Q: I'm trying to start a janitorial services business. I'm open to contracts with government, commercial or residential clients. How do I find tenders (requests for bids) for these services?
A: Provided by William R. Griffin, president of Cleaning Consultant Services Inc. in Seattle. He has more than 20 years of experience consulting on the technical and managerial aspects of cleaning and small business.
There's no one source for all business tenders or one best way to find customers for a cleaning business. Your planning process should include research to identify target customers and the marketing strategies of similar businesses. It's important to know the realities of the marketing process to avoid giving up in frustration.
- Marketing is a numbers game. The more bids you submit, the more jobs you'll get.
- Marketing takes time. Just because you're selling today doesn't mean the potential customer is buying today. Don't many sales for six months to a year.
- Do the basics. Cold call by phone or in person, mail letters with a business card and brochure, run small ads in local newspapers, tell friends and ask for referrals. Keep records of your efforts and follow up with each potential customer every four to six weeks.
- Specialize. Concentrate on getting customers within a small geographic area before offering services to the entire county. You'll see results if you specialize. Account specialties include grocery stores, offices, homes, schools and restaurants. Service specialties include janitorial services, upholstery and drapery cleaning and floor care. Find a needed service that's profitable and not overcrowded.
The following governmental agencies, organizations and publications can help you find building-cleaning contracts up for bid:
- The SBA, (800) 488-5323; U.S. Department of Commerce, (202) 482-2000; Commerce Business Daily, (800) 929-4824; Governing MagazineState and LocalSourcebook, (202) 862-8802; and North American Contracts Reporter, (800) 739-0102.
- The Government Services Administration finds maintenance services for government buildings. Offices are regional; see the White Pages under "U.S. Government--General Service Administration." Ask for the Contracts or Property Management division.
- Government Prime Contracts Monthly is available through Government Data Publications Inc. (www.govdata.com), 1155 Connecticut Ave. N.W., Washington, DC 20036.