Start a Cleaning Business – Overview of the Industry

While the cleaning industry may not be a glamorous line of work to be in, it can however be very rewarding for those who are prepared to work hard, manage employees and to scale up into a decent sized operation.

Many segments of the cleaning business appear to be recession proof, particularly commercial cleaning, making it an attractive business to enter no matter what the economic climate is like.

The cleaning industry in the United States is huge. Approximately 10% of American households use a cleaner or maid service at least once or twice a week. Window cleaning, carpet cleaning and other niche cleaning areas make the residential market the largest segment of the overall industry. The cleaning of commercial buildings and office space is the other huge segment of the market, making up around one third of the total market size. Like other service industries, the cleaning industry has had amazing growth over the past few decades, and this growth should continue well into the future.

As cleaning is a service-orientated business, market participants put a strong emphasis on good customer services. For many small cleaning companies, particularly in the residential sector, the main method of attracting new clients is through referrals or word of mouth marketing. Even the smallest cleaning businesses usually also do some kind of advertising and medium and large sized operations usually have advanced marketing strategies.

Entry barriers to the business are minimal as start-up costs are low and most cleaning related tasks can be performed with little or no qualifications or experience. Experience, however does go a long way towards ensuring that cleaning is done properly and efficiently.

While cleaning business operators are required to have a business license, many small businesses and sole operators in the residential sector of the market operate without them.

Some entrepreneurs take the franchising route into the business and there are many different franchise opportunities in the industry. Franchising in the cleaning business is not as strong as it is in its other industries though and as new players can get started cleaning relatively easily without requiring turnkey solutions and expert advice.

Mastering cleaning is the easiest part of the cleaning business but entrepreneurs wanting to start their own cleaning businesses also have to do their market research and learn about insurance, pricing and agreements, marketing and sales, small business management and hiring staff.

Due to the sheer size of the cleaning industry in the US it is almost certain that you can achieve some level of success if you put your mind to it and work hard to grow your business.

Why Recession Can Be Good For Business

Business today is so often won at the expense of a competitor.

In a recession many small and medium sized enterprises (SME) ‘batten down the hatches’, indulge in an extensive cost cutting exercise. Large corporate business has learnt to invest in continual customer acquisition programmes, in an attempt to avoid the feast and famine / boom and bust cycle that is typical of the global economy (ten year cycles?). Almost always this knee-jerk reaction by SME management involves stopping most marketing activities or canceling the marketing budget, which amounts to the same thing and produces a similar poor performance.

If your competitors are cutting down on marketing, might not there be a good business case for your business to increase or diversify its marketing activities or maintain its marketing budget? What about your customers? What are they doing? Have they stopped wanting and needing your services? This is unlikely. The usual reaction by customers is that they require more guarantees, better service, and better value-for-money. Even in the travel industry which relies on consumer surplus spending power, customers generally do not stop wanting holidays, they merely choose different holidays, fewer days or shorter durations, nearer destinations, sometimes choosing less expensive accommodation, and always reducing the amount of add-ons and extras they purchase. How best can a business respond to the changing expectations of its customers? The answer must include flexibility.

This means something different dependent on each market sector, and niche. The ability to respond quickly in today’s increasing complex business world requires an important blend of the following:

1. Established network of business contacts.

2. Strong and reliable source of finance.

3. Strong relationships with its key stakeholders (customers, suppliers, employees, shareholders).

4. Strong psychological contract with its workforce.

5. Robust business processes.

6. Strong management information and control systems.

All the six business functions need to be managed and balanced. Most SMEs possess in-house one or two management specialisms, such as personnel or operations expertise e.g. manufacturing, engineering, but will not have the other four disciplines. Large medium and corporate companies possess all the key management disciplines internally, but their weakness comes from the inner conflict caused by departments competing for resources.

How can a SME compete effectively with larger businesses? Management gurus will tell you it is flexibility. This is true. How does a SME optimise itself to deliver sustainable flexibility is many times beyond the reach of the average business or ‘mission impossible’. This is precisely where outsourcing becomes so vitally important. The business service industry is well-placed to deliver business support that can be the ‘magic bullet’ that many SME senior management is seeking. A professional business adviser can quickly establish what are the critical success factors (CRS) and as an outsider or external resource of business expertise can provide a focus and ‘driver’ to achieve vital business objectives.

One key way to do this is in the form of coaching senior management, with a specific focus on empowering them to take key business decisions more quickly, more decisively based upon better information.

Grow Your Window Cleaning Business by Knocking Down Some Doors

We all know that window cleaning businesses are growing in number as the small-business/ service industry is booming in America. However, with the growing number of small businesses, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find clients who will remain loyal to your service as you may need to raise prices or reschedule because of a busy week, etc. This article will explain how you can grow your customer loyalty. The best way to get and keep customers who will remain loyal to your window cleaning service is by developing one keyword: trust!

Trust is the name of the window cleaning game, and it starts with the first impression. By first impression, I mean the very first time the consumer hears word of or even sees any marketing propaganda from your company. Consumers are becoming wiser and more instinctive in the “Information Age,” which is why it is pertinent to make every effort to create a lasting first impression.

There are several ways improve, what I call, your “hook” (your lasting first impression). One of the ways is to spend a ton of money on newly designed marketing material; i.e. business cards, flyers, brochures, truck signs, websites, etc. These are great steps steps that should be taken when your window cleaning operations grow large enough to afford them. However, the best way to create a good “hook” is to knock on people’s doors, which is called canvassing. There are several reasons why this method is still the best method to obtain loyal clients, but I will discuss that after I discuss how canvassing should be done. First of all, it is important to observe all “no soliciting” signs, as this is common courtesy. Secondly, you need to put on a company shirt (preferably a polo-shirt with nice work shorts or slacks) and look well-groomed. A clean-shave never hurt anybody! Lastly, be prepared with what you are going to say. This helps improve confidence and credibility (remember that consumers are becoming increasing smarter and instinctive). By putting yourself together nicely and looking respectable, you give the potential customer a reason to listen to your message for a few short seconds.

The reason that canvassing (going door-to-door) is still the best method to obtain clients is very simple. People are creatures of habit, and we all grow up with the habit of using our five senses before we make a purchase. When you go and knock on somebody’s door with a well-rehearsed and sincere message of why you can enhance their life with your service, you have engaged more of their basic senses. Now the potential customer has the chance to 1) see their service 2) hear their service 3) touch their service (if you have a piece of marketing material for them) 4) smell their service (hopefully it is favorable) and 5) taste their service (which does not apply). This greatly enhances the “hook” effect because the brain is impacted by more senses than if they just saw your business card that says, “Jack’s Window Cleaning” on their porch. These cards usually end up right in the trash because there is no reason to keep it. It all comes back to the issue of trust. If they can get to know you in a positive way for a short 15-30 seconds, then they can gain some trust because they can put a “face with the business card,” and this gives them a reason to keep your card when they are ready to order a service. Mastering the art of canvassing, which only comes through practice and active thinking, is one of the first keys in starting and growing a window cleaning, or small-service-business.

The Industry’s Voice

Personally, I write about service in operation, the industry’s voice, in all its facets and on all the different levels. The industry is huge… service consists of so many ideas, with so many interlinked levels on which these ideas are expressed. People who are recording, creating, and publishing content operate all the tentacles of this ‘information-web’, all of them offering service, in dealing with each other.

Which, for editing purposes, in writing about the monitoring process and its findings, involves many hours of sourcing, scanning, reading, analyses and publishing of best-in-practice content that represents a view of, and into, global and local markets.

Regardless of the type, or format of interaction, when it happens, service is an observable action yet, it cannot be measured, as it is not only intangible, it is also too varied. Thankfully, many people are specifically writing about the service process, giving me/us a look at their perception of service, as part of their position within a specific business sector, perhaps as part of being an educator, or as a researcher, etc… and, they know their topic, in general, if not specific. They also have experience in actual operations… on a variety of fronts, on interlinked levels and find themselves in the habit of jotting things down.

These ‘personal and weblogs’ writings speak loudly to those who monitor the industry’s content, as it soundboards the service industry, reflecting patterns of use, re-use, and eventual regurgitation of recycled topics, such as when the occasional, exceptional and insightful contributions, become an over-posted / quoted / extracted press release, sort of topical, kind of relevant etc.

Nevertheless, the accessible mix is exhaustive, to say the least. Mining and using this ‘database’ of information to create content is already stretching many companies tightly, as management try to either stay ahead and on top of what’s being written by contributing, or they employ / outsource full-time, content writers.

In the process of monitoring an industry’s voice

A picture emerges when one identifies topics of interest to the consumer, gathers all the writings on what service is, where it can be found, how the whole journey is discoverable, the technology that enables the customer to experience service (good / bad / irrelevant), recordings of someone’s thoughts

It is a magnificent process when you get busy with and in it… this monitoring. Moreover, to have the skills and ability, inclination, time, and passion, to actually write about it, as it happens… is no mean feat. Everyone who takes pen to paper (finger to keyboard) and assumes the responsibility of passing on information about service, contributes to building its picture by educating, sharing insights and new knowledge, is to be applauded.

It is important though, to remember that service and customers/consumers/users are ‘joined at the hip’, in a manner of speaking. It does not matter which industry or sector of operations you are affiliated to through your employment, nor is it about any monetary value we can directly attribute to service (remember it is insubstantial / indefinable / indescribable / intangible).

Simply put, service, for everyone, and experienced by everyone, occurs at each point of interaction between us. As much as it is public, service, as experienced by consumers and providers, in my opinion, exists between every one, on all levels. The picture that has emerged, after almost six months of monitoring and research, is that of a bubbling, creative, innovative process, reflected in both ‘good and bad’ interactions that we are creating AND as a Wordsmith, for me the bonus is that we’re writing it down, informing and educating consumers, call centres and solutions providers.

What is your bonus?