The commercial and residential cleaning industry in the United States is approaching $80 billion, most of which comes from contract cleaners servicing office buildings. The industry employs an estimated 3.5 million people. The hourly wage for the average workers/cleaners in the industry is $11.73, and industry growth is expected to be between 7% to 11% over the coming years.
To the entrepreneur, the combination of low start-up costs and the need for businesses and homes to be cleaned, is the incentive to invest into the cleaning industry. But, as with any financial investment or endeavor there is the need to investigate thoroughly the details of the various types of cleaning opportunities that exist. What follows is an overview of “things to consider” that I have learned from personal experience and from my own research to become educated in the cleaning industry.
Do Your Homework
Clientele: What is the demand for cleaning services in the area you live or in an acceptable driving distance? How many other cleaning service businesses will you be competing against and what level of service do they currently provide? While these are important questions to investigate, it should also be noted that securing just one business to clean, if of an acceptable size and work requirement, may be all that is needed to launch your business. Then, your delivery of top-notch service and customer satisfaction will pave the way for future growth and expansion.
Your Niche: At least when first beginning your business you should have a thoroughly thought out scope of services you will offer your customers. Points to consider include:
- Commercial or Residential: Commercial cleaning services are offered to offices and non-residential structures, often during evenings or night shifts. Residential cleaning services are typically offered to well-to-do married couples in the mid 40’s and 50’s who are looking to free up time to engage in other activities.
- Training, Certification and/or Membership: In addition to having your business license, you may want to invest in obtaining certification that will enhance your industry expertise, offer protection to your business, and allow you to present yourself and your business as “certified”. One such organization, the International Sanitary Supply Association (ISSA), now known as the Worldwide Cleaning Industry Association, is an international association of more than 9,000 companies in the professional cleaning industry. This organization offers a certification in Cleaning Industry Management Standards (CIMS), to develop knowledge and skills of cleaning and maintenance professionals, managers, supervisors, and executives. (ISSA.cm)Often local cleaning service suppliers will provide their own training to those in the cleaning business. An investigation into where you can get training is an important part of being ready to begin your business.
- Green Cleaning: Promoting your business a “green” using environmentally friendly cleaning solutions. This will take additional training and possibly certifications to enable you to qualify as a “green” business.
- Day or Night Services: depending on your unique circumstances you will want to approach businesses that need their cleaning services performed at either day or night. Night services can affect sleep patterns and how and when you perform business operations. Day services, where you will be working around a business’s employees, requires that you have good people skills and can interact with the business’s employees in a professional and enjoyable way.
- Applicable Regulations: If your cleaning business will serve commercial businesses, then knowing, understanding, and applying applicable Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards related to your cleaning services is a must.
Start Up Costs
The initial startup costs will obviously be determined by the type and scope of the cleaning services you plan to offer. There are also many avenues from which you can purchase the basic tools and supplies necessary to clean to facilities your business will serve. Consider the following startup costs that may be applicable to your business.
- State Business Filing & Incorporation: You must be able to legally operate your business in the state in which you live, and to protect your assets you will want to incorporate your business. Consider filing for an LLC.
- Cleaning Tools & Equipment: Broom, dustpan, mop, bucket, vacuum, buffer, microfiber cleaning cloths, long-handled toilet cleaning brush, long handled adjustable duster, sponges, squeegees, garbage can liners, janitorial cart with sufficient storage and holders, safety signs, etc. NOTE: when choosing cleaning tools and equipment, competitively shop for those that are durable and portable, come with warranties. In fact, some startup cleaning services choose to initially rent the equipment and postpone the purchase of the more expensive equipment until cashflow is more conducive of such purchases.
- Cleaning Supplies: Multipurpose cleaner, glass cleaner, toilet cleaner, carpet cleaner, disinfectant, air freshener, etc.
- Maintenance Tools???: If your business will be providing minimal basic maintenance, such as tightening loose screws, replacing light bulbs, plunging toilets, etc. you may need screwdrivers, wrench, plunger, etc. Obviously, your maintenance tool box will be determined by the extent of the work required.
- Business Management Software: A small price for a multitude of functions including inventory supply, client scheduling, financials, accounting, etc.
- Marketing: You might begin with a simple and inexpensive brochure that can be taken door to door or strategically placed in high traffic areas to inform potential customers of your services. You might set up a website and learn the skills to drive traffic to your site. Maybe you will directly approach the businesses or individuals that you feel your business is a good fit for. Whatever method of advertising your use be prepared to spend the necessary amount to inform folks of your services and why they should choose you.
- Transportation of Equipment and Supplies: Depending on the type and initial size and scope of your cleaning operations, you may need to purchase a van or vehicle that can carry your equipment and supplies to the facility. As with the purchase of the more expensive equipment, you may consider initially renting a vehicle until cashflow warrants the purchase of a vehicle.
A Partner: Managing a small cleaning business requires more than just yourself performing the cleaning duties and managing the business, especially if you want your business to grow. Trying to “do it all” will, in time, prove to be too difficult of a balancing act and will dilute your efforts. Consider those times when you must clean during a night shift, and the phone calls for your business from clients, come in the morning hours when you may be trying to sleep. Having someone, maybe a spouse or partner, who can take clients calls and help schedule the workflow lends to a professional approach required to grow your business.
Management of Operations: There are affordable and adaptable software programs available to help you manage your business, including inventory supply, scheduling, financials, taxes, etc. Technology has provided low cost, multifunctional, and convenient software programs that allow you to spend more time rendering cleaning services, that which brings provides your income.
If your preparatory investigations into the cleaning industry indicate that the area in which your live and the nearby communities will support a cleaning business, that between you and a spouse or partner you can effectively handle the day to day operations, and you are dedicated to building and growing your business, then the cleaning industry has opportunities for a successful business. Success to you and your efforts.
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