Debbie Sardone says, “We are in the biggest cleaning business economic boom I’ve ever seen!” But what can we do to make the most of the growth opportunities? One of the more commonly asked questions we hear is whether it is beneficial to provide cars to staff. From increased marketing visibility to providing a unique employee benefit, it can at first seem to be a win-win proposition. The thought of having a fleet of cars, each wrapped with your brand, driving all over your market every day, leads to us imagining multiple phone lines that never stop ringing and new customers lining up to hire us. But is the investment worth really worth it? What are the pros and cons of having what are essentially mobile billboards spreading your marketing message every day?
For those of you familiar with the Cleaning Business Fundamentals formula for growing a cleaning business, you know that the emphasis is always on maximizing BOTH revenues and profits while improving the quality of life for the cleaning business owner. High revenues mean very little if you are unable to pay yourself enough to enjoy the freedom of being a small business owner. High revenues mean very little if you are working 18 hours a day, seven days a week and simply do not have the time or energy to enjoy your success. So how could providing cars to your staff affect your ability to achieve your long term goals for financial freedom and an improved quality of life?
Let’s look at the Pros and Cons of providing cars to your staff.
Pros of Providing Cars to Staff
- Increased exposure from having mobile billboards driving around your market.
- Increased credibility from having brand consistency and uniformity.
- An edge in hiring when you add the employee benefit of staff not having to use their own vehicles.
- More control over and insight into route planning, scheduling, etc. (may require a third-party service for tracking).
Cons of Providing Cars to Staff
- Costs, cost, costs. From purchasing the vehicles to maintaining, cleaning, insuring and keeping them fueled up, having even a small fleet of vehicles can totally change your business model and dramatically increase your overhead and impact profit margins.
- Variable gas prices reduce your control over profit margins.
- Additional hiring restrictions since most commercial insurance policies would include additional requirements in order for the coverages to apply to your employees.
- Parking/storage space during off hours.
- To make the car worth having on the road, you typically have to fill it with a team of 2-4 cleaners, so it takes more customers to fill the schedule of a multi-member team.
- With more customers served daily just to fill the team’s schedule, you have more “windshield” time so each team is less efficient.
So is it worth it? From a practical stand point, you cannot charge more simply because you have cars when your competition does not. The customer is paying for cleaning services – not fancy transportation. So where does the money come from? Since you can’t charge clients more, it can really only come out of two places: your profits or your payroll. Dramatically reducing profit margins is never a solid path toward growth. And paying your staff less will lead to a lower quality workforce and make you less competitive when attempting to hire new staff.
Owning a fleet of cars makes it extremely difficult to grow your cleaning business while maintaining healthy profits.
Scaling your cleaning business is infinitely easier without the expense and hassle of managing a fleet of cars. What it comes down to is that everything your spend within your business should make you money. Employees make you money. Cleaning supplies make you money. Cars almost always cost you more than you can make from the increased marketing exposure. There are plenty of marketing opportunities that provide far more of a return on your investment.
I’d like to share the story of CBF member Rosemary Stader, owner of Elite Home Cleaners in Columbus, OH. Prior to joining CBF, Rosemary was debating whether to even continue the business was worth the time, expense and effort. She has multiple vehicles each utilized by teams of 2-3 cleaners. The happiest day of her professional career came the day she learned that the cars were actually costing her money and she simply did not need them to be successful. She sold her cars, transitioned to the solo cleaning model and almost instantly saw her profit margins increase. And being in Columbus, OH, Rosemary says the best part is when they have those horrible snow days, she knows they will not have to spend the entire morning chipping snow and ice off of all of the cars!
Obviously, building a successful cleaning business comes down to far more than simply deciding whether to provide cars to your staff. However, it is a part of your business plan and the decision can impact your ability to hit your growth goals. Give yourself the flexibility in terms of hiring, pay scale, team setup and marketing budget by skipping the impulse to see your logo driving all over town every day. It simply isn’t a cost-effective method of consistently growing your cleaning business while maximizing profits and improving the quality of your life as a small business owner.
Watch Debbie Sardone discuss whether a cleaning business should provide cars to their staff here.