Full disclosure, I am a carpet cleaner at heart. I know this magazine is heavily focused on restoration and that is great; I love the restoration industry. However, right in the title of this fine periodical is the word “cleaning”. Many of us got our start in the restoration world by being carpet cleaners. I still feel that cleaning is a great way to grow a restoration-focused business, and you can make great money along the way. I am going to reacquaint all of my fellow restorers to the virtues of using carpet cleaning as a profit center and also a great way to drive more water losses and mold jobs to your business.
A Changing Business Model
Cleaning has changed so much in the last several years. The preponderance of carpet in many homes and offices has greatly diminished. Savvy cleaners are now pivoting to a model directed at becoming full-service floor care specialists. In addition to carpeting, they clean and restore natural stone, hardwood and laminate, oriental rugs, LVT, tile and grout, designer concrete, epoxy flooring, and more. It is not enough just to be a “carpet cleaner” in this world anymore. Good companies are investing in knowledge and equipment to be one stop shops for all floor care needs.
New Techniques Bring Opportunities
Cleaning is not all truck mounts and steam cleaning anymore. With innovations in the VLM (Very Low Moisture) portion of the cleaning industry, the days of having to invest over $100,000 per new truck mount are not always necessary. Using low moisture machines such as the TOPS (Trinity Oscillating Pad System), Cimex, CRB’s, Orbot, and machines of that type are forever changing the cleaning game. For a fraction of the investment, cleaners are now out there making better production numbers and creating happy clients with less capital to start up. In fact, I have several coaching clients who now very rarely use their truck mounts anymore for cleaning and have thriving cleaning departments using VLM. This method allows them to more easily train technicians and staff cleaning departments. It also frees up their truck mounts for water extraction when needed.
A Unique Marketing Opportunity
We did a lot of residential cleaning in my company. By doing so, one of our best sources of residential water losses was from our existing cleaning clients. We had multiple trucks out in the field six days per week, cleaning three-four homes per day. On every one of those cleanings, we had created a system and trained our cleaning technicians to install waterproof tags on the water shut off valves with information on how to stay safe during a water loss and how to call our company for help. We showed homeowners how to shut off the water to their homes in the event of an emergency, we left refrigerator magnets and marketing materials about our restoration services. Cleaning provided us the opportunity to not only create a happy client and make money while doing it, but also having 30-50 opportunities per week to educate clients about our water mitigation services. We then would consistently follow up with these clients with weekly emails and monthly newsletters. Cleaning was a very good referral source for new losses.
5 Star Service
My experience is that most carpet cleaners are very good at customer service. As an industry with a low barrier to entry, cleaners are forced to compete on the merits of their ability to serve and create great client impressions. We started out as a carpet cleaning company which became a restoration company. However, from our roots as cleaners, we developed a very strong commitment to service. Our systems for creating a five star client service experience in carpet cleaning carried over to restoration. We had team members steeped in the service mindset, which they used to ease the stress of restoration clients. This helped keep our referral partners happy and they continued to call us when their clients needed help. Cleaning requires a strong customer service mindset and that can bleed over to all aspects of your company.
Sales Training Ground
Most cleaning companies require their field technicians to do inspections, educate the client, and quote the investment to do the job right then and there. There is inherent value in any technician having the ability to connect with clients, perform compelling sales presentations, and then ask for the sale. We found our cleaning department was a wonderful training ground for our restoration first responders. Once they had mastered the art of selling our cleaning services, the move over to doing inspections, explaining the restoration process, and then getting the work authorization signed was a piece of cake for them. In companies where they do not have first responders, experienced cleaning technicians make great restoration salespeople.
Don’t Throw the Baby Out with the Bath Water
I talk to so many cleaning company owners who, once they start doing restoration work, immediately want to shut their carpet cleaning business down. Why? If you have the ability to grow two divisions which can feed each other work, why would you not continue both? I know restoration money is much more appealing than carpet cleaning money. However, most carpet cleaning, when done right, has very high margins. Also, this is work that is ongoing every year for most clients. That cannot be said for restoration work, where we are always marketing our brains out to get the next job. That recurring money from cleaning can sure come in handy during a slow restoration month. My thought is, build both. They are complementary. Cross train your team to be able to work on both sides of the business. It will improve your team, keep the work steadier, and drive your restoration business in the process.
The moral of the story is cleaning is not as bad as many think it is. I have many friends running seven figure cleaning businesses with little stress and great margins. Consider cleaning as a great adjunct service to your existing restoration business. Although it often gets a bad rap, cleaning is still a great industry.