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Janitorial Services Owner

Are you a neat freak?

In your personal clean zone, dust doesn't dare scatter. Paperwork always lives in its proper place, showers sparkle and wiry dog hairs are nowhere near your dirt-free carpet. Friends tease you about your maid-like tendencies. After all, who climbs the corporate ladder and makes big bucks because they're clean?

You can. Today.

Janitorial service owners play a crucial role in any business's success. Imagine walking into a restaurant and being bombarded with disgusting old fish and cabbage smells. Or walking into a posh office's bathroom and seeing things you'd rather not see. Those lingering smells and images stay with you forever -- and you'd have a hard time going back and spending money with dirty businesses.

Janitorial service owners carefully clean up these messes, clean bathrooms, vacuum floors and spit-shine their client's image. "We're not just the cleaners. We're the eyes of their facility," explains Frank Cephous, vice-president of sales and marketing for the Delaware-based Elite Cleaning Co. Inc.

If there's a mess, janitorial service owners immediately clean it up. That keeps corporate clients happy -- and keeps service owners in business. "Regardless of what a business does, if it's a wreck, perceptions go down," says Cephous.

Janitorial service owners don't just help businesses -- they help individuals, too. Time-strapped families may not have time to vacuum, dust and scrub. Between juggling two careers, kids and outside obligations, house cleaning is a monumental task.

A simple appointment with a cleaning company can organize their lives, release them from paperwork piles and conquer that strange dustball under the couch. Plus, these same time-impaired families are happy to pay for cleaning services.

Arlene Cline, owner of Jani-King Janitorial, saw dirt's profit potential years ago. Today, Cline has four employees, major contracts and makes good money.

Be warned. If clean is your dream, you'll need to shell out some green to start. "A contract cleaner could be a one-person or 'mom-and-pop' operation all the way up to a company with thousands of employees. Some businesses start out very small; others decide to start with a medium-sized operation or larger," according to Dominic Tom, managing editor of Cleaning and Maintenance Management Magazine.

You'll need at least $5,000 to $10,000 for start-up equipment costs (vacuums, mops cleaning solutions and supplies) -- and much more if you decide to buy an established franchise or business.

But don't worry. Even with higher start-up costs, you can still be successful. "There's more than plenty enough work," says Cephous.

There may be plenty of work, but don't expect to have cushy hours or an easy job. Ever notice you never see a clean-up crew between 9 and 5? That's because janitorial service owners work behind the scenes, stealthily cleaning while others are sleeping.

"I usually start around 6 p.m. and clean various places. Sometimes [I don't finish] until 6 a.m. Due to the nature of the business, I rarely see my clients on a face-to-face basis," explains Cline.

If you specialize in residential cleaning, you'll probably have more daytime flexibility -- but you'll still work weekends. "It's almost all evening and weekends," admits Cline.

Vacuums, mops and specialized cleaning equipment can be heavy, especially when you're lugging it up and down stairs five or more days a week.

"My job is very physical. I have to be able to lift boxes of supplies, five-gallon pails and garbage bags weighing 50 pounds. You need strong feet as well, with good shoes," says Cline.

Those late-night and weekend hours can be stressful for the novice janitorial service owner. Clogged toilets can be super disgusting. Mopping and polishing huge floors can be dull. Cleaning solution chemicals may give you a major headache.

However, even janitorial service owners have occasional funny moments that put everything back in perspective.

"We were cleaning a restaurant which had been decorated with black and orange balloons. My helper was burnishing the floor with a high-speed machine, and all of a sudden he screamed and ran! A stray black balloon was under a steam table and literally flew out from the force of the wind. He said he thought it was a rat. I found this out after I recovered from my spasms of laughter," jokes Cline.

It's a good idea to take some college-level business, accounting and marketing classes. Climbing the janitorial ladder will require some solid business skills -- so prepare yourself accordingly.

"Managers typically have some college education or a degree, are well-paid and are responsible for budgets, hiring, training, paperwork," says Tom.

"Some contractors work an unrelated full-time job while starting out as a part-time custodial operator," says Tom. "Work a day shift at the full-time job, then clean offices or other commercial facilities at night. Build a reputation, obtain references and begin to market the business, until that point comes where you decide to jump completely into a contract operation."

Or you could start simply by cleaning your room.


Society of Cleaning and Restoration Technicians
Industry news and support

How to Start a Janitorial Business on Little to No Money
Learn about starting your own janitorial service business

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