In many ways, opening a cleaning business is one of the most accessible opportunities for would-be small-business entrepreneurs. Up-front investment is very low. You can start small and grow from there. You collect payments for services rendered, so no billing and accounts receivables. You don’t need to tie up cash in large inventories or worry about losses from product spoilage. With all that said, it’s still a lot harder than it looks if your dream is to be a true business owner — one who earns more and works less — rather than a person who cleans houses for a living. Here are five big mistakes that prevent so many from crossing this important divide:
Number one: Pricing your cleaning services below market rates.
Some new cleaning business owners do this inadvertently by failing to adequately research going rates for cleaning services in the areas they plan to serve. If you find it surprisingly easy to sign up new clients, there’s a good chance you are pricing below market and leaving money on the table. If you are too far below market, desirable clients — the ones who can most easily afford your services — may even begin to doubt your service quality, causing you to lose opportunities.
Other new cleaning business owners might be tempted to purposely price below market with an idea of quickly grabbing market share or building their business around a high-volume, low-margin model. There are several excellent reasons to think long and hard before pursuing such a route when you start a cleaning company.
First, raising prices is exceedingly difficult especially in an economy such as the U.S. where federal authorities are focused as a matter of policy on keeping consumer price inflation in check. When increasing consumer prices is off the table, you are at risk in several ways. If supply and/or labor-related costs begin to rise, it comes out of your profit line, at least over the short term before enough pressure builds for you to be able to raise rates with customers. In the meantime, your only opportunities to boost profits will be to cut corners on supply costs, service levels, and the quality of workers you hire for cleaning crews. You might also be tempted to cut corners on important risk-abating activities such as insurance, bonding, criminal background checking of employees, paying proper employee withholding taxes, and so forth. Corner-cutting, in turn, dramatically increases the amount of personal risk you take on in your business. Not only could you run afoul of government authorities, you will also be at risk of losing customers due to poor service quality or of failing to win new business via customer referrals. Which brings us to Mistake Number Two.
Number two: Failing to understand there is both a science and an art to doing home cleaning really well.
Almost anyone can walk in and, within a few hours, make a home look and smell pretty clean. Far fewer know how to clean a home so it stays relatively clean for more than a few days. Accomplishing the latter means you need a deep understanding of the science behind why certain cleaning solutions and tools work better than others and why badly formulated solutions and tools actually contribute to a lack of clean staying power. Beyond the science is also the art — for example, the order in which you should clean rooms and techniques that enable your crews to clean efficiently (which increases your profits) but also effectively (which contributes to strong customer loyalty and referrals).
Number three: Failing to properly train cleaners and/or to routinely check their work.
Even if you personally understand the science and art of great cleaning, how well equipped are you to transfer that knowledge systematically and consistently to every person you hire to go out and clean? Both training and quality control, such as spot checking and surprise inspections, as well as actively soliciting customer feedback are investments you must plan for if you intend to start a cleaning company that thrives on a basis of recurring revenue and growth by way of customer referrals, positive online reviews, and so forth.
Number four: Underestimating the challenges of scheduling cleaning crews and handling unexpected situations such as lock-outs, last-minute cancellations, sick time, vacations, and so forth.
These are challenges that can rapidly spin out of control as you add both clients and employees to your home cleaning business. Life happens. There is just no getting around it. But if you are always operating in crisis mode — looking for people to cover shifts at the last minute, sending employees home (without pay) because clients cancel, coping with lost cash flow because you don’t have a clear cancellation policy in place, and so forth, you will never have time to focus on the things that make your business grow, such as marketing, social media management, and selling new accounts.
Number five: Failing to understand the essential key performance indicators (KPIs) that drive sustainable long-term growth in a home cleaning business.
Assuming that your goal is to start a cleaning company that is inherently scalable — meaning it grows sustainably over the longer term and puts you on a pathway to greater wealth with less personal work, you need to know there is a surprisingly complex interrelationship amongst business performance metrics such as: your ratio of one-time to recurring customers, the rate at which new business comes from customer referrals versus marketing expenditure, and the rate at which you are able retain recurring clients. Failing to understand, measure, and track ALL of the big KPIs can be a recipe for, at worst, business failure and, at best, working much harder than you want to for much less return on investment.
In the nearly two decades that MaidPro has been in the home cleaning business we have developed an exceptionally strong understanding of market pricing, efficient/effective cleaning processes, training, quality control, essential policies, addressing scheduling challenges, and the essential KPIs for ensuring your home cleaning business grows. We’ll be happy to share more details when you schedule a call and/or a tour.