Sweep Stakes

Our experts solve your start-up problems.
Magazine Contributor
4 min read

This story appears in the June 1998 issue of . Subscribe »

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.

Meet The Press

Q: I'm thinking of starting a homebased business selling magazine subscriptions. Where can I contact distributors, wholesalers or agencies that sell the magazines?

A: Provided by Dale A. Steiger, president of Dale Steiger Associates, a publishing consulting firm specializing in subscription agency sale programs.

Your success depends on the effort you put in. Some independent subscription reps tell friends and neighbors about their services and wait for them to buy. Some sell waiting-room subscriptions for doctors' offices and beauty salons. Others build sales forces with door-to-door reps or phone sales. Still others use direct mail to reach broad groups of potential subscribers.

It's time-consuming to locate the many publishers scattered across the country, and contacting them one by one to seek sales authorization is often unsuccessful. It's likely many publishers, anticipating only modest sales from your new company, won't authorize you to sell their magazines. An easier path is to contact subscription sales companies that already have publisher authority with representative programs in place and long lists of titles to sell, often with generous commissions.

Normally, once you begin selling subscriptions and "clearing" your orders to your selected resource, you submit a Recap Form summarizing the order with the number of subscriptions by magazine title, available terms, total prices and payment.

To find subscription sales companies, contact Magazine Publishers of America, (212) 872-3700, and the Audit Bureau of Circulations, (847) 605-0909.

A typical agent starter kit--including price lists, ordering instructions and more--is available for $1 from Subco, (515) 276-6404.

Handbook of Circulation Management (Cowles Business Media, $29.95, 800-795-5445) explains the types of agents publishers authorize and how they operate.

Contact Sources

Cleaning Consultants Services Inc., (206) 682-9748, www.cleaningconsultants.com

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