Cleaning Business Tip: Dip Your Toe In FIRST!

Warning: This blog is long. I know. Sorry, but, it’s important – and I think it reveals a strategy which may REALLY come in handy for you time and time again.

Here’s the strategy – DIP YOUR TOE IN FIRST!

To explain what I mean, let me tell you a story of how those words saved us a small fortune and may do the same for your janitorial business someday!

You see, one day one of our managers sat down to ‘vent’ about a frustrating problem.

One of our customers wanted a total price (more about this ‘pickle’ later) on removing what appeared to be years worth of built-up grease, grime, and who knows what else – from a concrete factory floor!

It was bad.

And our floor maintenance manager was really struggling to figure out how to price the job.

‘I mean’, as he put it, ‘This job is so strange, how in the world do I know how long it’s going to take – or how it’s going to look when we’re done!?’

He made a good point – it was tough to judge this job.

And we’ve probably all run across one or two of these kind of oddball, tricky, and sometimes potentially disastrous jobs.

And if you haven’t yet, chances are you will!

So what can we do? Well, let’s take a look.

Well, first, the customer has added to the problem by drop the pricing ‘hot potato’ in your lap saying

 ‘Oh, and I need a total price for what it’s going to cost – you know, for the whole job!!’

Well, here’s the rub:

Normal rates for cleaning tasks like floor scrubbing quickly go ‘out the window’ when trying to estimate prices for these kinds of oddball (code for unpredictable) jobs.

And worse yet, because of the unusual condition of the floor, you’re not only unsure of how to price the job, you’re even more unsure of how it’s going to look when you’re done!

And remember, the only thing worse, from a customers perspective, than paying too much for a job is paying too much for a job they don’t like the looks of – when it’s done!

So, here’s an idea:

Consider offering to do a ‘test patch’ for FREE, or ‘at cost’, or some minimum profit, it’s up to you.

That’s right, when you do a ‘test patch’; which is basically a small closet here or a ‘hardly ever used hallway’ there – you get a chance to safely learn the answer to two important questions:

#1 – based on this ‘test patch’ how hard is this job going to be? AND

#2 – when we’re done, what can the customer expect the results to look like?

Two important answers to know… right?

Now, back to the story…In our case, we did just a very small area, maybe 20 feet in an inconspicuous spot in the plant.

And, boy, did we quickly learn how long the floor was going to take – FOREVER! At least, that’s the way it seemed.

Yep, it was overwhelming!

But, we dodged the bullet of getting locked into doing this job, by using the ‘Dip Your Toe In First!’ strategy.

That’s right, because after the customer saw how the ‘test patch’ looked – he quickly realized even our best efforts weren’t going to save his old plant floor.

They may have to have to leave it alone for now and have it resurfaced and/or resealed one day, but for now, – it just wasn’t worth the time or cost!’.

Wheww! We breathed a long sigh of relief……

You may be wondering, ‘Why not propose to do the whole thing ‘time & materials?’

Well, you can, I suppose, especially if you have the customer check to see how he likes the results along the way.

But, in agreeing to do the whole project even time and materials, even though you may be doing a better job of protecting yourself financially – you may STILL be implying that while the job may take a long time and cost a lot, it will be worth it because the results will be great.

So, it’s still a good idea to do a test patch to make sure that it, in fact, WILL.

Frankly, I’m saying, I’m not sure the results will be great. Let’s take a look first. There’s the difference!

Anyway, the beauty of this “Dip Your Toe In Strategy” is that it positions you as a business ‘partner’ who is looking out for the best interest of your customer.

They can clearly see you don’t want to waste their money on something that may, or may not, give them the the kind of results they’re looking for.

And of course, at the same time, this strategy protects you from opening yourself up to the equivalent of ‘the money pit’, where you’ve got yourself committed to a project where you’re likely to lose money, not deliver a quality service and potentially lose a client.

All good things to avoid.

Keep this strategy in mind anytime you face any kind of very unusual cleaning request where you feel very uncomfortable with either:
1. How long it will take to do
2. How the job will look when you’re done
3. Both 1 and 2!

Again, this approach makes it clear you are not unwilling to do the work, only that you want to approach it in a thoughtful and measured way.

And that’s a good thing – for everybody.

You Can Do This, You Really Can!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Pete, agree, and thanks for sharing your comment. Wishing you all the best! Dan

Pete DeJesus

There's a saying it is better safe than sorry. As a business owner you have to learn to when to back out of the job, for your companies credibility is at stake.