One of the business opportunities that I examined in detail a number of years ago was setting up a contract cleaning business. I concluded that it was a viable business that could be started with little capital and little knowledge of the industry. I did not go ahead with this idea for a number of reasons, not because I could not make money now from it but because:

  • The business required an ability to manage and motivate a large number of cleaning staff – I have been out of ‘people management’ for some time now and recognized my likely weakness;
  • I had another business opportunity that I was following up in preference; and
  • A friend had shown interest in setting up a cleaning business himself and I was content to assist him with it on a part time basis during the early days in return for a very small share as a ‘sleeping partner’.

Having seen the results over the past few years I am satisfied that the business model is sound, but the interaction with staff on a daily basis needs a strong people motivator – having worked in a professional environment for so long now I am too trusting and feel that a sergeant major type approach to this business is necessary.

You will begin to see what is needed for a contract cleaning business to work. You will employ a number of cleaning teams that will operate throughout various different locations, usually during the evening, through the night and sometimes early in the morning. You will need to ensure that the cleaning of offices and business premises is carried out to the stringent standards that you set. Cleaning contractors are notorious for providing a good service at the start, then dropping off in quality as time progresses.

A cleaning team of say three persons will need somebody to supervise them and check the work. In turn that supervisor will need to be checked and ultimately the business owner (you) will have to audit the work that is being done. Are you able to rule with an iron rod – yet cultivate trust and respect from your staff? If not you will both be taken advantage of and continually be having to recruit – a time consuming occupation.

Staff management is the key resource that is employed in this business. This is why it is being discussed first, before any talk of investment costs or profit potential. Without teams of cleaners working to a high standard, your business will be a non starter.

On paper, a contract cleaning business opportunity will make money right now for you. There is little in the way of investment in capital goods that is required and cash flow will be generated within a month of starting the business.

Profit potential is fantastic, with a gross margin of 50% and more, depending on how well you are at packaging a service product and selling it to business owners and managers. You will be paying relatively low wages for a premium service, sometimes marking up the wages by 3 or 4 times. This is why you need to establish a hierarchy of management so that everybody, from the most junior recruit all the way up to your supervisors, will be checked by someone. A promotion system similar to the one used for staff at the MacDonald’s franchises can help to inspire workers in what is admittedly a boring and poorly paid job. By sprucing it up with a corporate image, providing overalls with company colors and logo, paying a little above market rates and understanding that the business is not a method for making easy money now – but needs hard work and commitment like any other business opportunity – can pay dividends.

If I seem a little down on contract cleaning as a potential profit earner – think again. I was introduced to this business when I was advising a businessman about a problem he had with the tax authorities. He ran a contract cleaning business as a sideline from his main occupation and had not been declaring the profits from the sideline for over five years. The tax man was after him for £1,000,000 ($1,600,000) of unpaid tax!

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