How to Start a Cleaning Service

A Homebased Location

One of the hottest business trends today is to be homebased, and cleaning services are excellent candidates for this type of setup. After all, your customers will likely never come to your facility since all your work is done on their premises. But that's not the only issue influencing your decision to operate from a homebased office or a commercial location.

Many municipalities have ordinances that limit the nature and volume of commercial activities that can occur in residential areas. Some outright prohibit the establishment of homebased businesses. Others may allow such enterprises but place restrictions regarding issues such as signage, traffic, employees, commercially marked vehicles and noise. Before you apply for your business license, find out what ordinances govern homebased businesses; you may need to adjust your plan to be in compliance.

Opening a Commercial Location

Many industry veterans believe that in order to achieve authentic business growth, you must get out of the home and into a commercial facility. Certainly, doing so will help you create a successful and professional image, but before you begin shopping for an office, think carefully about what you'll need.

Your office area should be large enough to have a small reception area, work space for yourself and your administrative staff, and a storage area for equipment and supplies. You may also want to have space for a laundry and possibly even a small work area where you can handle minor equipment repairs. Depending on the size of your staff, consider allowing for a small break area.

Regardless of the type of cleaning business you have, remember that chances are slim that your customers will ever come to your office. So look for a facility that meets your operational needs and is in a reasonably safe location, but don't pay for a prestigious address--it's just not worth it.

Vehicles

Because your work is done at your customers' sites, vehicles are as important to your business as the location of your office. In fact, your vehicles are essentially your company on wheels. They need to be carefully chosen and well-maintained to adequately serve and represent you.

For a maid service, an economy car or station wagon should suffice. You need enough room to store equipment and supplies, and to transport your cleaning teams, but you typically won't be hauling around pieces of equipment large enough to require a van or small truck.

You can either provide vehicles or have employees use their own. If you provide the vehicles, paint your company's name, logo and telephone number on them. This advertises your business all over town. If your employees use their own cars--which is particularly common with maid services--ask for evidence that they have sufficient insurance to cover them in the event of an accident. Also, confirm with your insurance agent that your own liability policy protects you under those circumstances.

The type of vehicles you'll need for a janitorial service depends on the size and type of equipment you use as well as the size and number of your crews. An economy car or station wagon could work if you're doing relatively light cleaning in smaller offices, but for most janitorial businesses, you're more likely to need a truck or van.

For carpet cleaning services, you'll need a truck or van, either new or used, for each service person and his or her equipment. A good used truck will cost about $10,000, while a new one will run from $18,000 up.

Do You Need Employees?

Consider these startup staffing suggestions:

For a Maid Service Business: Your initial staffing needs will depend on how much capital you have, how large a business you want to have, and the volume of customers you can reasonably expect to service. Many independent maid services start with just the owner. Others will start with the owner and an appropriate number of maids. If you handle the administrative chores, chances are you won't need to hire office help right away.

For a Janitorial Business: You may be able to start with no employees--or just one or two part-timers. If you have the capital available and the business lined up, you may need to hire more. You may also want to consider an administrative person to handle the records and answer the phone during the day; after all, if you're working all night, you need to schedule some time to sleep. As your business grows, consider a marketing/salesperson, a customer service manager, and crew supervisors as well as additional cleaning personnel.

For a Carpet Cleaning Business: Depending on the strength of your pre-opening campaign and your startup budget, hire at least one service person and possibly two as you're getting started, along with an employee experienced in clerical work who can book appointments and handle administrative chores. Though one person can likely handle most of the residential jobs you'll get, you may want to consider staffing each truck with two people: a senior technician and a helper. The helper can assist with the prep work for each job (unloading equipment, moving light furniture, etc.), mix chemicals, empty buckets, clean up afterward, etc. This will make each job go faster, which is more efficient and cost-effective and also generates a greater degree of customer satisfaction.

Start Your Own Cleaning Business, 3rd Edition

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