We surveyed nearly 500 janitorial business owners, and here’s what we found — and what it means for you!


No time for reading?
See all of these stats in one place! Download the infographic!


55% of owners say they offer only commercial cleaning services

Right off the bat, we asked survey respondents what type of cleaning services their businesses offered. We wanted to hear from commercial cleaning companies specifically, so if their response was “only residential” we politely excused them from the survey 🙂

Of the remaining 83%, we found that the majority does just commercial cleaning, as opposed to a mixture of both. Read on to learn what these owners of commercial cleaning companies had to say about sales, cleaner retention, and communication in their businesses!

44% of companies clean 5 commercial locations or less each month

With it’s low barrier to entry and steady market demand, the cleaning industry attracts aspiring and serial entrepreneurs alike as an opportunity to start a profitable business.

But intense price competition and high employee turnover rates prevent many small and medium sized businesses from achieving meaningful growth.

While Swept serves customers of all sizes, we understand that small business owners have unique challenges and created educational content accordingly, so it’s no surprise that the majority of our survey respondents fall into this category!

What You Can Do About It:

If you’re one of the many owners of small commercial cleaning businesses who is either just starting out or is struggling to get to the next level, take heart! The Swept team is on a mission to provide your with the tools you need to grow!

The most important tool is our software, which is free to use at up to 3 commercial cleaning locations. It can help you impress new clients, manage your employees, and gain back precious time in your day. Click here to create your free account »

64% of owners have less than 10 cleaners working for them

This one shouldn’t be surprising, as we just learned that the majority of commercial cleaning businesses are quite small. But many owners are also caught in a chicken-and-egg scenario of not being able to focus on growing their business because they are still busy doing some of the cleaning, or at least filing in for cleaners who don’t show up! They can’t get out of this cycle because in order to afford more cleaners, they need more contracts, and winning new contracts take a lot of time and energy, which they simply don’t have.

What You Can Do About It:

If this is you — caught somewhere between an owner/manager and a cleaner yourself — there is hope!

To get out of this cycle of cleaning and running the business at the same time, you’ll need to work hard at 1) delegating tasks that don’t need to be done by you, and 2) blocking time in your calendar that is dedicated to growth activities like improving your marketing, perfecting your sales pitch, and identifying clients you want to work with.

To help you with this we’ve created a webinar called “Time Management Tricks for Janitorial Business Owners”. Click here to watch the webinar »

80% of cleaners carry smartphones

It’s 2018, so it should come to no surprise that the majority of people are carrying smartphones, and that includes cleaners. Now, some business owners see this as a negative because they worry their cleaners will spend more time texting or browsing social media while at work than actually cleaning. While this is a valid concern, we feel that the improvements to communication and the trust you will build with cleaners will outweigh the risks you face.

What You Can Do About It:

Celebrate! The fact that your cleaners are already using smartphones is great news, because it means implementing a system like Swept will be even easier. And your cleaners can celebrate too, because unlike many mobile apps used in the industry, Swept isn’t designed to track cleaners, it’s meant to support them, and help them be more successful at work.

To reduce the likelihood of cleaners abusing the use of their phones you’ll need to clearly communicate your expectations as well your commitments as their manager during training, and then again on a regular basis throughout their employment with your company. For detailed recommendations on how to do this check out our post How to Use Your Cleaners’ Phones to Improve Communication (Without Sacrificing Productivity)

59% of owners feel their cleaner turnover rate is too high

It’s no secret that employee retention is one of the biggest challenges facing the janitorial industry. In fact, a 2016 survey by Cleaning and Maintenance Management revealed that 85% of BSC’s said recruiting and retaining staff was their number one challenge. Other studies show that the average cleaner turnover rate is between 75% and 375% annually!

Many are quick to blame high cleaner turnover rates on the nature of the janitorial industry: physically demanding work that doesn’t pay exceptionally well. Combine this with the fact that much of the work is done alone, late at night, and you’ve got what appears to be a perfect storm of undesirable job characteristics.

What you can do about it:

While the characteristics mentioned above don’t make it easy to retain employees, the fact that some companies are able to keep happy, loyal cleaners suggests that the root cause of turnover goes beyond the work and wages. At Swept we believe that the key to employee retention is communication, so we’ve created a lot of content around that topic, not to mention built our software to be a communication platform!

Here are some of our top resources on employee retention:

  1. The Unpopular Truth About Why Cleaners Don’t Stay
  2. Cleaner Turnover Explained: What Every Janitorial Business Owner Needs to Know About Employee Retention
  3. The Complete Guide to Cleaner Retention for Your Janitorial Business
  4. How to Interview Cleaners So They Are Way More Likely to Stick Around

81% of owners have had a client tell them about an on-site issue that they felt their cleaner should have communicated first

Poor communication is a common problem in industries like janitorial where staff primarily work remotely and independent of their managers.

In fact, there’s a whole theory around it that dates back to the 1960’s known as the iceberg of ignorance (which we’ve written about it in other blog posts like 5 Signs Your Cleaners Know Things You Don’t and The Truth About Why Your Janitorial Business is Losing Customers ):

What you can do about it:

Knowing what’s going on across your commercial cleaning locations doesn’t have to be time consuming or expensive. While janitorial software like Swept can keep reports of problems organized and in one place, there are other tools you could use to collect this information (if you’re really not looking for janitorial software.) For instance, in the post How to Use Your Cleaners’ Phones to Improve Communication we give step by step instructions for setting up a problem reporting system using the free tool AirTable.

Having said this, we don’t expect the system we recommend in the above blog post to work very well if you’re a large company servicing many locations. For a more robust system, and one that integrates with supply tracking, payroll, inspections and cleaning instructions, that’s where Swept comes in. To find out if Swept is right for your commercial cleaning business, click here to take our 2 minute quiz.

71% of owners say they don’t have enough time to get everything done each day

Let me guess.

You started your own janitorial business with the dream of being your own boss. Working your own hours. You never expected that would mean working ALL the hours!

We’re not sure if this is good news or bad news, but you’re not alone! Playing catch-up, feeling burnt out, and being married to the biz are all common complaints we hear from owner/operators in the janitorial industry.

What you can do about it:

If you’re among the 71%, our best advice is to:

  • Get comfortable with delegating
  • Start creating systems and processes to save you time in the long run
  • Stop multitasking and instead focus on seeing each task through to completion before starting another.

We recommend checking out Why You’re Not Getting More Done in Your Janitorial Business and How to Feel Less Stressed While Running Your Janitorial Company on our blog for more details on these time management tips.

72% of owners say they spend more time putting out fires than growing the company

While this statistic is a bit scary, it’s not surprising given the results of the previous question. But why is it that the tasks that end up on the back burner are the ones that would have the biggest impact on your company’s growth?!

Between customers calling with complaints, cleaners in need of supplies at half a dozen different locations, and payroll due at the end of the day… it’s no wonder goal-setting and long-term planning are the first tasks to go out the window!

What you can do about it:

We feel there are two key steps to finally getting ahead in your business. The first is to put systems and processes in place to reduce the number of fires you have to put out in the first place. This could include:

  • Having a system that alerts you or your management team when a cleaner is late or doesn’t show up for their shift
  • Having a system that keeps all your supply requests organized according to location
  • Having a system that keeps all onsite issues that are reported organized according to location
  • Having a tool that allows your cleaners and managers to communicate with one another so they can begin problem-solving immediately when things go wrong
  • Having a database of cleaners to hire from so you’re never scrambling to fill open spots

The second is practicing time blocking, a time management technique to combat multitasking. Instead of switching back and forth between HR, sales, customer service, and no doubt a dozen other areas of your business throughout the day, time blocking requires you to block out time in your calendar for each of these on a weekly basis, as well as a bock called “growth”. During your weekly growth block (it could be an hour or two, or more,) focus on things like:

  • Brainstorming new sources of revenue
  • Identifying new accounts or businesses you’d like to approach
  • Researching your competitors pitches
  • Working on improving your own sales pitch
  • Working on improving your website
  • Setting up new marketing tactics like ads or social media campaigns

73% of owners say they have felt the need to lower their bid to win a new cleaning contract

Here’s your hard truth of the day: price competition in the janitorial industry is REAL.

In fact, many contractors compete primarily on price. They swoop in with their promises of being the best / the greenest / the most reliable, then they underbid on the contract, and underperform on the job.

What you can do about it:

For starters, sign up for our free 21 Day Sales Challenge! We designed the challenge to give you everything you need to win your next contract without lowering your bid. We modelled the process we teach in the challenge after the sales process Swept CEO Mike Brown used to close 80% of his bids when he ran his own janitorial company. The challenge includes video tutorials, scripts, checklists, worksheets and more — all of which get delivered to your inbox over the course of 3 weeks to keep you on track 🙂

Secondly, if you’re not already using the Swept app to prove to clients you’re a better run company than your competitors, what are you waiting for?! We’re constantly hearing from our clients that their clients are extremely impressed by the level of communication Swept allows them to have with their team. You can create your free Swept account here »

50% of owners say they are not able to easily show potential clients how they are different from their competitors

Do you have the most reliable cleaners? The greenest products? The best customer service?

If you’re in the 50% of owners whose sales pitches sound like everyone else’s, this may be what you’re telling potential clients! The trouble of course with everyone and their dog making these same claims is that clients begin to tune them out, and ultimately end up going with the lowest bidder because they simply have no other way to differentiate one company from another.

What you can do about it:

As you’ll learn in the 21 Day Sales Challenge, we feel pretty strongly that the technology you use to improve your business operations can be a powerful sales tool and in many cases the thing that sets you apart from the pack. In fact, we’ve seen it work first hand for many of our customers, just like it worked for us when we ran a cleaning company. To learn how to close more cleaning contracts using Swept you can also watch our webinar: How to Close More Cleaning Contracts With Swept 🙂

37% of owners say their biggest business challenge is sales

Finally, we asked business owners what area of their business poses the biggest challenge for them right now, and the results were quite divided! Nonetheless, winning new contracts proved the clear winner with 37% of owners selecting “sales” as their biggest challenge. However, because we’ve heard time and time again that cleaner retention is a problem that plagues janitorial businesses, and yet it scored the lowest on the survey, we’d hazard a guess that all 4 of these areas poses a challenge for owners at times!

What you can do about it:

No matter which of these areas of your business causes you the most stress or confusion, the Swept team is working hard to help! You can find educational resources hiring, cleaner retention, marketing your business, and winning more contracts (and more!) on our website. Click here to view all our free educational content »


Loved this article! Sign me up for more!