Cleaning sounds simple, but don't be misled: Being professionally successful requires the ability to think on your feet. Just ask Linda Wiester, owner of Cleany Boppers Inc. in Baltimore.
Wiester relied on a commercial solvent to make her clients' glass chandeliers sparkle. But when she ran out of the product--right in the middle of a big job--and couldn't find any more anywhere in the city, Wiester had to come up with a solution. Fast. Consulting with a chemist by phone, Wiester combined water and two other ingredients to come up with her own cleaning solution.
"I didn't sleep much that night because I was afraid the chandeliers would be streaked," she says. Her fears were unfounded--the client liked the results of Wiester's own solvent better than those of the commercial one.
This was not the first time opportunity knocked and Wiester answered. The owner of the restaurant where she worked as a waitress was having some people over for dinner at her home. "She wanted the house to look very nice," says Wiester, "and I said, `I'll clean it for you.' "
Wiester's boss was pleased with her work, and some of those dinner guests became Wiester's future clients. "We still do work for those people years later," Wiester says.
Of course, turning her sideline business into a full-time venture had its drawbacks. "You lose 80 percent of your original clients when you become a service," Wiester says. "Your prices change. You can't charge $30 to clean a whole house anymore."
To make cleaning worthwhile financially, Cleany Boppers Inc. charges $22 per cleaning person per hour, with a minimum of two people for 1 1/2 hours. That equals a minimum of $66 per house, with the average charge being around $88. It's not uncommon, however, for a home to take two people five to six hours to clean--that much work would hardly be worth it for $30. Charging by the hour sweeps in profits much more quickly than a flat rate.
To tackle business problems, Wiester turned to the Baltimore chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO). "I didn't want to just clean houses. I wanted to learn to run a business," says Wiester, who was pleasantly surprised by the group's offerings. One of the programs, for instance, puts a business owner in contact with an advisory board of 12 association members. "There was always somebody who could help."
To attract new customers, Wiester advises making your business visible. "If somebody wants to start a business, letter a vehicle," she says, referring to the company vans that bear the Cleany Boppers Inc. logo and which attract, she estimates, 10 to 15 percent of her customers. Having visible and informative signs at her office, which is located at a busy intersection, generates nearly enough business to pay the rent. Many of those customers are so pleased with the job done by Cleany Boppers Inc. that they become regulars.
Wiester recommends getting as many regular clients as possible. "Eighty percent of your business comes from 20 percent of your clients," she concludes. "If you're going into business, take care of your clients. Be good to them."
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