In this ever-competitive world, we’re all looking for ways to stay ahead of our competition and, ideally, increase profits in the meantime. For carpet cleaning businesses, this is often done by adding services to their arsenals. Some add-on services require minimal up-front costs and training, allowing for low-cost, high-reward potential. Others are more specialized. But depending on your business and your staff, they may not all be right for you.
To give you a better understanding of add-on services and the investments – and potential payoffs – associated with them, we chose five and reached out to several professionals that have succeeded in adding them to their business. Here’s what they had to say on leather cleaning, concrete polishing, color repair and dyeing, air duct cleaning and wood floor cleaning.
For leather cleaning, we reached out to Lonnie McDonald, founder/president of Textile Care Group/LeatherPro! (Kansas City, MO). McDonald has been performing leather cleaning as a service for 30 years and holds an IICRC designation of Master Textile Cleaner. He’s also an IICRC-approved and industry-recognized leather care instructor.
What do you need to get started with leather cleaning? A good leather class like the IICRC’s “Leather Cleaning Technician Course,” leather swatches, good chemicals, buckets, soft brushes and some leather to practice on.
What are the up-front costs? Material costs are small – just buckets, brushes, chemicals, a class. There’s no real expensive equipment.
How profitable is leather cleaning? Depending on how you price, by linear foot or by the piece, your (return on investment) ROI varies. There are some cleaning kits out there that pay for themselves several times over. As an instructor on the subject, we have seen numerous testimonials that the very first job paid for the class taken.
What else can you share about leather cleaning? This is a no-brainer add-on. Most cleaning companies are in homes or facilities and technicians walk by leather every week. Even capturing a portion of it would add significant numbers to the bottom line. I have always suggested making a list of everything you can clean, making an inventory, then ask about caring for it and marketing your service. It’s a win-win-win!
Stone Surface Specialists (Sandy, UT) provide the likes of carpet cleaning and tile and grout cleaning services. As you may have guessed from the company name, it also specializes in stone work. According to owner/operator Shane Chow, Stone Surface Specialists have also been performing concrete polishing as an add-on service for the past five years. We got in touch with Chow and he shared some insight with us on the add-on:
What do you need to get started? There are many different methods to polish concrete. As always, classes are great to ease the learning curve. The learning curve is much like stone polishing – some things work and some don’t. It comes down to getting some experience. Specialty tools are a must – dust collection vacuums, specialty floor machines and diamond tooling, as well as hand tools and certain chemicals, (and) a means to dispose of the concrete dust or slurry.
What are the up-front costs? Get a 175-rpm swing buffer and diamond tooling, at a minimum. Then you get into bigger equipment like planetary floor grinders - pretty much all the things you would need to polish stone. If I had to start over from scratch, I would need about $2,000 to start.
What’s the potential return on investment (ROI) from performing this service? The ROI is getting smaller and smaller day-by-day. Guys are bidding jobs for really cheap nowadays, but it can (still) range from $2 to $5 per square foot depending on the situation. If you get a system down, it can be profitable. I recommend going after really big jobs or going after high-end jobs – those are the best for ROI.
Is there anything else you want to share with us about concrete polishing?
It can be very hard work and difficult as well. Some of the high production grinders are expensive and the vacuum systems as well as a power source to run the equipment – and not to mention transporting all of that heavy equipment. I would advise to anyone that is thinking of adding this on to their services to start with the maintaining of the polished floors – that can be an easy proving ground and I have found the Spinergy pads from Bridgepoint Systems can make it easy to do the maintenance. We have been polishing stone and concrete
for many years and I feel just recently we have come up with a good system. It has started to be very profitable for us, but it has been a long road of experimenting. At times, I almost gave up on it. I always look to learn and my motto is: “If it’s really difficult, I want to know how to do it.” That’s what I feel separates our company from others.
For color repair and dyeing, we turned to Fon Johnson, owner of Dr. Cleangood (Powell, TN). Johnson says his company has been performing the add-on for about seven years now. He quips, “I do not know why I waited so long and I wish I had started sooner!” He had a lot else to share about color repair/dyeing.
What do you need to get started? You do not need a lot to get started in color repair compared to other services. You really need to take a class before starting unless you’re an art major. You can learn on your own by video trial and error, but the fundamentals taught in a good class will jump-start your success ratio. You obviously need a color repair kit and you will need to invest time to practice.
What are the approximate up-front costs? You can spend several hundred dollars on a big kit with lots of colors in it, but 90% of our dye work can be performed with a neutralizer and four colors. The other monetary cost is that of a good class. In a good class, you will learn important components of the job that you won’t learn on your own, such as whether or not the dye receptors may be damaged, using the right temperature, neutralizing and other key factors that will prevent call backs. The main cost involved in that is your time.
How profitable can this service be? The profits from color repair are really only limited by what your market and each individual job will bear. The manager of an apartment complex will want cheap, while the owner of a multi-million dollar home with 6,000 square feet of special order carpet may gladly pay almost any reasonable figure. Both can provide a nice profit, but just like with cleaning, each will have different expectations and will take different amounts of time to achieve customer satisfaction. Just as with any other service, you need to know your break even points and what profit level fits your business model. Most people have no problem paying $100 per hour as opposed to paying for new carpet. Other than your fixed overhead, the largest cost is time. Know what both are and you will usually find that you are able to command a nice profit margin. Trial and error are going to be somewhat necessary, but usually color repair work should be billed somewhat higher than specialty spot removal. How much more you can fairly charge may be dictated by how much competition you have in your market.
What else can you share with us about color repair/dyeing? The two key elements to becoming successful at this are practice and your ability to distinguish colors. There are two of us that have taken the class (at Dr. Cleangood), but I personally do all of the color repair work. It is a fact that men cannot distinguish colors as well as women. Fortunately, I can discern many more colors than most men, leading to great success in making those bleached spots disappear. It is almost mandatory to get the lady of the house or establishment to scrutinize your work upon completion – women will often see something that a man will miss. If you have a female tech, it might be a good idea to send her to the class.
Air Duct Cleaning
For information on air duct cleaning as an add-on, we turned to Bob McDonald, owner/founder of Modernistic (Troy, MI). While Modernistic is going on its 40th year in business, it added air duct cleaning as an add-on service about eight years ago. One interesting thing to note about Modernistic’s air duct cleaning services
is that it decided against using portable cleaning units and instead purchased specialty air duct trucks and equipment, which, comparatively speaking, makes the up-front cost more substantial. McDonald had plenty more to share about this add-on:
What do you need to get started with this service? The most important part for us was getting our team on board with the idea – committing to educate the company about the service so that everyone bought into it. Excellence, and a belief in excellence, comes from the inside out. That was a larger concern and more of an area of focus than the monetary side, because it meant changing the culture of the company. After that was settled, training was first on the list. We highly recommend the NADCA (National Air Duct Cleaners Association) for certification, even if the state you’re in doesn’t require it.
What are the up-front costs? We invested in an NADCA certification class for each of our air duct technicians first and foremost, as part of our company’s culture of having reputable and qualified professionals. The minimum unit investment equipment comes to about $55,000 – an average air duct truck costs $35,000 and must be paired with the actual cleaning equipment, which is an additional $20,000. We have units that go up to $80,000 in price. There are less expensive portable unit options, but we chose not to go that route.
How profitable can air duct cleaning be? ROI depends on many factors, such as you current/pre-existing database size, your number of customers and how much you put into marketing. So far, air duct cleaning seems to be a profitable add-on service for us. It is attributing about 10% of our gross sales after only a short period of time.
What else can you share with us about this add-on?
Almost every house we go into for carpets/upholstery/etc needs air duct cleaning. It isn’t uncommon to hear customers say that they’ve been in a home 20 years or more without ever having their system cleaned, while the NADCA recommends cleaning once every 3-5 years, and more often for those with allergies or other circumstances. Taking on air duct cleaning
complements our efforts towards our desired end product – a clean home environment and satisfied customers, of course. It’s a logical extension of what Modernistic is about.
Wood Floor Cleaning
Tom King, owner of Sani-Bright (Indianapolis, IN), says that wood floor cleaning
accounts for about 10% of his total business. It’s a great add-on service, he says, especially for carpet cleaning companies that market to new construction areas and upper middle class and upper class neighborhoods. Why? King says it’s because such homes are most likely to have several hundred (perhaps even thousands of) square feet of wood flooring. King’s answers were short, sweet and straight to the point:
How long have you performed wood floor cleaning as an add-on service? One year.
What do you need to get started? Get a specialty machine (we have a Dirt Dragon) and go to a vendor class.
What are the approximate up-front costs? About $3,500.
How profitable is this service? We have had over a 10-to-1 return. We can make $600-1,000 per home. Adding wood floor cleaning was natural for us because our market is a lot of high-end homes, which have lots of wood flooring in them.
What else can you share about this add-on? Set proper expectations and know what the process can and cannot do. It’s a great add-on, especially for bigger companies that already clean carpets and rugs.