On one hand, bidding and estimating is an easy task, as your price is — or should be — based on your costs for labor, supplies and equipment, plus profit and overhead.
On the other hand, because of all the variables that impact how long it takes to do the work, bidding and estimating gets complicated when you start looking at all the details and possibilities and want to be as accurate as possible.
One important point to keep in mind is that labor is almost always your largest and primary cost.
The Customer Is King
In this business and most others, you have two key elements to success.
One is profitable customers; the other is productive employees.
In a service business, you can''t do without either one, so you must work hard every day to recruit and retain the best of each group.
If you want to grow your business, you have to develop a stable workforce.
For long-term success, you must retain your current customers and continually find new ones.
You can always cut costs by reducing service, but nobody wants poor service, regardless of how low the price is.
In today''s competitive market, your success will be directly tied to your ability to give the best service possible at the lowest price.
I''d recommend submitting profitable, fair pricing.
However, the market is extremely competitive, which means you have to respond to the challenge and keep your costs low in order to get the account.
Once you are in the door, you can look for efficiencies and add-ons that allow you to generate additional profit.
There is no opportunity for profit until you sign the account and start the work.
Know Your Customers
You won''t be successful unless you know your market and your customers'' needs.
If the customer is talking about laying people off and cutting costs and you are talking about quality service and how good a job your people do, you are not listening.
Decide what services you will offer, which type and size of customer accounts you want and are qualified to serve and what area of town or the county you will focus your marketing efforts on.
Make this information part of your goals and business plan and stick to it.
Focusing your efforts in one area is a key to success and an ongoing challenge for an entrepreneur who sees opportunities on every corner.
Get Better Every Day
You must challenge yourself and your staffs to get better at what you do each day.
If you don''t, you will never improve or remain competitive.
When mistakes are made, which will happen, learn from them and don''t make the same mistake again.
Expand your horizons and those of your employees through education.
Success in the cleaning business is about a lot more than cleaning.
Don''t limit yourself by thinking that you know it all or that you don''t need to learn something new every day.
On your terms: What do you want; what do you enjoy; why are you starting or operating a cleaning business?
If you haven''t or can''t answer these questions in writing, your chances of success and happiness are limited.
Define your goals in writing and review them at least monthly; they act as your road map for success.
Running a business isn''t all fun and games; it''s tough duty.
If you don''t have a passion and excitement for what you''re doing, it won''t be long before the challenges and pressures of the day will get you down.
There is no easy route to success; if there was, everyone would do it.
Success can be achieved, but it is frequently at the end of a long, hard, bumpy road.
This Month''s Resource
A good source of construction cleanup and restoration costs and pricing guidelines.
In my mind, the prices are high but provide insight into how construction and insurance companies calculate prices for various tasks.
Available in print and on compact disk (CD), it provides a wide range of pricing guidelines from sweeping to carpet replacement and beyond.
Bill Griffin is president of the International Custodial Advisors Network (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; WGriffin@CleaningConsultants.com.