How to start a cleaning business
Read the recently updated Startups small business guide to setting up a squeaky clean business
What is it?
A cleaning business is a popular choice for sole traders. In theory all you need is a sponge, a bottle of Flash and some good old elbow grease. The reality is often far more complicated.
Cleaning businesses cover everything from one cleaner with a couple of domestic properties to maintain each week, to a large commercial business with thousands of staff on the books. There are domestic cleaners, office cleaners, hospital and school cleaners and then let’s not forget the other niches in this industry such as carpet, window and vehicle cleaners.
The cleaning industry, sadly, has been affected as much as any other sector by the recession; according to a report published by industry analysts Plimsoll in May 2010, 382 companies in the industry had lost more than a third of their value in the space of a year. However an abundance of opportunities remain.
According to the Cleaning and Support Services Association (CSSA), the cleaning and support services industry is worth around £10bn, and employs approximately 820,000 people. The industry is traditionally dominated by small organisations, with around a third of all UK cleaning staff working within companies with no more than nine employees.
Who is it suited to?
It’s an industry for perfectionists. Cleaning is all about making places look presentable and tidy, so if you’re not motivated enough to make things spotless it is likely to filter through to your staff and company ethics.
You’ll also need to instil confidence in your clients, so good customer relations skills are essential. It doesn’t matter if the majority of the work is done when clients aren’t at home or out of the office – the point is they have to trust you implicitly if they’re going to hand over the keys to their property, so first impressions count.
Running a cleaning business of any real size will require impeccable administrative skills. If you want to make any real profit you will need to be juggling hundreds or even thousands of clients, so meticulous appointment records must be kept.
If you’re a little nervous about your own business skills then a franchise might be well-suited to you. The cleaning industry is a popular one for franchisors and there are a lot of opportunities out there to buy a readymade and branded model in this area.
However, if your business really takes off you may find a franchise too restrictive for your liking. You’ll have to weigh up all the pros and cons before deciding to go it alone completely or opt for a franchise.
Buying a franchise with Time For You, one of the biggest domestic cleaning franchises in the UK, typically costs around £12,000. Sarah Jackson, an entrepreneur now running successful care and networking companies in Milton Keynes, was a key franchisee between 2005 and 2011. She told us:
“I’d definitely recommend [the franchising] system because the back-up is there if you need it .The formula is exact, and if you follow it the business flies.”