Should I “stoop to the level” of my cut-throat carpet cleaning competitors?

Ok Steve,


I am new to this site but have read and learned so much already.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!  I think I have a “Bleeding Heart Club” question. I studied the carpet cleaning business on and off for 10 years. I finally went out and self purchased my outfit. I was doing really well when I lived in California and now I have relocated. BUT I am having a hard time getting my business “back on its wand”. I have gone to many commercial and apartment complexes as well as done lots of advertisement. No Luck!!! Most of them already have their preferred cleaners and don’t want to change. I also see all these vans driving around advertising cheap carpet cleaning $10.00 a room! So do I stoop to their level and be happy I am getting business or do I sit back and wait???

Looking for help just outside Atlanta

Dear Looking,

So do you “stoop to their level and be happy OR do you sit back and wait???”

Wow, what a pitiful choice!  I would say … NEITHER!  First, let’s step back and take a deep breath!  While you are practicing your deep breathing exercises and simmer down, let me thank you for your kind words about this SFS site.  The only reason Jon-Don is funding this site is to help carpet cleaners just like you!

Let me also say, Looking, “I feel your pain”!  Been there- done that.  It is no fun getting crushed between the typical loser, low-ball pricing of this industry AND the ongoing pressures of bills to pay!  So what to do?

1.  “Start by analyzing and cutting BOTH of your “overheads”- Sure, focus on what you can save on your business overhead. (But cut too much from your business and you start affecting your earning ability and future growth.)

So I’m going to suggest something revolutionary here. From your BHC question I assume you are having a hard time making ends meet. Why? One problem may be as Americans we have become the “Entitled Generation”. As in “I’m entitled to eat out eight times a week!” Or “I deserve to buy all my clothes off the rack at The Gap” or “I want the latest 4G cell phone with the deluxe calling plan” or “I need the latest model SUV” or … don’t get me started with a rant here!

Too often when times get lean we obsess on making the phone ring (a worthy goal!) at any cost only because we are desperate for cash flow to maintain a high living lifestyle. So my first suggestion is to cut your non-essential expenses. As Chuck Violand teaches in his SFS “financials day” it is much better to CUT one dollar off your expenses than ADD ten dollars to your gross. And even more so if these are “unprofitable dollars” which leads to my next suggestion

2. Calculate what your actual cost of running the truck is per hour- This will be a tough exercise which is why sadly so few carpet cleaners ever do it.  So list out every single predictable monthly business expense you have, including van payments, regular advertising, an average amount for your chemicals, average fuel costs, a pro-rated amount for insurance, etc.  Now divide this amount by the average number of hours you are running your machine per month.  Now you have a fixed dollar per truck hour (DTH) amount  that it costs you to run your machine.  (Yes, I know this “per hour cost” will change depending on the number of hours you are running- but ya gotta start somewhere!)  Look at how many hours you ran per working day over the last six months and multiply this hour amount by your DTH and you have your  truck daily goal.  (TDG)

3.  Calculate your “cut to the bone” living expenses to determine your “daily nut”- After completing the ‘cutting your personal overhead” exercise in #1 total up the essential expenses that are left and divide by the number of working days you have per month.  Now you know how much you HAVE TO make every single day which I call your Personal Expense Daily Goal! (PEDG)  Of course, if you make more so much the better!  But now at least you have a target to shoot for with the PEDG.  Sorry for all the acronyms!

4.  Total everything up- Add up your TDG and your PEDG for a Total Daily Goal of what needs to be generated every single day.  No excuses.  Sure, some days you will make more.  And I’m going to tell you what to do with these “excess funds”.  And no- you are not allowed to go out and blow them all celebrating your good fortune!  Because first you must …

5.  Get after your Total Daily Goal with a “sense of urgency”- You are going to “get urgent” in two different areas- DAILY and FUTURE.  The problem is carpet cleaners get lulled into a sense of complacency and let the days slip by- then they get “surprised’ at the end of the month!  So make sure you at least make your NUT every single day which is the total amount of #2 and #3!  Don’t stop till you at least have made this amount.  If you fall short one day on your Total Daily goal then you must make it up the next day.  In other words I’m adding “self accountability” here.  Sure, I know, you are your “own boss”.  But the problem is your “boss” lets you get away with too much.

So now that you have your Total Daily Goal how are you going to meet it?  Let me reflect on it while you are calculating your Total Daily Goal which you HAVE TO MAKE every single working day just to cover your “cut to the bone” business and personal expenses.  Contact us when you have these numbers together and then we’ll do Part II of this “Avoiding the Two Pitiful Choices” BHC question.  And thanks for writing in!


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