A facilities manager recently told me that he would prefer to have a tooth pulled rather than changing cleaning service providers because the change affects everyone in the company and the transition can take months to get through, which results in complaints from staff and big headaches for him. The same pain of changing vendors applies to suppliers of other products and services as well, so bringing in a new vendor needs to be very carefully considered.  In fact dropping a vendor and replacing it with a new one has been likened to the break-up of a relationship – because that is exactly what it is, and for that reason it is appropriate to ask – is the new company more “your type,” or just basically the same old company with a different name?  That brings up the more basic question of whether a change really needs to be made at all.  Here are some things to think about:

  • What do you like & dislike about your current vendor? Cost? Quality? Customer service? Ease and availability of communicating?
  • Is the issue with your company rep, or with the company itself?
  • Is there a way to salvage the business relationship through constructive feedback or do you really need to move on?
  • Can this new vendor scale with you as your company grows?
  • What are your expectations for the new vendor and do you have reason to believe they can meet them?

So check references, research and read reviews, inquire about a trial period if that is a viable option from your perspective, and most importantly get to know the new people you will be working with.

So you have decided to jump ship and move on; how does one go about initiating the change?  Going back to the relationship analogy – again because it is a relationship:

  • You can give the supplier the “it’s not you, it’s me” message.
  • We have decided to go in a different direction.
  • Our budget is in transition.
  • However be honest and helpful at the same time. The old vendor may learn from the experience and become a valued partner in the future.  So don’t burn bridges that may be useful down the road.



How can this pain be minimized?  We have learned that the following processes make the start-up much easier and smoother for everyone:

  • One on one training. We have found that bringing in extra trainers so that each new worker has a personal trainer to work with makes a huge difference. Trainees rate the effectiveness of their training and we are constantly looking for ways to improve the training.
  • Communication – internal. If everyone on the team knows the scope of work and the hot buttons for that client this eliminates multiple problems during the first weeks and months of the service agreement. We use a smart phone app that has job instructions for each location serviced, translatable into over 100 languages.
  • Communication – external. Staying in touch with clients including daytime site visits by management, QA inspections sent both to clients and our management team, and always being available via phone, email, text, or by any other means.
  • New workers are evaluated using a checklist at the 3 week point after initial training, again at the 3 month point, and yearly thereafter. This along with our quality control program (securecleanbsi/secure-clean-quality-assurance/) lead to consistency and customer loyalty.
  • At about 2 months into the contract we will schedule a walk-through with the new client in order to get feedback on how we are doing and to iron out any minor wrinkles if any that may not have been completely smoothed out by that point.
  • As time goes by we will schedule customer visits at a frequency desired by the contact person – we find that this varies greatly and we will work with the client to reach a balance between the extremes of being a pest and failing to stay in touch.

Our goal at Secure Clean is to maintain long-term relationships with clients and we have been able to achieve that goal through good communication and consistent pro-active attention to quality assurance through the years.


Are You Ready to Think Differently About Cleaning?

At your office or place of work there is undoubtedly a small group of people who are responsible for cleaning the building, emptying the trash, and tidying up.  They may be employed by your company or they may be employed by an outsourced professional cleaning service, but either way I am suggesting that we all think differently about their job.  I am recommending that we stop thinking that the beneficiaries of the work of “janitors,” “custodians,” or “cleaning crews” are solely the buildings they clean and by extension the image of the companies who occupy the buildings.  While it is true that this necessary work does extend the life of buildings and that it does indeed reflect positively on the companies whose signs hang on them (for example who of us does not judge a restaurant by its cleanliness or lack thereof), this is secondary to the primary benefit of proper cleaning.

What is more important?  The health of the people who work in those buildings or for whatever reason spend time inside it – including those cleaning people themselves.  Full disclosure: I am the owner of a professional commercial cleaning service.  The first thing we go over with new hires as part of their orientation before they begin working for our company is that they will be guardians of the public health, that their work will impact every person inside the building in which they work.  When I am personally involved in the orientation process I like to compare the environmental services department at any hospital to the medical staff of doctors and nurses; all are necessary for the saving of lives in that facility, but without cleaning, the doctors and nurses would be fighting a losing battle against dangerous microbes, resulting in many casualties.  Cleaning saves lives and protects health.  How does that benefit the business owner?  A quick Google search yielded this information about the cost of absenteeism in the workplace – according to Absenteeism: The Bottom Line Killer published by Circadian, “unscheduled absenteeism costs roughly $3600 per year for each hourly worker and $2650 each year for salaried employees.”   How would you like to dramatically lower those numbers by properly removing and/or killing the virus and bacteria that causes much of the absenteeism?  Yes, many people get sick at work and much of it is preventable.

Here is where the change in thinking begins.  As we appreciate the important health benefits and the bottom line benefits that go along with them, the value of cleaning becomes apparent.  Interesting side note: the ISSA has published this infographic that contains much related material on this topic.  I recommend clicking the link.

If we agree that cleaning has much more value than we may have acknowledged in the past, can we not also agree that it should be viewed as an investment rather than as an indirect cost?  Is it possible that seeking out the absolutely lowest cost way to clean our building may not yield the results that we and our workers deserve?  Is it also possible that dollars can be saved by reducing absences and improving productivity through the use of proper disinfectants and machines that remove the germs rather than moving them around?  This is a different way to think about cleaning – are you ready to think differently?

Your Cleaning Company Can Help You With Your Sustainability Goals

Fair warning – this is not another article about “green cleaning.”  Is green cleaning related to sustainability?  Yes it is a very important aspect, but it is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg with regard to how a cleaning services company can help your company meet its sustainability objectives.


Idealistically, sustainability means that we humans allow biological systems to go on functioning indefinitely, while simultaneously drawing from said systems for our own survival and quality of life.  So we strive to minimize our impact on natural and man-made resources by developing processes that use less electricity, less water, less packaging material, and yes that are not toxic to the environment or people in our buildings.  We minimize our environmental impact.


You have heard this all before, but sustainability is here to stay primarily for this reason: it makes fiscal sense, it saves money.  It has been said that it involves the triple bottom line of People, Planet, and Profit.  As we conserve resources, we don’t have to pay for them.  So everyone should be committed to sustainability.


How does the company that empties your trash and cleans your restrooms fit into the picture?  Ask your provider why using micro-fiber products saves water and chemicals while removing more soil and improving productivity.  Ask about activated water and its up and coming place in the cleaning landscape – imagine cleaning products that actually work produced on-site from tap water, salt, and a small amount of electricity.  And don’t hesitate to ask about waste reduction and what they are doing to achieve it.  A sustainability oriented company will be knowledgeable about these and other hot-button issues that directly impact your company’s initiatives and will likely be able to keep your costs low while maintaining profitability, which translates to survivability.


Often companies in need of a cleaning services contractor put forth little effort to insure that the provider they hire is the best fit for their facilities and for their company. The decision may be based on price, the likeability of the sales rep, or the flip of a coin, then the customer gets burned by poor service and the cycle repeats itself. As a result, many resign themselves to low expectations and poor service from cleaning contractors, most of whom appear at first to be professional and quality oriented. Many facility managers tell us that their cleaning company started out great, but after a year or two they no longer provided the original high quality service that they started out with.

Learning the answers to the following questions will help to prevent this frustration:

1. Does the contractor have sufficient capital to cover payroll and other start-up
If not, corners will be cut in an effort to reduce overhead costs. Under-capitalization
is the primary reason businesses fail. Ask for a DUNS number to check the credit
rating of the contractor.

2. How do they hire their people?
Is there a recruiting system? An application system? Are background checks
performed? How are front-line workers paid? Are they legal W-2 workers or
misclassified as subcontractors – or even illegally paid cash?

3. What training is provided?
Contrary to the belief of many, cleaning is not mindless work that anyone can do. A
rudimentary knowledge of pH is necessary, and proper procedures need to be put
into place and adhered to in order to avoid damage to your building and potential
injuries to building occupants as well as cleaning personnel. How is training done?
Is there a formal procedure or is it hit and miss? Also what about OSHA required
safety and right-to-know training?

4. How is quality service assured over time?
Is there a quality control system in place? Is there a management team and non-
cleaning supervisors to oversee the cleaning? Is there a formal inspection program
along with incentives for the workers to insure that proper procedures are followed
over time and that cleaning standards are being met consistently?

5. How is communication handled?
Can a contact person be reached any time? What are the preferred methods of
communication? Will you be looped in on any internal inspection reports or other

6. What insurance is carried?
Does the contractor have at least $1,000,000 in liability coverage, and does the
liability policy include coverage for property under their “care, custody, and control,”
lost key coverage, and other insurance specifically designed for janitorial service
companies? Fidelity bonds can also put your mind at ease, although they generally
don’t pay out unless there is a criminal conviction. Another policy that protects you is
Worker’s Compensation. If there is an injury on the job site, who pays? Don’t let it
be you.

7. What special services do they provide?
When your carpeting needs to be cleaned, cubicle partitions or upholstery cleaned,
tile floor stripped & refinished, ceramic tile & grout cleaned, windows cleaned, etc.
can they handle it? Do they have the experience and proper equipment? What other
services specific to your building(s) may be needed in the future and can they be
handled by this company?

8. Where do they buy their supplies and cleaning products?
Are they part of a purchasing group? Do they have buying power to get contract
pricing? If they can’t turn a reasonable profit you both lose.

9. What does their operations management team consist of?
Are there several layers of management and supervision or does their operations
department depend on one or two people?

10. Finally, what questions did they ask you?
Is the contractor interested in your needs and in solving your problems, or was the
conversation a series of elevator speeches?

Hiring a building services contractor is more of a partnership than are most other vendor relationships. It’s important that you are both concerned with the same priority – your business, which is represented in large part by your building(s). Keeping them clean, healthy, and well maintained is vital to your company, to your employees, and also to the building services contractor – if you choose the right one.

The Truth About Cleaning Franchises


Janitorial franchise companies are not in the cleaning business, but rather in the business of selling franchises to would-be entrepreneurs.


Do Cleaning Franchises Operate on the Same Principle as Fast- Food or Retail Stores? No! A franchise is a company that sells a pre-made business model and identity to a third party operator, who is then licensed to operate within the specific rules and regulations of the franchise. Consistency and repeatability are the goals. Many fast-food and retail establishments successfully attain these goals because of franchising. How Do Cleaning Franchises Differ? Cleaning Franchises have no real training program for their franchisees. They sell franchises at low cost, typically from $3000 to $20,000, and guarantee the franchisee a certain amount of gross income. Then the franchisee pays fees on top of the purchase. For Example Jani-King takes 21%, for royalty fees, insurance, accounting, and advertising fees. Then the franchisee needs to add to this number the following fees: finder’s fees which are 3 times the monthly value of the customer’s invoice. They can pay the 3 months value upfront or clean the account for 3 months for free. Also required are equipment lease notes that are mandatory and necessary. Add it all up and it comes to approx. 40%.

João Padilha had been saving money from his work as a restaurant deliveryman outside Boston when he heard a tantalizing offer to buy a cleaning franchise. Marcos Martins, a Brazilian immigrant like Mr. Padilha, was looking to go into business. Tri Duc Nguyen, a Vietnamese immigrant in Portland, Ore., needed a way to make money after Fujitsu closed the factory where he worked. All three men put thousands of dollars into cleaning franchises and say they were shortchanged. As Mr. Padilha retells it, the top Boston representative of Coverall Cleaning Concepts said he could make $3,000 a month cleaning buildings if he paid $12,880 for a franchise. What is more, Mr. Padilha says he was told he could easily parlay his investment into a large cleaning business. So Mr. Padilha paid the money and was assigned two women’s health clinics, in Haverhill and Newburyport, Mass. He was told it would take two and a half hours a day to clean the clinics, but it took six hours, he said. Coverall also gave him two dialysis clinics, and soon he was cleaning and shuttling among clinics from 5:30 p.m. to 7 a.m. on weekdays, with six more hours on weekends. He estimated that he worked 65 hours a week and 280 hours a month. But his receipts show that Coverall, which handled payments, paid him $1,262 a month, less than half what he says he had been promised. (if you add this up he was only making $4.50 per hour).”I was doing all this work, but the check was for very little money,” Mr. Padilha said. So he went to the director of Coverall’s Boston office to complain. “When I came in, they said I had no more work,” Mr. Padilha said. “He said the supervisor of one clinic no longer wanted me. They took all my work away in one fell swoop. I asked for my franchise money back, but they said no.” “It’s sad for a man to cry, but I left that room crying,” he added. Mr. Padilha said he recouped none of his investment and soon learned that Mr. Martins had obtained the franchise to clean the dialysis clinics. Mr. Martins said: “I asked why the person who was doing it before had discontinued the work. The field consultant told me the person had gone back to Brazil. (Story from New York Times) How Does This Affect You – The Customer? Let’s consider a hypothetical situation: There are two companies, the independently owned business and the franchiser. Both are bidding on a typical 5 day a week 2.25 hr. per day office cleaning account. The independent owned company places a normal bid of $902.00 per month for the account. The franchiser sales person bids a low ball price in order to win the account easily – $650.00 per month. The Customer, not aware of what is going on, likes the very attractive low price and decides to sign with the franchiser. Now after signing, that contract will be sold to one of the franchisee for $1950.00 3 times the worth of the account. They have to pay it off in 3 months; so they will actually clean that account for 3 months for free in order to pay for the new account. Now that the account is paid for, the franchiser takes 21% per month off the top for franchise fee $136.50, plus an additional $50 for insurance and so forth per month for each account. So now the franchisee gets $463.50 per month for that account. The franchiser has now made $1893.00 on the account, plus $186.50 per month as long as they have the account. So the head franchiser makes money on quantity and the re-selling of accounts, not quality. What happens in almost all cases is this: the franchisee that has purchased the account starts to realize he is not making much money on the account so he calculates it to see how much he is really getting. $463.50 per month divided into 4.333 = $106.96 per week, divided into 5 days = $21.39 per day, dividing that into normal cleaning time 2.25 hours = $9.50 per hour. Now he deducts his cost for materials, equipment, etc. He realizes he is only making $8.64 per hour. Now remember the franchisee most likely paid $10,000.00 to be a franchisee, plus they cleaned that account for free for 3 months to end up only making $8.64 an hour. (As the last true life story showed, this franchisee was actually fortunate since some have found themselves making less than minimum wage.) The franchisee realizes that he is stuck – he just paid $10,000.00 for accounts that only pay $8.64 an hour. He can’t get his money back according to the terms of the contract with the head franchise, and complaining will not produce any good results. The Solution: He cuts back on material, supplies, dilutes the cleaning chemicals to stretch them out, cuts the cleaning time in half say from 2.25 down to 1 hour. The Problem: The customer has now become a victim. The cleaning supplies have been cut and the cleaning time is being cut in half, leading to very poor quality cleaning. Their visitors and employees are also complaining about the poor cleaning quality in the building. Now the customer has to complain to the head franchiser. The sales Rep promises that they will take care of it. So they take the account away from the franchisee and re-sell it to another franchisee making another $1950.00 on that same account. But again the new franchisee, comes to the same conclusion as the last one and they start the same process the last one did, poor quality, watered down chemicals, sometimes theft, usually it will continue until the customer has had enough and decides to switch companies.


Cleaning Franchises:
 Do not provide real business opportunities to franchisees
 Are built to appeal to people with little or no business background
 Can and do randomly remove accounts from franchisees
 Force franchisees, through underpricing, to fail to live up to quoted standards

According to industry information, the typical legally operated independent cleaning company sees an average profit of 10% after all costs and overhead are paid. Franchises and other companies that operate unethically or illegally typically underprice their services since they don’t have to actually suffer the direct consequences of their pricing strategy. It’s the poor franchisee or illegal subcontractor who suffers trying to make a reasonable wage from the predicament. In the end, they and the customer have become victims of the cleaning franchises.
Check this link for more information:

A Legitimate, Legally Operated Cleaning Business:

 Is licensed and registered
 Carries liability insurance, worker’s comp, bonding, and umbrella coverage
 Legally withholds federal and state taxes, matches social security and Medicare payments, contributes to state and federal unemployment insurance funds, and issues W-2s at year-end
 Does not illegally set up employees as independent subcontractors
 Performs criminal background checks on all new hires
 Trains their employees and provides proper orientation
 Provides PPE and meets OSHA standards
 Inspects their employee’s work to insure standards are maintained
 Uses top quality professional chemicals and tools making for happy and efficient workers
 Can provide several current customer references

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