Drake's Blog


Janitorial Bid Analysis: At-a-Glance

CleanlyRun Bidware Features

From time to time, we like to highlight some of the system features of CleanlyRun (aka CleanGuidePro) Janitorial Bidware.


The At-a-Glance button:  CleanlyRun‘s Janitorial Bidware includes a speedy — and color-coded — way to spot any high-level bid issues as you navigate the system’s bid creation process.   Specifically, the At-a-Glance button for each bid will turn either Red, Yellow or Green based on step-by-step analysis.


 Bid Status: Good – The At-a-Glance Bid Analysis detected no problems.

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 Bid Status: Warning – The At-a-Glance Bid Analysis detected one or more issues that were flagged as Warnings.

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 Bid Status: Error – The At-a-Glance Bid Analysis detected one or more Errors.

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Good to Know:  The way to make the At-a-Glance button “go green” is for a proposal to pass all of the Bidware’s standard checks.  However, any Warning/Error flags are for your eyes only — they’re not included on the final proposal — so you are free to proceed with a “flagged” bid as you see fit.

For example, the system might flag a bid for having a low Profit Margin, which means that you’d be – statistically speaking – leaving money on the table. (More about Profit Margin here.) You can then choose to edit this flagged bid, or move forward without changing anything; the At-a-Glance button is just there to “offer its opinion”.

Just a little help, at a glance… CleanGuidePro Successful bidder


Janitorial employee theft accusations

In the cleaning business, accusations of janitorial theft are rare, but occasionally, you will get this customer call: “We came in this morning, and widgets were missing from someone’s desk. We’re not trying to accuse anyone, but… only the cleaning people were here last night… so it had to be them.”

Your business has been accused of theft! This is a very serious charge. In fact, it’s #8 (DO NOT STEAL) on the top 10 “DO NOT DO” list, just two below #6 (DO NOT MURDER).

Yikes! How do you handle this situation?

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Years ago, a wise man told me, “Drake, do the right thing, and the right thing will happen.”

When your company receives an accusation, the right way to handle it is to empathize with and listen to your customer, get all the facts, get your staff’s input, ask your customer how they would like you to proceed, and then make a decision. The wrong way is to get haughty, angry or blow up at your customer. All that will accomplish is a lost customer, a lost/diminished reputation, lost revenue and possibly criminal charges — even if your business was falsely accused.

I didn’t say doing the right thing is easy, or even comes naturally — but if you want to keep this customer, you have to remain calm and do right by them. Remember, it’s the foolish person that says everything that’s on their mind. Trust me on this one. I’ve played the fool with my mouth more than once, and the wrong thing happened every time.

With that said, and in the hopes of helping someone who may be new to the janitorial industry, I’ll share a few real-life examples of how I’ve responded to accusations of employee theft during my three decades in business.

  1. Falsely accused of janitorial theft, and vindicated: This is the most common scenario. A customer calls to report that something is missing, and it has to be the cleaning people. You investigate, but soon get a call back noting that the missing item has turned up.

    Actual scenario: A client rep telephoned that she left her purse in her desk, and her wallet was missing. She was positive that it was in her purse, so it had to be taken by my staff. I listened more than I spoke, said I would talk with the staff that had been on duty, and told her I’d get right back to her. My employees that night were an elderly husband-and-wife team that I trusted completely. They vehemently denied even going through her desk, much less taking her wallet. A few days later, I received an apology call when the lady’s wallet was found in her car. The couple was relieved that they’d been vindicated, but they didn’t want to work at that site anymore. I didn’t blame them and assigned them to a different client. I also didn’t try to make my customer feel bad or (openly) get upset. Twenty years later, we still have this account, and it is one of the largest and most loyal accounts that we have.

  2.  Falsely accused of janitorial theft, and couldn’t prove otherwise: This is a tricky one. You don’t think it was your staff, but right or wrong, the cleaner is always the first suspect.

    Actual scenario: The client, a private school, calls to say that about 10 movies are missing from their daycare classes. Can we check to see if our staff took them, or knows what happened to them?  Keep in mind, there are hundreds of kid there, each with backpacks that could easily have the movies in them, but I digress. My staff denied taking them, and I believed them. I said the same to my customer and offered to pay to replace the movies, just to be above reproach.

  3. Simply informed of janitorial theft: This situation is more likely at larger facilities with hundreds of employees. The customer doesn’t call with a direct accusation, just a notification of a situation.

    Actual scenario: The facility manager at a building with more than 1,000 employees calls to let us know that there has been a “trend” developing. Disney trinkets have come up missing from employees’ cubicles.  This building has many employees of its own that work there late into the night after our staff has gone, and there are 24/7 security and cameras everywhere. I don’t think the culprit was one our folks, but alerting our whole staff that all eyes and cameras are on them is a good deterrent. Without accusing anyone, we informed our staff and supervisors there to keep their eyes open. By the way, this client is still a beloved customer, and we have a great relationship with them.

  4. Accused and proven janitorial theft: This has only happened twice to my cleaning company in 28 years. Call it luck, great hiring, or the grace of God –we have been blessed with few occurrences. (I’m going with the grace thing.) I was raised not to air your dirty laundry in public, and I’m a firm believer and practitioner of that philosophy. But because actual theft is so rare and I believe this story will help someone, I’ll share.

    Actual scenario: A customer calls, saying that we need to come in and take a look at a video. We meet and watch a video of a new staff member taking $6 off a desk. (It was a teenager that had been recently hired to pull trash.) I was truly shocked, saddened and disappointed to see this. I listened to our client and asked how they would like me to handle it. Of course, the client wanted the employee off of their campus and wanted the money replaced. They did not want to press charges. The employee was terminated from our company immediately. Our client was gracious in not firing us. They said that we were the best service they’d ever had and didn’t blame us personally for one bad apple. I still felt responsible, but grace does abound.

Some perspective… I take pride in running a company based on integrity, honesty and doing the right thing, always aiming to be above reproach and never giving the appearance of wrongdoing. For starters, my staff is highly screened, background-checked, and instructed not to even take a piece of candy off of someone’s desk (even if it has a “Free Take One” sign on it). And I’m pleased to note that over the years my awesome team has turned in lost wallets, cash, cell phones, diamond rings, credit cards, checks, laptops, iPads, jewelry, and the list goes on and on. Out of thousands of employees spanning three decades, the number of janitorial theft accusations has been minuscule, to say the least. I’ve very proud of these good folks!

CleanGuidePro Successful bidderDrake


Janitorial Profit Margin versus Janitorial Cost Markup. Which to choose?

Not understanding the difference between Janitorial Profit Margin and Janitorial Cost Markup is one of the most common pricing mistakes in the cleaning industry.  I’ve seen way too many new business owners decide to price their janitorial bids solely on Markup – “I’d like to make $500 on this job” – rather consider the Margin of Profitability for the work…

Both terms – Margin and Markup – help you calculate profit, but prioritizing the wrong one could hurt your bottom line.

Let me break it down.
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Margin: (a.k.a. Profit Margin) is the percentage of the final selling price that is profit. In the highly competitive janitorial services industry, Profit Margins can trend low for very large jobs — say, 12 to 15% — but that range is unprofitable for small to medium clients.

Markup: (a.k.a. Cost Markup) is either the (a) Dollar amount above cost, or the (b) Percentage of the cost that you add on to get to a bid price.

So which approach should you use? As a general guideline, it is probably better to focus on your Profit Margin rather than a Cost Markup in a service business. A higher Profit Margin percentage matters more than a higher Cost Markup percentage. For example, a 25% Cost Markup only yields a 20% Profit Margin, which means that your markup isn’t as profitable as it may seem at first glance.

With margins, a 50% Margin means that half the selling price is profit. So, a 50% Margin means there is a 100% Markup — as you have added 100% of the cost price to make the selling price. (With margins, a 100% Margin is only possible if the cost price is zero.) In short, a focus on Profit Margin is more effective when it comes to pricing your janitorial bid.

Of course, situations and customers vary, and the choice to prioritize Margin or Markup is yours. Fortunately, CleanlyRun Janitorial Bidware displays Markup and Margin right next to each other, so you always know what is your Profit Margin’s equivalent Cost Markup — and vice versa.  In addition, we’ll suggest a minimum Profit Margin/Cost Markup for each bid that you can adjust as you see fit.

On a related note, I’ve touched on how the Profit Margins of smaller businesses can be higher than bigger ones, even with a lower Fair Market Price.

That’s enough math for now! 😉

CleanGuidePro Successful bidderDrake


8 Janitorial Cold Calling Tips!

Most people are daunted by the idea of a “Cold Call”. And when I use that phrase, I mean exactly that. A completely “cold” (in person) sales stop (where no one is expecting you). Nevertheless, janitorial cold calling can be a very effective way to generate janitorial bidding opportunities.

There is no substitute for talking to potential customers face to face and personally offering your services. On the downside, it’s time consuming and (can be, at first) uncomfortable. And very expensive if you opt to pay a salesperson to do this for you.

There are tons of books and seminars on this topic, but let me share what’s worked for me for the past 25 years in the janitorial business…

  1. What’s your initial goal?   Initially, it's just to get information; To find out if this facility outsources their janitorial services, or does their cleaning in-house. If they outsource, how can you get an opportunity to place a bid now (or at the time they take normally accept bids)?
  2. Remember, you’re not selling rubber chickens…   I say that to make the point that we’re selling a “need”, not a “want”. (Although, I do actually own a rubber chicken, not because I needed it, but because i wanted it.) Remember that every facility “needs” janitorial services. Only question is, do they outsource it or not. So, don’t be nervous, they literally need you!
  3. What about the “No Soliciting” Sign?   That’s there for the rubber chicken sales guy, not you! I’m not soliciting, I’m only getting information at this point!
  4. What’s my opening statement to this potential customer?   The first person you almost always see and talk to first is the receptionist. When I walk in, the conversation usually goes as follows:.

    *Me: “Hi, I’m Drake, with (company name), could you please help me with some information?”

    *Them: They almost always respond ,”how can I help you?”

    *Me: “Could you please tell me the proper way to get involved in the bidding process for janitorial services here? Is there anyone here I could talk to about that or make an appointment with?”

    Then they'll tell you what you have to do. You might hear, “We take bids next month; Call Mr. So-and-So to make an appointment; Leave me some info and I’ll give it to the person in charge of that”. Then follow up accordingly!

  5. Keep it “cost effective”.   Do the sales calls yourself! If you have an effective Direct Mail Marketing program in place, you won't need to go out very often anyway! Salespeople are expensive and cost you on day one. Even the huge national companies use them sparingly and rely mainly on marketing and open bid calls.
  6. Best time of day:   Usually between 8am-11am and 1pm-4pm. If you do get a chance to meet with the decision maker that day, avoid lunchtime and the end of day.
  7. Be prepared!   Similar to pre-bid walkthrough tips. Dress professionally , have your cards and brochures on hand. Be ready in case you’re asked to walk the building right then. It does happen a lot!
  8. Practice makes perfect!   An old adage, but so true. The more cold calls that you make and the more time that you put in, the better you're going to get at it.

Try and have some fun with your cold calls! Relax, be friendly, meet some people, make some contacts… And remember that even “No’s” are a learning opportunity. But you will hear “Yes” too, and when you do, wow them with your CleanGuidePro proposal!



Top Ten Tips – The Pre-Bid Janitorial Walk Through

In over 25 years in the cleaning business, I’ve participated in many (pre-bid) janitorial walk through groups and I’ve witnessed numerous bids that were lost before they were even presented.

The pre-bid walk through is your chance to shine. Make that happen by following these top ten tips:

  1. Look the part, dress professionally. Shirts with company logos are perfect and project a positive image. Or at least wear a nice shirt. Shine the shoes, comb the hair, iron the pants, etc. No shorts or flip flops. Leave the lip rings at home. And, oh yeah, If you’ve got a neck tattoo, wear a turtleneck. But all kidding aside, perception is reality… If you don’t present a professional business image, no one is going to entrust their building’s image to you.
  2. Be prepared. Have more than one working pen. Have a small working calculator and a pad for notes and calculations.
  3. Silence your phone, or better yet, turn it off. Your ringing phone says to the person who is showing you around their facility, on their time, that this walk through is not that important to you.
  4. The Be-attitudes: Be professional. Be polite. Be nice. Be friendly. Be thankful. Be yourself.
  5. Do a little homework beforehand. View their website, do a Google search. Know a little something about the facility that you’re bidding on. It always helps.
  6. Read any pre-bid package information extensively. Don’t ask questions that someone took the time and effort to spell out for you. Don’t be “that guy/girl” that asks – in front of multiple bidders – “um, who provides the trash bags, you or me?”. How will you feel when the facility manager responds, “That’s in the pre-bid packet you received. Did you not read it”? And what do you think the facility manager will be feeling about you?
  7. Do ask questions that aren’t spelled out in a pre-bid packet. Like, who provides the paper goods, trash liners, soaps, etc.
  8. Listen carefully to what your prospect says during the walk through. Take notes. Let them tell you what they’re looking for in a cleaning company. Like, “the last company never changed the can liners” or “they wouldn’t take care of issues quickly”, etc. And make sure that you take care of this customer if when you get the winning bid!
  9. Ask your prospect to let you walk the building on your own after the walk through to make some calculations, review some areas and take some notes. It helps you tremendously and tells them you’re thorough. I’ve never had any prospect tell me no.
  10. After the walk through, thank your prospect. Tell them that you appreciate the time they took to show you around. It’s amazing how many people fail to do this properly.


Now head over to your CleanlyRun Janitorial Bidware account (or free 30 day trial account) and continue to put your best foot forward… In just a few minutes, you’ll be guided through the creation of an extremely professional and accurate proposal that’s ready to deliver to your (impressed) customer.