No two buildings are exactly the same; proposals should be customized to meet the specific needs of each potential customer.
A price estimate being prepared for a small office will require simple calculations and a short written proposal and agreement, possibly two to five pages, outlining when and what will be done and how much it will cost.
When bidding on a larger building or property that requires different levels of service for specific areas and surfaces, the proposal will require research as to exactly what must be done and when.
Lengthy calculations may be necessary to determine how many hours it will take, followed by negotiations to arrive at a price acceptable to the customer and the contractor.
Such a bid may contain dozens of pages of typed information separated into various sections that fill one or more three-ring binders.
The bid proposal should be in proportion to the complexity, size and value of the project; overdoing or underdoing it can take you out of the running for the account.
Regardless of contract size and value, your response should be accurate, timely, professional and competitive.
Unless it''s an extremely small account, writing the price on the back of your business card simply isn''t acceptable in today''s professional marketplace, and indicates you gave the project little thought or concern.
Gather The Facts And Figures
Do not attempt to submit a bid without first making a complete building survey.
Such information will help you prepare the service information the customer requests and/or help you price additional work without having to go back at a future date to measure carpet, floors, windows, etc., for special requests or additional service.
A set of blueprints will make bidding much easier and more accurate.
For speed and accuracy, use a measuring wheel, tape measure or a sonic measuring device to verify any measurements provided by the customer.
Conduct your survey in an organized manner, starting on the top floor and working toward the basement.
Make sure what your customer has in mind — for example, whether trashcan liners and restroom supplies are being furnished — is included in the contract or is noted as billable extras.
Are there any exceptions to the usual duties?
Make detailed notes and do not rely on your memory alone; it''s not as good as you think.
Ask the potential clients if they intend to furnish cleaning frequency specifications or if they want you to submit specification for their building.
If they provide the specifications, study them thoroughly to make sure you do not miss anything in your building survey.
It is also a good idea on larger properties to make several tours of the building on different days and at different times.
This will help ensure you don''t miss anything and will give you a better understanding of the customer''s actual needs and what you''ll have to deal with if you are awarded the contract.
On small jobs — typically below $1,000 per month — it is not as critical; if you want to make a profit on large jobs, it is.
A Whirlwind Tour
During your tour, make detailed notes as to areas that may present special needs that will drive up your labor and supply costs.
If possible, arrange to tour the building after it has been cleaned, but before the workday begins.
Also, take another tour of the building at the end of a workday to see exactly what level of resoiling you will be expected to remove each night.
Also, ask about times throughout the year when extra "showplace" cleaning may be required for special occasions, as this will take additional time and resources.
During the tour, check all janitor closets to see if any useful information such as job descriptions, timecards, work schedules, etc., has been left lying around.
The information can prove useful, but needs to be verified by your own measurements and observations, as does any other information provided by the customer, including square footages, wall locations and surfaces, even if shown on blueprints.
Estimating job times should never be accomplished using only standardized tables, as they represent average cleaning times.
Variables such as layout, obstacles and the maintenance level desired affect the averages.
Check back next month for the conclusion of this column.
Bill Griffin is president of the International Custodial Advisors Network Inc. (ICAN) and owner of Cleaning Consultant Services Inc. ICAN is a non-profit association comprised of industry consultants with a wide range of expertise in building management, indoor environmental and service disciplines. This network provides free janitorial and building maintenance consultation service to the industry through the Cleaning Management Institute (CMI). Comments to Griffin are welcome: (206) 848-0179; WGriffin@CleaningConsultants.com.