Seek Power in Numbers

Assess your business using data from novice and veteran service providers

Survey cover image Artwork by Mary Lynne Doleys

There is a never a bad time to start a cleaning business, according to Tim Conn, president and co-founder of Image One Facility Solutions. “Just about anybody with the right motivation and business plan in place can do it,” he says. 

Conn has been in the cleaning industry and in janitorial operations for more than 30 years, and has gone from servicing a family-owned commercial office building to owning a franchise branch to starting his own national franchise company.

The commercial cleaning industry is full of go-getters like Conn, whether they are operating a business that’s part of a franchise or an independently run company. “The great thing about our industry,” Conn says, is that you can be a small mom-and-pop company doing the work yourself, a midsize business with a dozen employees, a large corporation with hundreds of employees doing the cleaning, or part of a franchise system. … No matter what you are looking to achieve, there is a vehicle in this industry to get you [there].”

According to CMM’s 2017 Building Service Contractor (BSC)/Contract Cleaning Benchmarking Survey, lots of BSCs in the industry are on the road to success that Conn mentions. About 47 percent of survey respondents reported an increase in their gross margins from 2015 to 2016, and only 2.7 percent reported negative growth in their sales. Additionally, about half of surveyed BSCs said they plan to expand/diversify services in the future to improve their competitive position.

The Secret to Success

Based on responses from professionals whose organizations provide contract cleaning services, experience and reputation were the keys to unlocking success for nine-in-10 respondents. Coming in with the lowest bid only reaped positive rewards for one-in-10 service providers. So, what’s the message behind this data? Leverage your experience to lock in new business and don’t sell yourself short.

At the end of the day, there is always the option to go in with a low bid, but is it worth putting your reputation at stake? While Conn says offering a competitive price is important, “don’t focus on being the lowest bid on the block. There will always be someone who is willing to outbid you—and you may very well end up sacrificing quality when trying to differentiate only through the price on your quote.” 

Beating the Challenges

Challenges for BSCs don’t really shift much from year to year. Employee retention, maintaining profitable margins, and locking in new business have been a top of area of concern to a large extent for at least three years in a row. With 91 percent of new business coming from organizations replacing another BSC/janitorial firm, it only seems to make sense that BSCs struggle with maintaining clients and profits, as well. Despite the positive profit margins reported earlier in this article, other data seems to imply a revolving door of clientele.

According to Joel Craddock, CEO at Doc’s Facilities Consulting, Inc. and a master trainer for the Cleaning Management Institute, training could be a solution to easing these challenges. “If companies would do a better job of screening and training their staff, they would retain a better than average number of clients.” For those who are looking to take Craddock’s advice, look to for information you can take back to your facilities and apply to your teams.

Assess Your Competition

More than 260 BSCs fully completed this year’s BSC/Contract Cleaning Benchmarking Survey. For more information on how other BSCs across North America are conducting business, visit

Kelly Zimmerman

Kelly Zimmerman

Managing Editor

Kelly Zimmerman is the managing editor of Cleaning & Maintenance Management. She has experience managing industry-specific content for print and digital formats. She holds a master of science in journalism from Northwestern University. Kelly can be reached at

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