Don’t miss these tips for growing a cleaning business when the economy isn’t working in your favor.
Starting and growing a cleaning business has its ups and downs, as you’re probably aware. Most business owners take on a variety of responsibilities and duties that they weren’t expecting. One day you’re mopping floors and taking out garbage, the next, you’re wearing a button-up shirt and doing walkthroughs with prospective clients.
Of course, that’s just the public work. Behind the scenes, you’re making schedules, filing hiring paperwork, sending invoices, tracking payroll hours, and all the other tasks required to keep your business going. Still, there’s potential for a solid career running your own commercial cleaning business. And you can learn all the business administration things you may not already know.
Certainly, there’s a learning curve. And while it may not be easy to expand your business, you can experience steady growth if you don’t mind putting in the work. There’s just one exception: growing a cleaning business during an economic recession comes with some unique challenges. Like any challenges, though, there are ways to work through or around them.
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Let’s talk about recessions
Economic recessions are scary. There’s no question about it. Depending on how intense a recession is, many businesses find that their costs increase, it’s more difficult to get supplies, and their own customers are cutting back, leading to decreased revenue.
On average, a recession happens about every 6.5 years and lasts somewhere around 10 months. However, many of us are familiar with both the mortgage crisis and recession that began in 2008, as well as the Covid-19 recession in 2020. And we also know that the circumstances, severity, and length of these two recessions were very different.
In other words, a recession won’t hit every business or every part of the economy in the same way. This is an important factor in thinking about growing a cleaning business when the economic outlook is dismal. Let’s look at some tips to help your business during a recession, and you’ll see why that matters.
Growing a cleaning business when times are tight
1. Don’t panic. Yes, it’s easy to say, and difficult to avoid. It’s also important to have a clear picture of what’s actually happening in your local economy and with the businesses you serve. Then, instead of panicking, you can form a plan.
2. Diversify your offerings. Diversification is generally a good tip for growing a cleaning business, but it’s especially helpful during a recession. The more services and specialties you offer, the more opportunities you have to expand.
3. Look for accounts not impacted by economic conditions. Again, not all businesses will be impacted the same way by an economic recession. Office buildings may shut down during a deep recession, but educational facilities will remain open (and need janitorial services). Hospitals and medical facilities need cleaning services no matter what’s happening. These can be difficult accounts to get, but they’re excellent sources of steady revenue
4. Plan ahead. It’s true you don’t know when a recession is coming, so planning ahead won’t help as much during a recession. But if you’re thinking about growing a cleaning business, it’s helpful to make plans for potential future recessions and worst-case scenarios. What will happen if half of your clients leave in the middle of your expansion? What if people ask for lower prices? How will you run your business if you have to make drastic cuts in expenses?
5. Get social. You can’t expand your business if no one knows who you are. Yes, social media does take time, but it’s free marketing, and an easy way to get your business name out there. One of the biggest tips to consider here, however, is that you won’t get much traction by only promoting yourself. Join conversations, promote other local businesses, support your local school groups, offer cleaning tips, and so on.
6. Maximize your schedule. Payroll is one of the trickiest parts of growing a cleaning business. You need employees, and you need to pay them, of course. You also need to keep your bank account positive. Take advantage of software solutions (like Janitorial Manager!) to keep your schedule as efficient as possible.
7. Watch your product and supply expenses. There are ways to save on products and supplies. Whether ordering in bulk, diluting solutions correctly, or closely tracking inventory, this is usually an excellent place to cut costs without impacting your team or customers.
8. Focus on customer service. Excellent customer service is the key to success in any economic condition. However, it’s essential in a recession.
9. Maintain high-quality services. As tempting as it can sometimes be to cut back on the little details when times are tight, you’ll stand out and find more success when you continue to amaze your clients.
10. Ask for referrals. Word-of-mouth is one of the best ways to gain new clients. So don’t be afraid to ask for referrals when you’re growing a cleaning business. A few good referrals could be just the boost you need to reach your goals.
11. Don’t compete on price. You’ve heard this from us before. If you compete on price, there is always someone who can go lower. You can, however, compete on value. If you offer five-star service and quality results, that’s your selling point – not low prices. If you specialize in cleaning LEED-certified buildings, that’s value, even if it isn’t at the lowest price.
12. Offer long-term contract discounts. This might seem to conflict with the previous tip, but we’re approaching this with a different attitude. The goal of a discount with a long-term contract is to create a winning situation for both you and your prospect. They get, for example, a 10% discount on a six-month contract, while you have reliable revenue for the same contract period. This helps stabilize your schedule. And if you consider the cost of potentially losing this client and signing another, you’re still ahead. You’ll need to work the numbers to figure out the specifics.
One thing worth adding and considering, as well, is that most people don’t plan to expand their business during a recession. That means you won’t have as much competition while you’re growing a cleaning business. Just proceed carefully, plan thoughtfully, and keep your eye on the goal.
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