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Training / Building Service Contractors / Management And Training
March 2013 Bidding And Estimating

Gazing Toward The Horizon

A brief on some of the hot topics facing contractors now and how they will affect business in the months to come.

March 18, 2013
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As I travel the country performing third-party certification audits for the Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS) and CIMS-Green Building (GB) program, I see the best of the best operations and organizations.

If you aren’t on your way to becoming one in that elite club, it won’t be long before you aren’t able to compete in a profitable manner or bid on the accounts that are worth having.

  • Pricing and production rates

Prices are holding firm or slipping by a slight amount due to economic pressures in all industries.

Customers are definitely expecting, demanding and getting more for the money they pay.

You can either go along with it and find a way to do the work and still make a profit or you will see the account going out to bid.

State and federal accounts are taking the biggest hit right now as they prepare for cutbacks — whether sequestration becomes a reality or not.

Personally, I expect the politicians will weasel out of reality and kick the can down the road for another 60 to 90 days.

  • Processes and technology

The good thing about cutbacks is that they force us or, depending on how you see it, allow us to find better ways to do things.

We generally don’t like it, but contractions in the economy make us stronger and more efficient because we have to act in a particular manner to survive.

The reality is that new and better processes and technology are available to make you more competitive in the marketplace, but you have to know about them and be willing to invest in bringing them into your business.

  • Making the big bucks

Basic cleaning services are only your foot in the door.

In many accounts, customers are making carpet and hard floor care, window cleaning and emergency services a separate bid item.

If you don’t get yourself up-to-speed to bid on and retain these and other higher profit services, it will become increasing difficult for you to maintain acceptable profit margins.

Examples of other instances where I see companies and individuals providing high profit offerings are what I refer to as specialty services and the repair and restoration of all types of surfaces.

This includes such thing as stone and wood maintenance, restoration and repair.

Any surface in a building that gets damaged can be repaired; the key is training someone to provide these specialized services and being able to recognize an opportunity when you see one.

Another consideration is being able to market the services to existing customers and potential clients.

The repair and restoration of damaged or worn hard surfaces is a growing market.

When money gets tight, managers are more likely to repair than replace items, especially if they can save precious budget dollars.

Luckily, there isn’t much in a building that you can’t repair if you know how to do it.  

Emerging Trends

Aside from some of the major themes, there are several additional developments that are sure to shape the future of the commercial cleaning industry.

  • Green continues to grow

Sustainability and green cleaning issues aren’t going away.

In fact, if you are not implementing sustainable processes and green cleaning products in all your accounts, you are missing an opportunity to reduce costs, lead the way and do the right thing for the environment and future generations.

  • Hard floors are increasing in popularity

Stone, wood, concrete, ceramic tile and luxury vinyl tile are all growing in use in all types and sizes of commercial and residential facilities.

If you aren’t up-to-speed on how to clean, maintain and restore these surfaces, the customer will take the work away from you and give the profit to your competition.

  • Carpeting goes kaput

Wall-to-wall carpeting is on the way out.

Modular carpet tiles and area rugs are fast becoming the norm, even in commercial buildings that have carpeting in office areas.

In the home, carpeting is headed to the bedroom only, and the trend is soft-face yarns and deep pile made of recycled plastic bottles, corn extract and renamed polyester products.

In my opinion, these products will be problematic within a couple of years due to changes in texture and appearance aggravated by aggressive vacuuming, high foot traffic and a lack of regular maintenance and restorative cleaning.

  • Training is our only hope

Ongoing training is the only hope you have to compete in an increasingly competitive and technical profession.

If you don’t strive every day to improve the services that your company provides and to raise the proficiency and professionalism of the people who do the cleaning, it’s only a matter of time before there won’t be any profit left in the accounts you have.

That’s it for this month.

If you have a minute, drop me a line and let me know what you’re thinking at or at (206) 849-0179.

Best of luck and keep it clean out there.

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