How Janitorial Businesses Can Succeed in 2010…and Beyond

It’s clear. The janitorial business was never easy. But now in 2010, a great number of cleaning contractors would say it’s becoming nearly impossible to get and stay profitable.

How did we get here?

Small hurdles that go along with a slowing economy became bigger as the recession worsened. Finding new jobs became harder for many as building owners and managers raced to find ways to cut costs. And other challenges became more pronounced in reaction to the economic pull back.

For example, the use of illegal workers by unscrupulous contractors and the low-balling antics of empty-promising janitorial franchises and national cleaning management companies made things even worse.

Today, in the face of these mounting problems, many a frustrated, hard working janitorial business owner can be heard asking the question:

“How can I find and land and keep profitable cleaning jobs when I have to compete with ridiculously low prices being offered to building owners and managers desperately looking to cut costs.”

It’s a fair question.

The good news is there is an answer. The bad news is it’s not as easy as ‘flipping a switch’.

The answer is found in fundamentally changing the ‘contract cleaning equation’. If you believe the commonly held belief that building owners and managers only care about low-price… then the crude strategy of simply cutting your price may be the logical answer. Not profitable, but at least logical.

We suggest a better answer can be found in fundamentally changing the ‘contract cleaning equation’ from one focused on price to one focused on value.

When ‘business as usual’ isn’t working…maybe it’s time for ‘business unusual’. And what is ‘unusual’ in the janitorial business is a bold, well-reasoned and equally well-planned effort to break potential customers loose from their negative, entrenched ideas about contract cleaning.

And what ideas are those?

Well, that’s easy. You can hear it in the words and actions of some short sighted building owners and managers who make it clear what they believe about contract cleaning companies, namely, that ‘They’re all the same…so I might as well find the cheapest one’.

Well, if you let them get away with this mentality, or worse yet, buy into it yourself, there may little hope in keeping you from getting washed away with all the other ‘lowest price’ guys who aimlessly fight with each other over unprofitable jobs.

But, you don’t have to.

The good news is in 2010 and beyond, janitorial business can take steps to change how they are viewed in the marketplace – which can change their results.

Specifically, commercial cleaning contractors can:

1. Identify what their prospects want most of all

2. Find (create) creative ways (systems) to deliver it

3. Find (create) ways to measure and track it

4. Be willing to guarantee they’ll deliver it

5. Promote the message consistently and effectively

While the steps are simple the process is not.

1. Identify it. Finding out what prospective customers really want is not always easy or obvious. What sounds like a desire for ‘low price’ may actually be masking an even greater need for someone to offer ‘high value’.

For example, what they really may want is to know they won’t fall victim to the old ‘trash and dash’ routine of many unprofessional cleaner contractors they may have used in the past, who may have, for example, started off cleaning 5 hrs. a night, only to end up running through the job in just 2 hrs. just a few short weeks later.

2. Create it. To stick with our example; simply hoping your employees will put in the necessary budgeted hours simply because you scheduled them… may NOT be enough. You may need to create a daily system for watching or monitoring the actual hours spent cleaning per night.

3. Measure it. Knowing hours have dropped doesn’t fix anything unless you have a system to track the hours and make adjustments to ensure they get the value they deserve and paid for. For example, if you discovered the Monday’s actual cleaning hours were low, you could increase Wednesday’s or Friday’s hours that week.

4. Guarantee it. Saying it is one thing, guaranteeing it is another. Stepping up to offer a strong guarantee puts you firmly in the ranks of those professional cleaning contractors who are willing to stand behind their work.

5. Promote it. None of the above will matter… if no one knows about it. It’s been suggested that each of us has an ‘invisible horn around our neck’…and as the old saying goes ‘You need to pick up your horn and blow it yourself… because no one else may do it for you.’ Bottom line: You’ve got to get your message to the decision makers at the buildings you want to clean.

Are you a janitorial business wanting to succeed in 2010 and beyond?

Change how you are viewed in the marketplace by creating, delivering and promoting more value. The five steps above are a good place to start.


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