Formulating The Request for Proposal

A five step development process to help ensure great cleaning service.

Formulating The Request for Proposal

If you are a facility manager whose cleaning is outsourced, chances are at some point you will need to develop a Request for Proposal, or RFP, for competitive pricing on your cleaning services.

While you may have already developed RFPs for consumable products like mops, with so many steps and factors to consider, developing a cleaning RFP is a much more complicated and daunting process.

Cleaning often ranks as the biggest line item cost in a facility’s budget.

Getting the best value for the dollar is extremely important.

The RFP is a detailed document that outlines the expectations and responsibilities for the contractor.

The accuracy of this document is a crucial step in the process, as the contractor will use this to evaluate and price the cleaning of the building.

Misunderstandings on this document may result in problems later and could lead to extra costs down the road.

Unfortunately, most facility managers are time-stretched these days, and because cleaning contracts are only renewed every few years, they often have little or no experience developing an RFP.

Take the example of Beth.

Even though she had been with her organization for a while, she had only recently been promoted to manager of facility services at her college when she learned that the cleaning contract was up for renewal.

The same cleaning company had held the contract for nearly 10 years, but this time the school needed to go out for competitive pricing.

Beth was tasked with creating the document for tendering the process.

She had no experience with cleaning RFPs and already had a mile long list of tasks requiring her attention.

Where should she start?

Five-Step Process

Like so many tasks that are complicated and daunting, the best approach is to break it down into smaller tasks.

When working with clients, I recommend the following five step process:

  1. Review your current specification/Scope of Work(SOW): Buildings change, demands change and occupancy rates change. Make sure your current specification reflects the current status of your cleaning program and meets your requirements. It is easy to lag behind in updating this important document. Always review the language to eliminate vague phrasing like “as required” or “as needed” and replace it with clear and specific language. This makes issues that arise later easier to resolve, as the scope is clearly defined in black and white terms with no grey areas.

  2. Include accurate data: Accurate square footage with current floor types helps the contractor provide an accurate bid. You must be diligent in providing this information, and it should be backed up with floor plans. A walking tour also helps the contractor understand the complexities of your building. Ensure that you provide an approximate occupant rate and specify if there is a period when your buildings require a reduced level of cleaning service.

  3. Interview your current contractor: If your current contractor is going above and beyond their job assignments, chances are you might not be paying for these extra services and you may end up comparing apples to oranges when you go out for pricing. These extra services must be clearly documented so that all contractors are bidding on the same Scope of Work. This is also a good time to get some input from your current contractor on possible changes that would improve the cleaning program. After all, they have intimate knowledge of your facility.

  4. Communicate your expectations: Each facility is unique, and you may require more emphasis in certain areas. It is extremely important that you communicate these expectations in your RFP. You want to ensure that you select a contractor that can provide data and expertise in areas such as Key Performance Indicators, metrics for monthly meetings, quality reporting, sustainability initiatives and innovation. If you don’t communicate what you need, the contractor can only guess at what you want and you will end of up very disappointed.

  5. Establish evaluation criteria: Your RFP must be developed so that you are able to evaluate all bids based on the same criteria. You need to assess whether the contractor has the right resources and ability to clean your facility. Develop a list of technical questions to draw out this information. Detailed pricing sheets are also a must in order to break out things such as labor, equipment, cleaning supplies, overhead and profit for comparative purposes. You will also need to communicate the evaluation criteria to the contractor. A sample might be:
  • Service and Innovation 25 percent

  • Suitability and Experience 35 percent

  • Financials 30 percent

  • Vendor Presentation 10 percent

Choosing the right cleaning contractor starts with a well-documented RFP.

Beth was surprised at just how much information and time were required to develop one.

Without knowing these steps, she might have missed some key elements in the process and ended up choosing the wrong contractor as a result.

The RFP is a very important document and can be very costly to your organization if not done properly.

If you don’t have the resources to develop it yourself, hire a professional to assist you with it.

Posted On June 9, 2014

Judy Gillies

Founder and President of The Surge Group, Inc.

Judy Gillies is the founder and president of The Surge Group, Inc., a cleaning consulting company in Toronto that helps facilities managers improve their cleaning operations. She is a co-author of Behind the Broom. For more information, visit

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