Although the global economic climate seems rather bleak with the highs and lows in the economy, developing nations like India have managed to come out of it and explore alternative and more reliable employment opportunities. Self-employment of any form has a lot of takers as it allows you the freedom of flexible hours and identifying your potential.
Skills needed to set up
Like any other business or service venture, starting and running a cleaning service too requires a lot of planning, managing, scheduling and supervision. You may also have to train unskilled labourers to use modern cleaning equipment.
Your required skills can be categorised into two categories – primary skills and secondary skills. Primary skills include skills vital to the trade like:
1. Managerial or leadership capabilities that can ensure innovation and quick decision making.
2. Knowledge and understanding of the cleaning business that will help you get ahead of your competitors.
3. Ability to budget and finance your business venture which encompasses advertising, marketing, sourcing suitable equipment and hiring sufficient labour.
4. Communication skills that are essential to sell your services to prospective customers and also to train your employees on your customers’ cleaning expectations.
Your secondary skills, on the other hand, are skills that can be self taught or learnt by just reading up. These include:
• Ensuring the use of the right kind of cleaning products for different surfaces.
• Employing ideal and sanitary cleaning techniques.
• Employing cost efficient cleaning methods.
• Grooming employees to fit into your client’s working environment.
The cleaning services industry can be divided into two prime market groups – the commercial sector and the consumer sector. As the name suggests, the commercial sector caters to commercial buildings like offices, hospitals, malls and cinemas.
The consumer sector largely offers maid services for homes and residential complexes. These include regular cleaning packages combined with rarely needed services like window cleaning, furniture and carpet cleaning, and in some cases even cleaning water tanks.
Modern commercial and residential properties need the use of several specialised cleaning equipment like vacuum cleaners, steam cleaners and pressure washers that offer a higher level of hygiene and cleanliness.
Although most clients can provide you most of these cleaning supplies, it is better to be equipped with them as most commercial clients may let you place a claim for these supplies rather than sourcing it themselves. Your budget should include a provision for cleaning supplies at regular intervals. The most commonly used supplies include:
• industrial strength garbage disposal bags
• waste bin liners
• buckets and spray cans to spray cleaning solutions
• brooms, feather dusters, toilet brushes and mops
• rags, paper towels and sponges
Starting a cleaning business requires pretty much the same formalities as registering any other business venture. These include:
Company name approval and registration – The first step towards setting up your cleaning business is to get an approval for the name of your business. Once you’ve decided on a few prospective names, you can always visit the Registrar of Companies (ROC) website and browse through existing company names and reserve your company’s name.
This registration process, including the paperwork, could easily take up to a week’s time. On submission of your application, the ROC should send its approval or rejection to the business owner within 10 working days.
Issue of identification number – The next step would be to apply online with the MCA 21 website for a DIN (Director Identification Number). You will have to submit address proofs and other relevant attested documents listed in the website.
Digital Signature Certificate: Apart from the DIN number, the MCA 21 website also allows you to apply for a digital signature for your business.
Income Tax Conformity – Your business will also need to apply for a PAN (Permanent Account Number) card, TAN (Tax Account Number), and register to pay VAT and service taxes.
Other Licenses – A cleaning company has to apply and acquire various licenses to handle chemicals, tools, heavy machinery and cleaning dyes. Most of these licenses are essential as it could be illegal to operate without them immaterial of the company’s level of expertise.
Like any other government application procedure, these licenses will have an application fee depending on the equipment or service you are applying for. Such licenses are usually valid for a stipulated period of time and they will have to be renewed after that to continue legal operations.
Marketing and Advertising
The competition in these developing service markets is really quite intense. Competing with established names in the industry can become specifically more difficult. You also have to wade amid the stream of beginners in the industry looking to outdo your list of services.
To make sure you come out looking better than such competitors, you must have a good marketing and advertising plan in place. Your goal should be to make sure prospective clients try out your services at least once to understand your capabilities. A few handy marketing and advertising tools and techniques include:
Business cards, signs and flyers – Business cards have become a necessity for every business owner in India. They are least likely to be thrown away and find their way into wallets and address books, waiting to get picked out at the most opportune moment.
Flyers too are a great way to promote your business, provided you find the right platform for them. For instance, stashing them into daily newspapers means your flyers are more likely to be sent for recycling along with the day’s newspaper at the end of the month. They will be noticed only if the reader has a specific, immediate requirement.
On the other hand, placing your flyers in strategic locations and allowing people to pick one up will ensure that they actually read it before tucking them away.
Website marketing – The internet is the first place a customer is likely to look for assistance. You just have to make sure he finds his way to you once he begins his search. With the right SEO techniques in place and an easy to navigate, informative website, your customers are more likely to find you without much of a push.
Promotional Events – Setting up a service information booth in busy areas and passing around complimentary items like pens, key chains and calendars can also remind prospective customers of your services.
Type of business setup (sole owner or partner)
As cleaning services are an expensive business to start, you need to understand your set up options. You can setup your business as:
A sole proprietor – The liabilities you must undertake as a sole owner are rather heavy. In the event of a loss or bankruptcy, the courts will not differentiate between you and your business. This means that your personal assets and bank accounts can also be used to disperse your business debts. Apart from this clause, you will enjoy the liberty to run your business as you see fit.
A partnership venture – Under this type of business setup, you can set up your business along with a few partners and invest in it either equally or as per an agreed ratio. You will also share from the profits in an agreed ratio. The liability will also be divided among the partners.
Private Limited Company – This is probably the most expensive of the three, and yet the safest setup. It protects the partners or investors from any liability from their personal assets and only uses the business’ assets to disperse any debts.
Challenges within the industry
Although a cleaning service might seem to be a safe and easy start up business, it’s a challenging task to establish it. The main challenges in the industry include:
1. Heavy competition: Most modern cleaning services offer expert, parallel services like plumbing and electrical repairs. This makes your competitors’ services much more lucrative.
2. Finding sufficient funding: You are not likely to find investors or partners quite easily as it may seem like a gamble to invest more in a cleaning service.
Other aspects essential for set upWorking out of home is probably not the best idea for a cleaning business. Your customers may want to visit you to discuss the service packages you offer and it would be best to furnish them with an office address for the same.
Further, you are sure to need a lot of space to store your cleaning equipment and supplies. Considering these factors, you will need a substantial amount of capital to begin a cleaning service.
However, if you are offering only consumer service for residential projects, working from home might be a more cost effective solution. You will also be spared the vast expense of purchasing industrial strength cleaning equipment.
Use a small business softwareZoostr allows anytime anywhere access on PC, tablet or smartphone giving the small business owner the ability to carry out admin tasks on the move; for example creating a price quotation or recording meeting notes on the way back to the office after meeting or checking who has outstanding invoices and calling the clients direct from inside the software.
With Zoostr it truly means you can carry your business with you in your pocket. You can connect to the office whenever you want. Mostly, time spent on the road is wasted time. Zoostr allows you to use this time to get admin tasks done. If you are coming back from a meeting with a potential customer, then create a price quotation on the go or record meeting notes, or look at who owes you money and call them direct from your phone or schedule the next meeting. Reach the people and information you need—anywhere, anytime.