A business's appearance affects the way customers feel when they walk in. A company that seems reputable and inviting will pay attention to the details and have an immaculate reception area. On the other hand, having a lobby or hallway with a noticeable layer of grime on the floor makes a company seem disorganized, overwhelmed and understaffed.
That's why top-notch institutions are willing to pay for regular commercial floor cleaning services, and you can take advantage of this market by starting your own business for floor buffing. A shiny, polished floor gives an immediate, positive impression to visitors, and it's this reputation-enhancing effect that you should keep in mind when pitching your services.
But before we put the cart before the horse, let's talk about the initial steps you need to take in order to start a floor-buffing business. First, you need to plan out a budget and create a list of equipment to purchase, plus any other startup or ongoing expenses. Then, with funding secured, you can officially register your business, set up your bank account and get insurance. You can choose to scale up your business right away or later on, but either way, you'll need a plan to market and advertise your business.
Budgeting for Your Floor Buffing Business
Floor buffing is among the most affordable services to offer in terms of startup costs. You don't need much to get started, and you don't even need to hire employees right away if you tackle smaller jobs. Your major investment will be the floor buffing machine itself, which costs less than $1,000 for even a top-of-the-line model. If you price your services right, it will quickly pay for itself.
But don't leave pricing and revenue to chance. Set up a business budget before you go any further in planning out your business. You'll need additional equipment besides a floor-buffing machine, such as a commercial floor mop and bucket, some "Caution: Wet Floor" signs, buffing pads and possibly a larger vehicle than what you currently have to carry all of your equipment. Don't forget about setting aside some funds for branding, marketing and advertising, as well as management software for things like invoicing, scheduling and accounting.
Finally, do some research to find out what your competitors charge and whether it's more common for floor buffing to be priced by the hour or by the square foot. In the beginning, you may want to set your prices on the low end of the competition to help you gain some clients, which in turn will allow you to build a reputation, curate positive reviews and gain the necessary experience. Then, you'll find it easier to not only ask for a higher price but to get it as well. Finally, determine how long it might take for your business to start turning a profit after paying for the initial start-up expenses.
Basic Business Start Up
Once you know you have the financial ability to get your business up and running, whether through your savings or through a loan, it's time to make it official by registering your business with the government. Have a name picked out before you fill out the paperwork, even if it's something simple, like "Sally's Floor Buffing." Register at the federal level (with the IRS), state level (typically with the Secretary of State) and municipal level (typically with the local Chamber of Commerce) in order to have all your ducks in a row come tax season.
The other necessity that will prevent you from pulling your hair out while doing taxes is a separate business bank account. Especially if you plan to hire employees in the future, get used to managing business and personal funds separately. Put yourself on the payroll, take business tax out of all your revenue and consider hiring an accountant if finances are your Achilles heel.
Next up on your to-do list is finding appropriate business insurance. With floor buffing, there's always a risk that someone could slip on a freshly mopped or polished floor. Will you be held liable? The answer can't be predicted (unless you consult with a lawyer, of course, which isn't a bad idea), but you can protect yourself and your business with the right insurance policy.
Scaling Up Your Business
You should also have a plan in mind if your business really takes off. What if you get a contract for a floor that's too large to do by yourself? You want to provide an efficient service, which often means completing the job in a single day whenever possible. Employees can help you tackle large projects or even double the number of clients you're able to schedule.
However, each of your employees will need to not only be paid but also be equipped with the tools for the job. Reevaluate your finances before you hire an extra pair of hands. Doubling your clientele is the goal, but it can take a while to find so many new clients. Can you afford to pay your new employee even if times are slow?
Hiring employees also means you might need to purchase company vehicles and have a place to store them and/or your cleaning equipment when not in use. The rent for such a facility needs to be factored into your budget as well. Your insurance premiums will also likely go up because you'll need to protect your businesses against employee theft. In short, scaling up your business can be incredibly lucrative as long as you prepare for it the same way you prepare for starting a business from scratch.
Advertising and Getting Customers
One of the advantages of starting a floor-buffing business is that you're in an excellent position for repeat work if you do a good job at a great price. You only need enough contracts to keep you busy for any given two- to four-week period, and you'll be able to collect a full-time revenue thanks to the repeat clients. Word-of-mouth advertising is definitely helpful, but you can put client satisfaction to even better use by requesting they leave you a review online.
To do that, you need to have an established web presence. You don't necessarily need a website these days because people can leave reviews for your business on Facebook, your Google My Business page or sites like Yelp or Angie's List. A plethora of positive feedback can encourage potential clients to contact you, even if your prices are higher than your competitors'.
Keep in mind that your largest client base will be commercial or industrial clients. Any targeted advertising campaigns you set up — whether online, in print or in the media — should grab the attention of managers in those settings, but you can also set up a niche business targeting residential clients. Speaking directly to building managers can also help you gain some new business, and you may need to network this way as your floor buffing company gains some initial traction in the community. Keep at it, and your business should grow steadily over time.
Cathy Habas specializes in marketing, customer experiences, and behind-the-scenes management. Cathy has contributed to sites like Business and Finance, Business 2 Community, and Inside Small Business. She served as the managing editor for a small content marketing agency before continuing with her writing career.