Whether you choose to focus your company on a specific area or instead provide many different services, it is important to understand the specifics of each! From qualifications to operations, there is a lot to be informed on before you jump into this business.
Residential services make up one of the primary markets of all cleaning services, the other being the commercial market. The residential market is composed of maid services, as well as more specific cleanings like window and carpet cleanings that may occur less frequently.
What Are the Qualifications?
- The first key to being successful in this industry is having the right traits! Honesty and trustworthiness are key factors to expanding your business. People will not let a cleaning service into their home if they don't trust them fully. You can't always prove trustworthiness to your customers until you show by example, but you can make an impression from the very beginning by being upfront and honest, and not trying to cut corners.
It may take time to prove your business as reliable, but once you have a few customers who know of your trustworthiness, you can build on it from there. These customers can help your business by word-of-mouth recommendations about your honesty.
One critical step towards ensuring the reliability of your company is to make sure that the people you hire are trustworthy as well. You won't always be around to oversee the cleaning procedure or watch every step of your employees, so the vetting process when you hire somebody should be thorough and help prove their trustworthiness. One dishonest or unlawful employee can have a huge negative impact on your company's name and finances, so it is better to prepare beforehand and ensure, to the best of your ability, that you hire honest employees.
- Business skills are also necessary to ensure that your company operations run smoothly and efficiently in the years to come. If you don't have any prior business experience, then you may not be familiar with the ins and outs of running a company and working with customers. It is not too late to learn all the tricks and tips though, before you begin your business! You will also learn many valuable skills just through experience, but a basic knowledge of business operations or a consultant to provide expert advice is a valuable resource when starting off.
There are many necessary skills you need to develop for your business to succeed. The following are true of any new business, but especially a cleaning business! You will need to be able to work with customers and have a willingness to please the customer, even if they are being difficult. You and your employees will face situations where the customer may have complaints or particularities, and in order to gain respect and reputation as a business, you will have to learn to deal politely with such customers.
Time management is another critical skill, as you will have to work around the scheduling of many different client's homes. As your business grows, you may have multiple homes in the same day, and you will need to schedule for different employees to work in different residences. Keeping track of employees, residences, and the times can be a lot to handle, so time management is a skill that is necessary to running smooth operations. There are many more business skills and techniques which you will need to learn about.
- Apart from personal skills, it is also important when starting your own small business to secure a business license, although the necessity of this depends on where you live. Before starting out, take some time to figure out if your state and local governments require that you have a business license, in order to prevent any problems in the future. There are online resources and sites to help you find this information, and you can always contact a government representative to speak with somebody about the requirements in your area.
- Amid all the other qualifications, a key skillset to have is cleaning skills! When you start your own business, your customers will be expecting quality and professional work. If you are just planning to administrate and hire employees to do the actual cleaning, make sure that you know firsthand their cleaning abilities and level of quality before putting your business name on their work.
If you yourself will be doing the actual cleaning, then take some time to hone your skills, and not just in your own home! Get practice by offering to clean the homes of family or friends, so that you can get used to cleaning different sized homes and rooms. Each home will vary greatly, and each customer will have different expectations for how you clean, so take some time to learn techniques and skills for the highest quality cleaning! Experiment with cleaning products as well to find the ones that provide the best results.
Who Are Your Customers and Competitors?
- Customers - With a residential cleaning business, you can expect for your typical client-base to consist of homeowners, but these customers will have a wide range of needs and preferences. One particular group you can expect is the elderly generation. As society as a whole ages, these older individuals require more care and assistance, whether it is with their healthcare or the cleaning of their home. Retired households may have more money set aside for routine cleaning than younger families would, another reason that your clientele would consist of a large number of such households.
You may have homeowners who ask that you clean their home once or twice a week, or those who request a cleaning once or twice a month. The varying budgets and preferences of your customers will make a difference in how often you clean their homes, so you will find a great variety.Interested in learning more? Why not take an online Starting Your Own Cleaning Business course?
You may find that as you begin your business primarily with a specific demographic, such as young families with simply no time to clean, you will continue to pick up similar clients. Since word-of-mouth referral is such a key factor to making your business known, you will find that your business attracts customers who are friends, family, or coworkers of your current customers. These people will typically fit into the same demographic as your current customers, so your business will continue to expand with the same type of customers.
- Competitors - the demand for cleaning services is extremely high and continues to grow still. Due to this, competition is also high, as many entrepreneurs spot potential success behind this industry and start their own cleaning businesses. The question is, who are your competitors and what can you do to ensure your success?
As you are just starting out, your main concern will be businesses that have been around a long time and hold a strong reputation in your local area. Since you have not yet built your reputation, each individual customer and his or her word-of-mouth recommendation becomes extremely valuable. Although these other businesses may have a large client-base, there will never be a guarantee that they can satisfy every single customer. These unsatisfied customers may be looking for alternatives such as your business, and they may particularly appreciate the fact that a smaller business has more time to focus on their requests than a larger business does. You can use these ideas to your advantage when competing against large organizations.
When going up against competition, you may be tempted to cut your prices to offer the lowest price! However, many people who are hiring cleaning services aren't out for the cheapest service, but are willing to pay for quality. According to the Entrepreneur website, you shouldn't sell yourself short!3 Instead, win over customers by outperforming the competition in the quality of your service, your customer relations, and trustworthiness.
Never take a customer for granted, as each individual customer can prove a valuable resource in expanding your client-base. As you develop professional relationships with these individuals and they get to know your trustworthiness and cleaning abilities, you can always ask if they know of anyone else who may be interested in the services you offer. Let them know that you have availability if any of their friends or families are interested, but don't overwhelm them with requests for recommendations. If they like your business, they will do what they can to help your business thrive.
What Equipment and Supplies are Necessary?
The equipment that you have to purchase for your new cleaning service is an important financial aspect to factor in when starting out. You will need some larger equipment, such as a vacuum cleaner and possibly a carpet cleaner. Some homeowners may provide their own vacuum for you to use, whereas others may not even own a vacuum themselves. There may also be customers who request a routine carpet cleaning, and in order to provide such services you will have to have a professional carpet cleaner. Keep in mind that this equipment needs to be transportable and easy to move, as your employees will have to take it from place to place.
Smaller cleaning supplies are also just as important, and include a wide array of items, such as brooms, mops, dusters, toilet brushes, trash bags, rags, paper towels, and anything else you may need to get the job done. Figuring out the exact quantity and types of supplies you need per household is something you can figure out over time, but it is a good idea to stock up on supplies when you are starting so you can provide overall satisfactory service.
Another important note to make is about the preferences that different customers will have regarding what you use in their home. Particularly regarding the "green" movement, you may have customers who dislike any chemical products you use and ask that you make a change. They may have their own cleaning supplies to provide you with, or they may expect you to find the alternatives, so you should try to have a back up in mind in case this situation arises. A common alternative to chemical cleaning products are specific essential oils mixed with water in a spray bottle. Always run it by your customers before you begin using something different, and let them know of any difficulties this may present in cleaning efficiently.
What are the Standard Operations?
Every business should have standard operating procedures to ensure that business operations run smoothly and efficiently. The standard operating procedures for a residential cleaning service include a variety of tasks, such as cleaning, scheduling, and maintaining customer records. Take a look at what each of these entail in order to understand what you will be responsible for to help your new business succeed.
- Cleaning - A typical cleaning procedure for a residential cleaning service is to have teams of two or three employees who work together to clean each residence. The teams that you assemble will need to learn how to work together efficiently so that each cleaning process is as professional and satisfactory as possible. Perhaps this means assigning specific tasks to different people in the team, so that they can all focus on different aspects of the progress and excel in their specific areas.
Not all cleaning jobs will require a team to accomplish, such as focused spot cleanings for carpets, upholstery, or floors. A majority of your regular clients, however, will most likely be full-home cleanings on a routine basis. Your customers will be able to tell if a team is disorganized, as this could result in areas left uncleaned or in the process, taking far longer than it should.
In order to have a professional and organized procedure, you should lay out a general plan for your teams to follow for each home they clean. When cleaning bathrooms, for example, they may start with the toilet, then the bathtub, then the counters, and so on. Having a structure makes the process quicker and also reduces the possibility of forgetting to clean a certain area, since it becomes a mental checklist that the team will work their way through.
With any routine, however, there will always be customers who have specific preferences on how operations are carried out. They may ask that you start in a specific area of the house, or have their own way they'd like things done. Your team should be able to work with a routine but also have the flexibility to adapt, should the situation call for it, in order to keep the customer happy.
- Scheduling - Keeping up with a schedule for your different cleaning teams and various clients can become confusing if you don't learn to organize efficiently. Customers who are satisfied with their cleaning service often prefer to see the same faces from week to week, so you should try to schedule the same teams for the same clients routinely. This allows the specific team or individual to familiarize themselves with the same clients and residences over time. That being said, this means that you will have to make sure that you don't schedule two clients at the same time if they both want the same team or individual to clean their residence. Keeping up with each customer's preferences can get challenging, which leads to the next area of operations.
- Maintaining Customer Records - As your business expands, you will have more and more customers to keep up with. While PC programs and software can make keeping track easy through special tools, it is also extremely helpful to have a paper copy of all information. This comes in handy if your PC is down or if you just need to see something quick without opening a bunch of digital files. However, it is up to you whether you prefer to have primarily hardcopy or electronic files, as keeping up with both can prove to be a hassle as your business expands. If you choose to keep electronic files, it is critical to back them up frequently in case of a computer crash.
Security is a key factor, whether you keep hardcopy or electronic files, as you will most likely have some confidential information such as addresses or payment methods. For hardcopy files, a locked storage cabinet could be the way to go. If you use a PC, be sure to choose a password protected and secure system, preferably one that is separated from your personal computer or laptop.
The primary document you will need is a client contact sheet, and you can store a copy of this in both physical and digital locations. As you learn client's preferences for scheduling, specific teams, or specific cleaning methods, you can input this information into their file for future reference.
If you use email for contact at all, create subfolders in your email with the clients so that you never lose track of prior correspondence. If you use texting or phone calls to book cleanings or update your customers, you will need to find some way that works for you to distinguish client phone numbers from your regular contacts. For a more professional appeal, you may consider getting a work-only phone to keep it separate from your personal contacts and phone.
No matter what method you choose or prefer, put substantial time and effort into organizing, and ask for help if you know someone who has good organizational skills. Putting time into the organization of your files can make operations down the road much easier and more efficient, and that organization won't happen on its own.