Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Four Steps to Building a Rug Cleaning Business - REVISED

The foundation of a Rug Cleaning business is you have to be able to safely and effectively wash a rug. If you cannot wash a rug safely and effectively then you are not a rug cleaner. You can take classes, clean for someone else with their tutoring or even buy thrift store rugs and practice until you get it right. But washing a rug is the ground floor of a rug washing business. It sounds obvious but this point is lost on some people.
The Ground Floor Step
The cheapest way to wash a rug is with a brush, a hose, a floor or driveway and a beater bar vacuum to dust the rug. You can do a great job but this is slow. I have washed rugs with a scrub brush and it is hard backbreaking work. To fully dust a rug with a beater bar vacuum can take up to 4 hours on a 9 by 12 rug. So here at the ground floor stage one 9 by 12 rug a day can be a full days work.
Step One
Marketing is the first step. The whole exercise is pointless unless you keep the rugs coming in. Realistically most obvious marketing is either expensive or very time consuming. I have worked with Dusty Roberts to develop RugLover Marketing. It is not free but Dusty has easy inexpensive ways to get started in his program where he shows you highly effective and very inexpensive ways to grow your business. Whether you use RugLover  Marketing or grab your checkbook and do it on your own you need rugs to clean.
Step Two
As soon as you get over 500 square feet of rugs to wash a week time becomes your biggest enemy. To grow you need to speed up your process or cut corners. One of the first places cleaners cut time is on the dusting. Dusting is 80% of getting a rug clean. So instead of taking up to 4 hours on a 9 by 12 they dust for 10 minutes and call it good enough. Doing “Good Enough” work is not the path to success so the smart cleaner looks for equipment to speed up the process. Scrubbing with a brush is brutal so most cleaners look for something like a rotary scrubber to speed things up until they can move up to something like a Brush Pro Industrial Counter Rotating Brush Machine. Dusting usually gets pushed back so cleaners learn to set a “Clean” rug down carefully in front of a customer so that the tell tale puff of dust when you drop a rug doesn't tell the customer that the rug may look clean but is still dirty. Cleaners with Pride and Integrity have the choice of the ever so time consuming beater bar vacuum as a duster or they look to an air dusting system or a Rug Badger. Air dusting has some good advantages but it is expensive. Since it takes a 100 CFM compressor or bigger to do the job getting into Air Dusting can be 4 times as expensive as a Rug Badger Cub and more than twice as expensive the top of the line Rug badger. A Rug Badger can do in less than 30 minutes what might take you up to 4 hours on a 9 by 12 with a Sanitaire Vacuum.

Step Three
As soon as you start cleaning rugs faster you need more drying capacity. If you have the room you can flat dry your rugs. If you live in a hot sunny southern state flat drying is a viable alternative. But since not all of us live in Death Valley or San Diego most of us have to look to hanging rugs as volumes increase. A word of caution. If you are scrimping on the dusting stage hanging a wet rug that you did not get the dirt out of will cause the dirt to turn to mud and cause the mud slide to show up in the fringes. So the first choice drying method for cleaners who do not really get the rugs clean to the foundation is to flat dry the rugs upside down so that the mud slide wicks to the foundation rather then the fringe. This is a cleaver trick but do you want to trick your customers? The cleaner the rug is the easier it is to hang dry a rug.
So cleaners have to turn to drying rooms, drying racks, drying poles or the very popular drying towers. I am partial to the drying towers with wheels. In many parts of the country it is a huge advantage to be able to wheel a rack of rugs out into the sun and roll it back in if the weather turns. There is no one answer but drying becomes a crucial point as volumes increase.
Step Four
At a certain point rug cleaners begin to outgrow their capacity to hang dry. The next step is something to speed drying up. The old standby is a Moore style compression wringer that squeezes the water out of a rug like the wringers on an old fashion wringer washer. The pros are that they do a pretty good job for antiquated technology and allow you to decrease hanging time. The cons are that Moore wringers are no longer made so you have to buy used. A used wringer is very expensive to move, and rust is a major problem so if you find one it usually needs to be rebuilt which adds to the cost. (After I wrote this a company in Michigan has resurrected the MOR/Moore brand and old fashioned methodology. Time will tell if they can do anything meaningful with it.)

The newer alternative is a spinner or Centrifuge as they are called. By spinning the water out of a rug the drying time is decreased dramatically. Rugs are still hung but using a centrifuge allows you to get the rug cleaner and flushing and spinning is a major time saver in urine decontamination. Many of the cleaners I work with find a centrifuge a necessity when they start to move towards 100 rugs a week.
Where you are in the process of building your business volume has to determine what equipment you purchase. Marketing is the key determinate. The greater the number of rugs through your door the more you need to incorporate the time savers. A great place to be is where you are so busy that you either need to increase capacity or cut back on marketing.
As a final note of caution buying equipment you do not need is a bad move. Marketing is the key and scale your business to meet the demands of your customers.