Cleaning business owners weigh in on how they make college dorm cleaning an annual revenue booster.
As fall term comes to a close, college students across the US are past mid-terms and looking forward to the final stretch before a nice, long vacation break before spring term. And as soon as spring term gets started, that’s when college maintenance departments go shopping for cleaning companies to contract for their annual student housing turn-cleans.
CleaningBusinessToday.com caught up with several CBOs who have turned this “down and dirty” job into an annual summer revenue booster, and here are their tips for getting the bid, preparing for the 48-hour to 1-week “Hell Week,” and surviving to look forward to doing it again the next year.
Kayla’s Custom Cleaning
Kayla’s Custom Cleaning, LLC has been doing large turnover projects for several years. This year we did over 140 units in 5 days. Each month we complete on average 10-30 units. The key to an effective turn-over is being prepared. You need to be organized! It is crucial to make sure you have enough sets of equipment, plenty of product, lots of extra people to help and a great manager. Your manager needs to have the ability to stay one step ahead of the team at all times and is capable of understanding where everyone is at in the completion process. We have developed an app to automate this process. It saves us a ton of time and money and allows me to manage the entire project remotely.
- The key to having a successful turnover is to under-promise and over-deliver. We find it very effective to have a checking team for every unit to ensure quality and make sure no units go missed.
- It is crucial that you over-staff and that you do not cut your staff too early in case you run into last minute additional units or several call-ins.
- If you keep organized and one step ahead of the game, you can make great additional revenue and your team has a lot of fun. The key to getting the job and not losing it is to never, ever miss a deadline!
Amy Wiggs King
2 Green Chicks
This summer (2015) we did our first set of college dorm/apartment turns ahead of the campus opening for fall term students. I had several great CBOs to help me through it, and now that I’ve had some time to reflect on how it went this first year, three things jump out as having made the difference between breaking even (or losing money) and making good money with this special project:
1. Be Detailed and Meticulous in Your Bidding
When bidding, ensure you include business references that can vouch for the great work you have done and can do for their business. You want to make certain the bid clearly explains if you will be using the client’s supplies and cleaning products/equipment or if you will be responsible for providing the products. Lastly it never hurts to ask if the company you are bidding for has other properties or campuses that need your services.
2. Over-prepare with your Team
Forecasting how many teams you will need is crucial, as well as deciding how many people to have on each team and assigning them tasks. Having a huge “let’s do this meeting” beforehand really helps as well to set expectations and to answer questions. I made binders for each team that had FAQs to help them while out in the field, things such as “what to do if…,” contact phone numbers, map of apartment complex, checklists for notations (for communicating issues back to client), timesheets, etc. Also ensure you have plenty of supplies at hand for the job and that you have staff to help wash cloths, fill buckets, clean vacuums at the end of each day. And investing in less expensive lightweight vacuums is a good idea; they are much easier to lug up and down stairs – and there will be a lot of stairs!
3. Over-communicate with Everyone
As in any special project job, communication with the client is crucial to ensure you do not have any issues at the end of the cleaning period; things are so chaotic, and it’s easy to lose track! My Quality Manager and I had a sign off sheet that we used before we considered the unit “done.” We performed a walkthrough and checked for anything missed. Each night, we emailed updates to the client to provide status of what units were cleaned, what units had issues (broken blinds, needed new burner plates, etc.). I believe this communication is necessary for a smooth transition and to get payment!
Real World Services
I start the marketing process for new college housing cleans at the beginning of every school year. If you think about it, this is really when the housing managers start looking for a new cleaning service, as they have just finished a turn season and know if they are going to be looking to hire a new service next year if they were not happy with the results the previous cleaning company provided them.
I also start marketing to them again in February, as most housing managers want to have a signed contract by the end of March or early April.
Our turn season lasts from April until the first week of September. We begin the hiring process in early March or as soon as we know we have a signed contract. In 2015, I hired an additional 40 staff members just to handle the cleaning of our 600 apartments during this short time frame.
Here are some tips for someone doing this for the first time:
- Over-hire by several FTEs.
- Always count on people not showing up and calling off sick when you have strict deadlines to meet. (NOTE: this is not specific to college/apartment turn cleans.)
- Provide your staff with all of the supplies and equipment to do their job well.
- Check in with each tech/team daily to make sure the cleaning list is correct before dispatching the job.
The reason we at Real World Services come out smelling like roses is because we are constantly communicating with our property managers both throughout the year and especially during the turn period to make sure things are going smoothly.