Something has really bothered me for the last 20 years with my involvement in the specialty cleaning industry. I’ve observed that when a new business owner starts out in the carpet cleaning or hard floor care markets the same thing happens over and over again. The same mistakes cause the same predictable outcomes. In most cases those outcomes are not good for the business owner.
For a long term observer these mistakes become obvious but for new entrants into the market most are completely blind to the pitfalls. The consequences are often sad and financially devastating for the business owner. The failure rates are very high in this style of business. The mindset that people start out with has a lot to do with the higher than average business failure rate.
In fairness, how does a newby know who to listen to or who to trust? How can they get the information that will put them on the path to success? There’s no easy answer. Most people are depending on the internet and 1 or 2 equipment suppliers to give them the right information and what they need to get started. One problem is that the equipment supply industry is guilty of profiting from the ignorance and common mistakes people starting out make. No-one wants to say anything because why would they, it’s good for business.
So how do you avoid making the most common mistakes?
I’m not going to list all the tricks equipment suppliers might play on you. There are too many to mention but I will give an example in a moment. What I hope this article does for you is challenge your mindset. If you’re looking to start a business in carpet cleaning or hard floor care, here’s 3 thoughts to position you for success....
1. Think like a business owner not a cleaning technician
This is not as easy as it sounds if you haven’t owned a business before. Most people in this market are hands on technical people. In their mind, doing the job is most important and running the business comes a distant second. That’s why the failure rates are so high. Owning a business is very different to having a job. If you can adapt quickly it will make a big difference. Consider your business model and your plans to grow. These can have a huge impact on how you get started.
• Are the equipment, accessories and chemicals you are starting with easily scaleable?
• Can you systemise and duplicate your business without excessive costs and complicated training?
• How easy is it to damage a surface or stuff up a job?
2. Marketing vs Machinery
Everyone who gets started in specialty carpet cleaning or hard floor care work loves talking equipment and specs and wattage and water lift and rpm and psi etc. But it’s all useless without customers. When you get started you usually have no customers so your marketing budget may well determine if you succeed or fail or how long it will be to before you start to make a decent living.
• Is it silly to spend as much on marketing as you do on equipment in the first 6 months of your start up?
3. Are all your eggs in the one cleaning machine basket ?
This is a huge problem for new operators. They buy a machine. It comes with a warranty. All good, or is it. Machines breakdown, and if you don’t think it will happen to you you’re fooling yourself. Down time could be one day, one week or even more depending on the work required. A simple fibreglass repair on the vacuum tank could mean you’re out of action for 4-5 days.
Would it be smart to consider an equipment set up that always allows you to work even when a machine is broken down? Or if you grow and have someone working with you, does your equipment set allow them to contribute to getting the job done faster or will they just be waiting around for you?
There’s so much we could cover here. If you have any specific questions please drop me a line, I’d be happy to help with any specific questions you might have.
The XO2 team is trained not supply product to someone if they feel it’s not the right option for their needs and expectations. Some clients are shocked when we won’t quote on particular equipment we advertise once we understand their goals and expectations. The best way to explain is to give you an example.
Here’s a great example that ties things together…
At XO2 we have a brilliant all in one tile and carpet cleaning machine. It’s one of the best available, probably at the BMW or Audi end of the market. It’s not cheap but it’s amazing. And we get 100’s of enquiries each year for this machine. But who is right for? Who will profit greatly from that machine? Who is it a waste of money for? Is there a better option?
In my opinion the answer is, for a new business owner this top end style of dual purpose machine is a poor choice. Before you start throwing eggs and tomatoes at me, hear me out. I know the brochures tell you a different story and you may already have fallen in love with the idea of cleaning tiles with this type of machine. The demos and videos online are great. I’ve seen them and even done some of them. Let me explain before you make judgement.
If you’re determined to clean tiles as well as carpet this style of machine is not your only option. Don’t get me wrong, this style of machine is brilliant but it’s more suited for perhaps your 3rd or 4th van, not your first. Here’s why.
So what’s the problem with an amazing all in one carpet and tile cleaning machine when you start…
1. All your eggs are in one cleaning machine basket. You live and die by one machine and that’s risky. In the event of a breakdown you stop earning.
2. The machine is heavier to move around and lift in and out of your van.
3. The machine is not suitable for cleaning all floors eg. some natural stone, polished timber and tiles with older or loose grout.
4. When you grow, your right hand man can’t clean while you are. Only one person is cleaning at a time and that’s not as profitable as it could be.
5. You’re paying more for a machine that in most cases 95% of the time will be spent cleaning carpets not hard floors.
6. Professionals that are only in the hard floor cleaning business do not buy this kind of machine for their work.
What’s an alternative and why is it better?
1. Here’s the package we find brings the biggest success maximises profitability, increases service options and removes risk. Best of all it’s costs less too. Instead of looking at a big all in one carpet and tile cleaning machine why not consider a carpet specific portable and a slow speed scrubbing machine you can use to dry clean or encap carpets, scrub, strip or polish hard floors, sand timber or even restore marble.
2. Two people can work at the same time and in different locations if need be. One could even do a tile cleaning demo while the other is cleaning carpets.
3. You’re always covered in the case of a breakdown.
4. The investment is less so funds can be allocated to marketing or other start up costs.
5. You can offer many more hard floor care services with a lower cost.
6. Both machines are much lighter in weight.
Broadcasting my opinion on this won’t make me popular but it’s the way I see it. At XO2, we’ve sold 1000’s of cleaning machines since 1968. But we’d rather not sell you anything now but have you say in the future sometime, “those guys were straight up, they had my best interest at heart and I appreciate their commitment to making sure their clients win and their businesses succeed long term”.
If you’re looking to get going in the carpet cleaning or hard floor care market we’d love to hear from you. What’s impressing you most about the opportunity and the industry? What are you finding frustrating or confusing? What’s most important to you in discovering a trusted supply company or advisor? Tell us your thoughts, give us a spray, whatever it is you want to say we’re happy to hear from you. And if you have any tips or tricks that might be helpful for anyone new to the carpet and tile care industry let us know.
If you need any advice, training or assistance to get your new business started our customer care team is ready to give you a hand. The number to call is 1300 123 499, or you can check out our cleaning equipment online store. Remember that we are here to help.