Tips for Offering Move-In / Move-Out Cleaning Services

People and businesses are moving from homes, apartments, and offices on a daily basis. As people and businesses move, they either need their old location cleaned or want to make sure their new location is clean before moving in. Your cleaning company can fill this niche by providing what is known as move-in/move-out cleaning. It can be an added service that your cleaning business provides, a way to give employees new skills, and a great way for your company to make more profit!

Move in/out cleaning can be cleaning a building after an old tenant moves out or before a new tenant moves in. The type of clients looking for move in/out cleaning includes residential and commercial property owners and managers. Commercial move in/out cleaning can vary from small, quick jobs of just a few thousand square feet to large office buildings of 15,000 square feet and up.

A good place to start when looking for move in/out cleaning accounts is to contact property management companies. If you happen to be located in a college town there will probably be no shortage of work. If you have been cleaning commercial buildings, your clients will no doubt ask you to provide move in/out cleaning services when they move into a new office or building.

When first starting out with move in/out cleaning it may be necessary to meet with the property manager on-site to give an estimate on the time it will take to clean the apartment, office, or building. Once you establish a relationship with the property manager you may be able to skip doing an estimate and just bill for your time. They will most likely need floor cleaning services too (carpet, tile, wood). These are specialized cleaning services, which you will charge separately for. Offering these specialized services will also add more profitability to your cleaning company since you will charge more for these services.

The prices charged will vary depending on the type of facility you are cleaning, but you should be able to bill $20 – $25 for your services. Apartment buildings tend to be less profitable than commercial buildings because many apartment managers have a budget to adhere to, so they like their cleaning contractors to bill a flat fee because it’s easier to stick to their budget. Cleaning contractors need to be cautious about bidding this way. Some apartments take much longer to clean than others so you don’t want to lose money because you underestimated your time.

No matter if you are cleaning a residential apartment, home or a commercial building there are several steps you should take to guarantee your success and your customer’s satisfaction with your move in/out cleaning services.

· Use teams of 2 to 4 people for apartment cleaning, depending on the size of the apartment. Larger teams may be needed for commercial locations.

Team members should be specialists in the tasks they are performing. For example, in a two person team, one person will be assigned to dusting, windows, and vacuuming. One person will be assigned to bathrooms, kitchens, hard floor vacuuming, and mopping.

The team leader is responsible for making sure that all equipment and supplies are brought to the job site and gathered when the job is complete. Put all tools and chemicals into a plastic tote.

· Before you begin check with the client to make sure the job site has working utilities. You cannot clean without running water and you need electricity to run a vacuum. If it is the middle of the summer, you should make sure the building’s air-conditioning is working properly. Cleaning chemicals and drying times can be affected by heat and humidity.

· Begin cleaning by removing all trash. Pick up all trash that is too large to vacuum. You will be able to vacuum more efficiently as you will not have to stop and pick up large objects.

· Use a microfiber flat mop for cleaning ceilings, walls, baseboards, and doors.

· Proper vacuuming is an important step in move in/out cleaning. Using a backpack vacuum with the proper attachments can speed up the tasks at hand and make work easier on the cleaning staff. Remember to vacuum from high to low, including light fixtures, window tracks, blinds, and along the baseboards. It is also much easier to vacuum out cabinets and drawers than wiping them.

Some of these items will need to be wiped down after vacuuming; light fixtures, insides of cabinets and drawers, ceiling vents, heat registers, and blinds.

· Windows and patio doors should be washed with an applicator and squeegee. Use scrapers or #0000 steel wool to remove stickers and bugs. Be sure the window is wet when using these tools or you could scratch the glass. Frames and tracks should be vacuumed and then wiped down.

· After picking up trash and vacuuming, start cleaning the stuck-on grime and dirt. Chemicals to have on hand include: bowl cleaner, fume-free oven cleaner, window cleaner, all-purpose cleaner, degreaser, neutral floor cleaner, stainless steel polish, and furniture polish. Save money by using concentrated chemicals rather than RTU (ready-to-use) chemicals.

Spray spots and make sure you give dwell time so the chemicals have time to work. It is important that you have enough air movement so employees do not breathe in fumes. Make sure that your employees have the correct personal protective equipment (gloves, goggles, etc.) when working with chemicals.

· Deep cleaning. If you need to loosen build-up, use the correct cleaning tools – paper towels, terry cloth rags, microfiber cloths, pads, brushes and scrapers. Use caution when using these tools – you don’t want to damage surfaces.

. Use paper towels, terry cloth rags, or microfiber cloths for most cleaning tasks. Use a green microfiber cloth for dusting; blue for windows, glass and polished surfaces; red for cleaning restrooms and yellow for countertops, sinks and walls.

. Use hand brushes for scrubbing showers, sinks, stoves, and refrigerators. Use grout brushes for cleaning up grout on countertops and ceramic tile floors. Toothbrushes can be used for detail cleaning around faucets and around the rims in toilet bowls.

. Use white pads for surfaces such as glass, chrome, stainless steel and plastic. This is because white pads are not as abrasive as green pads.

. Green pads are good for greasy areas including cabinets, toilets and scrubbing shower stalls. Be careful when using green pads however, as they can scratch surfaces.

. Use a 2″ utility scraper for build-up and adhesives in kitchens and bathrooms.

· Save time by spraying the inside of the refrigerator and showers/tubs with a pump-up sprayer rather than using a spray bottle. When cleaning kitchens, be sure to pull out the stove and refrigerator. Clean the walls, sides of appliances, sides of cabinets, floor, and vacuum the coils. Also clean the oven hood and filters.

· Clean floors last. Use the backpack vacuum to give the floors a final vacuuming, and then mop all hard surface flooring.

Offering move in/out services is one way to start your cleaning business. It also provides a way for an established cleaning company to provide added services to their existing clients while putting extra dollars onto the bottom line.

Commercial Construction Tips – How to Stay On Budget

Keeping a commercial construction project on budget requires determination, vigilance, creativity in problem-solving, and diplomacy. It begins almost at the moment a project is conceived and continues throughout the entire construction period.

There are many reasons a commercial construction project will go over budget. Some causes simply can’t be adequately assessed or budgeted, such as delays and materials losses caused by a natural disaster. But many causes relate to poor planning and even weaknesses in the budgeting process itself.

Typical Cost Control Problems

Cost overruns on a construction project happen, despite the most careful planning and control efforts. Some common causes for overruns include:

  • Lack of a well-defined project scope.
  • Poor estimating methods (or standards).
  • Out of sequence start/completion activities.
  • Inadequate comparison of planned-to-actual costs.
  • Unanticipated technical problems.
  • Poor (or no) project management policy and control practices.
  • Faulty schedule resulting in overtime or idle time expenses.
  • Escalating materials prices.

Three Big Mistakes

Review some of the more egregious construction cost overruns of recent years and you might see a familiar pattern to budget overruns. They are commonly made mistakes that can be adjusted and corrected during the contracting phase of a project.

Managing these three weak areas may mitigate or eliminate many of the problems listed above:

  • Incomplete document design: a project owner may hand over the architect’s plans and specs to the contractor believing that every detail has been identified. In truth, the owner-architect agreement often only requires the architect to present the plans and specs of a general design intent. The complete in-depth details may not be included. The lack of complete design information places the contractor in the position of demanding more money for work that had not been clearly defined in the plans and specs. Multiple change orders and budget overruns result.
    • Resolution: the owner-architect agreement should specify that the architect will provide a 100% complete set of drawings, specs, and all related documents prepared by engineers (and others working on the project). Responsibility for overages caused by incomplete design falls back on the architect, not the contractor.
  • Complete review of documents prior to bidding: the contractor may seek additional compensation for necessary work that, according to the contractor, was “not shown on the plans and specifications.”
    • Resolution: the project owner’s contract language should stipulate that all contractors wishing to submit bids must affirm they have reviewed the plans and specs and fully understand the scope and intent of the project. Their price should cover all necessary work to fulfil the “implied or express design intent.”
  • The lowest bid: the project owner may face many pressures from investors, shareholders, and board members to accept the lowest bid. But lowest isn’t always the best. Underbidding can be risky and costly.
    • Resolution: work with trusted contractors who have completed projects similar to the current one. The contractor with a track record of successful on-time and in-budget builds is far more likely to be able to produce the same results for your project.

The root of successful budget containment lies in allowing a sufficient amount of planning time to thoroughly define the scope, schedule, quality, risk, resources, and budget for the construction project before the bid invitations are sent out to contractors.

Eight Tips for Negotiating an Office Lease Renewal

So I’m meeting with our landlord tomorrow to discuss a lease extension, and I’m in the process of pulling together my thoughts on the renewal.

Our office building is owned by a small group of investors, so we have a personal relationship with the owners/landlord. I consulted with several colleagues of mine, and here are our top considerations for effectively negotiating a lease or extension:

1. Be a good tenant

It’s so basic to sound business practices, but it bears repeating, particularly when you’re dealing with individuals and other small business owners. Resolve issues along the way as amicably as possible -it all comes back to you in the end.

2. Start early and understand your options

Particularly in a very tight commercial real estate market, you’ve got to allow at least 9-12 months for the process to play out. It can take several months to research your alternatives, open up negotiations with prospective landlords (especially concerning tenant improvements), and then come back to your current landlord. And you’ll want to allow 2-4 months if you have to plan a move (assuming you’re an SMBE like us).

3. Understand your market, and particularly concessions that new tenants can extract.

While market rental rates are important to understand, there are a number of other considerations new tenants may enjoy, including tenant improvements, rent holidays, and other benefits.

Understanding these will not only give you a sense for what you might expect if you go elsewhere, but it can also help you negotiate your current renewal. Why shouldn’t you enjoy at least part of those benefits on the renewal?

4. Consult with (if not retain) a broker.

I’m a big believer in at least talking to experts in a field, and I generally recommend using them to represent you in a lease negotiation. Depending on the size of your business, this can represent anywhere from a $350k to a multi-million obligation over a 3-5 year period.

Brokers can give you a sense for the market, current conditions, and offer other valuable input. Face it -while you may know your business better than anyone, you’re probably not an expert in commercial real estate.

If you are going to use a commercial real estate broker, I suggest using a tenant only representative, as they are less likely to be conflicted than brokers who may represent either side.

That being said, they are a lot like realtors in that they only get paid when a deal gets done. The good news is they are frequently paid for by the lessor, but that may affect the terms of the deal.

5. Depending on how much leverage you have, work to ‘share the savings’.

Just as you may want to avoid the headaches and costs associated with moving, your landlord may have the same interest. If you’ve been a good tenant and are paying near market rents, the last thing your landlord wants to deal with is several months of vacancy, showing the space, negotiating and paying tenant improvements, and then having to deal with an unknown. So work to value how much benefit each side is getting out of the renewal and see if you can’t find some common ground.

6. Think outside the box and understand your landlord’s situation.

Your landlord is interested in three things – the underlying value of the property, current income/cash flow from the property, and avoiding headaches. Understanding the relative importance of each can be very helpful in your negotiations.

For example, commercial property is essentially valued at a multiple of cash flow (it’s a cap rate if you want to be specific) over a period of time, with an emphasis on future cash flows. If the landlord is thinking about re-financing or selling the property in 2-3 years, she will want to boost the cash flow in that later period. This can provide you with a path to reducing your near term rental outlays in return for increasing the rent at a time when it particularly matters to the landlord.

7. Put together a spreadsheet balancing overall costs for your various rental options

Feel free to let your landlord know you’re doing this, and make sure that you’re getting all the information you need to make a balanced and informed decision.

8. Get your hands on a bunch of actual lease agreements and extensions.

This can help give you ideas for different terms that you might want to incorporate into the lease that you may not have thought of. Of course, if you have representation, you should encourage them to do this -you’d be surprised how often this is overlooked.

There are lots of resources out there for looking at sample and (even more helpful) actual, negotiated lease agreements

Commercial Construction Tips – How to Avoid Going Over Budget

A commercial construction project can seem like a never-ending balancing act, like keeping a series of plates spinning. One plate represents keeping the project on schedule. Another spinning plate is ensuring that construction is completed properly and safely. And still another spinning plate is containing the project budget.

A commercial construction budget is influenced by a number of factors. Exceeding the budget can easily occur for reasons beyond the control of the owner, contractor, and project manager, including:

• A sharp increase in materials costs during construction.

• Weather fluctuations that slow or halt construction.

• Work stoppages.

• Frequent alterations to the design, materials.

Make a list

As one industry writer stated, estimating a project’s cost is the first step of construction cost containment. The project budget should list the essentials (non-negotiables) as well as the negotiables (the aspects of the project that can be reduced, modified, or eliminated in order to contain costs. Each line item should be carefully researched, sourced, and have a realistic cost applied to it. The budget should also include contingency funding.

Cost control challenges

Cost containment challenges are not always line item-related. There are a number of less-obvious but significant challenges to staying on budget, including:

• Poorly defined scope of project.

• Flawed estimating methodology

• Lack of project management policies and controls.

• Unrealistic scheduling.

• Insufficient planned-to-actual cost comparisons.

The big three

This trio of cost containment issues has been stated before and they are worth stating again. If The Big Three of budget issues are carefully managed, you can reduce or eliminate a number of budget overruns:

1. Incomplete design documentation: the architect’s rendering, plans, and specs that are turned over to the owner or project manager do not always include the in-depth details necessary for realistic budgeting.

a. Solution: the contract between the owner and architect should specify that all members of the architecture team will provide complete details, specs, documents, and drawings related to the project.

2. Pre-bidding document review: some contractors do only a general review of documentation before submitting their bids.

a. Solution: the language of the project owner’s contract should require all contractors who submit bids to acknowledge, in writing, that they have reviewed all specifications and plans. The bid price should cover all identified and “implied or express design intent” work.

Any materials or changes to design that the contractor feels are essential to successful completion of the project (but weren’t identified in the project/owner’s documentation) also should be included in the bid, along with explanations for the additional items.

This requirement should reduce or eliminate the need for contractors to seek additional compensation based on additional work necessitated by information “not shown on the original plans and specifications.”

3. The low-ball bid: underbidding can put the entire project at risk and cause it to far exceed the budget.

a. Solution: solicit bids only from trusted contractors who have successfully completed similar projects. They should have documentable records of completing projects on budget and on time.

Another cost containment option

Another cost containment option is to hire a skilled construction cost estimator. That person or team works with you to help you avoid out-of-control expenses, keep construction costs down, and ensure the project is completed within the agreed-upon timeframe.

It’s up to you

Ultimately, it is the owner and project team who are responsible for overseeing each phase, change order, and plan alteration to the construction project. There should be a well-defined process for change order submittal, review, and authorization. There also should be continual monitoring and updating of the budget so that you and your team know where the project financially stands all the way to completion.