Ask Steve

Ask Steve: What Add-On Services Didn’t Work Out for Your Business?

Some add-on services work better than others. Here's a look at some input from Steve Toburen.

Hi Steve,

I’ve noticed you promote the phrase “additional services” instead of the more common “upselling” term. I totally agree with your recent statement: “What we affectionately call ‘upselling’ is really giving the customer the opportunity to spend more money with us. Please don't take this chance away from them.” There is nothing wrong with gently offering additional services to be performed while our techs are there on-site.

But Steve, this topic got me to thinking about all the additional services we’ve diversified into over the last 32 years and then dumped later.

Let me stress we ditched these services for all kinds of different reasons and not always lack of profitability. Most just spread our talents too thin or were a pain in the butt for one reason or another. For example:

Car detailing: Our guys hated being hunched over cleaning in cars. And most car interiors are trashed!

Wood floor cleaning: Our wood floor restoration efforts (the quick way) never really provided our clients with the great results they really wanted. (Even when they said they would be happy with the demo clean we did beforehand!) And ditto on…

Leather cleaning:  Inevitably, cleaning really became leather restoration (since most requests were beyond cleaning) and we don't have the needed shop space, etc.

Sewage damage clean-up:  This just exposed us to more liability than we were comfortable with, made it difficult to go to Mrs. Jones’ pristine home immediately after the loss, contaminated all our equipment and our techs hated it.

Fire restoration: It just seemed like fire losses were never-ending jobs, with insurance hassles and the difficulty of working emergency jobs in with our regular work.

Whew! So Steve, what additional services did you “retire” over your career?

-Finally Working Smarter in Milwaukee


Your list is interesting, Finally. In fact, our respective lists of “retired” services have more things in common than differences! Let me take a trip down memory lane on what we discarded doing over the years…

Structural reconstruction in both fire and water losses: Unlike you, we made tons of money in fire restoration both in contents and structural residue and odor removal. But we found the actual reconstruction had way too many headaches and not enough net profit to justify it. Plus, I quickly learned that carpet cleaners make lousy carpenters! (Instead, I formed a strategic relationship with a local structural contractor and we worked closely together.)

Painting:  I also learned that carpet cleaners make lousy painters. Everyone thinks they know how to paint. We usually just let our strategic partner contractor handle the painting or we subbed it out.

In-house laundering of smoke damaged clothing: I learned this one after our office staff shrunk a $300, size 44 cashmere sweater down to something my 8 year old could’ve worn. But it sure was a dense sweater! (We started subbing the laundry to a local dry cleaner.)

On-site drapery cleaning: Too much liability exposure and health hazards inside the customer's home. Plus I was never happy with the cleaning quality.

Auto detailing: Just like you, we found normally neat and clean people will let their cars get horribly filthy. Plus, in our area, the price competition was enormous and the work was a pain in the neck. Literally! (We referred the work to a local detailer and he referred residential carpet cleaning to us.)

Chimney sweeping: This is actually a very good business. But I learned that my carpet cleaning techs made lousy chimney sweeps. We discovered this after creating a few of our very own "puff backs" and soot restoration losses, which we did for free! (We referred chimney sweeping inquiries to the person who bought the business from us and she sent us her residential carpet cleaning.)

Ceiling cleaning: Just not enough work to make it worthwhile.

Complex carpet repairs: Unless you have one person doing repairs all the time they won't get good and there is nothing worse than a bad carpet repair! Carpet installation was the same - only worse! (We subbed out our re-installs and major repairs and re-stretches.)

Janitorial: It helped our cash flow in the beginning. But tough hours, low profit margins, tough pricing competition and marginal employees all combined to push us out of it. (We referred our office cleaning leads to our strategic partner janitorial services that we cleaned carpets for.)

NOTE: For the low down on very profitable sub-contracting carpet cleaning from janitorial services write me at Or download my “Building Commercial Encapsulation Routes” manual for free right HERE!

Construction cleanup: Sort of a combination of the worst of auto detailing and janitorial.

Wow, Finally, I can't stand any more pain! But I will add that I have SFS graduates who are all happily making tons of money in each of the above services that both you and I retired! So to each their own...

P.S. Maybe all of the retired additional services should remind all of us just what a great core profession we have stumbled into with carpet cleaning!

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 eNewsletter every Thursday. Register to receive it by clicking here.

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