Need some expert advice on how to start a residential cleaning business? Maybe you’ve just started, but need some advice on what to focus on next. To help you out, we’ve asked Joanna Martin to discuss the most important things she found when starting her businesses. Joanna has over 20 years of cleaning experience and is the current owner of Winston Salem Cleaning Service in North Carolina. Learn from her expertise below!
HERE'S WHAT I LEARNED
I have owned two cleaning businesses in my career history: the first was a simple, sole proprietor, girl-with-a-mop type of operation. My reasons for starting it were simple: I wanted a job where I could be self-directed (I hate sitting at at desk, waiting for the phone to ring). I wanted to earn above-average income for the time I worked. I didn’t have a lot of money to invest, and I liked a flexible schedule. Cleaning was all of those things. However, that does not mean it was always easy, I learned things the hard way.
Here is what I wish I knew before starting my own residential cleaning business:
Be legal, official, and insured. Take the first step to register your business as required by your local county, city and state laws. Never skip this step! Choose a name, and buy at least some insurance.
Always provide your own equipment, and obtain the best quality you can afford. It can be tempting to let the homeowner provide the equipment: after all things like vacuums, mops, chemicals, and cloths can really add up. However, when you do that, you give up valuable control and the benefit of consistency. You will sacrifice efficiency as you are continually switching between different set-ups, and you risk damaging something as you use unfamiliar products. At the very least, get your own microfiber cloths, dusters, & mops and take care of them properly. They will save you time, effort, and money! Here's a great starter kit with everything you need!
Create a basic marketing plan. It does not have to be complex or expensive. In fact, the simpler it is, the more likely you are to follow through. Try making a goal to pass out 5 business cards a week. You’ll be amazed at the result of a friendly smile and persistent effort.
Track your budget. At the end of every month, count up all your expenses: travel, chemicals, business cards, and all the time spent on the business, not just time spent cleaning. Next count all your income, remembering to take off for self-employment tax withholding. Keeping a close watch on your budget gives you the information you need to make good decisions.
2 TIPS FOR CONTINUED SUCCESS
So, that is what I wish I knew before starting my first business. But what about my 2nd cleaning business? For many years, the simple business model was just right.… until the physical toll of cleaning every day set in… first my back started to hurt, then my knees hurt, next the feet hurt. You get the idea… It was time to make the leap to employees. A friend of mine approached me - she was moving out of state and wanted to sell her up-and-running cleaning business. It was the perfect solution! We took a deep breath, tapped the savings account, and took the plunge. We got the whole package: equipment, a name, a website, uniforms, customers, and most important: employees. Despite some misgivings, I was optimistic, after all, I had been cleaning for more than 30 years, how hard could it be? Well the list of things I wish I knew beforehand is a long one….. but here are the two most important things I’ve learned along the way when starting a residential cleaning business.
There is no such thing as a non-cleaning position. Every person, from the newest technician to the manager to the owner must clean - preferably regularly. I thought I could get out of the ‘trenches’ and just do the scheduling, bookkeeping, marketing, training, and planning. Although, that may be possible for some, I find that the whole business runs better when I spend at least some time every week cleaning. Maybe it is because it keeps me in touch with the reality of the work. Maybe it is because the team is more ready to respond to feedback when they know I’m in it with them. Perhaps the customer can tell that I’m not just a sales person - I really know about cleaning. Whatever the reason, I’ve accepted the fact that to run a cleaning business, I must clean.
The real business is employees. It is true, our website talks about our cleaning services, but the true business is the employees. You must attract, retain, and train top quality employees or everything grinds to a halt. This was a major mental shift for me at first. I had been so used to looking for customers. The whole complicated employee package can be distilled to one idea: “Be the kind of boss that you would want to work for.” It is not always possible to offer everything you would like to have: fantastic pay, easy work, unlimited vacation.. however, the thing you can always control is how you treat others. Take good care of your employees, and they will take good care of your customers.
There will always be a market for cleaning. Learn from others - don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty - and use the best products to get the best results when you start a residential cleaning business service. Happy Cleaning!