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Thursday, October 24, 2013

The US Marketplace for Cleaning Government Buildings

The US market for cleaning government buildings begins with estimating the size of the market however no one knows exactly how many buildings the government owns or controls.  The US Federal government has more than 500,000 buildings totaling approximately 3.1 billion square feet of space, housing 479 separate federal agencies.

Federal buildings are just the beginning, there are 50 state governments who each own thousands of buildings. State and federal buildings are supplemented with leased space so cleanable space is much more than what is simply owned. There are 3,144 county governments and 19,429 municipalities each with buildings that require cleaning. The total amount of property that needs to be cleaned is truly amazing and there are many contractors who won’t approach this sector at all

I cannot estimate how many people reading this may still have a phone book but there are pages of government agencies in every phone book, listed in its own separate section. A small phone book will still have 10 to 12 pages of government listings. So if you consider the sheer size of federal, state, county and municipal buildings together, the largest buyer of cleaning is the government at one level or another.

If you do business with government at any level, you are now B2G, in addition to B2B or in the residential side B2C. Marketing is different in all three sectors. Mass marketing is effective for the residential sector to consumers (B2C), direct marketing for the commercial sector to businesses (B2B) but the government sector (B2G) is a different animal completely.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Power of Praise: How your team gets your company to the next level

In the business world, the professional field of human resource management is mature with associations, university degree programs, systems, processes and established conventional wisdom. Professional coursework in human resources management could not be counted as the most riveting or electrifying subject one could attend. The professional results of these learned efforts certainly are what inspired the song lyrics: all in all, you’re just another brick in the wall. 

Amazing organizations are comprised of amazing people; the problem is that amazing people don’t come labeled as such. You have to find them and in order to do so; you have to look for them. Looking back across almost four decades in the cleaning industry from working in 25 different companies, I know the cleaning business is really the people business. 

But I didn’t always know that, I had to learn it. 

I remember at first recruiting, interviewing and hiring was a bit of a mystery to me and as you can imagine it didn’t go very well at all. Employees were a necessary evil and one of the big headaches in the cleaning business. Starting from that point of view employees then became warm bodies, a part of the cleaning equation and not as reliable as my other tools, such as upright vacuum cleaners. 

I recall having very pleasant daydreams of clean buildings without employees (which completely replaced childhood daydreams of being a pirate, but required the same amount of magic).

Slowly I learned the value of my own employees but it was not until I was working for a large cleaning company where cleaning staff were less expendable than upright vacuum cleaners that I began to develop a realistic working theory and then a strategy.

We hired large groups of workers all at once when a new contract was secured. I recall seeing one worker on his first day and I could have bet money he wouldn’t return for his second day of work. A ‘loser’, a complete zero in my mind and on the first night we were never very picky, we simply needed warm bodies.

He proved me wrong. Not only did he return on the second night for work but never missed a day and five years later he was appointed supervisor of one of those buildings. I was wrong about that man but what I could not see that first night was that he cared about what he was doing. Identifying people who care means you have to pay attention.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Cancelled Cleaning Contracts and Endings at Three in the Morning


My only contract is gone!
Good to be back with you, it’s been a while. I want to talk to you about endings and how they feel at three o’clock in the morning. Things change, endings happen and you get to learn something.

At three in the morning wisdom gives way to exhaustion, fear and confusion. Every so often we get to see clearly what keeps us going. In adversity our foundations are laid bare but we may or may not like what we see.

Over the last year I helped a client take over a chain of health care centers. This account had been cleaned previously by two cleaning contractors. One contractor had half of these centers for seven years and the other contractor had his half for over twenty years. Both of these contractors had only one client and that one client cancelled the contract. These were very profitable accounts and this cancellation was the end of their businesses.

New equipment, new people, new keys (in the dark) and new alarms, all together provide for an “eventful evening”. Starting a chain of health care centers all on the same night has a few surprises even with good planning. Phone calls, checklists, spray bottles fly by at supersonic speed. Mini pep talks are dispensed. The same questions get the same answers, sometimes in English and sometimes not.

After the last building is done it takes a while to decompress and the date changed a few hours ago. This time I thought about those contractors who had lost their only account. This was the first night both of them were missing their one and only account. It’s three o’clock in the morning and I wonder if they are sleeping? I wonder if they were thinking what they could have done differently and not be out of business tonight. I wonder how much free time they had over the years while they sat comfortably with their one account.

I wonder if it occurred to them that by visiting the next closest health care center consistently, RIGHT next to the one they had, would have doubled the size of their businesses. Losing half of your business is bad but not as bad as losing the whole thing.

I have a firm ten percent rule about cleaning contracts and particularly those big ones. How much does your biggest client mean to you in dollars, to your company? Your biggest client is what percentage of your total revenue? No single contract should be more than ten percent of your total revenue. If you have one big cleaning contract then you better go find another and you better do it fast. If your biggest source of revenue is only 10% and they cancel, it’s a completely different matter. You can sleep just fine.

Having only one account leaves you vulnerable (and there was not ONE THING either of these two contractors could have done to save this account). Sit back and relax with just one client and late one night at about three in the morning it will feel like your whole world just ended.

Every single cleaning contract has a ticking clock attached. I can tell you with absolute authority that at three in the morning you can hear the movement of the minute hand on your clock in the dark with no problem at all.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Janitorial Company Basics: Everything You Wanted to Know About Bonds and Bonding But Were Afraid to Ask


If you run a janitorial company, chances are you've heard your competition market themselves as being legally licensed and bonded. Of course, all janitorial companies have to be licensed according to whatever state laws apply to them, but surety bonds are optional insurance policies that protect your clients.

So, what are janitorial surety bonds, anyway?

A basic definition explains that a surety bond is a legally binding contract that ensures a certain task is performed. Most janitorial service business owners buy surety bonds because they operate small companies and want a cost-effective way to protect against employees who might choose to act unethically. Even if you trust your staff to the fullest extent, the reality is that you and your business become easy targets if a client's belongings go missing.

Janitorial surety bonds are also known by other names such as custodian bonds or business service bonds. Regardless of the name, this bond provides protection for clients who work with residential and commercial cleaning services.

What kind of businesses get bonded?

Unlike most surety bond types, janitorial surety bonds are completely voluntary. You may choose to purchase a custodian bond if you operate a janitorial company, maid service, carpet cleaning service, house cleaning service or other type of cleaning business. Remember, the purpose is to convince prospective clients that their belongings and property will be safe from theft if they choose to work with you.

Do janitorial companies receive protection from surety bonds?

Surety bonds should not be confused with traditional insurance policies. When purchasing a surety bond, you and your company do not receive any of the bond's financial protection. Instead, the bond will protect your customers from losses that could result from unethical employees who might choose to steal. As such, buying a custodian bond reassures clients that you're committed to running a legitimate enterprise.

Will my bond protect against damages?

No, surety bonds only protect against theft. If you or an employee damages a client's property or possessions, the bond will not cover these costs. If you're looking for damage protection, consider purchasing a special insurance policy.

How much does it cost to get bonded?

Janitorial bonds are some of the cheapest surety bond types to purchase. The exact price you'll pay depends on how many employees you manage and much coverage you want. Janitorial bonds are typically purchased by
small business owners, who usually pay about

    $100/year for $5,000 worth of coverage for five or fewer employees
    $110/year for $10,000 worth of coverage for five or fewer employees
    $152/year for $25,000 worth of coverage for five or fewer employees

Of course, larger janitorial companies also purchase bonds, and higher bonding amounts are available as well. The best way to determine what you'll pay for a bond is to contact an online surety company quickly and easily.

Danielle Rodabaugh is the chief editor of "http://www.suretybonds.com/", an online surety bond agency that provides free surety bond quotes to business owners nationwide. For more information on the surety industry, you can find Danielle on "https://plus.google.com/u/0/113063981844601253780?rel=author">Google+

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Bad News at Sunday Dinner


I hate liars. I feel sorry for the victims of liars. I have been lied to and those were among the worst moments of my life, finding out I had been lied to. Love songs are lies; no one “accidentally” falls in love like stepping in hot bubble gum in a parking lot. Another lie is that we all “live happily ever after” and this is the great lie in the janitorial business.

Commercial cleaning is based on commercial real estate development and occupancy of commercial space, which is finite. Your “dreams of success” do not change the amount of existing commercial space requiring cleaning. Do not believe the lies.

I got this note this morning;
Ed,

I started a commercial cleaning business last year and I failed. I could not attract enough commercial accounts to even cover expenses, regardless of what I did.

Its Sunday dinner and the bad news is there are only so many pieces of chicken to go around. There are 1,200 new cleaning services started every month and every one already seated at the table is still hungry. There is not one single cleaning service owner that does not want more accounts, not one. It does not matter how many they have, they want more.

The bad news is someone is going to go hungry. It does not matter how much you wish, there are only two thighs, two legs and two breasts and someone is going to get the neck and a couple will get the wings.

The dream peddlers are liars and seek only to take what little money you have and tell you there is no end to that plate of chicken.

Someone has to tell you the truth and I just did.

The cleaning business is a war just like the whole world of business. There are winners and losers. The losers will not live happily ever after.

Now what?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Hunters, Farmers and a Steady Diet of New Cleaning Accounts


(this is obviously not Ed)

If I can save myself some time, then I figure I am ahead of the game. I have to explain hunting and farming almost every day so now I can just send this post and save some time.

The feast or famine growth strategy in a janitorial company maintains a constant state of panic, confusion, and disarray. In 2012, the only way feasting happens in the janitorial industry is with a “slash and burn” competitor’s pricing strategy. Problem is that it works but a revolving door is created with accounts lost almost as fast as they are signed. Some rapidly growing franchises take this approach, as do some National multi-location cleaning management companies. It is not a new strategy and it never worked to build a profitable, healthy operation.

Janitorial sales famines are customary with inexperienced business owners who have bought into the “just grab a broom and a mop and make a million” touted by business opportunity magazines and the now pervasive internet cleaning gurus who will teach you if you buy their book of secrets. Sales famines also happen to hunters who are subject to hunting seasons or when they get around to it.

What do hunters do? They move from place to place looking for targets to shoot at. The take a shot and hit or miss and then move on to hunt their next target. They may stalk their prey for a little while but as soon as they get tired, they quit and go home empty handed. They got all dressed up, went out, worked hard but sit down and eat what they caught previously. They continue to hunt because they have scored in the past. New ways of doing things is not a big issue with hunters; in fact, some cling to old ways for the sport of it so there are hunters with bows and arrows.

A hunter catches his prey after relatively FEW points of contact.

One time through, smoke stack, (door to door) prospecting all by itself is hunting. Blasting one time through networking meetings is hunting. Purchasing janitorial sales appointments all by themselves is hunting. Going from one prospect to the next, making a presentation and then moving on to the next one, is taking a shot and either hitting or missing.

One of my first questions to janitorial company owners is how many proposals have you done in the last year. What do you do with the contacts you made during the last year AFTER those presentations have been made? It is at this point I know if I have a hunter or a farmer.

What do farmers do? Farmers stake out a piece of ground as their own. They go over that piece of ground, remove rocks and tree stumps and plant seeds. They again cover the same area and water all of their seeds until seedlings appear. They eliminate weeds so the seedlings absorb water. They apply nutrients and fertilizer and continue to remove weeds. They water it regularly. They watch over that ground and are aware of what is happening with a laser beam focus, nothing gets by them. New ways of doing things is a big issue for farmers; they are constantly on the lookout for improvements to increase their yield.

A farmer harvests his yield after MANY points of contact.

A farming system of janitorial selling starts with a map. Removing rocks and trees and then stumps is the sorting out of the types of businesses you will not do business with and identifies the business types you are going after. Seeds are your unique selling proposition and your elevator pitch, backed with an operational structure. Nutrients and fertilizers are your tools, your phone, your personalized direct mail and email templates, your online strategy and presence and your community networking groups.

Water is delivered by way of irrigation systems, timed release of the key growth factor water and delivered regularly. Watching your plot of land is your daily scan of the local business news that may mean new business to you, not the comics, not your horoscope, not the sports pages, the business news about local companies, promotions to new positions and construction (or business failures).

Finally, keeping informed about what is available that may increase your yield of profitable contracts is key. History is a wonderful area of study but how things were done 20 or 10 or even 5 years ago is a study of what used to work. A trip down memory lane.

I will confess here to being city born and raised. I do not own a pair of bib overalls or a straw hat but I did figure out early on that hunters score every so often but farming is the correct approach to build a profitable cleaning company.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Just a Casserole Ingredient


Never mind "thinking outside the box" for a moment (a term I REALLY hate), think what happens on a grocery shelf when faced with a selection of canned vegetables that will only wind up buried in a casserole or "Hot Dish" back in Minnesota.

Which one do you pick? Is it the package? Is it the brand name? Is it the price?

This is not the key ingredient that will make or break the meal but it IS necessary so you have to pick one.

A really well done, stand out, amazing package may get you to pick that one regardless of the price.

A trusted brand name may get you to pick that one (and that is because you have SEEN that same name repeatedly enough to make an impression, repetition which co$t the company $omething).

Nevertheless, if none of those factors is at play then you decide based on price.

Had a Certified Property Manager (one who had bought $10 million in cleaning) who I raised the issue of going with the low bidder, tell me that was an excuse for someone who was lazy or clueless.

Amazing packaging, establishing a brand name, or commodity (by the pound) pricing, YOU choose.