For decades, cleaning services have provided convenient, entrepreneurial on-ramps for scores of aspiring small business owners.
Generally speaking, cleaning services are low-cost startups that require a minimal amount of expertise and capitalization to get off the ground.
However, the simplicity of cleaning service companies has also created a glut of competitors vying for their share of the market. To further complicate the situation, residential maid services are one of the first things to go when family resources are tight, and a down economy has increased the number of unemployed workers who are attempting to launch cleaning services.
Yet despite market pressures, cleaning services can still deliver profitable returns for the right entrepreneurs. In today's business environment, the key is to apply solid business skills to the traditional fundamentals of cleaning business ownership.
Cleaning services are amazingly low-tech businesses. Sure, there are a couple of pieces of basic equipment you may need to master, but depending on your business model, a vacuum cleaner could be the most advanced piece of technology you will use. For the most part, cleaning services involve exactly what they sound like they might involve – a lot of backbreaking work cleaning other people's spaces with brooms, mops, sponges, and cleaning agents.
From a startup perspective, your investment will be limited to reliable transportation and essential cleaning supplies (preferably environmentally friendly), unless you plan to launch as a full-blown commercial cleaning company. In that case, you may also need to invest in floor buffers and other commercial-grade equipment.
There are two types of cleaning services: Independent businesses and franchises. Franchises have the advantage of name recognition and proven business models. But they also come at a cost (franchise fees) and may restrict your business activities.
Independent cleaning services, on the other hand, offer more flexibility and greater control for the business owner. The downside is that you're on your own and there is no safety net or resource base to help you survive the critical first few years of the business.
Individuals who are unfamiliar with the cleaning service industry and the processes involved may find it more beneficial to pursue a franchise arrangement than to strike out on their own. Seasoned pros with a solid understanding of the industry and a potential list of startup clients, however, may be more capable of avoiding franchise fees and launching as an independent operation.