Cleaning isn’t the most glamorous of professions in the world – yet it remains one of the most popular choices among entrepreneurs launching startups.
Why? Well, it probably has something to do with the fact that the British contract cleaning industry is worth a whopping £5.6 billion, with more than 500,000 UK citizens involved in it in some form or another.
It’s also relatively easy to kick-start a cleaning company, and overhead costs are far lower than in many other sectors.
As a result, cleaning is a highly competitive marketplace that requires real business acumen and a smart, strategic approach in order to pull in profit.
Here, we discuss the key concepts worth considering before you begin making plans to build a commercial cleaning company, ensuring you have the best possible chance of success right from the off.
Build a business plan
For anyone thinking about starting a new cleaning company, staff and supplies are probably top of the agenda. But, before this, a business plan ought to come first.
These documents aren’t solely reserved for complex company structures – they’re equally valuable to basic startup ventures too, providing a rock-hard foundation from which you can build your business.
Begin with a summary and answer the key questions about your business:
- What type of cleaning will your company provide (domestic, professional, commercial)?
- Who will you provide these services to (residents, businesses)?
- Who is your target market?
- How are you planning to separate yourself from the competition?
- And what are your financial ambitions over the short and long term?
Putting everything down on paper allows you to create clear goals for your company – this will help you determine the best courses of action to take as things develop.
You can tweak this document as you go along, but it’s crucial to have a business plan from day one – especially if you’re hoping for funding in the future. Any investors will want to see a copy of your plan before they even consider giving you a cash injection.
Starting any business requires you to put some of your own hard-earned money into the idea to get things going.
The good news is that commercial cleaning business overheads are typically lower than other business concepts, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to jump straight in.
You’ll need a healthy chunk of working capital to launch, as well as a buffer just in case things don’t go to plan.
If you’re buying a franchise, you’ll also have to purchase a territory, the cost of which varies from one company to the next.
As for the costs themselves, they can vary depending on the type of cleaning company you want to position yourself as (high-end, budget). But in every instance, you’ll need between £5,000-£10,000 for equipment and transportation, including:
- Vacuum cleaner
- Cleaning solutions
- Cleaning tools
You’ll also need to put money aside for any staff you’re hiring from the get-go, as well as advertising and marketing costs to get the word out about your business.
Ultimately, you shouldn’t rush in. Take your time and build up your business fund before you take the plunge, and decide whether you’d like to go it alone or opt for a franchise model.
Finance and funding
As mentioned previously, you’ll need a sizable amount of money to get going in the first place. but you may wish to consider seeking investment in order to hit the ground running with your cleaning company.
You’ll need to keep a close eye on your cash flow and adjust things as you move along, only hiring when you’re sure you can afford it.
Seek retainers with clients so that you can be sure there’s always money coming in, and if you’re applying for a franchise and/or looking at obtaining a short-term business loan, you’re going to need that aforementioned business plan to prove you’re worth a punt.
Because the cleaning market is so competitive, it can be very difficult to establish your company purely by word of mouth – at least in the beginning.
Therefore, you will need to dedicate some of your time and money towards marketing, which will help to develop your reputation in an organic way.
Traditionally, cleaning companies have prospered by posting leaflets and promotional flyers through letterboxes – which could be a good place to begin.
Make sure you list your email and contact number on the flyer and make sure it isn’t too “busy”. Lots of text puts people off. Keep it simple, list your key services, and add splashes of colour to draw readers in.
It’s also worth putting your website on your leaflet, giving interested business owners a chance to look at your services in greater detail.
Social media is another way to divert traffic to your site and gain increased interest, and striking a partnership with web services or specialists is often a good way to build up a client list.
How to get contracts
Aside from their ability to conduct excellent work, one of the most important traits cleaning companies must exhibit is a sense of trustworthiness. For many commercial premises, cleaners will be entering the building before staff have arrived for work, which means they are left to their own devices.
Customers want cleaners who can be relied upon to perform the task at hand and conduct themselves in a respectful, lawful manner.
Your company will also have to outline the customers’ exact requirements before starting work, ensuring you have the capability to complete the job.
There is no use taking on a client request only to realise that you don’t have the resources to produce great results. If you don’t have the necessary equipment, you’ll be left with an unsatisfied client and a tainted reputation.
It is important to have a clear understanding of the type of cleaning you can do and how long it will take you. There may be some utilities which require a basic level of cleaning daily or ad hoc, and there will be times that they’ll need specialist services during a disaster.
It’s all about providing realistic expectations and then surpassing these in order to generate repeat business.
The specialist cleaning industry involves more complex jobs, and highly technical skills and kit. But these services will always be in need.
An economically resilient industry such as this reduces the risk of being unable to find contracts as, when restoration is required, the competition is considerably less fierce.
By emphasising the speed and quality of your services, your business will become synonymous with the solution whenever someone has a problem.
A good way to attract new clients is to offer discounts for existing customers if they recommend your service to a friend. For example, if a client passes on good feedback to a fellow business, you could offer them 20% off for the rest of the year, or something similar.
This will not only help to cement good relations between current clients, but also attract new ones in the process.
Starting out is the toughest bit, so you may want to ask around your friends and see if they know anyone who is in need of cleaning services. Getting the word out on social media channels and setting up dedicated pages is also good for added exposure.
Flood and fire can strike at any time, so it’s important that you establish your specialist cleaning business as the service to turn to in these times of need.
Legal obligations and regulations
Whilst you don’t need any formal qualifications or licences to operate a cleaning company, you should seek CRB checks for your staff and contemplate cleaning NVQs and certificates.
The members of your team who have been background checked and have a bit of extra knowledge are likely to do a much better job, plus it gives you some accreditation to show off in your promotional material when you’re pitching for business.
Also, for any staff you hire, you’ll need to ensure you have the relevant paperwork in place, as well as any pension schemes you might have promised.
Remember that the National Living Wage is reviewed on an annual basis, so you’ll need to meet the necessary criteria to avoid legal issues later down the line.
Finally, you’ll need to ensure your staff are aware of the risks of their occupation and have the necessary skillset not to hurt themselves whilst at work. Take care to invest in non-toxic chemicals so you don’t put yourself, your employees, or your company, at risk.
Why not try a specialist cleaning franchise?
Whilst a lot of hard work and perseverance can help you set up a commercial cleaning business, turning a big profit is much more difficult – often taking many years.
One of the solutions, however, is to buy into an existing business instead – one that’s already got a huge base of clients and the resources to boot.
A perfect case in point is Rainbow International. Our franchisees are trained up vigorously and given all the tools and equipment they need to run their business effectively, with a reputable brand and superb support network to fall back on. And, best of all, they still get to enjoy being a business owner.
If you’d like to learn more, head over to the Next Steps section where our team can fill you in.