Why Do Cleaning Businesses Fail: Top Mistakes To Look Out For

Starting a residential cleaning service for a commercial cleaning business is a great way to make a living. Cleaning services are generally easy to start and maintain, as they do not usually require large amounts of startup capital. Operating expenses for cleaning services are also relatively low compared to most businesses. Unfortunately, according to Investopedia, 20% of all small businesses fail within the first year. Within the first five years of operation, 50% of all small businesses fail. What are the most commonly made mistakes that lead to the eventual demise of cleaning businesses? 

The top five most commonly made mistakes failing cleaning services are:

  • The depletion of financial resources
  • Lack of experience in business management
  • A poorly designed and badly executed business plan
  • Lack of an effective marketing campaign
  • Unsatisfactory customer service

The Depletion of Financial Resources 

Owning a business is an important investment. A cleaning business is no exception to this. After the initial startup capital required to start your cleaning service, you are going to incur operating expenses. Unfortunately, operating expenses cannot be avoided if you plan to maintain and grow your business. Without sufficient financial backing, your cleaning business will eventually cease to exist. For these reasons, you will need to keep your operating expenses and your overhead at reasonable amounts. There are many different ways that you can accomplish this, thus preventing the eventual extinction of your cleaning service. 

The website Carpet Cleaning Jumpstart  lists the following operating expenses your commercial or residential cleaning service should expect to incur:

  • The amount of debt your business may accrue
  • Your fuel, maintenance, and other vehicle-related expenses
  • Cleaning chemicals and supplies
  • Advertising and marketing expenses
  • General liability insurance and other insurance-related expenses
  • Any other professional services your business may need
  • Rent and utilities for your office space 
  • The cost of labor and other payroll-related expenses
  • Your business tax expenses 

Make sure you take all of these expenses into account to avoid the failure of your cleaning business. 

Check out this article to know what makes a cleaning business unique?

Lack of Experience in Business Management 

It seems like everybody wants to start their own business. However, starting your own business is not as simple as it may appear. There are many different decisions that you must make in the day-to-day operations of your cleaning business.

These decisions will have a profound effect on your commercial or residential cleaning business, if not soon than in the future. If you don’t want to have previous experience with business management, you can always enroll in a few business management classes at your local community college or university. Most of them offer night or day courses to accommodate your schedule. 

Although there are several online courses available in business management available to you, there are also several certifications that you can take in business management. The Janitor Store, in accordance with the International Sanitary Supply Association (ISSA) and the Building Service Contractors Association International (BASCI), offers two courses that are beneficial to your cleaning business.

These courses are the Certified Building Service Executive (CBSE) and the Registered Building Service Manager (RBSM). Both of these credentials are recognized by the cleaning industry and are considered to be symbolic of the level of professionalism your cleaning service provides. Ongoing training is provided by Green Seal. They ensure that your business meets the GS-42 standard. Green Seal is also attentive to  “procedural improvements that reduce toxicity, waste, and exposure to custodial staff and building occupants.” 

Good management is vital to your cleaning business, and lack of it can add up to bad decisions and costly mistakes. So it is good to be prepared beforehand.

A Poorly Designed and Badly Executed Business Plan 

One of the first steps you need to take when opening your business is to develop your business plan. Whether your cleaning business is residential or commercial, your business plan acts as a map, guiding you along the path to success. A poorly designed and badly executed business plan will incapacitate your ability to grow your business. After all, your business will never find success if you have a bad map.

You can also have a good business plan, but it is poorly executed. Financial success will usually elude you if you don’t know how to follow your business plan, no matter how good it is.  

How do you design a good business plan? Fortunately, the Entrepreneur has come up with several steps to design an effective business plan. 

  • Make sure that you are going above and beyond when conducting your research. 
  • Give me a summary or description of your business.
  • Research your competition, your block him, and Industry in which you are going to open your business. 
  • Document each aspect of your business. 
  • Design a strategic marketing plan. 
  • Set your marketing plan into motion. 
  • Explain what sets you apart from your competitors and why you care. 

Having a good business plan is like a map to your business success. If you have no written down the idea of what your large and small goals are as well as financials you may go in the wrong direction or overspend or underspend on what is required. 

Lack of an Effective Marketing Campaign 

An effective marketing campaign requires you to put in the work necessary to make your cleaning business the success you want it to become. Most people fail to understand the value of a good marketing campaign, nor do they want to put in the work that great marketing requires.

Although customer referrals are the lifeblood of any good business, your cleaning business is going to need much more than that to become the financial success you are looking forward to it becoming. There are many different aspects of a good marketing campaign. 

Luckily, Business Queensland has provided potential or existing businesses with the following essential steps to design and implement an effective marketing campaign for your commercial, residential cleaning business.

  • Develop a business-centric marketing strategy that informs and educates potential customers. 
  • Identify the goals you have for your cleaning business. 
  • Write an effective marketing strategy that targets your business goals. 
  • Research your target market and make yourself knowledgeable of your competitors. 
  • Profile your potential customers and your competition. 
  • Perform a small test run of your marketing ideas. 

If your potential customers can find you, then you cant grow. Be sure to focus on your marketing to not only grow but sustain your business. 

Check out this article about the cleaning schedule’s importance.

Unsatisfactory Customer Service 

The chances are that you are not going to become a financial success on your own. Your commercial or residential cleaning service is going to require you to hire courteous and dependable employees to run efficiently. We previously discussed that word-of-mouth referrals are essential to the success of your cleaning business. We all know that if a customer has a good experience with your business, they may refer you to a family member, a friend, or a colleague.

However, if you or one of your employees provides a customer with a bad experience, they are going to tell everybody they know about it. This would be disastrous to not only the reputation of your cleaning business but also to your reputation.

To ensure that your customers are getting the best customer service experience, take the initiative to solve problems that may arise personally. Another recommendation for possibly preventing a bad customer experience is to suggest or require your employees to undergo some of the previously mentioned business training courses. 


Owning a commercial cleaning business or a residential cleaning service is going to require a lot of hard work and dedication on your part. It is also going to require adequate finances, good business management skills, the ability to design and execute a good business plan, an effective marketing campaign, and great customer service. These skills are essential to the success of your cleaning business. Failure to execute just one of these five aspects can damage your business, affecting your livelihood. Failure to execute more than one of these aspects may result in irrevocable and irreparable damage to your cleaning business, resulting in its eventual failure. 

Now that you are armed with the knowledge to prevent your cleaning business from becoming a financial disaster, it’s time for you to start making your cleaning service the successful service of your dreams. Remember that there is a difference between becoming successful and staying successful. By implementing the tips of which you are now aware, it’s time to start and grow your business to be the cleaning service you have always wanted. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I start a cleaning business? 

Starting a cleaning business is fairly simple and relatively inexpensive. The first step to opening a cleaning business is to register your business with your state and local government. Next, you will need to obtain a business license. Once you have taken the first two steps, you will need to purchase adequate insurance. This is not required by law, but a good general liability policy is always good to have. After this, you will need to buy a few good cleaning supplies and whatever equipment your cleaning service needs. Your next step is to establish your client base. If you are considering being a one-person cleaning company, you are ready to go to work. If not, your final step will be to hire a few dependable employees. 

How much money do you need to start a cleaning business? 

Cleaning businesses generally require a relatively small amount of startup capital to get off the ground. The number of startup costs to start a cleaning business falls somewhere between $2,000 and $6.000 usually. Of course, there are going to be exceptions to this. If you plan to start a residential cleaning service, the amount of startup capital you will need is going to be significantly lower than if you are considering starting a commercial cleaning business. This is primarily due to the extra equipment that you are going to need as a commercial cleaner. There are also different certifications and licenses that commercial cleaners also acquire, which also add to your startup costs. 

To learn more on how to start your own cleaning business, check out my startup documents here.

Please note that the contents of this blog are for informational and entertainment purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Any action taken based on the information provided in this blog is solely at your own risk. Additionally, all images used in this blog are generated under the CC0 license of Creative Commons, which means they are free to use for any purpose without attribution.