Can you help a “Just Starting Out” carpet cleaner?

Question: How big do I want my new cleaning business to be?

Steve’s answer: Your decision but let’s analyze five different options…

carpet cleaning starting out checklist

Hi Steve,

I am wanting to start my own carpet cleaning business. But I’m not sure what size of company I want to aim for. Can you help me with a “business model”? Thanks.

Best Regards,

Thinking It Over in Omaha

I’m pleased to see you aren’t falling prey to the “Ready- Fire- Aim” syndrome, Thinking.  I cringe to think how many sleepless nights I could have saved myself … but I digress!

There is no question the cleaning and restoration industry has virtually unlimited potential- IF you “do it right”.  On the other hand, “do it wrong” and you will be condemned to a miserable, high pressure, lower class existence- and that doesn’t sound like much fun!

This “Business Model Goal” is a VERY important topic so I’m not going to just blurt out a few platitudes and move on. (My usual strategy!) Instead, let me share my very BEST business concept …

Steve’s “Just Starting Out” Strategy #1:  Begin with the end in mind

I know this is a tough one, Thinking.  After all, my guess is you may just want to pay the bills or make a few bucks to spend on Saturday.  (Nothing wrong with either one of these goals!)

Which option from our Starting Out Checklist is best for you?

BUT remember that having so MANY options can be a two-edged sword- wonderful but overwhelming.  Too many cleaners stumble through life flitting from one business model to another.  So here’s a “starting out checklist” of business (and life) models open to you.  You should choose the Business Model where you LOVE waking up in the morning! Then work toward it.

NOTE:  Remember you can always morph into a different business and life model later if you wish. (And by the way, we also have an entire section for “Just Starting Out?” people HERE.)

Now here are five different “Business Model Options” …

1.  Part time supplemental income- You may have a regular job (maybe with great benefits) and you just want to make extra money.  Then great- carpet cleaning will work for you.  Residential cleaning can be done on Saturdays and commercial work on Sundays and the evenings.  Even just a few jobs per week can add $20,000.00 to $30,000.00 or more to your yearly income and that’s not bad! This part time gig is also a good way to decide if you like this work and if so you can step it up a bit by becoming a…

2.  A full time “Lone Wolf” owner/operator This is where the majority of carpet cleaners fall.  (Probably because this model does have many advantages.)  Almost all o/o’s work out of their homes- low overhead and their commute is great!  Even better, a solo Lone Wolf doesn’t have the inevitable issues (OK, headaches!) that employees bring.  Plus O/O’s get to keep virtually all the money they bring in.  Once you build a reputation and a client base and with proper pricing you should easily top 100K per year.

NOTE:  One trap for many O/O’s is trying to compete on price with the Big Boys- don’t do it!  Instead, market yourself as a “boutique cleaner”.  Your clients can and will pay more, much more, for the privilege of having the “fussy OCD owner” of the carpet cleaning company caring for their home.  BUT they won’t volunteer this “bonus”- you have to ASK for (even demand) it!

However, even with all the benefits of staying small as a Lone Wolf sooner or later you ARE going to need help- vacations, injuries and (dare I say it?) advancing age are going to require “reinforcements on the wand”!

3.  Full time with part-time help- You may be in the “sweet spot” here- having a helper on many jobs lets you 1) get the job done faster and especially so if your truck mount allows dual-wanding plus 2) you can spend more time “chatting up” the home owner while production continues forward and 3) the work will just be easier on your body!  If you go this route remember that you are legally obligated to withhold taxes from your helper’s pay plus come under a whole host of other labor law requirements.  (These rules are often broken- just don’t blame me if you get caught!  Plus honestly with QuickBooks accounting software it just isn’t that hard to “stay legal”.)

NOTE:  Check out Jeff Cutshall’s Special Report on using part time employees with their own vehicles for encapping regular commercial contract accounts.

4.  Full  time with a full time helper- This can be a tough area simply because you are making a serious commitment when hiring a full time employee- “I (as in me the business owner!) am going to provide for YOUR family!”  Of course, this accountability can be a GOOD thing to force you to get out there and sell! Do you have the fire in the belly?  If so, GO FOR IT and the subsequent growth strategies!

CAUTION!  As you morph into a company with full time employees you must pass through a difficult area I call:  “The Road In-Between”.  (I’ve even written a very popular free Special Report  about this challenging path.)  This is a challenging business model where you are too big to enjoy the care-free life of an owner-operator but haven’t yet achieved “Critical Mass” where the company will float along just fine- with you or (even better) without you! And speaking of “Critical Mass”

5.  A real “Critical Mass Business” Wealth, prestige, power and the absolute pride of having created “something of value” are all yours in this business- BUT at a price!  The “Road In-Between” you must travel to get to this exalted business state is tricky indeed.  Even worse, it requires years of shared sacrifices from your family.  Think carefully about what you want, my friend! NOTE: Check out my Five Steps to a Critical Mass Business HERE!

At this juncture, Thinking, you will need to decide if you want to spend your life working with a helper on the truck full time or GO FOR IT!  Which option from our starting out checklist above looks best to you? The problem is too many O/O’s build a larger, multi-truck company but continue to run it by the “seat of their pants” management style of an Owner-operator!  This “Worst of Both Worlds” Business Model will almost certainly will spell disaster for you and your family emotionally and very possibly financially!


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