Errors, mistakes and incorrect assumptions. My “early years” in the cleaning business.

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by Tom Watson on September 1, 2013

As I look back upon my time in the cleaning business it amazes me that I was able to overcome all the errors, mistakes and incorrect assumptions I made.

I probably made just about every mistake imaginable at one time or another. Some were big and some were small, but somehow I was able to keep the ship afloat.

One “incorrect assumption” I made

One of my biggest “incorrect assumptions” when starting was not building good solid relationships with my customers. I really just tried to stay out of their way and not bother them in any way, shape or form.

This approach is not recommended because when you don’t build any kind of relationship with a customer you risk becoming a “faceless company” who is no different from any other. This doesn’t mean that all customers want to love you and hold you tight, but some do.

This is why I recommend you to get as close as they will allow. Some will love you, some will like you, some will keep you at arms length and some will be indifferent to you. The moral here is LET THEM DECIDE.

One of the many “mistakes” I made

Though I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, in the beginning stages of my business I was not very good at keeping a close eye on the accounts receivables. I knew who owed me money and all, I just didn’t “bug them” when they were late.

This problem is somewhat connected to the “stay out their hair” approach I mentioned earlier. As a “newbie”, I simply didn’t know the ground rules all that well. I kind of thought that’s “just the way it is”. Of course I was completely wrong on this.

At the end of the day the money you work for is YOUR MONEY, and you deserve to get paid on time. If you think about it, whenever you don’t get paid you are acting like a bank and “lending” your customer money.

Now I don’t know about you, but I started a cleaning business and not a bank. This is why I stay on top of this now. I’m VERY NICE at all times when trying to get paid, but I don’t let them slack off on me like I used to.

One “error” out of many, many errors

One of the biggest “errors” I made when getting started was assuming that whoever I hired would “care as much as me” about doing a good job. I honestly thought hiring people “like me” would be CAKE.

Oh how wrong I was! I could not have been more wrong if I tried. With that said, hiring the right people is not all that hard once you know how. It’s just in the beginning when you don’t know any better this type of error can sink you fast.

I hired people that were not in any way qualified to be working for me. Many could not show up for more than a few days in a row without calling out. Others would bring “unauthorized helpers” with them to get done faster. Then there were others who did “donuts” in parking lots with my company trucks.

I would doubt that anyone could have made more “errors” in hiring people than I did when first starting a cleaning business. I soon caught on and got it right, but for a while there I risked turning grey at a very early age.

The fact that I was able to succeed despite having made so many mistakes when first getting started is the main reason why I believe anyone can have success in the cleaning industry. All you need is the determination to KEEP PUSHING FORWARD. If you have that you are in good shape!

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 FABIO September 1, 2013 at 8:03 pm

Hello Tom, I like this blog it home for me in a few ways. I have one company that like to pay me late. So what I did on THEIR invoice note it will be a $15.00 LATE CHARGE FEE DUE ON THEIR NEXT INVOICE.

2 suerita September 2, 2013 at 6:58 am

hi cleaning for profit
I would like to subscribe to the cleaning for profit RSS feed.

3 Tom Watson September 2, 2013 at 9:45 am

Hi Suerita! GREAT… just click on the “Subscribe” link on the upper right of my site.

4 Tom Watson September 2, 2013 at 9:47 am

Hi Fabio! All you can do is see how that works, then adjust from there. Keep us posted!

5 chrishopewell September 2, 2013 at 2:23 pm

Just like to say that since I found your site, it has helped me a lot. I’m starting my business up and want to do small office cleaning and apartments common areas. I decided to take it one step at a time. The information you give is a big help to me, I just can’t fine information on what is a reasonable price for cleaning common area in a 26 building apartment complex I tried to get quotes, but the places I call what to come and see the property. I live in Maryland.

6 Tom Watson September 3, 2013 at 12:24 pm

Hi! There is no way to find that info… the only way is to go visit the property and see what needs to be done according to their specs. Once you go see it… THEN you can put a price to it.

Why is that? Well… you need to keep this in mind… No two apartments are the same, and no two sets of cleaning requirements will be the same either (all office managers are different and they all want different things cleaned).

At the end of the day the only thing that matters is HOW LONG it will take you to clean the place! With that said, my advice is to start SMALLER then work up to a larger place. This way you get to learn WITHOUT the pressure of wondering whether or not you priced the job correctly.

7 chrishopewell September 3, 2013 at 8:02 pm

Thanks Tom, I will start small, and I like your site it is very informative.

8 CG Cleaning September 4, 2013 at 11:45 pm

Hi Tom,
Just wondering if you have used sub contractors at all to handle excess work. Was it viable for you and were there any pitfalls to look out for?

9 Tom Watson September 5, 2013 at 8:48 am

Hi! I never used them. My accountant told me to steer clear of them (which I did). Besides… I felt like I would have more control over an employee than a “sub” (they exist is a space where they are not an employee or completely independent, and that makes the water murky in my humble opinion). So in a nutshell, I hired people and learned the ropes on that.

10 tobore January 3, 2014 at 6:57 pm

Hi Tom with reference to you response to chrishopewell when you go view a property are you expected to give a quote right there or are you allowed to feedback later?

11 Tom Watson January 3, 2014 at 7:24 pm

Hi Tobore! No… you get back to them within a few days. You need to go back and “run the numbers” and create a proposal. Generally 2 – 4 days is what I aimed for when getting back to them with a price.

12 Winnie January 27, 2014 at 8:08 am

This site is very informative. Bumped on to it as I was researching for my new cleaning business. Its been of great help. I want to start my cleaning business; want to do residential, in a small way… vacuum cleaning carpets and sofa set..

13 Tom Watson January 27, 2014 at 8:19 am

Hi Winnie! Thanks for the kind words, we appreciate it.

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