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5 Things Cleaning Companies Wish They Knew BEFORE They Opened

5 Things Cleaning Companies Wish They Knew BEFORE They Opened

Starting a cleaning business is like a NASCAR race, with thrilling twists and turns on the road to success. With most companies starting on tight budgets, learning quickly is essential before you run out of gas. As a professional cleaning expert with over 20 years of experience, I've seen the good, the bad, and the ugly while helping hundreds of cleaning companies grow into successful, thriving businesses.

The lessons I’m about to share come from my time in the pit crew, helping new buyers take over struggling cleaning companies and turn them into profit speed machines. So, hold on tight as I give you a crash course in how to swerve around common cleaning business potholes and set you on the fast track to success.

Start with Scalability: Establish Policies Designed for Seamless Growth

Setting clear and concise policies from the beginning can help you avoid over-promising, scheduling conflicts, and growth bottlenecks.

Just like a NASCAR pit crew needs a well-coordinated routine for fast tire changes, your cleaning business requires scalable policies from day one. Waiting till the race is underway to figure out your operations is a recipe for failure and dangerous accidents!

The most common mistake new cleaning company owners make is offering one-off accommodations and over-promising clients. While it may seem harmless initially, these commitments can snowball into scheduling conflicts and bottlenecks as you grow.

To avoid this pitfall, set clear scheduling rules, considering factors like drive time, traffic, and employee locations. Establish policies covering cancellations, rescheduling, payment terms, and service guarantees, and document precisely what's included in each cleaning service. Ensure these policies and service descriptions are accessible, easy to understand, and enforced.

Lastly, resist making exceptions to win or appease clients, as it can set a dangerous precedent, spread to new clients via word of mouth, and lead to chaos down the road. By establishing scalable operations from the start, you'll be able to grow at top speed, smoothly merging in new clients without having to take your foot off the gas!


Master Management: Find the Leader Your Cleaners Truly Need

Your management skills will ultimately decide the fate of your business. Assess your abilities and consider hiring a seasoned manager to help your company succeed.

Just as a race car needs a skilled driver to win, your cleaning company needs an incredible manager to keep it on track. Your cleaners determine your business's fate, and no amount of marketing or customer service can compensate for the lack of skilled, motivated workers.

Before opening your doors, honestly assess your own employee management abilities. Ask yourself

  • Can you maintain patience with different personalities?

  • Can you motivate stressed staff?

  • Can you enforce policies consistently and resolve conflicts fairly?

If you're lacking, it is imperative that you hire a manager with the skills you lack to lead your company to victory.

Great managers balance enforcing policies with fostering a caring culture, inspiring your team to believe in your brand and each other. Well managed workers push themselves harder because they genuinely care about the fate of the team.

Investing in a top-notch manager from day one pays for itself in so many ways. They can reduce employee and customer attrition, improve cleaning performance, and allow everyone, including the owner, to focus on growth.


Financial Fluency: Understand the Numbers and Ratios for Profitability

Understand the true cost of running a cleaning business by breaking down expenses, learning industry ratios, and setting competitive hourly rates while still allowing you to pay top talent properly.

To keep your cleaning business on track to break even before it runs out of gas, it's essential to understand its true cost. Every aspect of your operation, from equipment and marketing to labor and insurance, needs to be accounted for in your budget and balanced to the proper industry ratios to ensure profitability.

Begin by breaking down expenses and familiarizing yourself with standard industry ratios. For example, residential cleaning companies tend to spend 60% of revenues on the cost of goods sold, 25% on fixed expenses like rent, leaving 15% profit. That 60% COGS usually includes around 33% cleaner wages and 2.5%-4% on supplies. Research online and read trade publications to learn the average ratios for your type of cleaning business.

This knowledge helps you set competitive hourly rates for customers while paying attractive wages for top-quality workers. For example, charging high rates to customers while paying cleaners low wages may look very profitable, but in reality it will drain your profits dry through customer and staff turnover. To charge higher rates, you must pay high enough wages to attract top cleaners that can wow luxury clients.

Ensure a solid financial plan and find a trustworthy accountant to maintain the right balance between income and expenses. Relying on gut instinct and disorganized records can quickly run your business into the ground. A carefully crafted budget helps you invest in the best, such as premium insurance, quality cleaning supplies, and innovative marketing vendors, all of which will give your business the boost it needs to take the lead.


Invest in the Best: Use High-Performing Supplies Fuel Your Growth

The right equipment and supplies can make or break your cleaning business. Invest in high-quality supplies that will make your staff faster, happier, and more effective.

In the high-stakes race that is the cleaning industry, the right equipment and supplies can make or break your business. Just as a professional driver wouldn't settle for a used Chevy Nova to enter the Indy 500, you shouldn't skimp on the cleaning products that will help your business speed past the competition.

In an industry where time is money, low-quality supplies that slow your staff down can mean the difference between victory laps and going home empty-handed. As we revealed above, since cleaning supplies are only 2.5%-4% of revenues, but labor is a minimum of 33%, any product you can find that makes your staff faster, happier, or more effective will immediately pay for itself either with reduced labor costs, decreased employee turnover, or increased customer retention.

One of the most essential supply investments for any cleaning company is microfiber. Microfiber’s ultra-fine fibers increase the surface area and friction of the fabric, so it picks up and holds onto more dirt and germs than any other cleaning tool.  

These unique properties have made Microfiber the gold standard in professional cleaning, so most cleaners use it for almost every service, from wiping to dusting to mopping. The average cleaner will spend at least 4 of their 6-7 labor hours per day with a microfiber tool in hand.

Unfortunately, not all microfiber is created equal, with many bargain brands offering as much as 50% less microfiber per towel! This reduction in fibers combined with shoddy workmanship results in microfiber that wears out quickly and works far slower than its premium competition. If you want your cleaner to work as fast as possible with spotless results, make sure you buy the right microfiber from a purveyor you can trust.

Cultivating Company Culture: Empower Your Cleaning Team

A strong company culture with dedicated, motivated employees is crucial for long-term success. Combat cleaning stigma, provide ongoing training, and invest in your employees' professional development.

Just like a racer is only as fast as their pit crew can keep them driving, a successful cleaning business is only as strong as its company culture. A thriving cleaning business relies on a strong culture filled with dedicated, motivated employees. Overcoming societal prejudices against the profession is crucial for attracting top talent and fostering a respectful, proud work environment.

The cleaning industry has struggled for generations with stigma against the profession, making cleaners feel that their life-saving work is somehow shameful. Your ability to make your business a place of refuge, full of respect, pride, and elevation of this essential trade, will help you set yourself apart and attract the best talent.

Create a workplace where employees feel valued and supported. Recognize achievements, provide feedback, award performance-based bonuses, and encourage open communication. Invest in ongoing training and development to help staff learn new skills, exhibit more independence and strong decision-making in the field, boost their confidence, and increase job satisfaction. By investing in your employees' growth, you'll create a loyal and motivated workforce that drives your business towards success.

Ultimate Truth: Everything is Interconnected, But Your Cleaners Are the Center

A successful cleaning business must be designed with a systemic approach, understanding that all aspects of the business impact their cleaners, the heart of the company.

Remember that competitive wages, realistic expectations, and predictable hours are the foundation of showing respect and genuine care for your cleaners. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs reminds us that no perks can compensate for the daily stress of financial insecurity.

The secret is understanding that everything is interconnected. Without scalable policies (#1), a good manager (#2), and proper finances (#3), you can't pay cleaners well or provide good supplies (#4), leading to failure before you even try to foster your culture (#5).

Success in building a cleaning business is really a race with yourself, determined by your ability to learn, adapt, and overcome challenges. Learn from others' mistakes and take a systemic approach to fixing these common pitfalls, not just cherry-pick the ones you find easy or appealing. Stay true to your core values and keep your focus on your team. If you keep your staff in the first place, you’ll never come in last.

The race to success is a marathon, not a sprint. If you’re looking for a reliable pit stop to fuel your mind with the ideas you need to grow your business, you’ve just found it! Follow us on  Youtube, TikTok, Facebook, and our Blog for a steady stream of innovative content.

Tune in to our podcast “Cleaning Up the Profits: Dishing the Dirt on Cleaning Business Success" where we interview successful cleaning business owners who share their hard earned secrets to success. Join our weekly livestream “Ask A Cleaning Expert?” where I answer your toughest cleaning and cleaning business questions right from the comments. Keep your business ahead of the pack and join our community today!

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