The best way to find the right janitorial cleaning company for you is to (1) Ask the right questions - pre-screen and choose your group; (2) Conduct an organized walk-through; and (3) Be sure all bidders have all the information they need to work up an informed bid and that they all have exactly the same information.
Here are our suggestions for a well-designed cleaning services procurement system.
Step 1: Pre-qualification: Put together a one-page questionnaire (see the questionnaire below) to fax to all of the maintenance contractors you are interested in. Have them fill it out, fax it back to you, and then pick your group.
Step 2: Notify the contractors that they have been chosen to bid (see below).
Step 3: The Bid Package: Prepare a Janitorial Bids Package to be handed out at the beginning of your walk-through - or, better yet, fax or email it to them prior to the walk-through so they are better prepared and know what to look for when they're touring your facility. Here are our suggestions for the types of information your Bid Package should include:
* A complete set of cleaning specifications, with frequencies (see the Sample Specs below).
* A simple floor plan. Nothing fancy, and it doesn't have to be to scale.
* Square footage, preferably broken down into carpet footage and hard-surface floor footage.
* "Desk" population (number of people with desks).
* "Non-desk" population, such as assembly workers and warehouse personnel.
* Estimated number of visitors each day and how they use the facility. Do they simply visit the front counter, or do they routinely come into the building for extended periods and use the rest-rooms and lunchrooms as a regular employee would?
* Special populations, such as children, senior citizens or tour groups.
* Number of rest-rooms and lunchrooms.
* If your company has a commitment to use of environmentally-responsible cleaning chemicals, specify that.
* Special instructions, such as "Recycling paper marked "shredding" is not to be removed from the accounting department". Things like this can make a difference in bid prices, as they can often eliminate a lot of work.
* All hard-surface floors that will require periodic refinishing, and carpeted areas that might need to be cleaned more often than other areas due to heavy traffic.
* If you have a multi-tenant building, you might consider getting 2 prices; one price for all of the common areas that would be cleaned regardless of occupancy, and another "cents-per-square-foot" price to be added or deducted as suites are filled or vacated.
* Specify if you want restroom supplies to be included in the bids. Note - We don't recommend this for 3 reasons: (1) Many cleaning contractors don't have experience in estimating supply-usage; (2) Some tenants will have a high number of outside visitors coming into the building and using rest-rooms, which will throw everyone's prices off; and (3) The contractor with the best purchasing power might not be the best contractor for you (and the contractor with the worst purchasing power might provide the best service you'll ever get).
* Time frames for cleaning, e.g. "Starting after 6pm, to be finished by midnight, Sunday through Thursday".
* Consider telling your bidders that you encourage "prompt-payment" terms in their cleaning proposals.
* Insurance and bonding requirements. Ask that proof of coverage be faxed to you directly from their providers. If you feel it's important, require that the winning contractor designates your company as a co-insured.
* When you want the bids to be in. In our experience 1 week is plenty of time for all but the most complicated bids. On very large buildings you might want to allow 2 weeks.
* When you anticipate the work would begin.
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Is your company a franchise? Franchisees can get valuable training and assistance from their franchisor. On the other hand, franchise fees can often create serious overhead costs for the franchisee, and you get no benefit whatsoever from that situation. Some franchisors even require the contractor to buy their cleaning tools and supplies through them, often at inflated prices. Of course we can’t start naming companies that we think are “good and not-so-good” franchisors, but this is an important question to ask.
Does your company buy or sell contracts? Some “janitorial services” don’t do any cleaning – they just bid on accounts and then sell them, even lease them, for a profit. This can be a real minefield, and there are, unfortunately, quite a few horror stories out there of cleaning contracts being bought and sold numerous times without the customer’s knowledge, with different companies and crews coming and going; and along with that, keys and alarm codes can come and go, too.
What steps do you take to screen your potential employees? We recommend full background checks, of course. A quality background check usually includes checking for criminal history, bankruptcy and liens, credit, sex offender check, driving history, verification of social security number, personal references, and work history.
Does your company have any lawsuits pending against it? Not a bad question to ask any company you're considering doing business with!
Can you have proof of insurance and bond faxed to us directly from your providers? Don’t accept documents that aren’t faxed directly from providers. And then when you get the documents, make a quick phone call or do a Google and verify that the fax number on the document really belongs to the provider. It’s just too easy for people to fake things these days, and you really don’t want to find someday that your cleaning service has been running without coverage. After you hire your new service, put it on your calendar to ask for fresh documents every 6 months.
How do you minimize floor stripping? Floor stripping removes all waxes and finishes off the floor, usually for the purpose of applying new finish, and since it requires flooding the floor with stripper and water, doing it too often can harm your floors, and water can also get under baseboards and behind walls and create mold. Not only do you want to know the answer because it’s an important “cleaning” question, it’s also a good question to pose to salespeople - if they can rattle off an answer right away, it’s probably a good sign and can give you some indication as to their actual cleaning experience. If they can’t tell you right away, it might not be a bad sign, but tell your bidders that you’d like the answer included in their bids.
In our experience the best way to minimize stripping is to be sure that (after the floor has been stripped) enough coats of new finish are applied so the contractor has a good base to work with.
(1) Strip only if it’s obvious that the floor truly needs a “fresh start” – for instance, if someone applied numerous coats of finish onto a dirty floor, or if the finish has otherwise been ruined, scratched beyond repair, etc; and...
(2) If stripping is required, a minimum of 5-6 coats of high-quality finish should be applied, followed by a coat of binder (also known as a hardener), and then should be high-speed buffed or burnished. This gives the floor a good hard base of finish, and the janitorial services contractor should be able to use that base (often for years) without having to strip again.
Here’s a sample floor maintenance schedule:
· Dust-mop and damp-mop every service night;
· Dust-mop, damp-mop and buff once or twice a month;
· Light-scrub and buff once or twice per quarter;
· A medium scrub, then apply 1 or 2 coats of finish every 3-6 months;
· A heavy scrub, then apply 2-3 coats of finish and buff once a year.
Be mindful that floor maintenance is both an art and a science, and no two janitorial services will recommend exactly the same procedures, materials and schedules. This is an area where you sometimes have to get a consensus from your bidders, establish some specs, carefully observe how it’s working for you after the new contractor starts the work, and then adjust those specs accordingly. It’s difficult for most contractors to get the specs and frequencies “just right” without actually getting some time and experience in the building.
There are 4 things to consider when putting together a floor maintenance schedule – (1) Type of usage – is it an executive lunchroom or is it the warehouse restroom? (2) Amount of usage – is the area used by just a few people a day or is it your entry where a hundred people walk on the floor 2-3 times a day? (3) How often your contractor cleans; if he comes in 5 nights a week he’ll have much more opportunity to keep the floor looking good than if he comes in just once a week. And (4) Environment – is your building in a quiet office park (a good environment for floors)? Are you on an upper floor (a good environment)? Or is your building on a busy street with lots of vehicles and construction (a bad environment for floors)?
This is the form you would send to the contractors you are interested in. It might work for you exactly as is, or you might have to edit it to fit your needs.
To the attention of (Contractor) __________________________
We are interested in obtaining a quote for janitorial services. Please fill out this questionnaire as completely as possible and fax it to us. If you are not interested in providing a quote, please indicate as such and fax back to us as soon as possible.
If you wish to participate, return this form to us by this date ______________. If you have questions regarding this form, you may contact _____________________ at ________________________
Name of your company ____________________ State I.D. #____________
Contact name _____________________
Phone # __________________ Fax#____________________
Contact person's email address _______________________
Your company's website address ______________________
Do you buy, sell or transfer contracts in any way? _________________
To what amount is your company insured?____________________________
Is your company bonded? __________
Current number of square feet you maintain on a regular basis __________________
Our facility is ____________________ square feet with a population of _________, and our facility is cleaned _____ times per week.
Can your company handle a job of this size?______ Do you have other jobs of similar size?______
Do you maintain buildings in the same geographical area as our facility?___________
Please list 3 current customers for reference purposes:
Company _____________________ Contact _______________________ Phone ________________
Company _____________________ Contact _______________________ Phone ________________
Company _____________________ Contact _______________________ Phone ________________
Please fax this form back to fax number ________________ to the attention of __________________
We will also accept a one-page cover letter - tell us why your company would be a good fit for us.
Note - Please call only if you have questions regarding this form. Sales calls will eliminate your company from the bidding process.
Contractor’s fax # _________________
Your company has been accepted as one of the janitorial service contractors that we would like to bid on our facility.
The bid walk-through will be conducted on date ____________ at time _______. We will meet in the main lobby of our building at address ________________________.
You are allowed to bring one person with you to assist in the walk-through.
Please check one of the options below, and fax this back to us as soon as possible.
Yes, I will be at the walk-through ____ No, my company will not be bidding ____
Thank you for your prompt response regarding this matter.
Facility manager’s name ________________________________
Phone _____________________________ Fax ________________________
Note – Call only if you have questions regarding the walk-through. Sales calls will disqualify your company from the bidding process.
Note - Of course you'll have to tweak these specs to fit your own needs, but maybe there are 1 or 2 things here you haven't thought of.
Areas to be cleaned - Entire office block on south end of building, to include offices, lobby, reception area, restrooms, vending area, all common areas, conference rooms, kitchen, lunchroom, and exterior of building as specified.
To Be Performed Every Service Night, 5x per week
1. Empty all trash, replace liners as needed from Company stock, clean trashcans as needed. Empty all exterior trashcans and empty and clean cigarette urns.
2. Dust and spot clean all desks, counters, file cabinets, tables, ledges, windowsills, etc. Without naming every type of surface in the building, the intent of this specification is to leave all surfaces in a clean and dust-free condition.
3. Clean all fingerprints, smudges, etc, on counters, desks, light switches, walls, doors & frames, interior divider glass, glass topped desks, etc.
4. Dust mop and damp mop all hard surface floors. Remove heel marks; touch up with finish as needed. Sweep and mop first-to-second-floor stairway.
5. Vacuum all carpeting, runners, carpeted stairs, and mats. Remove stains and spills as needed.
6. Clean and disinfect all restroom fixtures - sinks, toilets, urinals, mirrors, walls and stalls, dispensers, receptacles, etc., polish all chrome and stainless steel, fill all dispensers from Company stock, dust-mop and damp-mop floors. The intent of this specification is to leave the restrooms in a clean, sanitized and odorless condition.
7. Clean kitchen sink, countertop, tables, wipe down chairs as needed, spot clean exterior of refrigerator, spot clean cabinet doors and drawers, dust-mop and damp-mop floor.
8. Clean interior and exterior of elevator, polish all stainless, vacuum and clean elevator tracks as needed.
9. Wash and squeegee-clean all exterior glass doors in and out, clean exterior door frames and handles.
10. Sweep exterior of entry area from front doors to sidewalk.
11. Secure building; set alarms, leave on designated night-lights.
To Be Performed Once Per Week
1. High-speed buff all tile floors to remove scuffs and restore high gloss.
2. Vacuum upholstered furniture.
To Be Performed Once Per Month
1. Vacuum all ceiling vents.
2. Vacuum elevator tracks and polish tracks with fine steel wool.
3. Clean and polish all metal kick-plates on doors.
To Be Performed Once Every 3 Months:
1. Scrub, refinish and high-speed buff all tile floors.
2. Wash all interior glass visible from front counter.
To Be Performed Once Every 6 Months:
1. Dust all window blinds in building before washing glass (see #2)
2. Wash all glass in building, interior and exterior.
3. Clean all lobby carpeting and main walkways in office, excluding private offices and cubicles.
To Be Performed Once Per Year:
1. Strip, refinish and high-speed buff all tile floors.
2. Clean all carpeting in entire building.
How and when your bid-walk occurs is very important. In the interest of getting fair and accurate bids, consider scheduling the tour around the end of the workday, when conditions are similar to when the cleaning services will be performed. This way your bidders can get an idea of what their crews would be faced with at 6pm, as opposed to walking them through a freshly cleaned, unused facility at 8am. Allow enough time for your bidders to get a good feeling for how the building is laid out, and be sure to visit all pertinent areas of the building. Try to keep the group together, so when one contractor has a question, all the others can hear the answer, and then all of your bids will be based on the same information.
Before the tour, review the requirements in your Bid Package so your bidders know what to look for.
At the end of the tour, sit down with the group and field questions. This is a good time to get a consensus from them as to whether your specs need any fine-tuning. If so, agree on the new wording of the specs and be sure everyone gets it right.
Make it clear that if you don't like any of the bids, you are not obligated to award a contract. Also make it clear that you are not obligated to reveal the results or the name of the successful bidder, or the winning quote amount, and, unless it's company policy, that you are not obligated to accept the lowest bid. You might consider putting this verbiage in your bid package.
If you are so inclined, allow bidders to bring their bids in person for a 5-minute presentation. If you don't like this idea, specify how you want the bids delivered.
Remember that most janitorial service contracts require at least a 30-day notice. Be sure to review your cleaning contract before you notify your contractor of your desire to discontinue service, and follow the cancellation clause to the letter.
Your notice of cancellation should be delivered by a method that requires a returned signature from the contractor's highest-ranking officer (owner, president, CEO) so you have proof of delivery.
The notice should specify the last date of cleaning and a specific day and time for the contractor to hand you the keys to your building and to remove his equipment. Remember to get the rest-room dispenser keys as well, as some dispensers use keys that are very difficult to replace.
This is also a good time to contact your security services. Call your alarm company so they can arrange for new alarm numbers to be assigned and for old numbers to be invalidated on the day of the switch, and let your drive-by security service know that there will be new people in your building and different vehicles in your parking lot.
At some point, notify your employees of the switch before the new contractor begins servicing your facility, and get input from them as to any special requirements or requests they might have. For instance, your old contractor might know that the door to your accounting department is to be locked every night when they are finished cleaning, but it's a detail you might forget to tell the new contractor. A simple set of notes can save everyone a lot of time and headaches.
Consider asking your new contractor if you can meet the people who will be cleaning your building. A five-minute meeting can do wonders - you will know who will be in your building, the cleaners will know whom they're working for, and it can boost the accountability factor tremendously.
Restroom odors can be defeated!
Urine is stubborn stuff, and it will penetrate into grout (even sealed grout and floor finish) and grow odorous bacteria. First of all, of course, be sure your toilets and urinals are being cleaned by your janitorial service on a regular basis. Toilets and urinals have all kinds of nooks and crannies that can harbor bacteria.
Tile grout on floors and walls is great for holding stuff together, but unfortunately it's also "great" for harboring bacteria because it's so porous. It needs to be cleaned thoroughly, rinsed well, treated with an "enzyme digester" until the odor is completely gone, and then sealed with a sealer that is urine-resistant.
Usually grout can be cleaned using nothing more than a 50-50 mix of white vinegar and water, or a paste made from baking soda and water, and scrubbed with a stiff bristle brush (old toothbrushes don't work).
If it's floor grout, your cleaning service can scrub the floor with a "swing machine" and a bristle brush pad, and then rinsed and wet-vacuumed at least twice.
Whether it's wall grout or floor grout, have your cleaning service spray on an enzyme digester such as Nilodor® Digester Bacteria Enzyme (about $15 a gallon) while the grout is still wet from cleaning and rinsing. It might take up to a week of applying every day to get the odor under control.
After the odor is 100% gone, have them use a urine-resistant grout sealer such as Amrep's Crystal Guard PS. It won't change the slip characteristics of the floor, and you won't even notice it's been applied after it dries.
General Tips for Grout Cleaning (Hey, some contractors don't know these things!):
Never allow bleach to be used on colored grout, as it will discolor the grout.
Metal bristle brushes should not be used, as they will wear away the grout.
For everyone's safety, your contractor should ventilate the restroom when commercial cleaning products are used.
Note - Almost all of these services are free, and most of them are 100% online, so there's no software to install to your computer. While we feel they are safe and trustworthy, we can't absolutely guarantee their performance.
So, in no particular order of coolness ...
Print What You Like - This free service allows you to print only the parts of a webpage you want to print. Lets you get rid of pictures, frames, ads, etc. It's all online, and there's no software to download. Very handy, and can save you a lot of ink and paper if you print stuff off the web.
Jott is one of the coolest communications tools we've ever used. It allows you to send text messages and/or emails to individuals and even groups of people with a phone call. Did you catch that? No more texting and punching tiny little buttons on your cell-phone! Call their toll-free number, tell Jott whom you want to text and/or email, speak your message into your phone, and it converts it into text. With one phone call you can contact your entire crew if you want. $3.95 per month for unlimited messages.
Wordle - You've seen them - they're called "Word Clouds", and they're really easy to get carried away with, so we need to put in a caution here - you might want to stay away from this site while you're at work!
Dear Facility Manager,
Why Should You Consider Hiring My Company?
Of course it's my job to make my company run as smoothly as possible in order to be a dependable service for my customers, and there are literally hundreds of details that have to be taken care of in order to accomplish that.
But there are also some very basic "foundational" things that I think you might want to know about.
First of all, your business, your company, your facility, is incredibly valuable to you, to your employees, to your families, and to your customers. We know this. Giving someone the keys to your building means they have access to pretty much everything, and we give that responsibility the respect and care it deserves.
1. Our cleaners are our front-line. We do exhaustive background checks on our people, and they must be absolutely clean. Squeaky clean, and no question that they are legally employable.
I know I probably don’t have to tell you how important that is – but I think it's important that you know that I know it, too. Cleaners who aren’t legal put your entire business at risk every time they step onto your property.
Our people also have to have something to “bring to the table” - they have to be proving in the other areas of their lives that they have the honesty, dependability and motivation that you and I demand.
And we don't pull any tricks that can put anyone in trouble - we don't pay under the table, and we pay every tax the law requires.
2. Along with my office number, you’ll get my personal cell phone number. It’s the phone that is basically duct-taped to my side.
3. When you call my office, your message won’t be routed from a receptionist to a sales rep and then to a service manager. Someone else might answer the office line, but after that, it goes to me, and every communication from you will be handled quickly and seriously.
4. You’ll receive copies of my company’s business license, proof of insurance, proof of bonding, and anything else you need.
5. I absolutely refuse to lose an account due to bad service. If I see something I don’t like, or something you won’t like, I’ll be sure it's taken care of before your people show up in the morning. I don’t care if it’s 3am; if it needs to be done, I won't hesitate to be the one pushing the vacuum or swinging the mop.
6. Your facility probably doesn’t need a huge janitorial service with hundreds of employees and accounts. It probably needs one well-trained janitor or a small crew, with a boss (me again) who’s willing to take the time to train them, support them, inspect their work, and communicate with them. The janitorial maintenance industry is, unfortunately, full of people who get an account, "kind of" train a new cleaning person, and then let them go on their own until there's a complaint. We don't do that here.
This is my company, my future, and my family’s future. I’m in this for the long run, and I’ll work as hard as anyone to keep your business forever.
I sincerely hope you’ll allow me to back up every word I’ve written here - and thanks for reading. We hope we can someday add your company to our list of satisfied customers.