Operating a minority business is not an easy thing and can be one of the most challenging barriers when operating any business, cleaning or otherwise.
A business owner must analyze the demographics of the area or areas in which they're conducting business and build accordingly in terms of specific hiring practices, training and education for minority employees.
There are some geographical areas that are accepting of minorities and, unfortunately, there are those that are not.
Nonetheless, this should not change the way in which one hires, as it is discriminatory, immoral and against the law to not hire a minority over such an observation.
Rather, one should hire based on the level of skill and knowledge an individual has and on the basis that the individual has the capacity to learn and develop new skills.
When dealing with specific contracts, employees have a great deal of interaction with the clientele's management and their employees.
Therefore, one needs to know how to communicate and interact in a compliant manner, as this is important to gain good rapport.
Whether an employee speaks English as his/her first language or second language, it is always important to position an individual based on their strengths.
For example, if an employee speaks English as a second language and doesn't speak it fluently, it is not recommended to place such an employee in a position where he/she would have to communicate with the clientele's management on a regular basis.
Minority cleaning services are on the rise in the vast majority of the country, and there are many opportunities for these companies to get an upper hand in the industry.
Minority-based businesses should look into getting their company certified as a Minority Business Enterprise (MBE).
This certification opens up many doors within the community in which they conduct business, as there are different entities of business that are required to contract out to a certain percentage of MBEs per year, and it is an invitation for minority businesses to compete with the rest for upcoming bids.
As a building service contractor (BSC), I've noticed that the cleaning and maintenance industry has taken a downturn in profitability.
One of the main causes to this effect is that minority-based companies, as start-ups, enter the industry with the wrong intentions or simply with a lack of knowledge about how to price and contend with the competition without compromising profitability, longevity and the industry as a whole.
With my company having its main office branch located in Miami, Florida, I've encountered many instances where a minority individual decides to start a cleaning company with the intention of securing employment for themself.
For example: Instead of entering bids that will be suitable for their company's operation, they enter bids that are suitable to compensate themself as an employee of the company for which they are entering the bid.
Over the years, this has become an ongoing trend that has downgraded the cleaning and maintenance industry and left many BSCs with little or no options.
Ultimately, they are forced to either pull out of the business or branch off to different sectors, as remaining a BSC alone will not be sufficiently profitable.
We, as minority cleaning services, need to think bigger in terms of what it is we are doing and educate ourselves and others about how we can still be competitive without settling for less than accepted industry standards — regarding both money and quality.
We do this by trial and error, yes, but we also do this by observing and analyzing our industry and utilizing the resources given to us as minority businesses.
There are certain types of clients that gravitate toward using our services, including office buildings, schools, restaurants, medical facilities, retail and department stores, grocery stores, management companies and contractors.
Some of the above clients contract out on a larger scale to national companies that are able to take on the majority of their locations, as opposed to local companies that are only able to take on one or two of their locations.
Little do our clients know, by contracting out to national companies, it devalues the quality of services rendered.
In the end, the work still gets contracted out to the local companies as a subcontract for less money, limiting profitability and making it more difficult for the local company to remain a viable operation.
This leads to poor quality and low worker production by the subcontractor and higher employee turnover.
Use What You Have To Your Advantage
As a minority cleaning service, obtaining the necessary capital to graduate your operation to that of larger scale companies can seem almost impossible.
However, depending on your circumstance, there are low-interest loans offered to eligible minorities.
Nonetheless, the process of getting to the top is never an overnight thing; it takes time, patience, hard work and perseverance.
When marketing your minority cleaning service, do just that.
Do not hide the fact that you are a minority cleaning service thinking that you would gain some sort of advantage by doing so.
The truth is that you're at more of an advantage by stating that you are a minority cleaning service.
Start by offering your services to other minority-owned businesses, as they are always supportive of upcoming minority companies.
Request for proposals (RFPs) should always include a copy of your MBE certification because this is proof that you're a minority-based company doing business in the city or county where your potential client is located.
Last — but certainly not least — get involved within your community.
There's no better way to gain recognition than by lending a helping hand.
Simple things like offering your time or services to local charities will get your company noticed.
And, aside from the publicity and altruism, that helping hand will be offered back to you.
Omar Russell is the president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Economic Cleaning Solutions LLC. Founded in 2009 in Tallahassee, Florida, when he was only 26 years old, Russell now operates out of his Miami Beach headquarters, one of three office locations. Economic Cleaning Solutions, a leading minority janitorial company, serves commercial businesses and facilities throughout the state of Florida. Members of Building Service Contractors Association International (BSCAI), more information about Economic Cleaning Solutions can be found at www.ECSFla.com or by calling (305) 467-7443.