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    Sharonsky's Avatar
    Sharonsky Posts: 13, Reputation: 2
    New Member

    Jan 28, 2011, 02:06 PM
    Need help with commercial 20,000 sq ft office cleaning bid
    We've been doing residential cleaning for 5 years but we have an opportunity to bid on a large commercial account and really want to give it a try. This is new territory for us. We want to come up with a fair price that will be worth it for us where we can provide quality service. The property is a medical research facility in the Buffalo area.

    They have a "cleaning person" now and are not satisfied at all. They said he isn't doing anything so quality is a big issue.

    The office building is 20,000 sq ft
    with about 16,000-17,000 sq ft flooring (corridors and large rooms)
    and 3000-4000 sq ft carpeting (about 10 offices, 2 conference rooms, 2 reception areas)
    5 bathrooms with either 3 stalls or 2 stalls/1 urinal, 2 sinks
    cafeteria/kitchenette with fridge, micro, sink, counter, 4 tables

    5x a week cleaning

    dusting 8 offices plus reception areas (I'm thinking this could be done 1x week - they want papers moved)
    vacuuming all carpets
    floors swept each day
    trash removed each day and put in dumpster
    mopping 3x week
    bathrooms - they will provide supplies and trash liners

    We are guessing it would take between 25-28 hours per week which would equal about 5-6 hrs per night. Is this a good assessment?

    I've heard that we should charge between $18-22 per hour. Is that a good range?

    If it took 6 hours and we charged $18 per hour, that would be $108 per clean, or $2322 per month which seems like a lot to me.

    Any help would be greatly, appreciated. I'd be happy to reciprocate with residential info if someone needs that.
    Stringer's Avatar
    Stringer Posts: 3,733, Reputation: 770
    Business Expert

    Jan 28, 2011, 02:52 PM

    Hi Sharon how are you?

    May I ask a few questions so we are on the same page?

    1. I have to assume that you pretty much know what you are doing as you gave good information. Have you ever done commercial cleaning before?

    2. May I ask how you found out about this bid? I mean do you already have a relationship with anyone within this company?

    3. What is the density of the building? (a lot of people? - Thus a lot of work stations, more traffic in the washrooms, etc)

    5. What about the floor work? Are you responsible for this? (Carpet cleaning, stripping and refinishing the VCT, ceramic, marble, etc)

    6. Any window cleaning involved?

    7. Is there any recycling: paper, metal, plastic, etc?

    8. Have you read the specification thoroughly? Are there any special requirements? What does it say about payment terms?

    9. What is the length of the contract to be?

    10. When is the bid due? How much time do you have to prepare this?

    11. Did you do a walk through of the complete building?

    12. Is the 20,000 sq ft the 'cleanable' square feet or just the overall size of the building?

    Please get back to me, answer all of these questions the best that you can and I will be happy to assist where I can.

    Sharonsky's Avatar
    Sharonsky Posts: 13, Reputation: 2
    New Member

    Jan 28, 2011, 03:23 PM
    Hello, Stinger. Thank you for your response. It's much appreciated.

    1. We clean a couple of offices biweekly - one is about 1300 sq ft and the other is about 4000 sq ft. We priced them the same as our residential jobs. So, we have never done anything on this scale.

    2. The contact person found us online. We've never had any contact with them before.

    3. A lot of the rooms are large rooms (labs) so there were not a lot of work stations. There were about 10 offices but only 8 would be dusted. We're guessing between 50-100 employees based on what we saw but we didn't think to ask. I might be able to get that info on Monday if it's important.

    5. We told them that we do not do stripping and waxing (which they have done yearly) so we would just vacuum/sweep and mop.

    6. She didn't say anything about window cleaning and when I asked her if she wanted the entryways cleaned (which is the only place we saw windows), she said no, so I'm guessing we wouldn't do any windows.

    7. She only mentioned trash, so I think not.

    8. We didn't receive any specifications or info on payment plans. We did a walk-through yesterday and she showed us what they wanted done while I took notes.

    9. We don't know. We were thinking a year but we didn't discuss it.

    10. She gave me some additional info on the phone today and I told her we would get her the bid on Monday.

    11. Yes, we did one yesterday and she showed us what we would be cleaning, except for one boardroom which was in use.

    12. She said the building was 15,000-20,000 sq ft when I initially asked her and when I asked her for a more definite number, she called today and said 20,000. I'm guessing that is the overall size of the bldg.

    I came up with the 16000-17000 sq ft of flooring and 3000-4000 sq ft of carpet figure based on a diagram that I drew up from what I remembered of the building.

    We're also thinking that even though they asked for mopping 3x a week, we might give them a price with mopping 2x a week in addition to the other price since they weren't sure at first how often they wanted it mopped.

    Thank you again. Let me know if you have any other questions.

    Stringer's Avatar
    Stringer Posts: 3,733, Reputation: 770
    Business Expert

    Jan 28, 2011, 06:22 PM

    Hi Sharon,

    I only have a moment presently I have to leave for dinner with my family.

    I will be back tomorrow watch for me.

    I can't believe that they didn't have written specifications, this is standard. Written specs makes everyone bid to those and everything is apples to apples, no guessing. It is better to have exactly what is expected written down it protects both of you. Suggestion; you should take the time to write down what you are going to do daily, weekly and monthly and present it with your bid, that is the professional thing to do.

    One last thing (back tomorrow); Usually a buildings' actual cleanable space is about 10 - 15% less than the overall sq ft. This is because you take into consideration the closets, and other dead space that you do not clean...

    Usually if you are to mop it is daily especially since this is a lab.

    The main thing is that you want to be competitive, make a decent profit AND keep your client happy in the process.

    Due this Monday huh? That isn't a lot of time, usually they give you at least two weeks to put a bid together.

    Sharonsky's Avatar
    Sharonsky Posts: 13, Reputation: 2
    New Member

    Jan 28, 2011, 09:41 PM
    Thanks, Stringer, for the info. I'll watch for you tomorrow.

    Yes, I agree that it's odd that they don't have specs, and it's also kind of odd that they have some guy cleaning for them on the side.

    They did say they only wanted mopping 3x per week so I'm guessing we'll just quote for that.

    I guess I shouldn't have volunteered to give them the bid so quickly. I didn't know how long it should take and usually when we quote on commercial jobs, they seem to expect it pretty quickly. I guess it was my mistake to offer to give it so fast.

    I look forward to hearing more from you tomorrow. Thanks again.
    alapaint's Avatar
    alapaint Posts: 2, Reputation: 1
    New Member

    Jan 29, 2011, 07:26 AM
    I have learned when I am doing a bid ,if I am unsure how to bid it bid it high to cover yourself this took a while to figure out-but now I don't loose my a..
    Stringer's Avatar
    Stringer Posts: 3,733, Reputation: 770
    Business Expert

    Jan 29, 2011, 09:34 AM

    Alapaint, I understand you point. However my suggestion would be to make every effort to be precise in your bidding especially in this economy.

    There is an old story of two unsuccessful men sitting on a park bench: one said "I always bid low" the other "I always bid high."

    My point is, if it is working for you then great. In the long run though becoming astute and well versed in gathering all the information that you can and bidding competitively will keep you moving forward. It takes experience and is a learning process. And we never stop learning do we. You have to know your market and obtain a good reputation.

    Sharon, I will be back a little later. May I ask that you please make a list of exact questions for me and we can start by answering those, thanks.

    Stringer's Avatar
    Stringer Posts: 3,733, Reputation: 770
    Business Expert

    Jan 29, 2011, 11:37 AM

    Sharon, I know that your main question is what monthly price to bid. This is always a tough question. I can hopefully only guide you as pricing is always (in the end) your decision.

    There are so many variables; your location (rural/urban, region of the country), competition, clients' budget/s, your costs, etc.

    Using 20,000 sq ft. a lab (you never said exactly what type of lab is a sterile situation required?) I can only relate to my area and my circumstances in making a suggestion Sharon.

    Assuming that the lab does not require a cleaning I would bid $3, 599.00 per month. That is $0.18 per sq ft and that includes a 'fudge factor.' That is because there are no specifications to serve as an absolute guideline. This price is based upon our discussions on what is required and the frequencies of performance.

    That is a competitive price In my opinion, however I do not know your personal cost factors that you have to cover nor do I know what profit you must have to survive. There is no bigger problem than getting the job (being elated) then finding out that you are not making much profit (discouraging). Getting the first larger commercial has some benefits in that it offers a ton of experience and that is vital also. But you do not want to loose money, if so you will be disappointed and end up with a client that will not give you what you want---- a great reference for future business.

    If pressured I would say that that my bottom line price would be $0.15 to $0.16 per sq ft or $2,999.00 to $3,199.00. Notice that id the price is $3,000 I always lower it to the lessor of $2,999.00 (psychological- does it help, well it doesn't hurt).

    I hope these guidelines help some.

    There is a lot more to discuss in general if you like about this business, especially the commercial end of it. If you like I am available, just let me know.

    I wish you good luck... go get 'um Sharon! There is always a way, even if you don't get this job always leave the door open with them. Tell them that you are disappointed however if you can be of any assistance please call you. I have received a lot of business because the 'winner' failed to perform.

    Face to the wind... be a hunter

    Sharonsky's Avatar
    Sharonsky Posts: 13, Reputation: 2
    New Member

    Jan 29, 2011, 04:54 PM
    Stringer, thank you so much for your answer. If we could get the price that you mentioned, we would be thrilled.

    I guess one thing I'm wondering, is given the specs listed in my original post, how long would it take each night to clean this? We thought maybe 6 hours a night for one person. Would you think that would be about right or would it be more?

    Also, I'm wondering what is a general hourly rate for commercial. I've read that somewhere between $18-22 is a good rate, is that true?

    Thanks again for your help. I'm going to also read some more of your posts to see what I can learn.

    One other thing that I didn't mention earlier is that our contact told us that she thinks they pay $900-1000 per month and that the guy cleaning it is there for 4-5 hours. But again, she said that he doesn't do anything. She is the executive assistant to the CEO so she probably knows but she was very hesitant to tell us saying that HR writes the checks but my partner pressed her for a "ballpark" and she said $900-1000.
    Stringer's Avatar
    Stringer Posts: 3,733, Reputation: 770
    Business Expert

    Jan 29, 2011, 05:16 PM

    This could present a problem Sharon.

    When a company goes out for bid from a good company that is incorporated and trained after using 'a guy' it takes some adjustment on their part.

    Consider they were only paying this person wages.

    You are providing so much more. First and foremost you are insured, this is extremely important and totally protects the client (and you).

    You are supplying all the cleaning supplies.

    You are providing all the equipment necessary to perform your duties.

    You are going to insure that the job is being done properly without any hazardous harm to their staff. This means that you will not use any chemicals that would be harmful.

    You are trained (I like this one) you will not use a cloth to wipe off the toilets and then use the same cloth to wipe off their personal telephones. (Think about that one... )

    In short you are a professional company that brings experience to the table and not a 'maw and pa' company with only a bucket and a mop (that may or may not be changed for proper cleaning).

    In any case I have been through this one way too often. They probably never used a professional service before and will experience price shock Sharon. I am sorry that this is the case.

    If they do not take your bid then stay in contact as they will only be jumping from the pot into the frying pan.

    You have to make them understand that your price IS very competitive for a professional company that is responsible and does what it says it will constantly.

    You may also tell them that you will visit them doing the day maybe once a week or every two weeks to do an inspection to make sure all work meets their approval.

    In the business, this is what is called a rusted silver spoon. They want the best service but have no idea what remuneration is required. That dog won't fight.

    You will have to really sell this one Sharon, use some of the points I listed above hopefully they will understand. Before you go in, make sure that you have all your ducks in a row: know your costs and your range if you negotiate. Remember that if they are asking for a price reduction then it is a 'trade' you lower the price but will have to reduce some of the services and or frequencies of your service. Explain that about 60% of your costs are labor.

    $900.00 to $1,000 per month is not what I would bid but that is also up to you. $1,000 per month is only $.05 per square foot*.

    *This is how I usually bid in commercial jobs, per sq ft... then check it by extending that to a loaded hourly wage.

    EDIT:::: In my opinion Sharon it will take a minimum of 6 to 6.5 hours daily to do this job properly. AND this is why there are no written specs Sharon... IF you are going to lower your price you have to reduce service to reduce you nightly hours.

    By the way Sharon I am familiar with residential cleaning I helped my wife start one a few years ago. She built it to over 70 homes all weekly cleaning in 3 1/2 years and sold it for a nice profit a couple years ago.

    Please keep me posted.

    Sharonsky's Avatar
    Sharonsky Posts: 13, Reputation: 2
    New Member

    Jan 29, 2011, 06:51 PM
    Thanks again, Stringer. These are very good points. I don't even think the guy is an employee but an off-the-books cleaner which is what makes this business the hardest.

    There is no way we would do it for $1000 per month. It would not be worth the drive there :)

    The minimum that we are considering would be $1720 and we really would like something more like 2000.

    We based that on 5-6 hours a night but since it could be even more than that, then I think we would have to go higher.

    Thanks again for your help.
    Stringer's Avatar
    Stringer Posts: 3,733, Reputation: 770
    Business Expert

    Jan 29, 2011, 08:38 PM

    First what you need to do is to figure you loaded hourly rate which includes everything Sharon;

    Actual wage, supplies, equipment, taxes and other admin costs,. all your total costs then add profit. You have to get a handle on exactly what you need to cover and what you need to make.

    Calculate your costs monthly, then break it down to weekly then daily then to the hour. Then you will know what you have to charge and that you will not make a mistake and loose money and faith in what you are doing.

    Even if you loose a bid always go back and tell them that you are available should they need you. Then ask them since you want to improve please to tell you how much higher you were. This is how you learn to bid the next job. Ask whom you bid against and learn you competition, this you must do also, know you7r competition. Be friendly with them but be tight tongued.

    The learning never stops if you want to be even more successful.

    $1,720 / month is only $0.086 per sq ft. Volume dictates price. If I were bidding on a job say, 200,000 sq ft I might consider $0.08 to $0.09/sq ft that is $16,000.00 per month. But for an average or smaller job, well personally I would not bid below $0.14 to $0.16. The smaller the job say 20,000 sq ft the higher the price.

    Another thing Sharon these types of bids where they apparently haven't used a professional company before usually turn into squeaking wheels and require a lot of attention even more than necessary sometimes because a standard isn't set as yet with them.

    I hope that I have been helpful, ask away if you have more questions.

    Good luck again,

    Sharonsky's Avatar
    Sharonsky Posts: 13, Reputation: 2
    New Member

    Jan 29, 2011, 09:02 PM
    You have been very helpful, Stringer. This has been driving us crazy thinking about it and you have given us much food for thought and we really appreciate you taking the time to help us figure this out.

    We definitely don't want to price it too low either on purpose or out of ignorance. We have never believed in low balling or trying to get a job at all costs since we know this is counterproductive for everyone. We've seen many businesses that have priced too low go out of business and we've vowed to not do that. We started our pricing right from the start at a rate that we planned to charge once we had employees rather than a lower rate because we were doing the cleaning.

    I do have one more question, if you don't mind.

    Could you tell me about how long it would take to clean a commercial bathroom with 2 stalls, one urinal and a double sink each day if it was cleaned 5x per week? We think we have a handle on how long most of the other tasks would take but since we clean mostly residential, it's hard to figure out how long it would take to do a commercial bathroom since residential bathrooms take much longer.
    Stringer's Avatar
    Stringer Posts: 3,733, Reputation: 770
    Business Expert

    Jan 29, 2011, 09:35 PM

    There is a system for commercial Sharon. It has to be quick, efficient and effective. For example count each fixture (toilet, sink, mirror, urinal, etc as a unit, each unit should take 1 1/2 minutes: six units X 1.5 = 9 minutes + 3 minutes for the floor in this size washroom; Quick and Efficient. Use disinfectant.

    First clean the mirror (drips to the sink and counter), toilets with swab brush (drips to the floor), sink/s (drips to the floor) spot the walls and partitions. The floor has some water on it now mop with fresh disinfectant.

    In and out in about 10 minutes Sharon. After you clean any room stand in the doorway one last time to insure that you did not miss anything.

    Like I said ask away, I do not mind.

    Sharonsky's Avatar
    Sharonsky Posts: 13, Reputation: 2
    New Member

    Jan 30, 2011, 02:30 PM
    I figured we were probably estimating too long of a time to clean the bathrooms but wasn't sure how long it should take. We estimated about 20 minutes but I figured that was probably too long. So knowing how long it should take really helps. I'm guessing it will take us longer at first but we'll get it. The top to bottom principle is the same in residential.

    I'm going to print up your posts so I can reread them several times. There's so much good info here.

    I do have another question. She didn't specify but I was thinking that we could dust the offices 1x per week. I wouldn't think they needed to be dusted daily. Is that about how often offices usually get dusted? I thought once per week and twice per week at the very most.

    Thanks again, Stringer.
    Stringer's Avatar
    Stringer Posts: 3,733, Reputation: 770
    Business Expert

    Jan 30, 2011, 03:24 PM

    We classify building by Class; A, B or C Sharon.

    Here is a copy of our evaluation of these buildings for quick reference: I put this together about six years ago, I use this with prospects to clarify the cleaning process. You may use this if you like.

    Accurate method of evaluating a building using effective cleaning principles:

    (Key points):

    A. Define Your Building/s: A, B or C

    1. “A” Buildings:

    These are buildings where high intensity and concentration is given to the cleaning program. There are additional tasks performed and the frequencies of these tasks are amplified to achieve a level of greater service/cleanliness. These types of buildings are generally more prolific with items such as marble floors, expensive carpets, wall hangings, etc, and are generally Corporate, Division or Regional offices. But an “A” building can also be any building with great emphasis placed on its appearance.

    2. “B” Buildings:

    They are generally typical office buildings; with commercial carpeting, VCT flooring, and possibly some marble or other type of hard flooring, etc. These buildings require normal daily service and periodic cleaning of other areas. Usually occupied by tenants and managed by a management company or owner.

    3. “C” Buildings:

    “C” buildings are generally older buildings where expenditure is a factor. Service is commonly five/six days per week although the task and frequency schedules are less reoccurring, although greater attention is still paid to certain areas; restrooms, lunchrooms, entrances, etc. These buildings generally have fewer amenities.

    Some buildings can fall somewhere between the above ratings to be a “B” plus or minus, a “C” plus or minus, etc. Adjustments can be made; however the basic descriptions should apply to most buildings.

    B. Rate of Cleaning:

    This can best be characterized by the square footage that can be cleaned by each person each hour. More square footage per hour denotes less detail, less square footage per hour equals more detailed cleaning.


    “A” buildings may be cleaned at a rate of approximately 2,000 to 2,500 sq ft
    per hour
    “B” buildings at approximately 2,500 to 3,000 sq ft per hour
    “C” buildings at approximately 3,000 to 3,500/4,000 sq ft per hour

    Another factor when considering the “Rate of Cleaning” is density. Density reflects on frequencies and refers to the number of regular staff and visitors in your building and this is equivalent to the number of desks, waste cans, personnel traffic, soap and paper usage in washrooms, etc. With this it is understood that pricing is driven by the number of tasks and their frequencies.

    As a client you are better informed when you define the “Rate of Cleaning” for your building. This will allow you to determine the level of service you desire and a better understanding between yourself and your contracting service. The client and the service contractor should agree on the number of hours being used nightly to perform the service.

    Other bidders should also understand this process and agree on the hours to ensure that you receive the standard of service you deserve. If the agreed upon hours are not in line then this should be addressed.

    C. Specifications: (Written stipulations denoting tasks and exact frequencies of each task.)

    Clear, written, agreed upon, specifications that detail the tasks and frequencies for your service that may also include special periodic duties to be performed. These specifications should relate to the agreed upon definition of the building; “A, B or C.”

    It is important that the client understand and apply the above in their decision process, without this clarification of the exact responsibilities of the contractor the client cannot have a qualified guarantee of the services being performed.

    I hope this helps some.

    In most cases Class A & B buildings, dusting is daily. But not always, especially if you are in a pricing situation.

    Dusting less than each day in my opinion should be twice per week. High dusting, above average eye level is once per month as are the window blinds.

    I'm ready... fire away with any questions.

    Sharonsky's Avatar
    Sharonsky Posts: 13, Reputation: 2
    New Member

    Jan 30, 2011, 04:10 PM
    Wow, that's very impressive. Thanks for allowing me to use it. I will save it in my files. I especially like the part about the production rates varying depending on whether it's an A, B, or C. I think ours falls between B and C.

    I don't think I have any questions at the moment but if I think of any more, I'll let you know. I've been working up graphs with various prices and how much we would make depending on how many hours it would take.

    Thanks again for all of your help. I typed up the proposal today and we just need to add the final price.
    Stringer's Avatar
    Stringer Posts: 3,733, Reputation: 770
    Business Expert

    Jan 30, 2011, 04:47 PM

    On average our NET profit is in the 15 - 20% range. The larger the job (say 50 - 75,000 or more sq ft) the less the percentage, possibly 10 - 13%. The smaller the percentage is then higher, even 30% +.

    Remember that percentages mean little, the actual dollar amount matters but they are a quick barometer.

    50% of $1.00 is only $0.50. 10% of $10,000 is...

    I wish you good luck Sharon, it will be a leaning process either way.

    Sharonsky's Avatar
    Sharonsky Posts: 13, Reputation: 2
    New Member

    Jan 31, 2011, 08:28 PM
    Thank you, Stringer. Would a 20,000 sq ft job be considered a smaller job or an average job? I would guess it would be smaller? Correct?

    We crunched so many numbers and with some figured we came out making a higher percentage than others. In some scenarios we were making above 35% and with others we were making much less. It will all come down to how many hours it end up taking to clean it... if we get it. I made several graphs based on what wage we would pay and with different variations depending on how many hours it would take.

    I'm going to call her tomorrow, make sure she got my email and ask when they will have a decision for us. Even if we don't get it, it was quite a learning experience. We have another bid in for a job cleaning a clubhouse and 4 model homes at a new condo community also. At least now I know enough to ask how much the other bids were if we don't end up getting it.

    One thing that amazed me through all of this was how much less per hour you get for commercial than residential. It's just crazy how different it is.
    Stringer's Avatar
    Stringer Posts: 3,733, Reputation: 770
    Business Expert

    Jan 31, 2011, 09:23 PM

    Good luck with the bid Sharon, let me know.

    Actually there is a good return on the sweat to reward in commercial. We do about $6m per year.

    20,000 sq ft is on the smaller side that we bid. We don't bid anything smaller unless there are circumstances such as more locations to get in the future.

    Our average in probably around 60 - 75,000.

    Our largest under contract is approximately 275,0000. Total under contract is about 2.8m st ft.

    And we don't use an hourly rate as the first method to figure a job (sq ft) and then we check it with hourly.

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