Essential Elements of a Business Development Plan

December 11, 2008
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In today’s competitive business world the professional textile cleaner must focus on education and certification. Raising your financial IQ with business and marketing classes is also crucial to running a profitable business.

Business in today’s market can be risky. The professional textile cleaner’s greatest business risk is not moving forward continuously with her education. If business is about helping others and reaping financial rewards, the professional textile cleaner must have a technical education from the IICRC in addition to industry-related courses that teach sales, marketing and business development.

The following business development guidelines can be used to help implement a road map to success and profitability for your business. I have selected areas of business development for the textile cleaning company critical to the success of the business. One must always remember that carpet cleaning/professional textile cleaning is a business, and must be operated and treated as such.

Business Planning and Goal Setting
Setting goals and measuring results cannot be stressed enough. Your goals – professional and personal – must be identified in a business plan. Take the time necessary to involve your family, in addition to business partners, and create a solid plan for your business. The business plan should be set for a specific timetable and reviewed periodically. It should be viewed as a somewhat fluid document and be updated to reflect changes that may have occurred in your business or personal life.

If you really want to make money and become wealthy – which I define as controlling your financial future – you will need to plan for growth.   Create a Mission Statement
A company must have a clear and focused daily mission, as well as code of ethics, under which the company will operate. The mission statement should address your purpose or mission on a day-to-day and long-term basis. Do not hesitate to make changes or adjustments to your mission statement. The more you study and learn about business, the more you may find that your original ideas will take on a new focus or direction. New ideas and changes will be reflective on your business, and changes must be made to your original mission statement.   Daily Operations
This area can be a real challenge for the small-business owner. In most textile-cleaning companies, the owner wears many hats. A majority of business owners focus heavily on the technical aspects of cleaning and fall short in developing human resource and financial skills that are equally as important to a successful business. What will your day-to-day operations look like? How will the office be effectively managed and staffed? Development of employee manuals, in conjunction with software that focuses on employee management, is extremely important. Integrated technologies developed by software companies specific to the cleaning industry must be implemented for client contact and proper financial reporting.

Today, most cleaning services are well diversified and offer a variety of services in order to realize full market potential. A well-diversified company limits the chance a client will call the competition to provide a related service you do not offer. Most clients want the convenience of having to call only one company for their cleaning needs. For example, there are a tremendous number of textile cleaning companies that have discovered the value and profitability of diversifying into hard-surface restoration, including tile, grout and stone cleaning. Carpet cleaning opens the door to offer your clients other specialty services. In many cases, the specialty service will be more profitable than the carpet cleaning part of the job. What services in addition to carpet cleaning will your company offer?

Add risk management to your daily operation. Make sure you have proper licensing and insurance for the work you are performing. There must be a certification and continuing education program for technicians. Education and technical training is the competitive edge necessary in today’s high tech business environment.

  Creating an Image
After traveling the country for the past 14 years and training more than 55,000 dedicated professionals, it amazes me how little effort many firms put into marketing and development of a killer sales program. During the past few years, however, I have noticed a dramatic increase in the number of professionals attending sales and marketing seminars. The most successful cleaning companies not only do a good job of cleaning carpet, they excel in being able to market the company and create an effective brand, which in turn creates value and effectively delivers their message to their clients.

How will your company be packaged? Create an individual brand that will establish your company image. Package your company by creating effective marketing literature combined with an overall look (i.e., company logo, above-average appearance, uniforms that display credibility through certification, marketing brochures, business cards, contracts with letterhead, company gift for client, etc.) to help deliver your message. I personally would give clients private label spotter. The client loved the gift and it also kept my company name in front of the client. Your marketing must project a certain image, show continuity and have a consistent look.

  Define Your Market
First and most important, you must understand your market, creating marketing tailored to reach and motivate a specific client to use your high-quality and value-oriented cleaning service. Not all cleaning companies focus on the high-end or, as Howard Partridge would say, “Mercedes” clients.

If you are going to develop a lucrative cleaning business that can grow and survive downturns in the economy, the more disposable income your client has the better. Many business owners I talk to throughout the country make the easy mistake of trying to be all things to all clients. Today’s consumer is very price conscious, and this type of market can sap your energy and create financial problems, especially if a business is dependent on high volume.

Unfortunately, many companies base their marketing strategy on high volume. Low price and high volume will literally break your back, and you will go broke. You must find the client who believes in education and certification, a client who values having their carpet or upholstery cleaned to an industry standard by true professionals who provide a high ethical business and personal standard to their valued clients. Not all markets appreciate this level of dedication and quality, and therefore will not pay for it.

Many high-end homes are viewed as an investment. These types of clients are most likely to purchase expensive textiles and are willing to pay top dollar for a quality service to clean them. Cleaning investment-quality textiles or high-end rugs and fabrics helps to create a lucrative niche market for the well-educated textile cleaner. How about commercial cleaning? Commercial cleaning, in my opinion, is a great complement to your business. Now you can also maintain all those great businesses your residential clients own.

Focus on marketing vehicles you can implement to deliver your message. Marketing is using a combination of strategies to effectively reach your defined market. These vehicles include direct mail; newsletters; business networking (Rotary, Lion’s Club, Kiwanis, local Chamber of Commerce, BNI, etc.); the Yellow Pages; referral marketing systems; reminder system; telemarketing; printed advertisements (i.e., local church bulletins, newspapers); Web sites and Internet marketing. I suggest every professional textile cleaner become a student of sales and marketing. Hone your skills in marketing. Every marketing class you take will offer valuable information that will give you the competitive edge we all seek.

An initial marketing program for the textile cleaner might be a well-developed direct mail campaign combined with a newsletter and a really good referral marketing system. This is not as easy as it sounds, or everyone would be rich. You will also need a quality mailing list that specifies the demographics and income level of potential clients you are attempting to reach. Create a marketing plan for at least a one-year period. Customers must receive marketing materials from your business a minimum of six times per year.

Financial Development
Purchase a software program developed specifically to help run a cleaning business. The program should have the capability to facilitate and run invoices, print labels, provide critical financial information, calculate profit margins on services as well as maintain your client database. Find a good certified public accountant and develop business relationships with an attorney and local banker. For continued growth and expansion, your business will most likely require a credit line with a local bank. A new business will need a business plan to secure financial lending. When making important financial decisions be sure to involve your CPA and other members of your financial support team.

Pay attention to your finances and run the company on a budget. Keep an eye on current market trends and price accordingly. Learn how to think about establishing your price based on time, material and labor. Learn to think by the hour not the square foot in terms of pricing.

  Development and Expansion
Systemizing your business will be the key to your success. Growth potential for your company will be up to you. As the late Ralph Bloss would often say, “Change is inevitable, growth is optional.” You must sit down and figure out what is best for you and your family. Use and plan your time wisely. In a small business, a common problem is running the company more like a family than a business. When dealing with crucial development issues, always perform a thorough analysis of your exposure to financial loss.

Business is fun and exciting once we begin to take financial responsibility seriously, and we’ve only just scratched the surface as to what it takes to become successful and wealthy in any business; think “all the brainpower you can muster then serious inspiration and determination coupled with the confidence to move a mountain on your own one piece of dirt at a time.” Diehard entrepreneurs will always be successful because they are never afraid to fail!

Take a close look at your business and identify areas that may need improvement and education to get to the next level. Education is a focal point in my life, and becoming a teacher has enabled me to travel and meet so many interesting people in our industry. Remember, education is a lifelong journey. 

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