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How can I speed up production?

The question: How can I get a job done faster and make more money?

Steve’s answer: Focus on the little stuff first and then… 

Hi Steve,

speed up productionI am a “just starting out” owner-operator with no employees.  I’m concerned about how long it takes me to complete a single job and think I need to speed up production. For example…

This weekend I cleaned 4 rooms, 1 large wool rug and 26 carpeted steps in a home it took me 5.5 hours working alone to complete the work!  I block and tab some furniture (some I just clean around), pre-vacuum, pre-spray, hot water extract, dry with air pods and then groom.  For this job I charged $291.00.  (My prices are on the top end of the market for my area.)

Steve, what’s going on? No matter how much I try to speed things up my jobs take way longer then I think they should.

My competitors are performing work at a fraction of what I charge! I even heard one cleaner here locally bragging that he can do eight jobs in one day!  At my current speed, Steve, I’m lucky to complete two!  What am I doing wrong? Any advice on how to speed things up?

Baffled in Buffalo

Dear Baffled,

Thanks for reaching out to me. Assuming the carpets weren’t trashed or the rooms huge 5.5 hours does seem a bit slow for a job like you describe. That is only around 50 bucks gross per hour! Which is “barely OK” for an owner-operator with limited expenses but you’ll never be able to build a Critical Mass Business that will run without you grossing those numbers!

I know you have a brand-new and very powerful truck mount. (That’s how you qualified for a free seat at SFS: Business Transformation!) So analyze your typical job. Where do YOU think you are “burning time”? Where can YOU speed up production? Remember when you pick your slowest step and make it more efficient you speed up production on the entire job! For example…

#1 Set-up. Can you cut the number of trips you make to the vans. Check out this “back pack idea” HERE. (Lots of my SFS members tell they save 3 or 4 trips per job with this concept!) Or even better why not develop a written set-up sheet detailing out the order of what you bring in on each trip? I know you (for now) are working solo. But go ahead and download this free Residential Set-up List for two techs HERE.

#2 Pre-vacuum/pre-agitation. Can you combine these two separate steps including using the “renovators” on the TM4 Counter Rotating Brush machine? This way you’ll trap the dirt, pet hair, debris, etc and you may be able to skip a separate vacuuming. Plus the agitation of a CRB is incredible and you’ll clean faster AND better!

#3 Prespray. Are you using an inline sprayer with automatic metering to put down your pre-spray? This saves time by A) not having to measure and pre-mix your prespray, B) an inline sprayer has MUCH faster output (be careful with over spray!) and C) your pre-spray will be smoking HOT which means it will be more effective and you can clean faster!

#4 Wanding. Are you being too OCD, Baffled? Especially under furniture you can speed up production by only making one pass and a dry pass may not be needed depending on ambient humidity and house ventilation. Plus with a CRB in the traffic lanes (see above) you may be able to wand less in the dirty areas and still have great results.

#5 “Additional Service Options” (ASO’s). Baffled, in the example above my guess is you didn’t “re-apply” (and charge for!) Scotchgard carpet protector. If you had charged half your cleaning price (which is a common method) for the Scotchgard re-application (which probably would have taken you an extra half hour) that would have added $145.50 for a total of $436.50 in six hours. Still not great at $73.00 per hour but MUCH better than what you have been doing! 🙂 And there is so much more than carpet protector you can offer. HERE is a list of nine different ASO’s that will dramatically increase your net profit per job and hour!

NOTE: I know you would NEVER high-pressure a customer to spend more on ASO’s, Baffled. BUT there is nothing wrong in “pre-orienting” your customer on other things he or she might want done “while I’m at your home”!

#6 Hire a part time helper? As a start-up, Baffled, you likely don’t want the ongoing financial pressure of a full time employee… yet! But one more option would be to have some on-call, part time people out there to help you on select jobs. HERE are some ideas on hiring and training part time people that you can call on as needed.

#7 Are you “too OCD”? You know I preach “cleaning perfection”, Baffled. BUT remember my classic definition of “perfection” from SFS? “Sufficient for its intended purpose”! So I say IF your customer is delighted and IF the job looks great… WHY are you still working on it??? 🙂 And finally Baffled, I saved the best for last…

#8 The easiest way to more profit-per-hour? CHARGE MORE!  Baffled, you say My prices are on the top end of the market for my area.” I believe you. And yet I’m reminded of one of my (many) favorite sayings… “In the country of the blind the one-eyed man will be king!” Our industry is packed with hard working but “one-eyed” carpet cleaners lurching their way through a difficult and stressful life. Very sad… because it doesn’t have to be this way!

So please don’t automatically fall into the “self-limiting belief”, Baffled, that you can’t “charge more”. Especially with the Value Added Service concepts, scripts and procedures available in our four different SFS training options you have the freedom to charge as much as you please. And this way your “slow speed/ low profit” challenge will take care of itself!

Let me know how the above suggestions to speed up production work (and more importantly increase your profits!) for you, Baffled. And best wishes! (This is a GREAT industry… IF you “do it right”!)


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