Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Problems That a Start Up Cleaning Company May Face in a Large City

If we take London as our example of where we are going to set up our business as a provider of cleaning services then it should on the face of it be a sound investment. The same could apply to any large city around the developed world.

There has been such an explosion in the number of offices, retail premises, and restaurants all of which will need some form of cleaning that you should be able to gain some sort of foothold in this market. As well as the offices and shops there are all the civic buildings, hospitals, nursing homes, schools and colleges that also have ongoing needs for a variety of cleaning services.

If you do a search amongst the various directories available for cleaning companies in your city you will probably find there are many hundreds already established. For example running a search for commercial cleaners in London on Yell.com yields 653 results, doing the same search for domestic cleaners gives a further 1075 some of whom may of course be duplicates.

It is highly likely that all the larger well established companies will be located on such a directory, but many of the smaller ones will not be. These figures give us a cleaning company about every one half a mile within Greater London.

Those companies that have been found in these directories are already probably quite well established with solid customer bases in their own areas. These are your competitors and starting out is obviously going to be an uphill struggle initially if you are to gain a foothold in this market place.

How could you go about it? You could of course go down the route of picking one type of cleaning and specialising in that. For example you could become a specialist commercial kitchen and ventilation cleaning company.

Because of your location the number of potential customers would seem endless from hospitals to schools, from colleges to restaurants and then there are all the pubs and clubs which have kitchens.

Most of these should require the services of a deep kitchen cleaning company on average once per year. However the competition even in this area is going to be very high and to succeed against your rivals the only way will be to seriously undercut them with your prices.

However we are going through an economic downturn at the moment and most companies are looking for ways of saving money. So even your established competitors are probably lowering their prices slightly in order to retain their customers. Others who cannot do this are going out of business.

Having said that if you are able to operate on very low margins which enables you to undercut everyone around you then you are on to a winner. A word of warning however it is very easy to come up with low quotes which seemingly produce a small return but when you undertake the work any small problem can seriously undermine this and you can quickly find that you have made a loss.

It would on the face of it seem a sensible business model to become very good at one area of cleaning and build a good reputation which will bring in even more customers. In times of a prospering economy then this works reasonably well.

In more difficult economic times however it is often a recipe for disaster. Your potential customers are cutting back and delaying projects so reducing your market place, others want their cleaning done at inviable prices.

So perhaps not a good model to follow at the moment. Those specialist firms which are surviving have generally diversified their cleaning and perhaps this is what you should be looking at. Certainly at the outset be willing to clean everything and anything that way you will have a very diverse customer base.

Whatever area of cleaning you choose to go into your pricing is going to be the key to obtaining work. So what are your competitors up to in this area? Most will be like you and quoting sensible prices and whether you get the work or not depends upon many other factors including an element of being in the right place at the right time.

However some cleaning companies use unethical means in order to secure contracts which should be avoided at all costs. Some will base their quotes for example on using 20 cleaners to perform the task and their quote will in theory show them to be quoting so low they make a loss.

However when it comes to the clean they only put in 15 cleaners who will be expected to do the work of 20. Now the company is able to turn a profit on the clean. The second method is illegal and dangerous and that is to employ the illegal immigrants that flood into the cities. They are a cheap source of labour until you are caught.

Some companies will be able to undercut your prices using a quite legitimate technique. What these do is import quite legal labour and provide them with accommodation, normally very crowded conditions!

However what this enables them to do is to remove these housing costs from their wages. This is a means of not paying the cleaners at least the minimum wage. Consequently they have a very cheap labour force which can substantially reduce their cleaning costs. In order to compete with these you will need huge resources to fund the housing costs and is probably not a practical idea.

None the less despite all these disadvantages that a start up will face it is still possible to gain a foothold by doing something unique. This could be the way you approach customers, the way you find customers, the way you market yourself or the additional value you can provide the customers with.

A novel approach used by some companies when starting out is to provide the customer with a free deep clean prior to the commencement of a daily clean. Others might be free carpet cleaning or a free week every 3 months of the contract. Whatever it is it has to be novel and be financially attractive to the customer.

Whatever your unique selling point may be once you have secured your contract the ongoing cleaning should be maintained at a high standard otherwise the client will very quickly look elsewhere. In these large cities they do not have to look very far either.

By : David_Andrew_Smith

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