then do it again tomorrow and on and on...
We are the Client/contractor communication team from Facility Support and we truly understand the results from clarity in communication. How to successfully operate a cleaning business is answered in one word … communication. If you clearly understand your client’s needs (read our link “the novice mistake”), then clearly and honestly communicate your intentions as a contractor with him or her, the result after negotiating a fair to both parties plan is the common goal of accomplishing an acceptable level of service consistently and in an uneventful manner. It won’t be about missing expected tasks or about the contractor’s compensation. The client will enjoy, what in his/her opinion, is an acceptable level of service and you will be receiving payments that include profits. This communication should be in the form of documentation so both parties can refer back to it later. The documentation should be short, clear and to the point. If you do what you said you were going to do consistently, and your client pays you how much and when you agreed upon, there isn’t any reason for an account to be in jeopardy. Make this plan day one with your client and do it very clearly. Once everyone’s clear on the agreement, it just becomes an ongoing perpetual task with no surprises over and over. Very uneventful… and that’s an incredibly important goal…. uneventful.
How should I document a bid?
It has been our experience that bids under $100,000 annually only require a one page bid sheet and they are definitely the most well received. We offer one page commercial cleaning industry bid sheets on this website (check our home page). We have found when reviewing bids, the majority of client decision makers appreciate a matter-of-fact/get-to-the-point one page bid. It displays professionalism, not ego. Often, with these smaller letter type one page bids, we just have the client write right across the bid sheet: “This is acceptable, please start work Monday June 4th, 2007” sign and print their name with a date. Although this may seem unprofessional at first, we are fully aware of the legal expenses involved in challenging a business agreement (and so is your client) and on the smaller accounts it’s just not cost effective. Typically, if a problem arises that cannot be resolved, most clients will cut a final payment check and sever the relationship. The one page bid sheets offer very clear information and leave very little room for a challenge. The outstanding settlement is easy to calculate. The more complicated larger documentation supports fixed terms for the length of a contract and who is going to pay all the legal fees if it’s broken. We aren’t attorneys and this site isn’t offering legal advise, but what I just wrote seems to make common sense and has worked out quite well for us. Good business sense suggests that you always speak with an attorney before you initiate any documents. In addition, the gain of saying to the prospect when you deliver the bid, “when you choose to start with us, all I need is this page signed off and we’ll get going”, carries a lot of weight in their decision making process. If you have the opportunity also mention: “We don’t require additional paperwork with a guaranteed length of contract. We partner very well and I’m sure we will have a strong relationship for a substantial length of time. But, if your firm requires a more detailed agreement, that would be fine with us also.” Requiring the client to sign a one, two or three year contract duration period may appear professional to you at first, but it also offers a red flag to the prospect suggesting your awareness and anticipation of the potential for adversity in the future. It’s quite difficult for a facility manager to find an honest, consistent cleaning crew. Having to replace one is even more difficult, because it suggests to their superiors that they made a poor choice in the beginning. Again, if you clearly work through all the kinks in the beginning and stand behind what you promised, you should enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship for years to come. Obviously larger accounts will require additional paperwork, but it’s still the same concept. Keep it brief, yet factual.
What about insurance? and Geezz… Workmen’s Comp?
In your initial meeting with your prospect you will learn of their requirements of a contractor. All the necessary licenses, industry specific certifications if any and their company’s insurance requirements. The insurance requirement is the reason for this paragraph. It’s important to have general liability insurance and general liability insurance can also be a sales tool. I would suggest when purchasing insurance, you inquire how much additional premium you will incur if you attach a million dollar umbrella to your policy. We have learned the additional charge isn’t all that much, but the umbrella carries a lot of weight in the bidding process. Actually we consider it an expense to our marketing/advertising budget. Workmen’s Compensation insurance is also a major factor and can be quite expensive depending on the client’s requirements. This has recently become a major issue with construction site cleaning businesses. We quickly learned how to address the Workmen’s Comp issue in a cost effective manner, because it’s just too expensive to us to cover everyone on the payroll with Workmen’s Compensation insurance on an annual basis. Each company is different as it would depend on the tasks and sites being worked, their volume and their requirements. Check and calculate the situation for your business. Temporary labor payroll and insurance may be logical in your particular situation also. We approached the local branch of a national temporary labor company and had them put our people, working on sites requiring Workmen’s Comp, on their payroll. They provide substantial Workman’s Comp insurance with a large umbrella, give us a copy of the insurance cover sheet for our client and bill us as necessary. The client pays us, we pay them. This also helps with cash flow regarding payroll. The temp labor company pays our people on their payroll and we adjust our separate payroll with those employees to make up any discrepancies. It costs more per hour in payroll this way, but weighing that cost against the cost of blanketing the entire company with workmen's comp it’s still quite a savings.
Accountability—write the stuff down and file it!
About running your business: Keeping a client interaction log is very helpful, with the “he said-she said” of your conversations and specific events including dates. Many successful companies keep a written communication log posted inside a janitor’s closet to communicate without having bothersome phone calls to or from the client. Still keep a full interaction log on file in your office. The posted log in the closet also allows your management to oversee progress of a site or an employee. Periodic inspection of an account is absolutely mandatory and should be documented in two ways. First there is your internal office cleaning inspection sheet where you review and document the obvious level of service (actually this is the level of clean). This should be preformed by a member of your management not connected with the day to day operation of the site. Then there should be a review with a client representative resulting in a document where they rate the level of service, their level of satisfaction with it and potential improvements. This inspection sheet should be signed, dated and filed in your office. Your client’s signature on the inspection sheet is very important because they can’t call and dramatically complain about how poorly their building is being serviced when two weeks earlier they signed off on a acceptable level of service. Much of the “how to” part of successfully operating a cleaning business is the ability to review and adjust an effort to the future. Inspections allow a company to proactively address future challenges. Always reviewing and adjusting your operation is one of the answers to starting, marketing and growing janitorial companies, commercial office cleaning or construction site cleaning businesses.
Plan now for future success
How to successfully operate a cleaning business should start with a plan to the future. Where do you want your business to be at the end of one year, or two years out or maybe five? I want to start my own business cleaning small offices may be your thought today, but where will you end up once you start. Free cleaning business layouts may suggest, and the ones you pay for should suggest, a service company should create a solid foundation on consistent cash flow from a diversified client base. What does that mean?... It means you should always have money scheduled to come in (steady accounts paying monthly that you can count on to pay your expenses) and there should be a good number of them so if one falls off, or their check don’t show up, the others still pay you. Large mega-accounts sound exciting and offer a large amount of money, and that money is exciting. But after calculating the expenses involved in maintaining the large facility at an acceptable level of service consistently, that large number may quickly shrink to a not so attractive net profit number. Always do the math! Then do it again. Now, let’s say you accepted the large account and you staffed it with a good number of hard working employees. And… well let’s imagine…. well,…. let’s just say there was an issue with their opinion of your service and the check doesn’t show up on time. You still have to make payroll, pay your rent, phones and on and on. Salvaging the account can be done, that’s just a communication thing. But keeping your business above water may be a little more challenging if you don’t have other accounts sending you money. Diversity! Very important. The mega-account can be a very good thing. It does quite a bit for your business resume’ and your learning curve, but it’s dangerous so be careful. A consistent diversified client base isn’t limited to just contract janitorial companies. Even the specialized companies can find a consistent cash flow client base. As an example, construction cleaning businesses find many one time projects with different, and usually out of town, general contractors. That’s typical for that industry because many of the larger projects are bid nationally and construction contractors set up temporary operations for the length of the project. Those are good bids to win, but your local area will also have local construction contractors who start new projects every month and that’s where the foundation for this niche of the industry is. Bid the one time projects, but always work the locals. In addition, window cleaning companies, floor and carpet care companies and pressure washing services all solicit the new construction sites while maintaining established consistent diversified routes.
Free cleaning business layouts, free cleaning business clipart, office cleaning inspection sheets and sample flyers for a cleaning business should be easily available online. As time allows, we will continue to upload and post various industry related tools to help in your effort. Good luck with your business!
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