Over the last couple of years, I have coached and mentored many people as to how to start a cleaning business in the UK and also how to grow one.
That’s the beauty of business coaching and mentoring – you get to help all types of people and companies and whilst you have to get to understand the dynamics of an industry, the principles of business will always be the same.
This is an old saying that originated in Yorkshire, England and basically, it states that where there is dirt there is money!
And this, of course, fits in very nicely with the cleaning business and if we look at the residential cleaning market, we can see that it is huge, with one example of the growth in just one CIty – just as the commercial cleaning market is also as you can see in the report of the overall size of the UK cleaning market and there is one niche of the cleaning industry which is growing nicely as well and where some of the people I have mentored are operating in and that is end of tenancy cleaning.
I’ve used cleaning services extensively – in all of my offices and in the houses that I lived in when the service was needed, I’ve also stayed many times in hotels over the years and nothing annoys me more than a hotel room that is not clean, just as there is nothing worse than hiring a cleaning company or individual cleaners that don’t do the job properly.
Mostly, I found that people started the work well and professionally and then slacked off and standards dropped rapidly and before we go into the process as to how to start a cleaning business, I will give you an example of a cleaner I employed in an office in the UK.
This lady would make sure that the office was absolutely spotless and it was a nice sized office with a kitchen area and breakroom. She would always be there before the staff and I arrived and always brought in (at her expense) a fresh bunch of flowers – cups were laid out for us all and a pot of coffee was ready and tea for those who wanted it.
She went beyond ‘cleaning’ and made the office a happy place to arrive in before work was started – this contributed to happy staff and happy staff are more productive and that leads to more $$$.
So although you are starting a cleaning business, never underestimate the value of it…but you must be able to demonstrate that value.
How To Prepare And Start A Cleaning Business?
I’ve dealt with how to start a business and business planning more extensively in this article here and you need to decide what type of market you are going after – residential or commercial and also the business entity that you form to start it. You can obviously start out on your own with a few mops etc, but you want to make sure that you are covered insurance wise – you don’t want to start cleaning the someone’s house and smash their expensive vase or damage valuable artwork and not be covered for example. It is also a strong marketing point for the domestic market as it will give you a clear advantage over any cleaner who is not insured.
You must also understand the demographics of where you intend to start the business – you need to make sure that you understand that there are enough people and companies that can afford your services and if you are going to operate in the commercial sector, then you will at some point for sure, need to employ other cleaners, so make sure you understand the rules and regulations of doing so. there is also another means of starting your own business and that is franchising.
The advantage of buying a franchise is that you are purchasing an established brand and methodology, so a lot of the work has been done for you…the downside is that it will cost you a franchise fee and most commonly, some form of royalty from your business income, both are explained here and there also may be restrictions on operational territories.
Here are some examples of cleaning franchises on offer in the UK.
The cleaning industry is fiercely competitive industry and it is essential that you find out ‘who is doing what‘ in your areas – you must know who you are going to go up against.
Many people just go out and start companies with little thought and it comes back to haunt them down the line. It is essential that you put in some time and effort to assess your competition, but here take note of the word ‘assess’ and don’t ever become ‘obsessed’ with your competitors.
A lot of people who I mentor in this sector will pick out a major player in the industry and say “I want to be like them” and others start by saying “I want to keep to a small territory because I can never be like xxx.”
I always explain to them that when I started, I did it because I found a way to offer a product or service that I believed was better than what was out there and ‘better’ is such a generic term. In my case ‘better,’ was a faster, more agile service that understood what my clients needed in the future, so I could design services and products to meet those needs. In this way, I was able to move and react more quickly than the large companies and also displayed a vision that many of the large and small companies didn’t.
Get to know who your competitors are and look at the good and bad in all of them, but never obsess about them.
I used to relish the challenge of going out and taking on the large companies by disrupting their market simply to prove that anyone can start a company and everyone started somewhere!
Getting Started your cleaning business
I was on holiday once and staying at a Marriott hotel and for some reason, I was drawn a book which talked about their story, so I bought it and this was years ago and it may be this book, but I don’t recognize the cover!
Ironically the one aspect that got my attention was a section explaining their process of cleaning a hotel room and I think from memory it was a 51 point room cleaning check and each room had to go through this before it was passed ‘fit for use.’
Now did this work 100% of the time and in every one of their properties around the world – of course not as nothing is infallible, but it was a great place to start. Other hotels may have done the same, but I didn’t know it and the chances are then many other guests didn’t either. It was a nightmare for my staff as well because I was phoning them from the beach explaining that we now must absolutely put together our own point-by-point operational charter so we can show our customers not only the overview of our processes but also how we safeguard their interests, just like the Marriott safeguarding their guests in the aspect of clean rooms.
Use Your Processes And Procedures To Sell
Some people are intimidated by the sales process and I am going to address this in future articles, but what I tell someone who is in this category to do, is to simply explain how what you do (processes) benefits the clients (the outcome).
Remember the story earlier about the cleaner in my office? The outcome was a happy office and it was her processes that led to that outcome, so create your own version of the 51 point cleaning check and use it to market and sell your services.
I had one mentee that had created a similar document, but only for the cleaners she employed and it was easy to make it more marketing orientated and get it out there. You can also create a customized version for each of your clients because unlike the Marriott hotels, where the rooms and layout are all pretty standardized around the world, your cleaning customers homes and premises are all different.
What I liked about one cleaning service that I used for my home in the US, was that they did a walk around and inventory of every room, valuables and we both decided as to if there were any special cleaning instructions for a particular room. For me, the kitchen is vital because I love to cook and do a lot of it and I wanted more than a general clean, so this was noted.
We had effectively worked out a cleaning contract and devised a standard for the cleaning and when things were not done correctly, which was rare I must say, but it did happen – there was no argument as the owner of the company would come out with the original cleaner and put it right.
Your processes and procedures are extremely valuable in many ways, but finally, they will set the benchmark for training cleaners which is essential if you are to grow your business and maintain standards.
If you are just starting out, then why not do all of the above for say 5 places and for free – it could prove a very valuable way to get your business off the ground as you will not only have real testimonials but probably 5 clients for the future as well.
In today’s world where the cost of entry into most businesses is lower than ever, it is a very small investment.
You Must Have A Website for your cleaning services business
This is an absolute must and here’s why:
A functional, well designed and correctly structured website will become your hardest working salesperson, doing the work 24/7 and 365 days of the year.
But don’t be lured into glitzy web design – I see many websites that are simply nothing more than an online shop window and I remember the days when myself and all of my competitors would talk about how great a website looks and we were all trying to ‘out do’ each other by spending more money on our own egos, sorry websites!
Take a look at this site and tell me how much you love or hate it and I don’t care what your opinion of the site is and neither does he – the site has made an absolute fortune over the years because it converts visitors into money and that is all you have to think about.
It was my friend Jack Spirko that taught me this way back and he was one of the few to talk about spending way more on marketing a website than designing it and this was in the US.
In my line of work and what I do today, I come across so many ‘expert’ web designers and marketers – few can get me excited by demonstrating that they actually know the purpose of what a website can do and it’s far more than sales.
One person who did demonstrate that understanding is Fernando Raymond and that is precisely why I work with him.
Don’t think that your website is just a ‘showpiece’ or that because you are just a cleaning company, with the right site and structured properly, you can not only get your website up and running with an excellent design, you can get it ranked on Google and start to get paying customers. You can also get yourself a good Social Media presence and start to use Social Media Marketing as well.
Pricing Your Cleaning Services
Pricing is always down to the market to give you a guideline and the value that someone perceives for the service that you provide.
A Mcdonalds meal was and still is tremendous value for me and a certain time such as when I am passing one and I am hungry, but I won’t pay £20 for a burger because that is way above the market price. But if there was a burger that was better and a little more expensive, then I would consider it; equally, there are certain places that no matter what the price, I would never buy a burger from!
It is the same with business – find a price point that is competitive but clearly articulates the value of what you do and if you are providing a high-quality service, then people will pay for it, but you have to be patient to find them.
If you want a lower cost option that relies on volume, then, by all means, go ahead.
Perhaps the best thing to keep in your mind at all times is that people always want the best possible service for the lowest price – it’s human nature. In the residential market, your personality is also a key so remember that and I would much rather pay a slightly higher price (as long as the quality was there) for a cleaning service with happy personnel.
Remember that the market will have pricing guidelines in your area so make sure you know them and if you are going to the higher end, make sure that not only your services reflect them, but also how you present your company and yourself as well.
Uniforms And Standards
I am a big fan of some kind of uniform, probably because I come from a Military family, but for me, it creates a look and makes people feel equal.
You should also look at transportation – are you going to use Van’s or are people going to travel in their own vehicles, which is more common in the residential market for example.
The most important part of all this and whether or not you even have a uniform is that when you or your cleaner turns up at your customer premises, do they look presentable and clean?
First impressions count.
Your standards are also important and that not only means a cleaning standard as we have talked about earlier but an employee standard as well.
It is vital that you train your employees on how to operate and also how to behave on customer sites. I had one cleaner in my home who I had left to get on with the cleaning and returned an hour later to find them making themselves a cup of coffee in the kitchen. It’s not that I minded about the coffee, just that it was the second time they had come and had not even asked permission.
This is purely down to training form the company and it cost that company the deal, because when the owner called me the next week after the third cleaning session to check about things (this was the agreement – 3 ‘cleans’ as a trial but paid period), I explained to her about the coffee incident and she just replied that many of her clients allow her cleaners to do the same and it’s normal and I shouldn’t worry, I further replied that it is my coffee, my kitchen, my milk and I just like to be asked and she tried to explain again!
Never, ever argue with your customer!
Your customer is always right until they are wrong and there are many times when the customer is flat out wrong, but to challenge them, you need evidence and to be able to put that evidence forward in the right way.
The coffee incident was a decision that one of her ladies took without asking and however harmless or small the incident may be, it is the principle that matters.
Uniforms are great and make you ‘look the part, but standards are far more important.
“Turnover is for Vanity and Profit is for Sanity.”
I hear many people tell me excitedly how much money they are generating in their business, but the only figure I am interested it is how profitable it is.
Profits are the key and the best businesses are the ones that can generate a good deal of profits and have the least amount of fixed costs and I don’t just mean low fixed costs, but flexible ones.
Take the restaurant business for example and think about say how someone has worked hard to build a successful restaurant and now wants to open another and ultimately a chain. Each restaurant is a profit center in its own right and you have the fixed costs of the premises, which will incur leases, rents etc and even if you own the freehold to the business, it is not easy to convert it into liquid cash, but there is, of course, a benefit to owning property.
As you increase the restaurants, you increase the costs and that does not include staff, but now you come into the direct costs relating to the sales, which is largely purchasing the food and drink you have to sell.
The problem here is that if you don’t sell the stock, then you have to give it to the staff (expensive staff meals) or throw it! This is why the menu on the opening night of many restaurants ends up drastically changing over the first 6 months of trading.
Now in the cleaning business, you need staff and the direct costs relating to the sales are transportation and cleaning products – so it is a much lower cost of entry and operation than the restaurant equivalent.
But one cleaning company I was mentoring were losing control of the cleaning stock items and many were not accounted for at the end of each accounting period and a lot was left in the stock room and had simply forgotten about.
Keep a keen eye on your stock and never underestimate the importance of each stock item, however small.
Margins can be excellent in the cleaning industry but you must keep that eye on the ball!
Get yourself a good accountant and give numbers a chance – they don’t lie.
It is always about the bottom line and that means making sure your costs are in line with your sales.
Growing Your Cleaning Company
I deal with business growth in this article –how to grow your business to 50 or more employees, so take a look, but business growth comes from having a growth mindset.
So get out there start and grow your cleaning business, there are no limits and the opportunities are endless – you have to always keep your eye on your dreams and that means knowing what you want to be, without thinking about where you are today.
You can reverse engineer the process – you literally work backward, deconstructing all of the processes and procedures you need to get where you want to be from where you are now.
Let’s say you want to grow to a turnover of £1m in your wildest dreams…
You know where your profits are now and that is on a turnover of say £20k! You look at that figure and you think it is unachievable, but stay with me.
To start, let’s put an initial target of £100k and that will mean having 5 times the turnover as you have now, with 5 times the staff, customers, etc.
This is way oversimplified, but you get the picture – you also need to think about the overall costs, but also talk to your accountant and you will see that your costs will not always go up in the same proportion as your turnover.
You can easily see how you can grow to 5 times the customers etc and now with determination and commitment, let’s say you actually achieve your first target in 18 months and you are ecstatic.
You have just created a benchmark and that is a point you can now reference – do the same for 100 – 250 and 250 – 500 and then straight to the dream.
You see, it IS possible, but you must make your dreams reality by reverse engineering and then setting interim goals and what’s also exciting is that just like ‘success breeds success’, ‘growth breeds growth.‘
Cleaning companies are great businesses, so get out there and start one!
- 7 Things to consider before starting your own business (can you do it)
- How to create a business that runs without making you a slave to it
- Technology For Small Business Owners
- 8 ways to grow your business | Small Business
- Growing your business – GOV.UK
Last modified: June 10, 2019