Commercial cleaning businesses are a growth industry. Unlike some startups, you don’t need a wealth of experience to start a commercial cleaning venture, but you do need to be willing to get your hands dirty – at least in the early stages. If this sounds like an appealing business, here are some of the things you need to know.
Startup or Franchise
There are two ways to start your cleaning business. The first is to build a business from scratch and the second is to buy into an existing franchise organization. Both have their pros and cons.
Starting a business from nothing and building it into a successful venture is exciting, but hard work. You will have to find clients, do the day-to-day admin and marketing, and come up with a brand image. If you have no previous business-related experience, it will be a steep learning curve.
Buying into an existing franchise is easier from the respect that you are purchasing a ready-made business. The framework is there and you have the backup of the franchisor to help you establish the business. In most cases, the franchisor will assist with marketing, branding, and admin support. On the downside, you have less freedom and there will be monthly costs to the franchisor to consider, as well as the cost of buying the franchise in the first place.
For the purposes of this article, we will assume that you want to start a business from scratch, but some of the points will be applicable to a franchise, too.
Different Types of Commercial Cleaning
There is no one-size-fits-all business model, but in general, commercial cleaners typically work in the following areas:
- Offices and retail units – Office cleaning typically takes place early in the morning of after-hours. Your duties will include emptying the bins, vacuuming and polishing offices and public areas, and cleaning restrooms and kitchens.
- Manufacturing and industrial premises – Industrial cleaning in manufacturing premises and factories involve the above, plus specialist cleaning on the shop floor.
- Residential apartment blocks – Residential apartment management companies often hire contract cleaners to maintain public areas such as entrance foyers, public restrooms, and laundry rooms.
- Specialist cleaning – Other areas include medical facilities, education facilities, and even crime scenes.
Create a Business Plan
Irrespective of whether you need a business loan to start your commercial cleaning business, it is sensible to create a detailed business plan and conduct market research.
There is no point in starting a commercial cleaning venture if the market is saturated. Talk to prospective clients and find out whether they are happy with their current cleaners and if not, why not. Establish what the current rates are and work out whether you can charge enough to make a reasonable living.
Check what licensing requirements are in your area.
You will need to market your business. Marketing costs should include printing business cards, flyers, and creating a website.
Work out all of your expenses, including insurance, taxes, accounting costs, and supplies. Unless you are starting the business whilst maintaining another job, you will also need to pay yourself a wage.
A business plan should be detailed enough to show you whether this is a viable venture. If you need to borrow money to start the business, a business plan is essential, so spend time making sure cost and income projections are accurate.
The Early Days
To begin with, you will need some equipment. You may decide to look for clients before you invest in cleaning equipment, but bear in mind that prospective clients will expect to see a professional outfit on their premises, so if you rock up with a few kitchen cupboard essentials, they may not take you seriously.
The good news is that starting a commercial cleaning business does not require a large investment. For the most part, you won’t need much in the way of specialist janitorial equipment. General cleaning supplies such as a commercial vacuum cleaner, dusters, polish, all-purpose cleaning spray, bleach, cloths, a mop and bucket, and refuse sacks should be enough to get you going.
Once you have built an established business, you may wish to invest in more specialist equipment and accessories such as a floor-polishing machine, wet-dry cleaner, uniforms for staff, and vehicles.
Finding clients is the hard part. It will take some time to build an established client list, so be prepared to put in time and effort on cold calling, leaflet drops, and online marketing.
Your best approach is to contact prospects directly. Cold-call or make appointments to visit local businesses to find out if they are in the market for a new cleaner. Many businesses are open to change, especially if they are not happy with their current cleaning crew.
Be methodical in your approach and make a note of which businesses you have approached and what the outcome was. If you are not comfortable with cold calling, consider hiring a telemarketing firm to make the calls on your behalf.