How To Start Your Own Janitorial Business
A janitorial service is a well paying, steady business that
involves mostly night work on a contract basis. You agree
(contract) to perform certain scheduled actions and the client
pays you on a monthly basis.
Normal services are sweeping, dusting, emptying ashtrays, pencil
sharpeners and wastebaskets, refilling soap and paper dispensers
and buffing and/or vacuuming the floors. Waxing might be done
every third night;stripping once a month.
These services are normally performed at night when the business
is closed, which gives the janitorial crew a time span of 12 to
14 hours. If the jobs are relatively small, one crew might do
several businesses a night.
A beginner can start with ordinary household tools (and buy more
as they are needed), plus some cleaning supplies. To start, find
a small store or business that needs cleaning at night and offer
your services. Do all the work yourself for a while. Learn first
hand how long it takes to do each job, which techniques work
best, and the type and amount of supplies that are needed.
When you are just starting, it is a good idea to tell the client
that you are learning, that you want to do a professional job,
and that you might have to adjust your rates when you learn how
much work and supplies are required. Be sure to ask them to
advise you of anything they think you can do better -- and thank
them when they do.
People love to give advice, and in this case it is not only free
training, it will help you keep the contract while you are still
On your first few jobs take notes of the workload and time it
takes for each operation, so you will know what to consider when
bidding on future jobs, and how long it should take your helpers.
Most janitorial contractors have checklists that they use when
walking through the job with the prospective client, so they can
find out (and record exactly what is wanted -- and bid
accordingly. The objective is to bid the amount that will satisfy
both you as a business person and the client.
Before making your final bid, check the outside of the building
to see if there are additional chores that could or should be
included, such as sweeping a parking lot, straightening the trash
bin or washing the outside windows. Also check the general
appearance (which will tell you the quality of work they expect),
and see if there is someone that may be hard to please.
One contractor always looks for a behind the scenes person who
has been there through the past five bank presidents, who will be
the one that calls the service back to empty a missed ashtray. If
he spots such a person, he adds 10% to the bid -- and everyone
When hiring help, you will probably need to bond them (as well as
yourself. Many businesses will not deal with janitorial companies
unless they are bonded, because they have access (often, a set of
keys) to their buildings and offices when no one else is there.
A bonding service also helps protect you: if there is a question,
the bonding agent arbitrates. Since most of the work is done
after normal working hours, it is not difficult to find helpers.
Many students and day workers are happy to "moonlight" to make a
few extra dollars.
To locate professional janitorial supplies, look in the phone
book or THOMAS REGISTER (a multi-volume reference book that lists
all major manufacturing companies in the country).
Some janitorial contracts include refilling paper towel
containers and the like, which add a minor amount to the contract
price.. Other include periodic wax removal, special jobs like
window or wall washing, carpet shampooing and even plant care.
You can probably increase your profits by selling some of the
suppliers, since you can buy in larger quantities than most of
Most suppliers do not wholesale to retail establishments or small
businesses. If you find a good source for wholesale supplies, you
may be able to offer the same supplies at or below the price they
are currently paying -- and still make a profit.
Note if you do the work AND furnish the expendable supplies, your
service contract will be a little more secure since the client
depends on you for both the work and supplies.
As your business grows, you can add equipment that you have
specific need for -- such as buffers, wax strippers and
commercial vacuum cleaners, that will enable you to do more jobs
and make more money. Keep an eye out for bargains in used
janitorial equipment, but don't buy things you can't use; save
your money for things that will help you make money.
Although most janitorial companies pay their employees by the
hour, it is perfectly alright for a beginner (especially a single
proprietorship) to pay by the job -- a set amount per night, per
month, or an actual percentage of the contract. In the latter
case, it may be legal to actually sub-contract individual
accounts, so that you are not burdened with withholding taxes and
For example, if you have a contract for $250 a month, you can
sub-contract it for $200 per month, and pocket the difference.
That is your pay for getting the contract and also for being
responsible to find another sub-contractor if the need arises --
because the original contract is in your name.
Aside from obvious potential problems like theft or major
breakage, the greatest possible problem is when you and the
client disagree on what work is supposed to be done. It is very
easy for this to happen unless everything is IN WRITING, and the
results can be very unpleasant.
When you accept a job or submit a bid, every detail of what you
are responsible must be spelled out (remember the checklist
mentioned above). You can't just say clean and tidy the place --
this leaves too much open to interpretation. Put down the details
and make sure that both you and the client understand them the
same way. This may take a little more effort at contract time,
but it can save some big headaches.
Although there are a couple of schools listed under Business
Sources, few people actually need to take a course -- especially
if they start small or have any experience at all. The reason we
have listed several schools and franchises under Business Sources
is to afford you the opportunity to correspond with them. By
checking their offers you might get a better idea of just what
you want to do and how you should best go about it.
You will need to keep a current record of incoming and outgoing
cash, and a file of your receipts and checks. Your financial
records should be summarized monthly to let you know how you are
doing and annually for income taxes.
Your contracts can be fancy, technical forms from a lawyers, or
simple forms from a stationery store, or even a letter that you
compose spelling out the details of the agreement and you both
A contract needs only sate that in exchange for a certain fee
(paid monthly or?), you will perform the listed chores on a
daily, weekly or whatever basis (separate them by when they are
to be done).
Subcontractors are similar but with different names (they
contract to do jobs for you). If you are in doubt about the
contract wording, work up a draft and ask a lawyer to review it
(he will ordinarily charge much less to review than to compose
one,,, even though his secretary will probably copy most of it
from existing forms).
Once you are satisfied with your contract form, have copies of it
reproduced. To save money, you can have a word processing service
make the master and then just make more copies as you need them.
The advantage of this that the word processor can easily alter
the form if there is a mistake or a change needed -- and you
aren't stuck with 1,000 copies of outdated or worthless forms!
The janitorial business is not glamorous, but it is profitable
because it is something that every business needs. The work is
not complicated or difficult and it is relatively easy to get
help. Business often prefer to deal with a service than to try
and hire their own because they are not there to supervise and
the service gives them some assurance of a professional job.
A neat looking area is very important businesses and stores and
they are willing to pay well for good service. If you are willing
to work learn and manage people, you can do well in the
WELCO MANUFACTURING, INC., P.O. Box D, Jackson, WY 83001. Sells
propane fired steam cleaner (gets hot in one minute); uses liquid
soap weighs 120 lbs.
BLACK MAGIC, 1472 Mountain Rd.,Stowe, VT 05672, 800/334-3395.
Information about high pressure washing business (for stoves and
SUN-BELT STEAMEX, 4211 Winton Rd.,Raleigh, NC 27604. Cleaning
supplies for cleaners of upholstery, carpets, etc.
EVERGREEN CLEANING SYSTEMS,, 1598 Reed Industrial, West Trenton,
NJ 08628,800/3547336. Offers a business kit for home and rug
DOVER PUBLICATIONS, INC.,31 East 2nd St.,Mineola, NY 11051.
Discount books, clip art, stencils, etc.
QUILL CORPORATION, 100 Schelter Rd.,Lincolnshire, IL 60917-4700,
312/634-4800. Office supplies.
NEBS, 500 Main St.,Groton, MA 04171, 800/225-6380. Office
IVEY PRINTING, Box 761, Meridan, TX 76665. Letterhead: 400 sheets
plus 200 envelopes - $18.
SWEDCO, Box 29, Mooresville, NC 28115. 3 line rubber stamps - $3;
Business cards - $13 per thousand.
ZPS, Box 581, Libertyville, IL 60048-2556. Business cards (raised
print - $11.50 per K) and letterhead stationery. Will print your
copy ready logo or design, even whole card.
WALTER DRAKE, 4119 Drake Bldg.,Colorado Springs, CO 80940. Short
run business cards, stationery, etc, Good quality but little
choice of style or color.
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