This article is a resource article in hopes of educating a person about the dos and don’ts of starting a carpet cleaning business. Being in the carpet cleaning business for twenty plus years, I hope to help you save thousands of dollars and prevent you from making the mistakes I have on my journey. First off, when you go to purchase equipment for your business you will find very good used equipment. The reason for this is because many people fail in this business, they run out and buy new equipment and don’t last a year. Why? Because these people fail to understand carpet cleaning is hard work! So if you feel you cannot work hard all day everyday, you should move on to something else. The most important thing you will need is dependable equipment. This is your livelihood. I would recommend you buy a truck mount carpet cleaning machine. Buy a quality machine from manufacturers that have been building them for years. Hydramaster, Butler and Prochem are a few companies.
These machines cost thousands of dollars but like I previously stated you can find these machines used. Craig list, Ebay, and the distributors of these companies are a good place to look. I do not recommend you buy portable equipment(the supermarket rentals) unless you have no other option. Potential customers frown on these thinking they could have done the same thing. The difference in quality of a truckmount and portable is night and day!
The next thing I will touch on is debt. Do not go into debt unless you absolutely have to. Any kind of debt will slow your company down. If you can pay cash for everything including your van do so. Remember everything doesn’t have to look brand new. The bottom line is going to be how the customers carpets and upholstery look. If you did a good job, they will call you back over and over again. This also is how word of mouth begins. A carpet cleaning company can be run very efficiently. In five years you could be making $500-$600 a day and only paying for gas (this is your biggest expense) and chemical usage which is minimal. On the other hand you could be making that amount of money per day and paying van loans, machine loans and credit card bills. When you find yourself in this predicament you never know what your bottom line is! It’s absolutely amazing when your only bill to a bank is your mortgage payment! Also pay cash to your suppliers whenever possible so you always know your bottom line.
Marketing is obviously crucial! Remember advertise, advertise, advertise! Business in my opinion can be summed up with two points. Advertise and put money back in your business. You need customers for your business so you have to go get them. You should never stop advertising as long as you are in business. If you stop advertising your business will die. Customers move away, they die, they get wood floors etc. When I started, a website wasn’t necessary, but it is today. Again you don’t have to go out and spend a fortune on a web designer. I use intuit and built my own website and pay $19.99 a month. Don’t think you need pages and pages of info on your site. Nobody’s going to read it anyways, people are too busy. Keep it simple and informative. Set up a Google page account.
Your marketing can include flyers in newspapers (this was how I built 3/4 of my database), postcard marketing, direct mail etc. Remember this very important statement, save every customer’s information that you service! You would be amazed how many customers I service and they tell me the last carpet cleaner did a good job but I lost his phone number. These customers will be your business. Only 20% of people get their carpets professionally cleaned, your database will be 100% of people who get their carpets professionally cleaned. You should keep sending these customers at least 3-4 mailings per year. When I get a new customer, I put their information in a database on a label format for future reference. As stated above, put money back in your business. Every million dollar business person I ever met always invested back in their business. In the carpet business this could be as simple as, you make $400 for the day, go buy a couple hundred stamps for $90 and send out the some marketing pieces.
Sometimes it’s painful to spend money rather then just leave it in the bank, but remember all advertising dollars come back ten fold. The internet is a great big resource in which you can find a massive amount of information and knowledge. Use it!
Another very important thing to remember when building a carpet cleaning business is do a quality job. Keep in mind it is very expensive to get customers. I think the last dollar figure I read for getting one carpet cleaning customer was between $50-$100. That is the cost to market and gain one customer. We are on the low end. It costs about $500 to get one customer if you’re a home builder! My point is “keep the customers you service” because they cost a lot of money to get. Every single customer including the very first one you service, clean their carpets as if they were your own! That is the number one secret in this industry. There are so many lousy companies out there who think they are smarter than their customers! Remember when “you” think you’re smarter than your customers it is almost over! Use quality products and work your butt off for every customer. Send out thank you cards to every customer. Ever been at a check out in a store after paying for merchandise and the cashier doesn’t say thank you. Bad customer service, absolutely unacceptable and a negative reflection on that business! They wouldn’t be in business if you were not purchasing something, and if an owner or manager cannot train an employee to say thank you I want no part of that business.
Building a carpet cleaning business with limited resources can take a while. Some may get loans or use a credit card to market very heavily and get there sooner, you may get there sooner but it’s riskier when you go into debt. The average time it takes to have a good paying base is probably about four to five years. You could see revenue between $50,000-$70,000. At this point you’re in control to grow if you want, just advertise more. Remember also, it’s not what you bring in, it’s what you have left. Don’t think just because another company has five trucks they’re doing better than you. You have no idea how financially stable that company is. Keep your debt low and you’ll be fine. Remember worry about what you are doing not your competition! In my opinion there is no competition in this industry because there is so much work to go around, you just have to go out and find it! I wish you luck