What's your plan? It's a word with multiple meanings. Let's distinguish between the classic cleaning service business plan, which is necessary for securing bank or venture financing, and a business method, philosophy or approach to doing business.
The standard business plan
Typically in small business, a standard business plan is drawn up using a set of criteria dictated by banks. From their perspective as a potential funding source, your plan plays a central role in their assessment of the viability of your business idea.
The dirty little secret is that very few businesses begin with a standard business plan. Many (if not most) businesses are started by people in a very organic way that arises naturally from life circumstances and personal needs. These natural entrepreneurs do not loll around idly pondering all the businesses they could finance. They do not craft business plans simply to see if they are feasible. Rich peeps that attended Harvard may indeed design feasibility plans, but we do not.
You NEED a plan, but folks, a cleaning business can be started without any up front financing, and you can keep it operating that way. You can still earn the trust of the bank over time, through proving yourself as a reliable account manager, and get a business line of credit that way.
A method of operation
A business method (like ours here on this site) is a set of practices that optimize your business and assure your success by reducing risk. These are proven injunctions that you use to enact your business day to day. It also is a sort of philosophy within which you operate.
Some business plans include accounting, logistics, scheduling and material inventory systems. All of these should have a set of procedures that you have perfected. You need a method to follow and habituate.
Be as ethical in your business as possible. Include this aspect in your plan. Ethical behavior guarantees the safety, security and longevity of your cleaning service business. Ethics create your reputation. Your reputation, if it is good, protects you from conflict while promoting you far and wide, as people using your services have a positive experience. This may be self-evident, and it should be. Nevertheless, we have all been deceived by a service pro at one time or another. Getting the raw end of a business deal just plain feels bad, doesn't it?
One thing the standard business plan will not tell you is how your business idea will work within the culture you find yourself. In the case of a cleaning service business, it fits almost anywhere. It is a generic business for the most part, which is why it is one the of the least riskiest businesses to start up. I have seen many local businesses fail because they do not have a good functional fit with the culture of the town. Even though a cleaning business is needed in all different regions, one can still use the lens of specific cultural fit to fine tune a business for optimum success.
Here is a simple example. Say you live in an uber-liberal town such as Berkeley, CA. You should not use the term “maid” in your business name, or in any of your marketing materials. It is considered derogatory. But in a small town in Texas, the same word may be appropriate. This is not about judging which is right or wrong, but rather which fits better for the context you are in. Another example is the term “housekeeping.” Some regions find it acceptable, some do not.
Another problem relating to cultural fit is inappropriate scale. There was a restaurant in our town (pop. 60,000) that promoted itself as a cereal lounge. The idea was to attract patrons to come in for breakfast, try different gourmet cereals, hang out and socialize or read.
Now, a gourmet cereal bar might be a pretty nifty idea in Paris where the population is in the millions, and a decent percentage of them are wealthy. People with resources like that might hang out for three hours eating overpriced gourmet cereal. In this Southern blue collar town of middle-class working folk, well, the cereal lounge folded within a few months. I'm waiting to see how long the gourmet potato chip store lasts.
These are probably good business ideas, if planned out properly. They certainly do not lack for humor or uniqueness. Given the appropriate cultural fit and the right scale, a wide variety of businesses will flourish.
Fun ideas do not automatically result in success.
Planning your cleaning service is not simply writing your ideas down and taking them into the bank. It is not just a 'cool idea' rattling around in your mind, but that you have not fleshed out in an objective way.
We have spent the past ten years developing the best cleaning service business plan and method in existence. We can proudly say that our amazingly low refund rate of 2 - 3% proves that we have done it.