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Cleaning Management Training

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Gain knowledge about cleaning management

Q. Is there a way I can monitor the cleaning quality of workers who must clean public telephone booths?  

A. You could require the cleaner to take a cell phone camera shot when finished. Take one of the telephone, one of the inside of the booth, and two outside the booth, and text the photos to you along with a time/date stamp. Obviously, you will need something on the booth that will clearly identify it. The next best (though more expensive) thing is to have someone inspect and document the cleaning soon after each booth is cleaned. 

Q. Could a green cleaning service be incorporated as a non-profit or for profit?   

A. I doubt if you could qualify as a non-profit corp. unless you are an educational institution, a research foundation, or a religious organization. The Washington, DC web site is http://brc.dc.gov/nonprofit/nonprofit.asp. They indicate you can incorporate for a fee of $185 and must have $1,000 on balance in your bank account. They also offer basic details about preparing your articles of incorporation.

Also, check to see if you can file without an attorney. Trade name registration is $50 and they have a kit you can download. If your assets and net worth are still minimal and you are not concerned about litigation, you could set up shop in most cities for under $100 as a sole proprietor. Sole proprietor registration usually takes 10 minutes. Then, as you grow and have assets to protect, you can switch to a corporation. But, it’s always good to check with an attorney to see if you have unknown exposure for your intended operations.
 

Q. What should I check out if I want to purchase an existing cleaning service? 

A. In addition to analyzing and verifying all the financial data, I would appraise the non-tangible value of the good-will. Accounts come and go. If you are serious about the business, visit the largest and most profitable accounts at night (sign a non-compete, non-disclosure contract if necessary). Determine if any customers are high maintenance and how smoothly the operation runs.

The next step would be to ask the seller if you could go with him on a customer visit. If things are progressing, mention to the customer you are considering working in and managing the business including his account. Once you have the customer’s confidence, tell him you are purchasing the business. Communicate with integrity, yet remember: a business divorce and re-marriage often functions best when performed in stages.

Prior to the purchase; evaluate customer fit. Does rapport occur naturally? Does the current service level match customer expectations? Have past QC inspection reports been satisfactory? What complaints have been received in the past? Have customer service issues been handled in a timely manner? Why are margins low? Is the company known for low-ball pricing?

Find out what makes the business tick. Ask for a 90-day guarantee from the seller that each account will switch over or the purchase price will be reduced. That puts pressure on the seller to work for a smooth transition.
 Consider hiring a mentor who will work with you personally. See our Contractor Training Program. 

Q. Can you tell me about bonding that may be required? 

A. A fidelity bond covering your staff is a smart investment. It is inexpensive; normally under $150 in most cities for 5 workers covering up to $10,000 in theft. The kicker is that it only pays upon conviction, which is not always easy to obtain. Still, having bonding is often the magical key that allows you to obtain a customer's keys and provides a better night’s sleep. Consider hiring a mentor who will work with you personally. See our Contractor Training Program.

Low-ball bids 

Q.  How can I make ANY profit when business owners charge so little for accounts? To compete, the cost BARELY covers overhead and a livable wage to the worker; let alone myself! Is there a sq. ft. amount to look at?

A.  It's perplexing to see how some contractors bid so low and still stay in business. I suspect if they really knew in advance how little they would net, they might reconsider.
 
So, here is a tip. If you know the price is way below where it should be, suggest a partial clean several nights a week. A partial clean omits dusting, spray-and-wipe, and detailed vacuuming. Generally, this can reduce the price 25%-35% on a given night.

Our JanBid software calculates this for you. Secondly, always calculate your projected monthly net income on every bid. Determine how many hours it will take you to service the account (train, inspect, bring supplies, etc.).

Ask yourself if this hourly rate (monthly billing divided by monthly management hours) will earn your desired monthly income. There are some jobs you cannot afford to do.


Quality Control Inspections

Q.
  When performing or creating a cleaning audit, how do you determine how many areas to audit? Is it by sq. footage? If so, how many sq. ft. per area audited? 

A.  A cleaning audit could collect and process data for worker productivity (sq/ft cleaned per hour), safety and OSHA conformance, itemized cleaning costs, best practices, product and equipment effectiveness, review for outsourcing or bringing back in-house services, or quality scores, among other things.
 
A quality inspection system could vary depending upon the frequency of inspections that you want to maintain. Probably the most common frequency is once a month of all cleanable areas in a facility, or a minimum of one inspection per FTE (full-time equivalent) per month. Time allotted can vary with the coverage. It will take longer to run an inspection with 25 or more items and a scoring of 1-10 then with a simple
inspection of pass or fail for 10 items or cleaning tasks.
 
It’s not unusual to see government contracts of over 1 million sq/ft requiring a fulltime quality inspector. This is to ensure conformance to contract. One FTE QA person is usually able to inspect all of the employee’s quality performance once a month in that 1m sq/ft facility.
 
New workers might require an inspection more often, until their performance reaches the desired skill level. I must admit that it has been close to 40-years since I last studied random sampling, standard deviations, and confidence levels. Basically statistical sampling requires a certain representative sample compared to the whole population size to arrive at the desired confidence interval or level (+ or – percent of accuracy).
 
There is an online calculator that allows you to enter the population sample size (i.e. number of desks cleaned per month) and the proposed sample size to view the calculated confidence interval. Basically, the larger the sample size (increased inspection frequencies), the higher the confidence level.
 
One of the objectives of cleaning inspections is to locate deficiencies that need to be corrected. Another is to find reason to praise workers for a good job. The required focus is the area cleaned by a particular individual or team, and not square footage. A savvy contract administrator or cleaning manager might maintain monthly records indicating a quality percent score for every individual and/or team.
 
In practice, it is all about customer satisfaction and contract compliance. You end up inspecting areas often enough, plus retraining and re-motivating workers, to achieve the desired quality inspection scores needed to reach and exceed high customer satisfaction levels. Or, in some government contracts, you inspect to avoid financial deductions for non-performance of contract.

Hourly Cleaning Rates

Q.
  What is the average hourly rate charged for industrial/janitorial services in the midwest? Or, per square ft? 

A
.  Midwestern billing rates on the high end for small accounts can run from $30.00 an hour and $.20 a square foot per month for a 2,000 square foot office cleaned once a wee, down to a $14.50/hr. billing rate and $.07 cents for a million square feet cleaned nightly. Everything else will likely fall within these parameters.
What is the best way to find good subcontractors? Also, do you have a good source to obtain an agreement with subcontractors? Finding good subcontractors can be challenging. You are never certain about their integrity, cleaning and management skills, level of quality, and dependability until they have performed a few jobs for you.

One contractor who is part of our network reported excellent results by placing employment ads on craigslist.com. A critical aspect is to qualify potential subs by checking their references. Next, plan to give them a test job that you carefully monitor. Watch closely and evaluate their performance capabilities. You might decide that they are not the people you want to partner with.  We have subcontract agreement forms which are a part of our Independent Contractor Training manual.

Cleaning Equipment Selection

Q
.  What type of equipment is needed to clean a 45,000 sq. ft. building? How many machines to buff and vacuum and strip, etc.

A.  There are too many unknown variables to give you an exact answer. For example, will it be day cleaning or night, full-time or part-time crews, team or zone cleaning, and do you know the estimated production rate as related to the cleaning specifications. Will the dusting and detail work along with wall-to-wall vacuuming be required daily, every other day, or weekly?

If you hired part-time workers and they cleaned as a team, say at 3,200 sq. ft. per hour, you would need 5 workers cleaning for 2.81 hours each. If one team used 3 workers and the other team used 2 workers you would need two complete sets of equipment. That would normally include: dust mop, mop bucket, press and mop, trash barrel on wheels, vacuum, and all the hand cleaning tools to stock two janitorial supply closets.

To be on the safe side, provide some back-up equipment such as an extra vacuum. If it is a medical building, then additional restrooms would likely require a janitor cart for restocking disposables and holding cleaning supplies. And, you may want to invest in a sprayatizer for spray cleaning of restrooms at least once a week.

Depending upon the floor and carpet care frequencies, you might borrow the required equipment from another building. You would probably need a carpet extractor, floor machine for bonnet/encapsulation cleaning and strip and refinishing, wet vac, and a burnisher, along with all the required supplies. If there are a lot of halls and fewer desks, a self-contained walk-behind extractor would speed up the process. A 20" floor machine with a solution feed tank is great for encap and scrub and recoat, and a 20" electric burnisher is probably about right. A two person project floor/carpet team works best. And, more than likely one Saturday a month would be sufficient to maintain the carpet and hard floor surfaces.

The pre-planning process basically answers these questions: “What has to be done, how long will it take, what supplies are required for each person or crew to accomplish the job, and how many crews are required to clean the building in the allotted time”.

Raising Cleaning Prices

Q.  I have some accounts that I been cleaning for over three years. The price on some of these was based on me paying my employees $8.00 per hour. Now, with me giving the employees a yearly raise, I have to pass this down to my customers. And other accounts are bid too low. How do I go about raising my prices. I have a big fear that they will look elsewhere if I do. Thank you.

A.  First of all, I’m sure you know the timing is not advantageous to raise prices, especially when business owners are looking for ways to reduce operating costs (including janitorial services). With that said, understand that you also risk opening up the contract for competitive bids.

If you feel some of your contracts are not turning a required profit, there are some strategies you could pursue. Make sure the quality and service you provide is superior and the customer is pleased with your overall service. Then, you could explain that your starting employee wage is now 30% below the current prevailing wage for your area (see http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oessrcma.htm#C).

Out of fairness, you want to keep up with the increased cost of living by paying your workers what they need in order to survive. Then, mention how much you would like to bill as an increase to help out your crew and ask the contact if he or she thinks management would be open to that increase.

This approach is risky, yet palatable. So, if you feel an increase is necessary, be prepared for some tough negotiations. If possible, offer some perceived value-added services that would cost you little or nothing and still be a perk to the customer.

Cleaning Franchise

Q.  Should I purchase a cleaning franchise or start on my own?

A.  Normally franchises that do not procure accounts for you, charge a low monthly royalty (often below 10%). They can be high-profile companies that generate leads with ongoing TV advertising.

Franchises that secure accounts and resell them to you, typically charge three times the monthly gross for the acquisition fee. And, their monthly royalty can run 20%-30% on top of that.

The problem with allowing someone else to bid the accounts for you is that you could purchase an account and then end up earning minimum wage for all of your hard work. So, if you do sign up with a franchise, make sure you purchase janitorial bidding software to determine in advance if the account is under-bid.

Even though the franchise brokers may take a majority of your profit, they do offer the service of procuring accounts for you. If you lack marketing skills, business skills, or have a challenge with the English language, then a franchise broker could be an option. You can always Google “litigation” followed by the franchise’s name to discover if they are experiencing integrity problems.

Most contractors who invest in a cleaning contractor training program and secure their own contracts, immensely enjoy keeping 100% of the revenues. With this scenario, you answer to no one except the customer. To obtain training on starting your own business, Google “cleaning contractor training programs”. These programs can help you with the marketing, bidding, and management.

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