Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

Expanding Your Horizons

March 23, 2011

When looking to increase revenue, making the jump from commercial to residential cleaning — or vice versa — can seem like a ready-made solution.

You already have the equipment you need and the know-how to use it — or do you?

There are some fundamental differences between commercial and residential cleaning companies and, when making the jump from one to the other, they are the most important things you''ll need to consider before expanding out of your established market.

Commercial cleaning companies are largely off-hours operations.

Working at nights and on weekends, they come in when office staff are gone and businesses are closed.

Commercial cleaning staffs have to cover a tremendous amount of space in a limited time.

While the square footage in a commercial cleaning setting can be enormous, there are fewer nooks and crannies to hit than there are in a residential setting; there is a lot less content with which to contend.

Sussing Out The Shift

The first thing a commercial company needs to assess when making the leap to residential cleaning is the question of staffing.

Often, there is a reason people prefer a night or weekend job over a day-shift job; as an employer, you''ll need to understand that they haven''t chosen this lightly.

There are numerous reasons — family needs, educational schedules, etc. — why a staff member may be unable to add additional hours to their schedule.

If you find that this is the case with your staff, you''ll have to hire additional team members to cover your newly offered hours of operation.

So, before making the leap, talk to your staff, feel them out and see how many of them would be willing to make the transition.

Having existing staff members involved in your newly expanded hours can help ease the transition for you as a manager, as they will be familiar with your company''s policies and expectations and can help to communicate that information to any new staff you need to hire.

The second difference between commercial and residential cleaning is centered on training.

Residential cleaning is a much more personal operation than commercial cleaning.

Don''t forget, while people may spend a tremendous amount of time in the office, very few of those people consider it their personal space.

When performing residential cleaning, your staff is being invited into your client''s home.

This requires a level of trust that generally isn''t as important in a commercial setting.

Cleaning in a residential setting is a matter of details.

Your staff will be working for a much longer time in a much smaller space.

This may sound simple enough, but don''t forget that a residential space is going to be filled with a lot more content than would normally be dealt with in a commercial space, and the client will be attached to each and every item your staff encounters.

This means that while bumping into a desk in an office wouldn''t be a problem in many commercial settings, in a residential setting, the client may see this as a lack of care with their belongings; that desk bump can knock over a priceless heirloom.

In addition to being surrounded by personal and valuable items, a residential cleaning is going to be far more heavily scrutinized by the client than a commercial cleaning might be.

Because of these, and for many other reasons, temperament is an important thing to consider in a staffer that you may be transitioning from a commercial to a residential position.

One bad exchange between a staff member and a client can have tremendous negative implications for your company, so you need to ensure that your staff can handle what can sometimes be a tense situation.

Residential cleaning is a high-pressure, high-responsibility position, and this is most definitely something important to contemplate while hiring new or cross-training existing staff for a residential cleaning position.

Service Trumps Price

For most commercial customers, price is king.

If you can offer the lowest price point, you''ll win the account most of the time.

The residential market, however, is a different animal.

For residential customers, while price is one factor, comfort and customer relations are the biggest obstacles you''ll have to overcome to win the client; your marketing will reflect that.

So, you''ve read all of this, you''ve thought about it and you''re still ready to make the leap?

Residential cleaning is not for the timid, but it can be tackled by those with a proper game plan.

From the pride you''ll feel at having tackled a new market and ridden out an economic storm, to the financial benefits of expanding your company, there''s little downside — if you succeed.

But, how best to ensure that success?

One word: Training.

To any company considering expanding into the residential cleaning market, I would stress that a well-trained staff is going to make or break your expansion effort.

So, before you start purchasing new equipment and booking those new jobs, spend your time on training.

Your staff will be grateful on those first new jobs, you''ll be confident that they can handle the work and your new residential customers will be pleased to know that they''ve put their trust in the hands of qualified people who care about them and their homes.

Teresa Ward, president of Teresa''s Family Cleaning and New York State''s Small Business Entrepreneur of the Year, is often considered Long Island''s foremost authority on cleaning homes and businesses to create a cleaner and healthier environment for all. Our highly sought after, award-winning weekly newsletter provides timely cleaning tips and other important Long Island information and charitable events for homeowners, businesses and not-for-profits. Visit us at to sign up and receive your copy today.