Ask Steve

Ask Steve: Why am I Not Making the Money I Thought I Would?

If you were like me in the beginning, you determined what the “going price” was and then charged a little less. Wrong!

MoneyHi Steve,

For the last few years I’ve seen the writing on the wall with my declining business of the past 15 years. I researched the carpet cleaning industry pretty thoroughly and it checked out pretty good. So I finally made the jump into being a full time carpet cleaner about 18 months ago. Business is OK but I have to say that I’m not making the money I was led to believe I could earn in this game. What am I doing wrong?

-Stymied in San Diego


Dear Stymied,

For me to give you specific advice, I’ll need more information. For example, when you say “I’m not making the money I was led to believe I could earn,” did you start out with unrealistic expectations?

Bragging about your income, business and/or net worth has been around forever. Of course, now with the Internet, spreading these lies is effortless. Some of these “keyboard liars” may have snookered you on how much they make as carpet cleaners!

If you aren’t making a decent living after 18 months in business, it can only be one or more of these three problems: A) You aren’t charging enough, B) you aren’t doing enough volume or C) you are expecting too much too soon. (Once again, it does take time to build a business - no matter how hard and fast you work.)

So in the short term you can A) raise your prices, B) market your services better so the phone rings more or C) hunker down and give your company the time it needs to grow. (Or more likely, you may need to do all three!) So let’s look at how to do each one:

A) Raise your prices: Stymied, if you were like me in the beginning, you determined what the “going price” was and then charged a little less. Wrong! Remember that most carpet cleaners don’t have the slightest idea of what their true cost of doing business is! So why let these guys become your de facto pricing consultants?

The beautiful thing here is you can test raising your prices on a select group of people. If you hit resistance, then just back off. Starting now, when a new customer calls in, just calmly and confidently quote them a price 20% more than what you currently charge. Even if you lose some of them, you will still make more profit and profit is what it is all about!

Now how can you know if someone is a new or returning customer? Simple - ask them with your phone script!

NOTE: For the dynamite phone script I used in my company, just write me at and put the phrase “ICS phone script” in the subject line. I’ll e-mail you a copy at no charge.

Now, only raising your prices (and answering your phone properly) won’t help you a bit unless your phone actually rings! So you should also focus on…

B) Marketing your services better: Now Stymied, this is way too big of a subject to gloss over here. But I strongly suggest you make a plan! Too many cleaners flit like a butterfly from one sure-thing marketing scheme to the next one. Find out what works by constantly comparing your results and then stay with what works.

Remember that marketing should be much more than just handing money over to an ad sales person. As a newer business, your fastest, cheapest and most effective marketing is consistently doing face-to-face sales. So let’s focus on that word “consistently”…

The problem here, Stymied, is most cleaners do a few sales calls, get rejected (well, duh!) and then give up and go to the closest bar and drink tequila shots for the rest of the day. Your “job” when you are not working is to find work!

So set a goal of talking to at least 20 people about your business every day. The simple way I monitored my progress on this goal was to fill my pocket with 20 business cards and I wouldn’t go home until every single one of them was gone.

Now, of course, time is required for even the most effective marketing to work and this leads me to …

C) Hang in there and give your efforts some time: It takes time for your marketing and sales efforts to break into the minds and sub-conscious of your prospective customers. So if you have both A) raised your prices and B) are consistently making sales calls, then C) buy yourself some time.

I don’t know your personal situation, Stymied, but I realize we all have financial obligations. But as much as you can during this growth phase, I urge you to cut and pare away non-essential expenses. Plus, look at how you can bring in extra money. For example…

You personally can strike up strategic partnerships with other cleaners or janitorial services where you handle their overflow work for a percentage of the gross. Or a part-time job may be in order. Also enlist your family in the cost-cutting efforts. Can your spouse and kids find work just to help with the old cash flow?

Do the A, B and C steps above and I promise things will get better. This can be a great business if you do it right! Let me know how you are doing out there!

 Steve and ICS want to consult for you! For a personal reply write Steve HERE with your questions, problems, struggles and challenges! Your help is on the way! A new “Ask Steve” will appear in the ICS eNews every Thursday. Register to receive it by clicking here

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