Bidding and Estimating: Winning the Bid Doesn't Mean You Must be the Lowest Bidder

Steve Hanson

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Winning the bid for a cleaning contract doesn't necessarily mean that you have to be the lowest bidder. The entire bidding and estimating process has an enormous impact on the success of your bid, and should be considered an overall effort, and not just an aim to beat the price of any competing business. The trick is to communicate well with the facility operator in order to create a set of standard expectations and definitions for the job itself. That way, the bid you make will cater precisely to what your prospective client wants and expects, and will justify your bidding price.

Normally the services required will depend on the client, but can include sweeping, dusting, vacuuming, buffing, waxing, emptying trash and recycling, restroom cleaning and restocking, and window cleaning.

When bidding on janitorial contracts, it is best to have a specifications list that you go over with the prospective client. This ensures you and the client both know exactly what is expected, and allows you to bid accordingly. Make sure you check both inside and outside of the building, and include any seasonal or special tasks such as outside windows or sidewalks that require attention. On your tour, be aware of the level of cleanliness already present, and try and gage the expectations of the client accordingly.

Your checklist should contain the following items as a basic foundation, and should have additional points, depending on the specifics of the particular job, as well as any specialties you may offer to provide:

*Total cleanable square footage, including the types of floor surfaces and the measurements per type of floor surface. Floor care services such as carpet cleaning and stripping and waxing is usually bid separately. It is common for a floor care bid to be submitted on a square footage price as an add-on service.

*Tasks and frequency of these tasks.

*Similar to the floors, windows can be bid on in a per-unit basis and can be considered an add-on service.

*Restroom supplies and trash can liners should be identified. An additional bid can be made for their management (and a small profit as well).

*Overhead expenses, fixed expenses, variable expenses, labor, and materials should all be considered in your bid price.

*Production cleaning rates - for example how long it takes to vacuum a space based on square footage, how long a restroom fixture takes to clean (toilets, urinals, sinks), and how many trash cans can be emptied in an hour.

*Initial cleaning cost - you may need to charge separately for the first-time cleaning if the building needs to be brought up to the correct level of appearance by giving a thorough detailed cleaning.

When you leave the site, don't forget to ask your prospective customer any questions you may have about details and expectations. It's also important to find out your client's priorities between price and quality.

Remember that the presentation of your bid is as important as its contents. Put some effort into creating a standard bidding packet, which includes information about your company, a specifications list, references, testimonials, contract, and other information is greatly appreciated and very impressive to potential clients.

Steve Hanson is co-founding member of The Janitorial Store (TM), an online community for owners and managers of cleaning companies who want to build a more profitable and successful cleaning business. Sign up for Trash Talk: Tip of the Week at and receive a Free Gift!


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