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Determining the cleanable square footage for a janitorial bid

Ask Drake

Grand Master Janitor

With the truly, humbling success of CleanlyRun (aka CleanGuidePro), we’ve received a lot of questions (from companies all over the world) about a variety of topics in the janitorial industry. Allow me to share yet another one of them with you.

Hi Drake: I’m new to the cleaning business, and I have a couple of questions. Does “lot size” mean “square footage”?  And how can I find the square footage of a building without measuring, but rather searching the business information?

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Answer:  First, thanks for growing your new business with us! I’m glad you asked about these metrics, because it’s knowing the cleanable square footage that is key for your janitorial bid.

First, lot size is the size of the land, rather than the size of the building that sits on it. Total building square-footage is the actual size of the building, which may or may not be the same number as the total cleanable square footage.

You can get the total facility size in any number of ways: from your potential customer (e.g. pre-bid info pack), by counting ceiling tiles (2′ x 2′ or 2′ x 4′), or by using a measuring wheel or fancy laser meter.  However you derive this figure, it would be due diligence to double check it on the local property appraisers website.

However, your client may not need you to clean every square foot of their facility. For instance, a medical facility might restrict you from cleaning rooms that contain special equipment. So you can determine the cleanable square footage by scheduling a Pre-Bid Walkthrough.

I think of janitorial bidding as an art as well as a science, and it took me a long time to hone my bidding skills and determine what produced the most consistent and accurate results for my business. It always came back to starting off with the exact cleanable square footage for the job. In my experience, when I took on a job without knowing the exact area that I’d be cleaning, too much guesswork often caused me to lose money on the job. In some cases, I was essentially paying someone to clean their building.

So decades later, that’s why we designed our online bidding system, CleanlyRun Janitorial Bidware, based on the expectation that every effort has been made to get the proper figures for the cleanable square footage. For me, this is a basic requirement to bid a job.

And don’t be afraid to politely ask the client for a little more time for due diligence during the walkthrough. I’ve never had any prospect tell me no when I’ve asked to walk the building on my own in order to make some calculations, review some areas and/or take additional notes. It helps you tremendously and lets them know that you’re thorough.



CleanGuidePro Successful bidderDrake

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Janitorial Fair Wages

Ask Drake

President and Co-founder of CleanGuidePro

With the truly, humbling success of CleanGuidePro, we’ve received a lot of questions (from companies all over the world) about a variety of topics in the janitorial industry. Allow me to share yet another one of them with you.

Question: I’m new in the business and have been doing all the work myself, along with my wife helping. I want to go after larger accounts that will require me to start hiring employees.

I feel that if I pay my cleaners $14-$15 an hour, they will all do a great job, thereby eliminating complaints. Also, I’ll let my potential customers know this and be able to charge more. What do you think?


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Answer: Sounds good in theory.  Pay them more, they’ll perform better and my customers will gladly pay me more!

Unfortunately, after 26 years in business, hiring 1,500+ employees, experimenting with wages and interacting with hundreds of customers, this approach simply does not work in practice. Your question has two parts. let’s take a closer look..

  • Q1: Pay entry level cleaners $14-$15 an hour, (when the prevailing wages are $8.05 -$9.00) and they’ll perform better.

    A1: Maybe, maybe not. My experience has been that the vast majority of “poor performers” will perform just as poorly at $12.00 an hour as they will at $9.00.  However,  a market–rate employee should quickly move up to higher wages as their performance warrants it.  (And performance can be improved with proper training, supervision and followup.)  In other words, higher wages are earned, not a given. So definitely reward your top performers in short order, but don’t assume that starting a new hire at “above market” rates will guarantee a high performance.

  • Q2: My customers will pay me more to get better service, “if” I pay my employees more.

    A2: Good luck with that. Listen for the deafening silence of the “crickets” when you approach your clients with that logic. Customers today “expect” great performance and outstanding value in their selected service providers. They want and deserve great service at a fair market price. Take great care of them, cherish and yes “love” them. You will make more money though extra project work, carpets, floors, supply sales, customer loyalty and invaluable references!

Trust me on this one. Pay the fair and prevailing wage, provide training, supervision and followup. Increase pay based on performance and charge your customer a fair market price, then take care of them and watch your profits and business increase!


CleanGuidePro Successful Residential Cleaning bidderDrake

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Janitorial Advertising – Top Tips for what really works!

Ask Drake

President and Co-founder of CleanGuidePro

With the truly, humbling success of CleanGuidePro, we’ve received a lot of questions (from companies all over the world) about a variety of topics in the janitorial industry. Allow me to share yet another one of them with you.

Hey Drake: We’re new to the janitorial business and looking for tips on how to advertise our services. Any suggestions?


CleanGuidePro blog post image


Answer: Very good question. First, let’s distinguish the difference between advertising and marketing. Advertising is the media (print ads, billboards, flyers, etc.) that you use to promote a product, service, or an event whereas Marketing is the message.

Since this question is about advertising methods (or media), here’s my take on what has worked best for me over the last 25 years.

  1. Yellow Pages: When I first got in business and started to think of ways to advertise my services, the first thing that came to mind was the yellow pages. I called my local yellow page salesperson and discussed what would be an appropriate page size ad to start with. The first question was, “how many trucks do you want to have on the road?” They said a small ad would produce small results, but a big, full page ($1500/month) ad would guarantee (although nothing in writing) BIG results! I settled on a business card size ad for $247 a month that produced little to no results. After that, I went with the free listing in the yellow pages for every business that has a business phone and actually got better response. Unless you’re a bail bondsman, I wouldn’t suggest this medium.
  2. Local Weekly Flyer: Much cheaper than the yellow pages and can run for 1 weekly issue or 3, but not great results. Everyone wants the cheapest price. I don’t recommend it.
  3. Word of Mouth, Customer References: Do what you say you will do, do great work and your customers will recommend you! This has been a big one for me and it’s free.
  4. Radio: I tried this a couple of times. Zero response! Maybe I didn’t give it enough time, but I wouldn’t recommend it for the janitorial industry.
  5. Golf Tournament Hole Sponsor: I’ve done this a number of times for customers that have annual company golf tournaments and ask me to sponsor a hole for anywhere between $150- $500. They put my company name on basically a yard sale sign, on the tee box that says “This hole sponsored by, My Company Name with a phone#”. I haven’t gotten any new business from this form of advertising, but my customers appreciate it and I usually get a sleeve of 3 new golf balls, so I’m sure I’ll keep doing it. Plus, me “likey” golf!
  6. Team Sponsor: Name on back of jerseys: I’ve only done this once at the request of a hospital manager. He asked me if I would sponsor his softball team by buying jerseys for the whole team. Since he was using over $20,000 a month in my services, I readily agreed. It only cost $1000 for the jerseys and in fairness I did get my own personal jersey. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do…
  7. Television: I’ve never done it and have never seen another local or regional cleaning company do it. I have seen a number of national restoration companies on late night television touting their flood drying capabilities. I wouldn’t recommend it unless you own a restoration company or a car lot.
  8. Vehicle Lettering: I’ve had my share of calls from potential customers that saw one of our company vehicles and got our phone number from it. This is less about advertising and more about projecting professionalism for your company and your fleet. I can’t really quantify new business from it, but do it anyway.
  9. Business Cards: Ah, the little white card and the power therein. Have them, give them and you will get business!
  10. Direct Mail Marketing: This is the Holy Grail of advertising in my experience! You can “cheaply” mail out post cards, flyers and brochures to your potential targeted market. With the right message and a call to action, you will get an almost predictable 2-4% response rate from potential customers calling you to place a bid on their facilities!


Keep in mind that janitorial advertising done correctly, using the right media, with the right call to action, will produce potential customers asking you to place bids on their facilities!



CleanGuidePro Successful Residential Cleaning bidderDrake

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Janitorial Uniforms – Buying vs Renting

Ask Drake

President and Co-founder of CleanGuidePro

Dear Drake: I’ve had my janitorial business for three years now and have 18 employees. I provide company tee shirts with our name and logo on them. The problem is that it seems like I’m constantly buying tee shirts. When an employee quits, I rarely get the tee shirt back and if I do, it’s so faded and worn that it’s only good for a cleaning rag, not something I’d give to another employee.

What’s your opinion on buying janitorial uniforms versus renting from a uniform company?

Employee uniforms

Answer: Very good question! I’ve been there and have felt your pain, especially in the wallet. First off, let’s come to the consensus that uniforms of some kind are a must! They enhance your image and project professionalism. Over the years I’ve bought and rented (leased) uniforms at some point with varying degrees of success. I’m defining success in this area as being cost effective, easy to administer and keeping my staff looking sharp.

The pro with buying is that you only buy as needed. The con with buying is that shirts aren’t returned, cheap tee shirts fade and wear out quickly and you have very minimal reuse.

The pro with renting is that they give you procedures and a system to follow. You get forms for ordering – employee assignment sheets that your employees sign – stating how many shirts they received and the cost to the employee (taken from their last pay check) if not returned upon termination of their employment. The con with renting is that you’re locked into a contract (up to 3 years, with payments EVERY month) which can be much more expensive over the course of the contract than buying as needed.

Let me share what has served me well over the years. I use a buying system that utilizes the pros of buying and the pros of renting. A simple system (below) that is cost effective, easy to administer and keeps my staff looking professional!

  1. Establish your own Employee Uniform Policy and form. It will state the number, size and type of uniform shirt/shirts they receive. Also, your cost of each shirt and stating that they will turn in their uniform shirts a minimum of three days before their last check is cut or the cost will be deducted from there last check. No exceptions. They sign their acceptance of this policy. They keep a copy and you keep a copy in their employee file. Notice, I didn’t mention pants or shoes. I only provide a uniform polo shirt. Employees are required to purchase their pants and shoes at their own cost. We specify jeans or khakis depending on the location and closed toe shoes.
  2. Buy from a local, established embroidery store that sells tee shirts, polos, button down shirts, caps, custom logos, etc. You support the local economy and usually can purchase as few as two at a time. Don’t buy the plain 100% cotton tee shirts, they fade and wear out quickly. Buy nice, sturdy 100% polyester/synthetic blend polo shirts with company logo. They usually cost about $30 a piece, but these shirts are stain resistant and hold their form and color through hundreds of machine washes (employees are required to wash their own uniform shirts). No one wants to have $90 taken out of their last check over 3 shirts. You’ll get these shirts back 90% of the time. 85% are in good shape and can be reused again and again.
  3. Create a monthly, uniform ordering form. Have a goal of keeping extra shirts of each size in your warehouse stock. Simply order what you need once a month, once a quarter or as needed.

Remember, in business, have a cost effective system and keep it simple!

 

CleanGuidePro Successful Residential Cleaning bidderDrake

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Hiring family and friends in your janitorial business

Ask Drake

President and Co-founder of CleanGuidePro

With the truly, humbling success of CleanGuidePro, we’ve received great questions by companies all over the world about varying topics in the janitorial industry. Allow me to share yet another one of them with you.

Hey Drake: My Janitorial business has grown and I’ve started hiring employees. I’ve got eight part time employees now. Three are family members (my son and one of my sister’s daughter), one is a friend from high school and five are employees unrelated to me. My biggest employee issues by far have been from my family and my friend. I’ll get a call or text saying, “Sorry, can’t make it tonight, I need Friday off, etc.”. Also, when they’re late or do poor quality work and I confront them about it, they don’t seem to care and actually get upset with me. We just landed a new cleaning account and I’ll need to hire three more employees soon. I’ve got more family members that say they’re available to work for me, but I’m reluctant to hire them. What do you think? Should I hire family and friends or not?

Family employees

Answer: This is a great question and one that is near and dear to my heart. The simple answer is “YES” if you do it right and definitely “NO” if you do it wrong!

In the early days, I had my little kids help me (on Friday evenings and Saturdays) clean buildings and pull trash. They got paid with a trip to 7-11 for Slurpees, Ring Pops and Lemonheads and were ecstatic to get it!

As my janitorial business growth continued, I hired well over a thousand employees, including all four of my kids (as well as their boyfriends and girlfriends), my wife, my mom (as honorary CEO), two of my sisters, nieces, nephews, cousins, my mother-in-law, brother-in-law, friends of mine and friends of my family. I’ve also had to (reluctantly, tearfully and prayerfully) fire some of these people that I loved (AND STILL DO). All in all, family and friends have probably been about 4% (40) of my hires.

Hiring family and friends has been an incredible blessing to me by strengthening most relationships, yet it’s been a curse by destroying a few others. I have a close relative that still rarely talks with me due to our unsuccessful working relationship. This remains my biggest personal failure in business…

The bottom line answer to your question is this. Family and friends can be a great asset to your janitorial business, but establish guidelines and procedures for these people just like employees that are not related to you. When you do this, you will find that it strengthens both your business and your family!

 

CleanGuidePro Successful Residential Cleaning bidderDrake

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Janitorial Employee-Supervisor Conflict

Ask Drake

President and Co-founder of CleanGuidePro

With the truly, humbling success of CleanGuidePro, we’ve received great questions by companies all over the world about varying topics in the janitorial industry. Allow me share one of them with you.

Hey Drake: As our janitorial business has grown, we’ve promoted two of our better cleaners to Supervisor positions. Soon afterwards, I had Supervisors telling me to fire certain employees and hire better people. I’ve also had employees calling me and saying that their Supervisor is bad, lazy and plays favorites among other things. What’s the best way to solve conflict between your supervisors and employees?

Supervisor-Employee conflict

Answer: First, let me congratulate you on your growing business! Your question is one that every successful business owner faces at some point in their growth.

Let me make it simple and clear. Your job as the owner is not to be a referee between supervisors and employees, making judgment calls based on some “gut feeling” as to who is right and who is wrong in each and every situation. Rather, your job to establish employee guidelines and criteria in employee handbooks, noting specific job descriptions for each position (from entry level cleaners to supervisory personnel) with clearly spelled out duties and responsibilities. Basically, everyone show know what their duties are and what the consequences are for failing to follow procedure.

Here’s how it works… Every employee should read your company handbook and sign off that they understand the consequences off “no call, no show”, “being late”, “poor quality work”, etc. Each cleaner should be trained and receive a checklist, detailing exactly what duties to perform on their shift. Likewise, each Supervisor should receive training and a checklist detailing exactly what duties they perform on their shift and (in particular) during the “end of night checklist”. This way when conflict arises (and it will!) you can look at which company procedures were violated and make a correct, unbiased decision!

Business 101 “rightly” teaches us that written systems and procedures, with clearly defined job descriptions with a touch of “common sense and love”, eliminates most of our business problems!

 

CleanGuidePro Successful Residential Cleaning bidderDrake

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Janitorial Competition and Fair Market Pricing

Ask Drake

President and Co-founder of CleanGuidePro

With the truly, humbling success of CleanGuidePro, we’ve received great questions by companies all over the world about varying topics in the janitorial industry. Allow me share one of them with you.

Dear Drake: I own a start-up janitorial business in a large U.S. city and I have to compete with large companies to win bids. How does CleanGuidePro Janitorial Bidware address this issue as well the concept of “fair market pricing”?

Answer: First of all, there is no real “set market” or “fair price” chart – i.e. Dallas vs. Chicago – to go by. That’s the wrong way to think anyway…

You need to think in terms of what’s the fair market costs associated with your area. For example, what are the minimum hourly wages, chemicals, state and local payroll tax rates that you have to pay. (By the way, our bidware does all this for you in Step 4 of the bid creation process, the Workloading and Pricing screen.

All size companies (especially the large national and regional ones) have to calculate/count their monthly costs to clean a building FIRST! Only then do you add a fair profit price (which is also suggested by the software).Remember, the bigger companies will always have higher costs than the smaller companies, because they have higher overhead, More mid level supervisors, higher liability insurance, etc…, therefore slimmer profit margins.

Don’t be intimidated by the bigger companies, but rather focus on constantly improving your own company! Keep in mind that the “big companies” were all a start-up once.

 

CleanGuidePro Successful Residential Cleaning bidderDrake