Most people don’t want to spend their time doing boring work. It’s an interesting trend that’s catching on across Africa, especially with people who have busy lives in the urban areas. Nowadays, fewer people want to do their laundry, wash their cars or clean their own homes. In fact, they’re willing to pay somebody else to do all these work.
It’s not only households that are outsourcing their ‘boring’ work. Organisations like schools, offices, factories, shopping malls, hotels etc. are willing to pay for professional cleaning services too! And that’s where you come in.
Why Is The Professional Cleaning Services Business Booming Across Africa?
Every business opportunity exists for a reason. In this section, we’ll look at the factors that are responsible for the growing demand for professional cleaning services in Africa. The information here will help you to better target potential customers and convince partners and investors of the viability of this business opportunity.
So, why is the professional cleaning business booming across Africa? Here are the reasons…
1. People will pay to outsource boring and time-consuming chores
Most working-class people who live very busy lives in the cities have little time and patience to do boring and time consuming work.
Fewer people nowadays want to do their laundry or wash their cars by themselves. They would rather pay somebody else to do these chores. People in the city are very happy to pay for these services so they can use the time to rest, relax and do more valuable tasks.
At an urban migration rate of 3.5 percent over the last 20 years, over 800 million Africans will live in cities and urban areas by 2050. Up to 40 percent of this population will belong to the middle class, an economic group that can afford to pay for professional cleaning services for their homes, rather than do it themselves. That’s quite a huge market.
Most people will require professional cleaning services about once a week or month, depending on the level of cleaning required; basic or thorough. This makes private homes and residential estates a prime target if you want to enter this business.
2. Special Cleaning needs
Most times, people don’t just hire professional cleaning or janitorial services because they’re lazy. Some situations require special and trained attention.
One good example is the kind of cleaning that is required after a big party, festival or conference. It’s not the kind of mess a few ‘ordinary’ people can handle alone. You’ll need to hire a professional cleaning service if you want a good job of cleaning out all the mess.
There are other times when people and even companies need specialized professional cleaning services. If you’re moving to a new house or just finished renovating one, it’s likely that you’ll need a professional cleaning service that will use specialized equipment to clean the floors, carpets, walls, ceilings, bathrooms and toilets.
With the current boom in the construction of residential and office buildings across African cities, the demand for cleaning services is surely rising as more people and organizations move into new houses/offices and renovate old ones. As the construction crews leave, professional cleaning services move in!
3. More organisations now prefer to outsource their cleaning needs
It’s not just people who are paying to get their cleaning chores done. Factories, offices, schools, banks, hospitals, hotels, restaurants and all kinds of private and government-run organizations are outsourcing their cleaning needs too.
But why are they doing this? Why don’t they just hire cleaners as employees?
Well, outsourcing their cleaning needs to professional service companies is cheaper, easier to deal with and more flexible for these organizations. They only pay for cleaning services when they need it. That’s why many organizations now pay a monthly or annual fee to professional cleaning companies to satisfy all their cleaning needs.
Cleaning is an essential task for all organizations, because cleanliness and hygiene is always good for any business. But unfortunately, cleaning is not a ‘core’ task for them. For example, a business will prefer to focus on tasks that make money and would rather outsource its cleaning needs to another company to take care of.
4. It’s more flexible and convenient for people and businesses
Like I already mentioned above, people and businesses prefer to pay for professional cleaning services because of the flexibility and convenience that it provides. After a busy day or week, nobody wants to spend hours cleaning the house when they could be resting, relaxing or doing other interesting stuff.
For businesses of all sizes and corporate organizations, professional cleaning services provide value in terms of cost savings, greater efficiency, professional service, flexibility and convenience. These are the main reasons why more businesses are willing to hire professional cleaning services to handle their cleaning needs.
Alex Nyaga is a Kenyan entrepreneur who started a professional cleaning service business in 1997, at the age of 21. Today, Parapet Cleaning Services has grown to become a leading player in the industry employing over 3,500 people in Kenya and Uganda. His company offers cleaning solutions for both domestic and commercial customers and its clients include airports, hospitals, shopping malls, office buildings, hotels and private residences.
Alex stumbled into professional cleaning shortly after returning to Kenya in 1997. He had studied for two degrees in the US and Europe, and had a well-paying job in Switzerland, but quit to return home hoping to tap into opportunities in a booming hospitality industry.
He got a big boost early in the business when he was awarded a multi-million Shillings contract to provide professional cleaning services for Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in Nairobi. The following year he won another big client, the US Embassy in Nairobi!
His company has been frequently featured as one of the Top 100 Mid-Sized Companies in Kenya. He is also celebrated as one of Kenya’s ‘Top 40 Under 40’ business leaders.
Alex’s success in professional cleaning services is proof of the viability of this business opportunity. His company runs for 24 hours everyday because there’s always work to be done and clients to serve.
People and organizations will always have cleaning needs. Being able to satisfy that need is a huge opportunity African entrepreneurs like Alex have tapped into!
7 Things You Should Know To Succeed In The Professional Cleaning Business
Are you ready to build a remarkable business in the professional cleaning services industry? Are you hardworking, versatile and willing to provide valuable service to people and make a healthy profit? If you meet these criteria, then you’re a good match for the cleaning business.
In this section, you’ll learn a few important basics about the professional cleaning business that should help you get started as soon as you’re ready. Here we go…
1. Before you start, choose your target customer
There are basically two main types of customers in the professional cleaning business: Consumer (Residential) and Commercial (Office buildings etc.)
Why is this classification important? Well, the type of clients you choose to serve will determine what type of equipment you’ll need, how much you’ll charge, and the nature of the cleaning services you will be expected to perform.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the two main customer types:
- Commercial clients, such as office buildings, hotels, hospitals, schools, airports etc., usually require nightly or weekend-only janitorial-style cleaning. Washing the floors, cleaning the bathrooms, emptying trash cans, cleaning kitchen areas, and washing doors and windows are typical tasks that are often included in this type of service. This type of work is steady and pays well.
- Consumer or Residential clients usually require ‘maid services’. This includes general cleaning and tasks that are specific to the clients’ needs. You may usually have to work while the client is at home, and when you build trust, you could be given the keys.
Providing Residential cleaning services will mean having a diversity of clients, since most homes only need to be cleaned once a week or so. This type of work doesn’t often pay as well as Commercial clients but you could become successful by serving a lot of residential clients.
2. You’ll need materials and equipment. You can buy some and lease others…
Depending on the services you’re offering and the kind of clients you get, you’ll need to have a range of materials and equipment to help you do a very good job. Brooms, buckets, rags, stain removers, trash bags and safety gear (rubber gloves, aprons, coveralls and dust masks) are just a few of the basic and affordable materials you’ll need. Don’t forget, gloves and masks are a very important if you’re going to be handling toxic cleaning chemicals.
At the start of your business, you can rent equipment (like vacuum cleaners) so you’ll have the chance to make sure it’s up to your standards before making a purchase. Make sure that you only invest in heavy-duty equipment that will be able to endure a lot of wear and tear and last for many years.
You should also ensure that your equipment are always clean and in good working condition at all times. It projects an professional image for your business.
3. Employees – Hire carefully!
Hire only qualified workers. The people who do the actual cleaning work (your employees) are the face of your business. Anything they do poorly or wrongly could potentially damage the reputation of your business.
That’s why you should only hire hardworking, committed, honest and customer-friendly people. Apart from these qualities, they should always appear clean, neat, and wearing attractive uniforms. This helps to create a good image for your business. You should also do background checks on the people you hire to be sure they don’t have a criminal history.
Another important thing you should know is that you can easily lose employees in this business. The employee turnover in the professional cleaning and janitorial services industry is high. So, to attract and keep the best and loyal employees, you’ll have to pay competitive wages and offer good perks.
Another good idea is to consider working with a hiring agency on a job-by-job basis if your projects will vary in size and length. This will prevent employees from being idle and quitting during slow times.
4. Marketing – How to find and keep customers.
The great thing about this business is that you can build a very successful cleaning business on referrals from satisfied customers. If you do a good cleaning job, your happy customers will gladly recommend and refer you to their friends, family, neighbours and colleagues. But you need those first customers to get started, right?
Finding your first few customers isn’t always easy but you can start with your friends and relatives, neigbours, former co-workers and employers, social groups and clubs, church or religious acquaintances.
Another great marketing strategy is to design marketing materials (like fliers, brochures, business cards etc.) that clearly lay out your services and communicate the uniqueness of your business. Drop off fliers, door hangers and business cards to new businesses in your area as well as other businesses within your target market. Introduce yourself to managers of these businesses in person or by phone and ask if you can provide professional cleaning services.
5. Your reputation matters a lot in this business. Guard it!
As you begin working for clients, it’s very important to do your job well and respect your clients’ space. Any sign that personal property has been tampered with, damage has been caused and gone unreported, or something has been stolen, can ruin your reputation as a cleaning business.
Here are a few things you and your employees must always keep in mind:
- If something gets broken while you’re on the job, let your client know and either replace the item or reimburse your client right away.
- Put items back where you found them after cleaning them. Don’t touch people’s personal items unless you’ve been instructed to do so.
- Stay out of rooms you haven’t been instructed to clean. You don’t want to be accused of something you didn’t do.
You and your employees must always operate and behave in such a way that your clients, whether residential or commercial, will be comfortable trusting you and your employees with unsupervised access to their homes, offices and facilities.
6. Office versus Vehicle: which is more important?
The truth is, you can start a professional cleaning business from your home. It’s unlikely that your clients will visit your office, unless you’re serving really large organizations that may want to confirm your existence. Otherwise, all you really need is a good space to safely store all your equipment and materials.
However, you may need a vehicle to function properly in the cleaning business. Because most of your work will be done at your client’s location, a vehicle is actually more important than an office space for your business.
An economy car or station wagon should be perfect for small jobs while a truck or van will be most suited for heavy-duty cleaning and janitorial services.
Whichever you choose, your vehicles should always be clean, running properly and neatly marked with your company name, logo, contact information (telephone number and email) and the services you provide. Don’t forget, a dirty, dented truck that belches smoke won’t impress your clients.
7. Pricing is important. Whatever you do, don’t lose money!
Before you give your price for any cleaning jobs, you need to take into account the cost of labour, materials, and overhead. You need to consider all these costs so you can figure out how much to charge for your services and make a profit. You’re free to negotiate prices with each new client, but it’s good to have a baseline in mind so you’ll be able to stay in business.
Remember, in many cleaning situations, you may be competing against the customer himself. If your price is high, he or she may think, “For that much money, I can just do this myself.”
Do some research to find out how much other cleaning businesses charge for services like floor cleaning and janitorial services so you can remain competitive.
First published here