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Management And Training

Bidding And Estimating Cleaning Services

January 11, 2012
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During my 30-plus years in the cleaning industry, I have found that nothing generates more interest than the subject of bidding and estimating the cost of cleaning services.

I recall teaching a seminar on bidding and estimating some 20 years ago, and one attendee had over 30 years'' experience.

Being impressed that he''d come to my class, I asked him why he, with all his years of experience, would attend the seminar.

His response was, "I can''t take a chance that one of my competitors will know more about bidding and estimating than I do."

That hit home with me as to how important bidding and estimating is to everyone in the industry.

Over the last five years, myself and other International Custodial Advisors Network (ICAN) members have answered questions submitted to the Ask the Experts (ATEX) section of, and the most common questions asked relate to bidding.

Due to the increasingly competitive nature of business, I believe that the need to keep up to date with every aspect of one''s job or business is even more important today than it was a few short years ago.

Start At The Bottom

To lay the groundwork for this column, let''s cover some of the basics.

Then, each month, I''ll deal with a different aspect of this intriguing, important and potentially confusing subject.

I''d like to think of this as your column, which means you have to communicate with me so I know what you want to know more about.

I will do my best to deal with the subjects you tell me are most important and of value to you.

Feel free to get in touch via phone or e-mail, as my contact info will appear at the end of each column.


Bidding and estimating is the process of using information to determine or estimate what it will cost to clean a building, area, surface or space.


Cleaning is a competitive business; if your price is too high, you won''t get any work and you will lose accounts to someone who will do the work for less money.

As a departmental manager or facilities director, if your costs are too high, you are at risk of being replaced with someone who is better able to control costs or the work your department does will be at risk of being taken over by an independent contractor who can do the work at less cost.


Preparing a bid can be done manually — the old fashioned, time-consuming way — or with the aid of software and a computer.


If you don''t keep up with changes in why we clean, what we clean and how we do it, as well as enhancements in equipment, procedures and chemicals that allow you to do a better job in less time, you will not be as competitive as someone who has kept up with these changes.


Things are going to continue to change, and they will change even faster in the future than they do today.

If you don''t change with your industry and your customers'' needs, you will not be competitive in the marketplace.


It''s not just about being able to clean something; you must be competitive or you won''t be successful.

No one wants to pay more for cleaning services than they have to.

Buying cleaning services is like shopping for groceries: You look for the best product at the best price.


The list of the things that impact the cost of cleaning is almost endless.

What we often look for are exceptions.

Is there something that will drive the cost up or down beyond the norm?

If so, we must account for it in our bid or we won''t generate as much profit, our costs will be excessively high or we will lose money.

This Month''s Resource

ISSA''s 540 Cleaning Times: A common source of production rates available as a book or software.

In my opinion, you will need to reduce the times listed by 15 percent to 20 percent if you want to be competitive in today''s marketplace.

Available from ISSA for a less than $20, this is a good resource that everyone should have available on their desk.

Bill Griffin is president of ICAN and owner of Cleaning Consultant Services Inc. ICAN is a non-profit association comprised of industry professionals providing free consultation services through the Cleaning Management Institute (CMI). Comments and questions about bidding and estimating are encouraged: (206) 849-0179;

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