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200 Customers and Beyond: Advice for Large Cleaning Business Owners

200 Customers and Beyond: Advice for Large Cleaning Business Owners

While residential cleaning is an impressive $12 Billion industry, a shocking 75% of that business is being serviced by independent cleaners or small cleaning companies with five or fewer employees. If your business has cleared the 200-customer mark, you are among the house-cleaning elite. And if you have done so without the power of a franchise behind you, you’re pretty much a cleaning business olympian.

Unfortunately, this means finding peers with meaningful words of wisdom that are relevant to a business your size can be especially challenging. This is why we have put together this collection of advice and resources to help large cleaning business owners find support, comradery, and actionable steps to scale their business.

1. A Killer Whale Has More to Learn From a Hippo Than a Mino

Just because most house cleaning businesses are small doesn’t mean all businesses are. You will likely find you have far more in common and much more to learn from fellow business owners of your own size from different industries rather than just limiting yourself to business owners in your own market segment.  

Once you get to a certain size, the challenge of running a large business becomes more and more about universal issues like managing cash flow, HR and recruitment challenges, improving marketing ROI, etc., which little cleaning companies in your market may only have an elementary understanding of. This is why joining your local BNI is such a critical step to achieving your next stage of personal and business growth.

BNIs offer:

  • Networking opportunities;
  • Chances to get discounts on services;
  • Opportunities to find other companies to cross-market with that are targeting the same consumers as you;
  • Educational opportunities;

And so much more. Your local BNI will be an invaluable resource for finding not only new mentors but also new business opportunities.

Local BNI members love to support fellow members, so you might find some juicy low-hanging fruit new accounts just from attending the meetings, and if you follow suggestion #3, you won’t have to limit yourself to cleaning their house.

2. Birds of a Feather Still Need to Flock Together, Especially When Flying Into a Headwind

While, as we just explained, many issues for businesses of your size are universal, some are extremely specific to the world of residential cleaning. This is why you also need fellow industry peers who get what it’s really like to run a house cleaning company.

Join ARCSI is another must-do for large independent cleaning companies. The great thing about organizations like ARCSI is due to their national reach, they attract large cleaning companies from across the country. So you are no longer limited to the advice of the little fish in your local pond.  

Beyond the networking opportunities, organizations like ARCSI offer industry-specific negotiated discount programs on everything from background checks to medical insurance, allowing you to enjoy lower prices previously reserved for only the largest cleaning franchises.  

If you need discounts on microfiber, Microfiber Wholesale has special discount programs for large cleaning businesses. Email Julia@MicrofiberWholesale.com for all your sales inquiries.

Attending their ISSA trade show once in your life is a true bucket list item for everyone in the professional cleaning industry. It’s a mind-blowing experience to finally see the true scope of the professional cleaning industry's cleaning chemicals, tools, and equipment. It also provides an invaluable opportunity to attend classes, network, and find like-minded house-cleaning business owners committed to taking their businesses to the next level.

3. Let Light Commercial Cleaning Do the Heavy Lifting

Yes, we know your specialty is house cleaning, and it’s important to focus on what you’re good at. But the reality is that if you want to get really big, the fastest and most predictable way to do that is layering in some light commercial cleaning.  

Residential cleaning is a $12 billion industry, while commercial is a whopping $90 billion, making it an apple too big and juicy not to take at least a small bite out of. Now we’re not suggesting you go all in buying a fleet of floor burnishers and truck-mounted steamers. Rather we are suggesting you artfully siphon off from the commercial industry behemoth those clients that would actually benefit more from a residential cleaning service touch.

There is no point in trying to compete with the Commercial Big Boys like Jani-King for massive high rises and accounts of that scale. Your business is not set up or trained to meet their needs. On the flip side, though, there are many small companies, from your local tax accountants to beauty salons to vacation properties and so on, whose cleaning needs align almost perfectly with your current employee training and skill.  

In fact, you likely have a strong advantage over your commercial competitors, as they are not known for training their employees to clean with the level of detail these sorts of consumers delight in. In small commercial accounts, unlike the high rises, the person paying the bill actually spends their day working in the space they’re hiring you to clean. If you pitch yourself to these businesses as the right choice to finally get their workspace cleaned well for a change, you’ll be surprised just how many exasperated business owners you’ll find willing to give you a shot.

Cutting your teeth on the properties of your local BNI members from #1 is a great way to get used to working with commercial cleaning and refine your offering and sales pitch. Commercial properties usually look for service several days per week, so you’ll need to help your staff get used to working through these commercial spaces at the pace of a nightly wipe-down versus a typical twice-a-month house clean.  

You may also need to do some modest additional training, like how to do laundry for linen changes at a vacation property turnover or load c-fold towels in a dispenser of a business bathroom. Luckily these businesses are a steady source of revenue with far fewer hiccups or customer service needs than residential, so they’re worth the training investment.

4. Get Serious About Your Software And More Serious About the Data You Put In it

If you haven’t invested in a quality service software program yet, or are still slumming it on the trial version, it’s time to get serious about service software. Whether you select Housecall Pro, Jobber, or similar service company software isn’t as important as getting on top of the data you are entering into it.  

Standardizing your customer account notes with actionable, bullet-pointed information means any new manager or cleaner can pick up where the other left off and service existing accounts without missing a beat. Creating firm driving zones per cleaner and reorganizing their work so they only service clients within a restricted area means you not only play less non-revenue generating travel time, but you also have more time for revenue-generating work per cleaner, improving your profitability by measurable percentages.  

Accurately tracking cleaning start and stop times, travel times, and so on allows for accurate client billing and nips payroll disputes with cleaners in the bud. Slip through revenue losses in the form of excess travel, staying overtime at cleans you’re not getting paid extra for can eat up several percentage points of final profits, and given the tight margins of house cleaning, the difference can be huge.

Beyond just the accuracy of your data and the maximizing of your current staff, many service software packages offer client online booking and rescheduling features, email marketing features, and more, saving you hours of manual client communications over the phone or email, saving both management expense and increasing client satisfaction.  

If you’ve been negligent in regularly communicating with your customers over email or text, management software can open an entirely new revenue stream for your business. Reaching out to existing and former clients with flash sales, upsell deals, online review contests, and the like can increase your revenues as easily as shooting fish in a barrel.  

If you can revive even just 5% of your past client database to grab a flash sale clean once a month with zero marketing dollars and a few clicks of a button, you can imagine how powerful a profit boost a tool like this can be to your bottom line.

5. Satellites and Motherships Are Great For More than Just Sci-Fi Movies

When it comes to increasing market opportunities for cleaning businesses, one of the most unchallenged limiting factors is geography. Most professional cleaners are not willing or able to drive more than 30 minutes to pick up their supplies and another hour total between houses for the day before they get frustrated, especially if their final clean lands them far from home.  

Even though travel time is paid time, most cleaners are savvy enough to know that they make more money cleaning than driving, especially when you factor in tips, and no one is paying them to rush home to their kids at the end of the day (or fix their car when it runs down from all the miles). Opening a satellite location near your ideal worker community can increase recruitment opportunities and expand serviceable territory in one surprisingly affordable two-for-one swoop.

Many cleaning companies operate out of locations as simple as the owner’s garage. Still, as you get to the 200 clients and beyond the mark, a legitimate-sized real office space becomes critical to not only house sufficient supplies but also provide a professional workspace for managerial, sales, and customer service staff (and a less sketchy location for new employees to apply for work).  

The good news is that once you have one main office, you really don’t need another one to service an expanded territory, as your sales and customer service team can easily service hundreds of clients from your central office mothership.

Satellite locations really only need to be a receptacle for supplies and a part-time manager in charge of distributing them. If possible, having that manager stay for a few extra hours interviewing, and training staff in that region can help that new territory grow even faster.

Since the needs of the satellite are so few, anything from a small office to even a self-storage unit can work, especially if it is near a laundromat to wash the microfiber towels. If your budget is extremely tight, you can even get away with a Satellite Van, which you load with supplies from your large mothership office and drive out to your new territory to distribute to awaiting cleaners in a public space like a large parking lot.  

Ideally, in this scenario, you’ll load up your Satellite crew with several days of supplies so someone only needs to make the trek a couple of days a week.

6. Part of Letting Go of Control is Quality Control

For all the Type A successful business owners, there’s a dreaded day when they have to face the realization that they can no longer micromanage every element of their business. For cleaning business owners, many have grown their companies on their sweat equity. They’ve thrived because they were able to keep their fingers in every cookie jar, personally smoothing over every client or cleaner grievance as they arose.  

Once you get to a certain size, there simply isn’t enough of you to go around anymore, no matter how thin you try to spread yourself. This is when you absolutely need to put systems in place to allow you to keep tabs on how everything is going and ensure that your brand standards are being met, even when you can’t personally check on it anymore.  

Quality control (QC) programs exist for a reason, and they are the only way for a large cleaning company to truly expand without eroding its customer experience. With a QC program in place and consistent tracking of the results, even the largest cleaning business owner can find out in minutes if their recruitment, training, and management efforts are yielding the consistent customer experience this industry demands.

QC programs can feel costly and complicated, which is why they are often the first thing to be cut when cleaning companies are tight on cash or staff. But in truth, they are FAR cheaper than the loss of business and brand reputation that comes from their absence. When done right, QC is easy, affordable, and even enjoyable.

The key to a successful program is simplicity, accountability, and remembering the QC golden rule: Quality Control isn’t about catching someone doing it wrong; it’s about teaching them to do it right! QC must be a teaching system, not a policing system, or the results will never improve.

If your previous QC efforts felt more like the Cleaning Gestapo, take this as your clarion call to apologize to your staff and change your ways.

A simple and effective QC program for cleaning businesses is to establish a standard Virtual QC and Live QC and make sure every cleaner has at least one of each every month.

A virtual QC is when you ask cleaners to text your manager a few before and after pictures of the clean they are going to that day. Then call the office 30 min before their clean is over to tell the manager how they feel the clean went and if they have any issues or concerns keeping them from delivering an A+ service.

This self-check is a test of your cleaners’ honesty and accountability and allows them to self-advocate for things like needing more time on a clean due to unexpected soil conditions. When done right, these calls should feel like a supportive lifeline call and pep talk, not micromanagement.  

For the Live QC, a simple one-sheet list of all the things that should be done with a simple rating of Done Well (3), Done Poorly (2), and Forgotten (1) should allow anyone to check on a clean and score it quickly. Live QCs are a test of your cleaners' skills and understanding of the brand standard.

If there is a misalignment, it’s on your management staff to provide ongoing education to right the ship. They also need to recognize when enough education and second chances have been offered or it’s time to move the cleaner onto a new line of work they’ll be more successful in.

Where to Begin

If all the advice in this article feels like too much to tackle all at once, don’t let it make you feel overwhelmed. Just remember it probably took you years to build your business to where it is today, so you're not going to grow it to your next dream milestone overnight. Just eat the elephant one bite at a time and trust the process, layering in each new suggestion as you master the previous one.

If you enjoyed this article, the clearest first step is to subscribe to our email list to ensure you don’t miss any of our future content. Everything we publish is designed to be chock full of actionable advice to keep your business growing at any size.

At Microfiber Wholesale, we are committed to building out a wide breadth of resources for cleaning companies looking to grow, from blog articles to interviews of successful business owners and more. When you grow, we grow with you.

We’ve figured out that the fastest way to grow our microfiber business is to make our customers more successful, so they can afford to buy the best, and lots of it.

Search around our other articles and come back frequently to see the new content we’re adding as we dive deeper into all the key challenges cleaning companies face. The answers to your biggest challenge might be only a few clicks away.

If you can’t wait, reach out to us at askanexpert@microfiberwholesale.com, so we can answer your questions directly and maybe even use your email as inspiration for our next piece.

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