The dreaded time of year is coming!

Residential cleaning is seasonal work and the slow time is right around the corner. Don’t let it catch you unprepared.

For most of the country, there is a four month period when a carpet cleaner’s average monthly revenue drops to about half that of the other eight months. The slowdown typically starts around December 15,  as the holiday decorations go up, and ends about tax time, as the weather starts to warm.

Ease the pain

The demand for residential cleaning seems to evaporate during this time. Since it costs twice as much time and money to get new customers, ask yourself this: Does it make more sense to work with the slow time or try and fight it?

First, be prepared. Budget for the whole year assuming there will be less revenue in the off-season. Most companies live from month to month, counting on the same monthly income.

When this does not happen, panic and desperation tend to set in. Monthly goals for this time of year should be adjusted accordingly. Ignore this seasonal characteristic of our industry and you will pay a price.

Work with it — don’t fight it

There are things you can do to increase the workflow for this period.

  • Send out annual reminder cards each month to customers who were willing to have their carpets cleaned at this time last year. Also send reminders to all clients who have not used your services in over 18 months. (February is a good month to do this.)
  • Offer generous discounts for secondary services such as upholstery, area rug and tile cleaning. Consider offering free protector with carpet cleaning.
  • Incentivize customers, friends and family for whom you have offered discounted prices in the past. Let them know that you are glad to extend them the same reduced rate, but that offer is only good between December 15 and April 15. Outside of that period, standard fees will apply.
  • This is the ideal time to offer free services or greatly reduced prices to religious or charitable organizations. In this way you can give back to the community, keep technicians busy and develop valuable good will for your company.
  • Remind customers of other services you offer. You might ask the customer, “Would you be interested in a price for cleaning the family room furniture?” It is acceptable to suggest one additional service without coming across as pushy.
  • Increase referrals. If you offer referral rewards, consider doubling them during this period, and promote this incentive to your clients.
  • Seek commercial work, which is less seasonally sensitive. Look for contract work such as restaurants and retail stores. Apartment and property managers along with realtors are good sources of year-round work.

Schedule wisely

When you find that your schedule is more open than you would like, do not assume that you should share your desperation with your customers. People associate being busy with success. You are in a much weaker position if they sense you have no work. Do not tell a caller that your schedule is wide open.

Restrict your days for labor. Block off certain days of the week for projects other than cleaning. Avoid scheduling small jobs on an otherwise blank day if they can be delayed to another partially filled day.

Schedule guilt-free days off and plan vacations for this slow season. You are in control of your schedule. Avoid sacrificing time off during the busy period if you can postpone it until the slower time. You acquire a greater risk of losing jobs if you take time off when the phone is ringing.

Take advantage of the time

You have opportunities to use this valuable time to build and improve your business.

  • Schedule and save up for industry related classes to take during this opportune time.
  • Catch up on equipment and vehicle maintenance. If you invest in this now, there will be fewer breakdowns when time is precious.
  • Get caught up on office work. You have little excuse for not completing the data entry, bookkeeping and tax preparation.
  • Organize your office, vehicle and supply storage area.
  • Plan the growth of your business. Set goals, create new marketing strategies and take the time to dream about your potential.

Welcome the slow season

The more you plan for this time of year, the more rewarding it will be. If you are a startup company, this will be a tough time. But if you use your time wisely, you will survive and do well.

Planning ahead for the slow season keeps you in control and enables you to take advantage of opportunities you will not have during the busy season.

When you learn to work with the seasons, you will find this slow time to be refreshing. Going all out for 12 straight months each year is a sure way to burn out.

Make the most of this time and your company will prosper.

Steve Marsh is a 40-year veteran of the carpet cleaning industry, an instructor and a Senior Carpet Inspector. He helps home-service companies quickly establish profitable clienteles and then progress on to serve higher quality customers. To help companies achieve these goals he created the step-by-step programs Single Truck Success and Be Competition Free. For more information, visit www.professional-carpet-cleaning-service.com.