Questions to Ask Before You
Can your market support the service?
Can you afford the up-front equipment costs/training?
Is now the right time to broaden your services?
Haugland Bros. Carpet and Wood Care (Naperville, IL) can do two things for your deck: protect your investment in wood and transform an ugly, dirty deck into a neighborhood masterpiece. That’s according to their website.
Having originally started as a carpet cleaning business in 1979, owner Tim Haugland soon observed how many of his clients had added decks to their backyards and, more importantly, how many of them had turned ugly and gray from the lack of proper maintenance.
“My carpet clients started asking me, as their trusted surfaces consultant, if I could do anything for their wood,” he recalls. “Immediately, I saw a great opportunity opening up. Through research, we discovered there were specialty resources that originated in the power washing industry that were phenomenal for washing and sealing wood.”
Today, Haugland Bros. Carpet and Wood Care cleans decks up to seven months out of the year and has about 700 deck clients in its company database. Haugland says the job can be done with some standard equipment, such as a low-pressure, high-volume portable cold-water power washer, wands and surface tools to increase efficiency, a ladder, chemicals and sealers and, ideally, the right training to avoid misuse and on-the-job damage.
“I remember attending a meeting shortly after we started doing decks at one of the local carpet cleaning associations,” Haugland says. “Upon hearing of our diversification, one of the board members condescendingly asked me, ‘What’s wrong, isn’t there enough carpet cleaning business for you?’ All I can do now is smile that I didn’t let that negative comment change my course, because diversification in my business has proven to be very successful.”
Here’s more of what Tim Haugland had to say on his successful add-on:
On how it was marketed: “We put ads in the local newspapers with the headline, ‘Wanted, Ugly, Dirty Decks.’ The phone calls flooded in immediately and we were on our way. In the early years, we found it effective to do a free-test cleaning of 25 square feet of (customer) decks. The ‘wow factor’ kicked in and we would have another job.”
On profits: Our deck business at this point is pretty much an annuity of repeating clients that runs on auto pilot. We have almost 700 deck clients in our database. Not every client needs servicing every year, thus, in recent years, we complete about 130 to 150 projects per six-month season with one crew. It comprises about 20% of our total company volume. Our minimum deck job is now between $400 and $500, and range upwards to multi-thousands on a single project. We have condo associations and property managers that have hired us to perform services on multiple decks for over $20,000. One particular residential client has, for decades, loyally had his immense redwood deck system done almost every year. His tab usually runs between $13,000 and $15,000 per year. Gross profits can easily be 50%.”
On advice he has for those interested on adding deck cleaning: “Read as much as you can on the subject of wood preservation, power washing, etc., and then pay a trainer/consultant for his knowledge to get a jump start.”
LEATHER CARE, REPAIR AND RESTORATION
Ginger Kachline is the president of Interior Care, Inc. (Chattanooga, TN), a cleaning company that specializes in all forms of soft surface cleaning, whether it is rugs, upholstery or carpet. And a cleaning niche that fits into the “upholstery” category is leather.
Kachline has been performing leather care and repair for about 15 years after taking an IICRC leather cleaning and repair class. She’s currently the only cleaning professional in her market that restores leather. While she admits that leather only accounts for about 3% of Interior Care’s total sales, she’s also quick to credit this add-on for leading to additional business.
“Since I am the only one who restores leather in our area, customers call me,” Kachline says. “As a result, we are given an opportunity to talk about our other services. We then are not competing with other carpet cleaners for their carpet cleaning business – it just falls into our laps. The perception is if we can clean leather, which is more expensive and complicated, then we can surely do a good job on their carpet, rugs or fabric upholstery.”
Here’s what else Kachline had to say about leather care and repair:
On the importance of training: The first step to take before getting into leather care is to go to a reputable leather cleaning school. Leather should be maintained sometimes more than fabric. It can be difficult to clean, and usually we are not called until it is in really bad shape, which is why we need to know repair. We usually do not just clean the leather – there is usually some sort of restoration to go with it.
On equipment: Virtually no equipment is needed. However, you will need a kit, and color repair can get expensive and time consuming. That is why you charge a lot for it, particularly when it comes to repair. Another advantage to leather repair is that you don’t need your truckmount. One tech can be doing a leather restoration while the other has the van at another job.
On potential profits: Because material costs are relatively low, leather restoration can be highly profitable. Most of your cost will be in time of repair. If possible, I try to bring a cushion back to my shop to work on, so I can take my time to get the color right and see it after drying. Then, I know the formula to do the rest of the sofa.
Other things to keep in mind involving leather care/repair: As with any other cleaning, it is very important to qualify the job before doing it. Customers need to understand that leather is a skin that will show blemishes. Most of the time, your repair will not totally make the cut/scratch disappear completely. They need to know that. Usually the result is that these areas are minimized. Water and oil stains are nearly impossible to make disappear. Many customers have been overly sold on the virtues of leather, thinking that they can just wipe away any spills or stains. They need to realize that leather is a skin that needs nourishment, just as their own. It will dry, crack and fade over time. Oil will discolor it. It can watermark. Proper maintenance with cleaning and protection is of utmost importance and will diminish these problems.
WOOD FLOOR MAINTENANCE
“Think of it like taking your car to the car wash,” says Josh Frink, Basic Coatings Corporate Accounts Manager and a fourth-generation wood floor contractor. He’s talking about wood floor maintenance. “Washing it really good, cleaning it, putting a new coat of shine on it. That’s what you’re offering for a wood floor.”
When many think of wood floor maintenance, they might simply think of dragging a mop around the floor. But in reality that’s just moving dirt and other accumulation from Point A to Point B. A wood floor technician, on the other hand, should be cleaning through extraction and then coating and refinishing the floor to give it a nice shine.
Advances in technology and refinishing products have made wood floor maintenance a very lucrative add-on. Here’s a look at two types of hard floor cleaning services and the potential profits they can generate, according to estimates from Basic Coatings:
Intensive cleaning: This cleaning consists of using a cylindrical brush machine to scrub the floor and remove dirt and other debris. Based on chemical costs, a 40 cents per square foot charge and a $15 per hour labor charge, a 1,500 square foot floor would take two hours to complete and net about $500 in profit.
Cleaning and refinishing: This takes intensive cleaning another step by adding a hardwood floor refinisher. Based on chemical costs, a $1 per square foot charge and a $15 per hour labor charge, a 1,500 square foot floor would take about three hours to complete and net about $1,310 in profit.