In this post, the first of two pertaining to operating a business in the commercial cleaning industry, we provide high level steps that individuals should follow in order to open an office cleaning business, as well as certain personal considerations to reflect upon, such as the individual’s preferences and their unique personal goals. Every new business venture entails varying degrees of risk, and a potential business owner should assess their capabilities, capacity, and risk tolerance before making a decision.
In today’s economy, traditional employment options are being disrupted by a shift toward business ownership and entrepreneurial opportunities. Increasingly, people who would have remained content working jobs for large or small companies are taking matters into their own hands, and it is estimated that over 27 million Americans will be self-employed by 2020. On either a full or part time basis, businesses are being formed to provide the freedom and independence that come with business ownership, as well as the financial security afforded from owning one’s own business.
As the entrepreneurship trend continues and increases in scope, more and more people are electing to take advantage of the attractive characteristics associated with the janitorial services industry and are opening their own office cleaning businesses. Specifically, entrepreneurs are attracted to the cleaning industry’s low overhead model, recurring and reliable revenue streams, lower capital requirements in terms of launching, and the industry’s overarching stability. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the commercial cleaning services industry is expected to grow by 7% in the next 10 years, 2% above the national average, meaning the actual market size and its long term growth prospects make opening a professional cleaning business that much more interesting and exciting.
Why the Office Cleaning Industry?
Starting an office cleaning business has become increasingly popular due to several basic traits associated with the industry. First, owners of commercial janitorial services companies are able to customize the amount of resources, both in money and time, they wish to direct towards their business. While some office cleaning owners operate their businesses with the intent of directing 100% of their time towards running their business, others do so on a part time or even fractional basis. An office cleaning company can be a great side-hustle for a motivated individual looking to add some supplemental cash to their existing income. Whether you want to build a large, full-time business or simply make some additional money to supplement your existing income, a commercial cleaning business can be tailored to meet each person’s specific goals and lifestyle.
Many potential entrepreneurs are deterred from starting their own businesses because of barriers to entry such as high startup capital requirements, strong existing brand loyalty to established competitor companies, or vigorous legal restrictions imposed by governments (licensing fees, patents, etc.). Office cleaning alleviates these concerns. Unlike manufacturing or other capital-intensive businesses (if someone wanted to manufacture wrenches, they would need to invest in a factory, equipment and inventory before even selling a single wrench), starting a janitorial business requires relatively low startup capital and minimal ongoing overhead requirements. This reduced financial barrier to entry has made office cleaning businesses of great interest to entrepreneurs. Additionally, commercial cleaners can customize the volume of service they choose to provide, and that flexibility makes the professional cleaning business very attractive. For instance, a paralegal looking to make some extra cash to pay off student loans or credit card debt, or simply to have some additional spending money, could start their own cleaning business.
While possessing custodial or janitorial expertise and technical skills are of course important, relatively speaking, office cleaning requires less initial know-how than certain other industries such as becoming a plumber or an electrician. Recession resistance is another attractive trait of the cleaning industry – businesses will always need someone to clean. In fact, companies are more likely to reduce their in-house cleaning staff during a recession and outsource the labor to a professional cleaning company. With unrivaled flexibility and unwavering demand, commercial office cleaning is a time-tested and established profession for hard-working individuals looking to go into business on their own.
Opening Your Office Cleaning Business: Entity Creation
The first step to opening your commercial cleaning business relates to organizing your business. Many entrepreneurs elect to operate their businesses as individuals (sole proprietorships), while others incorporate using a number of different types of legal entities to do so. Limited Liability Companies, or LLCs, and S-Corps are examples of different types of entities a business owner might choose through which to operate their business. Each type of entity conveys varying tax advantages and disadvantages to the business owner. Because every individual’s personal financial situation is different, as are their business objectives, it is always wise to consult an accountant or tax adviser to determine what structure best suits the owner’s needs. Online resources like LegalZoom and Fundera offer some free insight into the pros and cons of different business structures.
Professional Cleaning Industry Startup Costs
Whatever organization structure one chooses, a certain amount of startup capital is required to launch a business in the office cleaning industry. Costs to start your personal business include initial administrative costs like paying for professional advice in terms of structure, filing fees and licenses. You will also need to purchase the proper supplies and equipment to meet your clients’ needs. Finally, your business will need funds for marketing and branding, as these are both critical aspects of running a business.
Commercial Cleaning Supplies
The owner of a cleaning business will need supplies and materials to get started. The level of investment depends on the individual business owner’s objectives and how they intend to market their janitorial business, but certain necessities exist. No matter what the business objectives are, savings need to be set aside to purchase cleaning chemicals and equipment. An office cleaning business of any size will typically require a neutral floor cleaning solution, a sanitary solution for disinfecting planes and horizontal surfaces, a chemical to clean, sanitize and disinfect commodes or restroom fixtures, as well as glass cleaner and other miscellaneous supplies. A list of well-regarded cleaning chemical lines can be found at the bottom of this piece.
Commercial Grade Equipment
On the equipment side, to provide the most basic office cleaning services, a company will need vacuums, brooms, mops, mop heads and mop bucket wringer combos, in addition to spray bottles and rags. While some equipment can be purchased once and replaced on a longer-term cadence – such as brooms, mop bucket and ringers – other equipment such as mop heads and rags must be replaced frequently so that soiled or dirty mop heads and rags aren’t used. Of course, maintaining equipment and washing dirty applicants will increase the usefulness of the equipment, and it is important to mentally prepare for the ongoing cost of purchasing additional supplies and equipment.
For more intensive commercial cleaning specifications or contracts, additional equipment may be called for which typically is far more expensive than basic materials. For instance, some cleaning contracts require ongoing upkeep of hard floors or carpets – typically referred to as a floor care program. Schools, for example, frequently use Vinyl Composition Tile (VCT) in hallways. The wear and tear from foot traffic may cause those floors to require a specialized program to maintain the look and protection of the floors. Specifically, the cleaning contract might need the cleaning service to buff, scrub and recoat and, eventually, strip and refinish the flooring. Intensive floor care programs call for equipment like high speed floor machines and slow speed scrubbers, as well as the chemicals required to perform that task. Again, whether or not a janitorial service requires these more expensive and specialized equipment and chemical stocks depends on the company’s aims and goals.
All of the supplies and equipment above can be easily purchased, though it is important that the business owner determines the amount of inventory, and therefore startup capital to allocate to supply purchases.
Marketing and Branding a Cleaning Business
The final aspect for an individual to consider when determining how much money to set aside for startup costs is branding and marketing spends. Will you create company uniforms with logos? Are you going to use a standard color to represent your company? Will you target customers the old fashion way of going door to door, or will you create and produce marketing materials such as fliers or pamphlets to get the word out about your cleaning company? Will you build a website and create customized email addresses, or forego that expenditure? All of these considerations are important to account for and have an impact on the amount of startup capital that will be required to open your cleaning business.
Individuals must consider numerous factors before opening for business, including the type of entity they want to start and the associated startup costs. Different structures will bear different costs, but all cleaning businesses must have essential supplies and equipment to begin servicing customers. Additionally, the owner of a cleaning company needs to decide who their customers will be and how they will target these customers.
Starting a business of any kind is risky and challenging, and any individual seeking to become a business owner should carefully consider the pros and cons of entrepreneurship as well as the risk associated with launching a business. However, with business ownership comes the potential for independence, financial security and a deep sense of accomplishment. Because starting a professional cleaning business requires less startup capital and ongoing overhead, is customizable based on the owner’s goals and objectives, and delivers a service that is recurring and relatively recession resistant, more and more individuals are opening office cleaning businesses.
Resources for Cleaning Businesses
There any many useful resources out there that the owner of a cleaning business can reference. The following are by no means an exhaustive list but are certainly a great starting point for the potential cleaning business owner. The International Sanitary Supply Association (ISSA) is a global trade organization of cleaning professionals, from cleaning supply manufacturers to distributors to cleaners themselves. ISSA is one of the leading resources for information, networking, education, commercial opportunities, and government advocacy for companies in the cleaning industry. If it’s cleaning supplies and equipment you are looking for, some great choices are Buckeye, Betco, Spartan, Bissell, and ProTeam.