Cleaning Service Business

Cleaning Service Business

If it can get dirty, chances are that someone will be willing to pay you to clean it. And that's why few industries can claim the variety and depth of opportunities that professional cleaning can. This in-depth guide shows you how to start three hot cleaning businesses: residential maid service, commercial janitorial and carpet/upholstery cleaning.

Most cleaning service businesses can be operated on either a part-time or full-time basis, either from home or from a commercial location, and the best part is you can build an extremely profitable business that will generate revenue very quickly.

Our easy-to-follow guide will teach you:

Who your customers and competitors will be
The ins and outs of finding clients
What equipment and supplies you'll need to get started
How to hire and train employees
Where to find start-up funds and how to set prices
And much more

The cleaning industry has two primary market groups: consumer and commercial. The consumer arena consists primarily of residential maid services, along with carpet cleaners, window cleaners and a variety of other cleaning services required on a less-frequent basis. The commercial arena is dominated by janitorial services, which typically provide a wider range of services than maid services, along with other cleaning companies, such as carpet and window cleaners, that target businesses rather than individual consumers. While it’s recommended that you decide on a niche and concentrate on building a business that will serve your chosen market, it is entirely realistic to expect to be able to serve multiple markets successfully.

With all this opportunity, what does the competition look like? Glance through your telephone directory—the number of cleaning services may make you think the market is already flooded and there’s no room for you. That’s not true.

First, anyone can get a listing in the Yellow Pages just by having a business telephone line. A mere listing doesn’t mean the company is offering quality service to the market you’re targeting.

Second, the demand for cleaning services is tremendous. Plenty of maid service companies have waiting lists for clients because they simply can’t serve the entire market. Many carpet cleaners and other types of specialized cleaning services are not full-time operations and therefore don’t offer serious competition. And a significant number of janitorial services are mom-and-pop operations run by people who want just enough work to earn a living.

Third, cleaning service customers want quality, and many operators are unable to deliver that. Ask anyone who has ever hired a company to clean something in their home or office if they’ve had any bad experiences, and chances are you’ll hear some nightmarish stories of poor-quality work, damage to property and even theft. If you offer quality service, operate with integrity and charge reasonable prices, you will be a success in a cleaning service business.

The Driving Forces

Shifting demographics and changing lifestyles are driving the surge in residential maid service businesses. Busy consumers don’t have the time or inclination to clean for themselves; they want to spend their limited leisure hours doing things they enjoy. So they’d rather have someone else do their cleaning—and they want it done well.

Linda B., president of a major residential maid franchise, says, “The major trend [in the residential cleaning industry] is tremendous growth. As leisure time continues to shrink, more and more people are searching for personal support in the form of housecleaning services, lawn maintenance, errand-running services and more. Our franchises are growing at tremendous rates, and most of them have waiting lists for customers. Our existing customers are asking for additional services, like indoor plant care, or asking us to pick up and deliver dry cleaning and handle other errands. People are strapped for time, they need help, and they are willing to pay for it. So many of our customers tell us that our service has given them the freedom to enjoy life and get rid of the stress that comes when you are overwhelmed with too much to do.” Adds Linda B., “And as the baby boomers hit their income peaks, and their children are beginning to leave home, they have more disposable income, and they’re going to demand more and more in the way of personal services. We are enjoying a time of wonderful opportunities, and that’s not going to change in the foreseeable future.”

But the companies that truly thrive will be the ones with a heavy emphasis on quality and personal services. “I really think the cleaning industry is getting to the point where people don’t want just a basic cleaning,” says Nancy W., a maid service owner in Raleigh, North Carolina. “With all these new and wonderful homes being built, people are becoming more particular about what they are paying for.”

On the commercial side, the dual trends of outsourcing and niche businesses are behind the growing number of janitorial and specialty cleaning services. Businesses need to have their offices and plants cleaned, but it doesn’t always make sense for them to employ their own cleaning staff. Nor does it make sense for them to own the equipment and expertise necessary for jobs such as carpet shampooing, which are done on an infrequent basis.

“We’re not just a cleaning company,” says Mike B., whose outfit provides carpet and upholstery cleaning, odor control and water restoration in St. George, Utah. “It’s not just about pushing a wand or running a machine. It’s not just kicking the dirt out. It’s a matter of taking good care of people.”

This is good news for an entrepreneur who is more interested in building a solid, profitable business than in conquering new horizons.

Before you leap into the cleaning business, it’s important to look at it with 20/20 vision. Though technology certainly has an impact on cleaning services, this is not a high-tech business. Nor is there any glitz to it. And there will be times when you’ll have as much trouble as Rodney Dangerfield getting respect.

But the upside is that you can build an extremely profitable business that will generate revenue very quickly. Most cleaning service businesses can be operated on either a part-time or full-time basis, either from home or from a commercial location. That flexibility gives this industry a strong appeal to a wide range of people with a variety of goals.

Another positive aspect of the industry is that within each category of cleaning businesses are market niches and operating styles that vary tremendously. Salt Lake City janitorial service owner Michael R. says, “We offer a wide range of services to a very limited clientele. We have refined our customer base to a group that we feel we can best serve in a way that will allow us to maintain those customers permanently.”

This means you can build a company that suits your individual style and talents. If you like doing the work yourself, you can stay small and do so. If your skills are more administrative in nature, you can build and manage teams to do the work. For people who like working outside, the opportunities in service areas such as window cleaning and pressure washing are abundant. Residential maid services offer fairly predictable hours; disaster restoration and cleanup can mean calls at all hours of the day or night.

Few industries offer this tremendous range of choices and opportunities, and the need for general and niche cleaning is expected to increase in the future. To help you find your place in this thriving field, let’s take a look at the day-to-day operations of some typical cleaning businesses.

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