At first glance, a cleaning service seems like an incredibly easy and low-cost business to start: How hard can it be to find someone who's willing to pay you to take care of household chores?
There's no question that the market for home cleaning is huge, but the challenge lies in making yourself stand out as a high-quality, trustworthy service provider.
"People think you just need a bucket and mop to get started, but that's not really true," said Meg Roberts, president of cleaning-service franchise Molly Maid. "You're not in the cleaning business; you're in the customer-service business. People have different ideas of what cleanliness is, and if you're not interested in always making the customer happy, this is not the industry for you."
One of the first decisions you'll need to make about your business is whether you're using your own cleaning products or those of your clients. Some customers are particular about the products used in their homes and may ask you to clean with items they've purchased, but if you and your staff use your own supplies, you'll need to figure out an economically smart method of replenishing them.
"Mobile workforce businesses often struggle with figuring out the right way to supply their workers with enough money to cover company costs while limiting the exposure of theft," said Toffer Grant, founder and CEO of prepaid business Visa provider PEX Card. "Since most of a cleaning business's work is done out of the office, you need the right operational support and cash-management tools."
Grant noted that many PEX clients who run cleaning services request receipts from employees when they pick up more supplies. Even if your business doesn't have many employees, keeping meticulous records of purchases and product prices can help you maintain a good overhead budget. You can also save money on fuel expenses by efficiently scheduling your route, Roberts added.
You may be able to handle your cleaning service on your own in the beginning, but as your business grows, you'll probably need to expand your staff. While a person doesn't necessarily need any special skills or education to know how to clean a home, the individuals you hire to work for you should be committed to doing an excellent job.
"The quality of the staff you hire is a key component to success," Roberts told Business News Daily. "They're out there representing your brand, so they should take a great deal of pride in their work."
As a business that travels to its clients' homes, you'll also have to tackle the issue of accepting payments. In today's high-tech world, mobile credit card processors like Square are a top choice for businesses like cleaning services.
"As smartphone adoption has increased, so too has the number of ways to accept payment via mobile device," Grant said. "Businesses like the idea of closing up receivables by taking credit card payments on the spot. There is a fee, but for some business owners, getting paid faster is the only way to ensure payroll needs are met and money is being used immediately to grow and continue operating."
As Roberts pointed out, being in the cleaning business means being in the customer service business. Building up a relationship of trust with your clients is of utmost importance, and the best way to do that is to go the extra mile for them.
"Molly Maid's success comes from the fact that we put a lot of time and energy into taking care of our clients," Roberts said. "At the end of the day, it's how comfortable customers feel with the company they're entrusting with the keys to their home."