Monday, August 08, 2005

The Evolution of a Cleaning Business-Part Two

It tooks us about six months to get rid of our old habits. Our employees were now only being paid for work conducted in a house or office. Many of our employees had been abusing the system by doing crazy things such as sleeping on the job, taking the long way home, and one person was even caught shopping at Wal-Mart. The ship was not tight, to say the least.

We also axed the night shift. The night shift was responsible for most commercial cleaning jobs. The problem was that it cost an arm and a leg to support. It required a full-time manager who didn't have that many responsibilities. It was costing us money every minute that we were open. So, we called each of our clients and asked them to move to the weekend or early morning. Some said sure, others said no. We helped some of our customers by providing them with other contractors that promised to charge the same rates.

The pricing problem was widespread. Nobody paid the same rate. Some customers paid way too much, but most paid way too little. The economics just didn't add up, so we were forced to raise our rates. We lost some clients, but then again we were losing money with most of them anyway.

My next goal was to increase the customer base. The business was in serious need of some marketing. It had never really received any real marketing. We had a tiny Yellow Page ad and that was it. Everything else was strictly word-of-mouth. My specialty wasn't advertising or marketing, so I decided to start educating myself. I read everything that I could find. I called other business owners in the area and I also called other cleaning service owners in nearby cities. Finally, I decided that we needed to design a marketing plan for the next twelve months. It was very simple.

#1 Purchase a newspaper ad three times per week
#2 Make our services different

The first goal was easy to execute, but difficult to finance. We were still losing money. How were we going to afford three newspaper ads? I looked at the expenses as investments. If you build it, they will come. And they did. The phones began to light up because we were the only cleaning company in the newspaper. Cleaning companies weren't supposed to advertise in the newspaper. It was like a light switch had been turned on.

The second goal wasn't quite as easy. How can we be different? We clean houses, plain and simple. Check in later this week and find out how we made ourselves different. (If you're a customer, you already know the ending)

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