Welcome to 2018. Are you tired yet?
I know I am. Tired of all the targeted ads promising to make a “New Me” in the New Year. I’m tired of the mistakes of 2016 and 2017 following me around.
Maybe you’re tired of:
- slow business,
- disloyal clients, and
- unreliable employees.
- and exhausted.
It’s time for a change. It’s time to address all of those problems and headaches instead of covering them with a band-aid.
Let’s take all that stress, fix the causes, and leave last year’s problems in the dust.
Make 2018 your richest, fullest year yet:
How to Cure Your Cleaning Business’s Problems in 2018
Diagnose your problems with the symptoms below and apply a real fix instead of a band-aid.
1. Bleeding Profits? Your Margin is Too Narrow…
You’re barely squeaking by, just making enough money to keep the lights on. You keep acquiring clients, but you’re caught in a cycle of more work meaning greater expenses and you can’t keep up.
It’s like trying to swim with bricks tied to your ankles. You can do it, but it won’t be pretty AND it can’t last forever.
Band-Aids might solve the problem right now…
But what you really want is a cure that will make the problem go away forever.
The Band-Aid: “Sales Mode”
When business owners end up in this position, they typically go into “Sales Mode.”
You’re a proactive person. You try to attack problems.
So you attack this one. If we don’t have enough profit on each job, you’ll go for volume. You’re smart about it, you try to sell along your existing route to increase density. You keep your head above water for another month.
Those bricks are heavy and they’re pulling you down.
The Cure: Adjust Your Pricing
If you’re stuck in “Sales Mode” it might actually point to a bigger problem, a root problem.
You’re pricing your services too low. Volume selling is actually way less effective than raising your prices to a more profitable level.
Fix your cleaning prices, and you will fix your profits. Forever.
Let’s look at a simple example with numbers that are arbitrary:
2. Employees vanishing into thin air?
Are you having to pick up slack because of sick employees or employees who quit without notice?
Are you having to drop clients because of employee shortages?
The Band-Aid: Hire when you need someone
This is what most businesses do. Maybe they manage to anticipate the need a little before they need it.
Hiring only when you need someone, or just before you need someone, is one of the biggest hiring mistakes you can make.
Why? It puts you in a reactionary position.
You need someone. It puts you in a different mindset during the hiring process. You’re weighing all of the things that could go wrong if you don’t find someone.
Even if it’s not at a conscious level, you’re lowering your standards because you need someone – anyone – to fill this position.
Compare that with the actual solution:
The Cure: Always Be Hiring
As outlined in our Hiring Guide for Cleaning Companies, you should always be looking and trying to hire qualified candidates.
This puts you in a completely different posture than “need-based” hiring.
If you’re always interviewing and hiring, it means you’ll pass on “alright” candidates to wait for great ones. You’re not scrambling to find an employee. You’ll take the time to train them correctly.
3. Is Your Staff Making Costly Mistakes?
Have you lost a client because of repetitive problems with their clean or lousy customer service when they’ve called your office?
The Band-Aid: Client Churn
Some companies respond to issues with client retention by trying to increase sales. After all, new clients are valuable. If you keep 50% of the clients you acquire, then you’ll still be alright, won’t you?
Companies that embrace this end up stuck in a cycle of “client churn.” They’re hemorrhaging clients but they try to acquire at the same rate they lose them to stay afloat.
This churn and burn cycle will eventually kill your business. There’s only so many people interested in cleaning in your area.
You’ll hit a critical mass of:
- Bad Reviews
- Bad Word-of-Mouth
- Too Few Potential Clients left in the pool.
And then your business goes into a tailspin.
The Cure: Retrain (or train!) Your Staff on Correct Procedures
If you’re having trouble with client retention, the number one thing you can do is train your staff.
Do you have an employee handbook with clear rules and expectations outlined? If not, you want to get one in place quickly.
Make sure that field employees know what is expected of them. Show them the correct way to clean an oven and the right way to leave the front of a fridge streak-free.
For office staff, cover the importance of taking every call and treating every caller like they matter (because they do!)
4. Do you have big marketing goals… that always disappear a couple months into the year?
Lots of business owners are “Quickstarts.” You have an idea and you run with it.
But follow-through can be a struggle when you’re so apt to pick up the next thing and run with it.
The Band-Aid: Make Another Vague Plan
You make a New Year’s Resolution to market your cleaning business better. You might even pick an action item or two and work on them for a month or so.
But then, like with most New Year’s Resolutions, that work tapered off around February 10th.
The Cure: Plan Your Next 365 Days of Marketing… NOW
Map out what you want to do this year.
Here’s where we think you should be focusing:
- Digital is MORE important than ever.
- Don’t abandon print marketing, it still works.
- Digital ads are becoming the fastest way to scale your business.
Start with an annual calendar. You can print one from here. Divide the year into quarters (3-month blocks).
Chart a campaign for each. It can be an upsell around the holidays. It can be new clients in the spring. Whatever makes sense for your business.
Now you can break out each of those campaigns into tiny chunks of work. Set a deadline for each piece. Set reminders on your phone… today.
Setting a deadline for yourself has a powerful effect. It motivates even the person with the least ability to “follow through.”
Once you finish setting all your reminders, send yourself an email about the goals you set for 2018 using FutureMe. They’ll hold that email for a year and send it to you. It’ll be good, in January of next year, to celebrate your victories and learn from the places you fell short or had to change to something.
5. Are You Worried You’re Undercharging Clients?
When’s the last time you updated your pricing? Is your rate matrix dusty? Make sure that you’re charging to cover current overhead (labor, materials, etc. increase over time).
The Band-Aid: Ignore the Problem or Update Too Quickly
Some owners live in denial about their prices. They can do this until they run out of money. If you’re bleeding profits, the answer isn’t to play pretend. You need to face the problem.
Facing the problem has its own challenges. Chief among them is realizing you’re losing money and raising a bunch of customers’ rates all at once. Then customers get upset and cancel and now you’re LOSING MORE MONEY.
The Cure: Carefully Increase Prices, Starting with Your Least Profitable Clients
First, to know how much to increase, you have to know how to price your services correctly.
Once you know what the rates should be, you can go about carefully and methodically raising prices. You want to test the increases on customers. Announce the increase to a pool of unprofitable (or least profitable) clients. See how many you lose. Gauge what happens before using the same method on more clients.
6. Watch, Read, Learn, Grow (all year)
You’re running a business. You have a family. You have to manage employees and clients.
It’s hard to make time to read and learn and watch important stuff.
It’s beyond important that you continue using your mind and growing as a business owner.
You can listen to audiobooks and podcasts while you’re working.
- The Tim Ferriss Show
- The Profit Roadmap (hosted by your intrepid blogger)
- Ask a Housecleaner with Angela Brown (on YouTube and available as a podcast)
Commit to always learning so that you are always growing as a leader and a business owner.
7. Set Concrete, Achievable Goals
Most cleaning business owners greet the New Year with wild (and vague) resolutions.
“I’m gonna double my client base.”
“I want to triple my sales.”
But then they forget or get distracted and there weren’t any good guideposts for that goal anyway.
You don’t want to be like them. You want to victories to celebrate.
Remember our annual calendar from earlier? Pull it back out.
Whatever your big, lofty goal for the year is break it down into smaller pieces. If you want sixty new clients by the end of the year, you need to sell 5 a month. Add that as a goal for each month.
Break big, nebulous goals down into smaller, achievable goals and assign them to particular months. Write your goals down NOW so that you don’t forget and you get to celebrate victories as they come.
For help setting SMART business goals, check out this piece from Bplans.com.
8. CRM, Scheduling or Invoicing Headaches Holding You Back?
If you’re currently running your business on pen and paper with sticky notes all over your office, recognize that that’s not scale-able. You can’t double or triple your client base and keep that afloat. You’ll go crazy.
If you’re using a software solution right now and it’s NOT serving you well, now is the time to switch before they cost you any more profits.
The Band-Aid: Ignore the Problem and Grab Another Random Free Tool
The Internet is filled with awesome, free tools. They’re not always pretty but they usually have one job and they nail that one job perfectly.
Here’s the catch: your business doesn’t need one tool to run. It needs a Swiss Army Knife.
And so you adopt tool after tool and create a confusing web of free and paid software. It’s so confusing you can’t train other people and become tied to the running of your business.
The Cure: A One-Stop, Cleaning Business Software Suite
There’s not going to be a better time than now to start using the right cleaning software for your business.
2018 is not waiting around for you to figure out what you want to do.
Don’t waste another year spinning your wheels with half-solutions and a bunch of tangled up tools. Service Autopilot is the best cleaning software on the market.
Cody is a copywriter with Service Autopilot. He was writing before he could read, dictating stories to his mom. Of late, he distills business principles and practices learned from his ever-increasing trove of books and his year with SA Support into digestible blog posts designed to provide maximum value to service industry business owners.