Why Do Cleaning Businesses Fail?

Starting a cleaning business is generally seen by experts as a fairly safe investment in the entrepreneurship community. This, however, does not mean that these businesses are exempt from failing. A cleaning business will often fail for one of four reasons.

Top reasons why cleaning businesses fail:

  1. Poor management: A failure to effectively manage a cleaning business can sink it fast. A lack of good management often involves laziness, a failure to take advice from mentors, and relying on assumptions over facts.
  2. Not having a business plan: Failing to write out a business plan detailing how it is going to make money has the potential to crush any cleaning business.
  3. Poor customer service: Customer retention is massive in the cleaning business industry. By failing to provide effective customer service, a cleaning business will have an incredibly tough time with custom retention.
  4. Lack of advertisement: To make money, a cleaning business needs to efficiently advertise. If it doesn’t, it risks failure.

Poor Management

Great management can make any business successful. That being said, poor management can sink any business just as easily.

What does poor management look like?

Most people know poor management when they see it. In the case of a cleaning business, poor management comes in four different forms. These include a failure to seek out advice from experience, a lack of trust in employees, laziness, and a tendency to make assumptions.

Failure to seek out advice from experience

As an entrepreneur, seeking advice from those who are more experienced in the field is one of the greatest resources that any manager can take advantage of. That being said, failing to accept this experienced advice is a major sign of poor management.

A lack of trust

In a growing cleaning business, multiple crews are likely to become a real necessity. However, if a manager is unable to trust their crews, multiple crews could be prevented from running at one time, severely hurting the efficiency of the cleaning business.


The manager of a cleaning business is expected to be a leader in their company. But if they portray a sense of laziness to their workers, that laziness will only spread to the rest of the company. This laziness may even be portrayed to the clients of that company, who probably won’t want to hire a lazy cleaning company.

A tendency to make assumptions

We all know the saying about making assumptions. In this case, a manager who makes assumptions instead of relying on facts fits that narrative completely. Making assumptions can be incredibly dangerous for any business. When management begins to make assumptions on costs, how much to charge for services, and any other important aspects of a business plan, a cleaning business is at high risk for failure.

Why is poor management such a problem?

As with any other business, a cleaning business manager is meant to be the leader. When management is doing a poor job, its effects rub off on everyone else in your business. If management is lazy, the rest of the company’s employees are going to become lazy. If management is non-trusting, that feeling is going to be reflected by the employees. Essentially, the management should be serving as a role model. When it doesn’t, it can cause all sorts of issues, and no company is going to want to hire a lazy cleaning service.

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Failing to create a business plan

A business plan is essentially a blueprint for a company and how it plans to make money. Failing to create such a plan can mean bad news for a cleaning company.

What should a business plan entail?

A cleaning business plan should include the business’s location, type of business, marketing plans, and a plan for how the business intends to make money. A business plan should also be updated every few years to reflect the growth of a business.

Why does a lack of a business plan lead to the failure of a business?

The famed inventor and founding father Benjamin Franklin once said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!” Failing to design a business plan signals that a business is failing to think ahead. Instead, they are relying simply on luck or some other intangible thing to achieve success.

It also means that this business has no idea how it plans to make money, rather it simply hopes to do so. By having a business plan, however, a cleaning business can be sure that they know how they plan to make money and how much of that money it will take for them to not only stay afloat, but make a profit.

Ineffective customer service

The cleaning service is an industry that thrives off of effective customer service. Because of this, however, ineffective customer service can be a major issue for any cleaning business. The cleaning service industry isn’t one that can thrive on its own. Rather, it relies on the presence of other companies — and in some cases, private citizens — to continue to survive.

Without these other companies and citizens, the cleaning business has no clients to serve. As a result, a cleaning service must focus heavily on customer service and retaining customers to continue to stay open.

Lack of customer follow up

The cleaning business is never a one-and-done industry. In other words, when a business hires a cleaning service, it isn’t something they are looking to do one time. They are surely going to require the same services again. The key for a cleaning business is to ensure that they are the ones their customers return to. The best way for a cleaning business to ensure that this happens is to continually follow up on their customers. By doing this, they can be sure that their customers keep them in the back of their minds.

It also makes the client feel that they are cared for. If a cleaning business was to perform a job, take the payment, but ignore the client after, the client will feel they are only a number to the company they hired and become far less likely to rehire that cleaning service as a result. This can be a major issue because the cleaning service industry thrives on repeat business. A cleaning service is not going to want to continually have to find new clients every week for work. By continually following up on their clients, a cleaning business can ensure that its customers know they are cared for and seen as more than dollar signs on a paper. 

Poor Marketing

A failure to advertise and market effectively can drive any cleaning business into the ground before it even gets started. By failing to produce effective marketing techniques, a cleaning company — especially a new one — fails to make itself visible to potential clients. The entire point of marketing and advertising is for a company to make itself known. If it works well, it should also make that company stand out, like someone walking down the road in a safety vest.

The problem with poor marketing, however, is that it fails to make the company using it noticeable. This is especially dangerous to young companies, who need to make themselves known to get started in their journey. This also can be a major issue when it comes to a majorly competitive market like a cleaning service. In a majorly competitive market like this, without proper marketing, a cleaning service blends into the crowd.

As a result, a cleaning service such as this will fail to make a name for itself, which may cause the company to fail.

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What does poor marketing look like?

You know good marketing when you see it, even if you don’t actively process that fact when seeing it. That being said, you also know bad marketing when you see it.

Forms of poor marketing:

Making ads that are seen as controversial.

Some subscribe to the belief that “any publicity is good publicity”. This could not be farther from the truth for a business. If people are associating a business with something like racism, that can be enough to kill that business in no time at all. No company is going to want to hire that cleaning service and put themselves at risk through association.

Ads that portray unrealistic goals or claims.

When placing ads out that portray a goal or claim, companies have to be careful that these claims are realistic. For example, perhaps the worst thing a cleaning company could do would be to release an advertisement saying that if you hire them, your house will be so clean you won’t ever get sick. Obviously this a very exaggerated example, however, a cleaning business, as does any business, needs to be careful not to portray ads that make unrealistic claims such as this one.

They don’t meet their target audience.

Any business advertising should have a target audience in mind. A massive reason that many marketing campaigns fail is that they don’t meet their target audience. A cleaning service creating an ad should have a target audience of home and business owners. However, if the ad it runs is very cartoonish and colorful, it is far more likely to be effective for children. This would be fine if it weren’t for the fact that children do not need a cleaning service. Thus, the marketing campaign in this case would be considered a bust.

Frequently Asked Questions

How often do cleaning businesses fail?

Over a period of about five years from opening, about half of all cleaning businesses will fail. While this number does seem grim, it’s fairly low compared to many other industries. For example, in the restaurant business, about 80% of new restaurants will close within five years of opening! This is, of course, for several different reasons, but it’s fairly common for a number like this to appear when opening a small business. This is why cleaning businesses are seen as fairly safe entrepreneurial investments. While they still have their risks, they are a far safer investment than most.

What are the keys for a cleaning business to succeed?

Essentially, the best way for any cleaning business to succeed is to do the exact opposite of everything this article speaks about.

  • The first key is effective and competent management. Management is meant to be seen as a leader in business. By ensuring that management is effective at what they do, a cleaning service can ensure that their business will be carried out effectively.
  • The second key is to have a business plan ready. The management/owner of a cleaning business should have everything about the business — from its costs to a list of its employees — listed in a plan before anything else is done.
  • The third key is to select an effective location. The location of a cleaning business should contain a large number of clients while also limiting local competition.
  • The fourth and final key for a cleaning business to be successful is to advertise constantly. Effective marketing should ensure that you have a constant stream of customers that continue to bring in funds to your company.

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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.

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