Most carpet cleaners are heavily weighted on the residential side of the business. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that equation. However, I’d like to share a few good reasons to at least consider expanding your service offerings to include more commercial work.
1. Ease of Training
The most common method in our industry for residential carpet cleaning is to use truck-mounted hot water extraction equipment. And while a truckmount will make Mrs. Piffleton’s carpet shine, you’ll most likely find that other methods such as encap cleaning will be used more often in a commercial setting. And that’s where it gets tricky. A truckmount requires a fair amount of training and supervision. You’re not likely to cut a new guy loose until he’s racked up considerable time being trained. And once that new hire has been sent out to clean a commercial account on his own, there’s greater potential for problems to occur using a truckmount system than with low moisture systems for commercial carpet care. On the other hand, a commercial carpet cleaning set up is generally simpler and easier to train, so a technician can go out and consistently produce excellent results with far less training and supervision.
2. The Truck’s In the Driveway
When a residential carpet cleaning truck rolls in after the last home is cleaned, the vehicle normally sits there through the night feeling lonely. Poor truck. Trucks need love. They want to be driven. They want to get out and make you money! What would you think about running it for a few hours a night? Those few extra hours can roll in a tidy profit (we’ll cover that in a moment).
3. Avoiding Traffic Jams
“How I hate to be late. It hurts my motor to go so slow. Time I get home, my supper’ll be cold.” Borrowed a line from an old James Taylor song there. But it’s true. I HATE driving around in daytime traffic, especially when I’m late for an appointment (a.k.a. getting to the next customer’s home). But driving down the interstate at night is a breeze. The traffic is light and it’s pretty stress free. I know this is a small thing, but I think it’s fairly significant. Less stress on the driver, and in fact less stress on the vehicle.
4. Avoiding the Song & Dance
When I was doing residential carpet cleaning I would invariably have to first make friends with the yapping terrier while making trivial conversation with the chatty home owner. Then I’d have to address each of their cleaning concerns – there’s a coffee spot here, the dog peed there, can you get out this red wine stain, and do you think this rust stain will come out? Then after doing a terrific job, carefully grooming the carpet, and putting tabs under all the furniture, I’d get to go through another 10 minute conversation as I finished up and collected my check. By comparison when we get to a commercial job there’s very little song & dance – we jump straight into hustle mode. It’s time to boogie, there’s money to be made.
5. Auto-Pilot System
I touched on this above in the section about training, but it can’t be overstated. Setting up a duplicatable system that produces consistent results with commercial carpet is dead on simple. A commercial operation requires little oversight on the part of the business owner. I call it “running on auto-pilot”. Developing a clear and simple format for handling the customers and cleaning their companies carpets efficiently is what I’m talking about. And this is easier than you might be thinking. For example, there are guys out there who are setting up and successfully running Encap Routes. They’ll line up accounts and send out a vehicle that goes from business to business performing encap cleaning over the course of an evening. It’s simple and it’s profitable. Which brings me to my next point.
6. Ample Profit
Encap cleaning can be accomplished at high production rates using the Cimex with Releasit. The Cimex/Releasit combo has a normal operating range of 2,000-3,000 sq ft per hour. So if we factor a baseline of 2,500 sq ft per hr and you were to charge a moderately low rate of 10 cents per sq ft – a single machine will yield $250 per hour. Of course, if your rates are higher than 10 cents per sq ft your profit will increase accordingly. Let’s do the math: If you had one technician running one Cimex, cleaning 3 hours per night, 5 nights per week – you’d be able to generate $3750 per week (that’s with one guy and one machine). Go ahead and check my math, that’s NOT a typo – 15 hours of Cimex pushing can generate $3750. If you maintained that average of working 3 hours a night, 5 nights a week – you’ll add $195,000 to your annual sales (per technician). And as mentioned above, this is all happening without a lot of oversight from you, at a time that your truck would otherwise be sitting idle in your driveway.
7. Low Operating Costs
You can buy a Cimex or CRB machine for less than $3,000. That’s peanuts compared to purchasing, maintaining, insuring, and fueling a truckmount. The cost of performing the actual cleaning is low too. For example a case of Releasit Encap-Clean DS2 can clean 39,900 sq ft of carpet – with an end use cost of just 3/10ths of a cent. Looking at it another way, if you were charging the 10 cents per sq ft we mentioned earlier, that case of detergent would generate $3,990. That’s a 27 to 1 increase. See if your cousin Bob the day-trader can match that kind of return.
8. Employees Who Love What They Do
With the kind of money outlined above you comfortably have room to pay your employees handsomely, while having plenty left for other operating costs and profit. In my cleaning business we’ve made it a practice to pay between one to two cents per sq ft. And we pay them through a payroll service that handles all of their taxes and worker’s comp. On the average a man cleaning 2500 sq ft per hr at a penny and a half per sq ft will earn $37.50 per hour. Yeah, that’s some nice money. You know what kind of worker that money will get you? A loyal and generally problem free employee. One you can expect to represent your company like a true professional. And one that can be held accountable for screw-ups.
9. Repeat Business
Many residential carpet cleaners have a nice set of routine customers who hopefully use their services again and again. However there’s also a natural rate of attrition, where old customers fall off the list and new ones need to be added. With commercial work, accounts can last for years or even decades. Once you’ve filled your coffers with a quiver full of commercial accounts it rolls along like clockwork. And don’t forget that a business with a database of regular repeat accounts can be sold at some point when an owner wants to cash out.
10. More Time For What Matters Most
Let’s face it, money is important – we all need it. But what has even greater value than money? Time. Ask a dying man if he’d like a few thousand dollars or a few more days to live. His choice will be obvious. Our time is valuable, it’s the stuff life is made of. Commercial carpet cleaning makes it possible to buy out time for important things. Having a business that runs on auto-pilot, with technician(s) out working while you’re home with your family makes sense to me.
OK so I’ve outlined 10 reasons why I love commercial carpet cleaning. In fact I could go on all day expounding the merits of commercial carpet care. I hope the ideas I’ve shared will get you to think about ways that commercial carpet cleaning can add to your bottom line. As we speak with cleaners around the country at Excellent Supply we’re seeing that more and more residential guys are getting it. They’re seeing the value of expanding their commercial focus, in fact some are going “full commercial”. Residential carpet cleaning is a great business. Expanding into commercial simply opens another window of opportunity. When I was a kid I loved PB&J sandwiches. Around our house we called ‘em “choke & slide” sandwiches. The jelly made the peanut butter slide down and added the sweetness a kid craved. The same idea applies here. Why not add a nice scoop of commercial carpet to your residential sandwich and see how yummy it can be?