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ICAN/ATEX: How Can I Bid Better?

Many cleaning professionals visit the International Custodial Advisors Network (ICAN) Ask the Experts (ATEX) page for insight. We deliver advice to help you perform your job.

Wednesday’s QuestionICANATEX Logo

I recently started my janitorial service up again, and I’m a little uncomfortable with the bidding process. I recently got a building that I know I underbid. Hey, I got the building and my foot in the door, but going forward I don’t want to make the same mistakes. Any advice on how to bid correctly?

Wednesday’s Answer

Restarting a janitorial service means you had one before and let it go. Did that happen because you were losing money, or because you were just about breaking even due to frequent underbidding?

If so, you need to break the cycle. Underbidding a project leads to either losing money by doing an honest job and spending the needed time, or cutting corners to get the job done in less time by placing fewer finish coats than advisable, skipping vacuuming, etc. In both cases, you lose in the long run. Either you will have to quit in order to stop the negative cash flow, or you will be asked to leave the account due to poor workmanship.

The only way to turn this around is to do the building survey, set the times of production (Get a copy of 612 Cleaning Times.), establish accurate labor and material costs, and charge enough to pay for the completion of the work in a quality fashion. Any job we take where we end up subsidizing the facility’s cleaning is a losing job. See many suggestions at www.icanatex.com/Index.asp.

Having said that, how can you fix the current account? If you offer competent carpet cleaning or floor refinishing, having your foot in the door can be worthwhile. You will have some income from these specialties that will help profitability. You can also be up front with the account. After establishing your best times and rates in that building, go to the management and explain that you need to increase your billing by whatever you find you need to get to where you belong. You may find that they, after witnessing your quality service and reliability, will accept your revised proposal.

Meanwhile, look for work that you can handle and that will pay a decent wage as you become once again, a self-employed contractor.

Lynn E. Krafft, ICAN/ATEX editor

View additional bidding & estimating questions and answers from ICAN/ATEX here.


Posted On April 15, 2015
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ICAN/ATEX: How Can I Bid Better?
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