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You’ve decided after many years to start a cleaning business. You are excited and know that you can make it happen because your cleaning skills are excellent and above average.

You have worked for a cleaning service in the past and know that you can do it better. You register your DBA, get insurance, have some cards printed and you even had a website built. Now the clients will start rolling in, right?

Well, not quite. This is where most people get stuck because they don’t know what it takes to obtain commercial cleaning contracts. They greatly underestimate how hard it will be to grow a cleaning business.

The reality and disappointment will set in and you start to feel like this is not going to work. The sad truth is this: according to an article from International Janitorial Cleaning Services Association, 95% of cleaning and janitorial businesses will fail within the first 5 years.


Why does this happen and how can you avoid it?

When people are struggling to find commercial cleaning clients they often look for help, often that’s when they find me. The conversation is usually the same and they have five things in common. Using those five things I have put together a list of why cleaning services fail.


1. No Marketing Plan

If you build it they will come. That seems to be the mindset when people register their cleaning business. They think that somehow people will find them once they have a real registered name. This is the furthest thing from the truth. People will not find you, you need to have a solid marketing plan that starts by defining your market.

Who do you want to clean for, where are they located and how will you reach them? You need a database of all the businesses in your area and a strategic method of contacting every one of them. Phone calls, postcards, personal visits, etc. Daily prospecting efforts should be a top priority and will consume most of your time when getting started.


2. Poor Sales Presentation

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When you are planning to go clean a building it would not make sense to wear your best clothes, but a sales/estimating appointment is a different story. First impressions are huge and you need to dress to impress.

Showing up in jeans and a tee shirt is not acceptable. Someone going into a business to make a presentation should be clean-cut, freshly shaved, and professional.

This may seem like common sense but not everyone gets it. When you meet a potential client it needs to be all about them, their company and their needs. Trying to oversell and overpromise will bury you quickly.


Your potential client will expect a prompt and professional cleaning proposal delivered via email or in person. Don’t even think about submitting a handwritten form as your estimate. There are plenty of free resources online that will show you a sample cleaning proposal. Find one that works for you and use it.

Follow up is a must. It would be nice if we could simply submit our proposal and be done with it. In many cases, you will need to follow up several times to get the contract. Sometimes this can take months, even years to happen.

3. Miscalculating Cleaning Proposal Cost

image of cartoon man leaning on money signWhen someone is first getting started in the cleaning business, knowing how to price and prepare a proposal can be difficult. Without industry knowledge of pricing and past experience to draw off, you are pretty much starting from scratch.

Even with popular pricing apps and software, it comes down to properly calculating how much time will be needed each day for a proper cleaning. Most new business owners will overestimate from fear of losing money.

This is the opposite of where you should be. It may sound crazy, but if you’re going to err, err on the low side and underbid. When you bid too high, you will not get the contract.

If you bid low and get the contract, at least you have something to draw off for next time. You will realize as time goes by that you underbid. Deal with it for now and move on, after all, you at least have a new client, right?

Related Video: How To Estimate Commercial Cleaning Jobs 


4. Lack of Cleaning Skills

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This has been the hardest thing for me to address when I am mentoring new cleaning business owners. In their mind, they are an excellent cleaner and unfortunately, many are not coachable. When the complaints start coming in from the client it’s natural to get defensive, it’s also fatal.

The client is always right, even when they are not right. It’s a tough balance when you work hard and feel that you have done your best, and the client still complains. Keep an open mind, no one is perfect and there is always room for improvement.

I’ve watched painfully as new cleaning services obtain clients and quickly lose them. I’ve found that when it comes to cleaning, you either get it, or you don’t. An eye for detail seems to be a gift, even with the best training it’s hard to obtain if someone does not have it. This leads to the fifth reason that cleaning businesses fail.


5. Not Being Coachable

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I have to admit that when I started my cleaning business at the age of 19, I thought I knew everything. My friends were off in college and I was earning an above average income.

My College friends would come home on break and work for me. I thought that I was the king of the world. Life has a funny way of correcting these false ideas as we get older and wiser.

We receive a list of new businesses in our area each week, there are always one or two cleaning services. Sometimes we reach out to them if we have a contract to assign.

Often we are met with resistance, “no I don’t need any help, I am a business owner now.” Unfortunately, most of them do not last as the harsh reality quickly sets in.

New business owners must be coachable. The smartest ones are looking for a mentor and attending networking events to expand their knowledge.

There are amazing personal growth and self-development materials available to anyone who looks for them. A business owner needs to soak up as much information, with an open mind, as possible.

Starting a cleaning business can be a wonderful life-changing event, it can also be a disaster. I hope this information will help you on your journey. With careful planning, you can make it happen! Please feel free to leave a comment or question.

Remember, if you are looking to start or grow a commercial cleaning business, we can help.