When jobs are won and lost by pennies on the dollar, generating accurate estimates isn’t a luxury—it’s a necessity.
But for many commercial cleaning businesses, the path to better estimates is blocked by outdated systems. Complicated spreadsheets are overwhelming to inexperienced salespeople, time-consuming to update, prone to errors when formulas malfunction, and difficult to translate into scheduled work when a job is won. (And that’s if a good estimating template even exists.)
The reality is this: Without software, it’s almost impossible to consistently produce high-quality bids.
Want to grow your commercial cleaning or building services business? Sign up for a free demo of Aspire’s janitorial business management system.
Good estimates create a solid foundation for the work to come. They help you win the bids you want, turn down the ones you don’t, and confidently be able to tell the difference.
In the following sections, we’ll explore:
- Why you can’t reliably create bids like this without estimating software
- How Aspire’s estimating and proposal-bidding features work in the context of a comprehensive business management system
- Standalone estimating solutions to consider
For a primer on janitorial business management software, check out this article.
The trouble with traditional janitorial estimating processes
Without software, it’s difficult to achieve the levels of consistency, complexity, and flexibility necessary for high-quality estimates, especially in competitive markets.
Let’s take a look at a few key problems with a paper-based approach.
It’s hard to price work profitably
Technology lets you standardize information and processes in a way that’s simply not possible using other media (including Microsoft Excel). Even if you create a paper form, you can’t restrict how people interact with it—what they choose to fill out, what they ignore, and what they do with the form once it’s “complete.”
The quality of information you use to build estimates suffers when you don’t have software that ensures high-quality data collection and storage. Bids end up being based on a mix of conjecture, ideas about what the market can bear, and the opinions of individual salespeople.
Without the ability to standardize information collected on walk-throughs, exact items referenced in an estimate, or markups added to a bid, it’s hard to know if you’re pricing your cleaning services profitably.
Inaccurate bids lead to losses
Profit margins in the cleaning industry are as slim as it gets.
There’s just not a lot of wiggle room when it comes to creating accurate bids. If the team members handling a walk-through or generating an estimate don’t know what to look for, miscalculate the square footage, or don’t account for complications in estimating labor hours, companies can quickly find themselves siphoning money on a poorly bid job.
On the flipside, guesstimating costs on the high side to get a bid out the door faster can mean pricing yourself out of a contract or enhancement opportunity.
To avoid these pricing headaches, you need software that allows you to produce spot-on estimates for your cleaning jobs every time.
Proposals are inconsistent
Consistency is key when it comes to generating quality cleaning proposals. We know business owners who’ve had prospective clients ask for a different salesperson because they’ve heard their bids are cheaper. (That’s never something you want to hear.)
With traditional estimating processes, it’s hard to make sure all bids are prepared the same way. Without the constraints that software provides, team members might notice different things during the same walk-through.
This can be especially problematic for employees who lack industry experience or training. They may record basic details but miss things like the type of soap dispensers in the bathrooms or the fact that only the ground floor in a 10-story building has water access to fill mop buckets.
Data is lost or unused
When information is stored in spreadsheets, whiteboards, or handwritten notes, it’s easy to lose. And even when something isn’t erased or thrown away, it ends up stored in a file cabinet where the data can’t be easily referenced or connected to other data.
That means when it comes time to schedule jobs and send invoices, the information recorded during the estimating process has to be re-created again and again—wasting valuable administrative time and creating a multitude of opportunities for human error.
The process is time-consuming
Let’s face it, creating estimates by hand just takes longer. It’s a hassle.
With paper-based workflows, you can’t rely on the benefits of user-friendly platforms that automate processes, create connections between your data, store valuable information in the cloud, and use templates to save hours of repetitive work.
When you’re operating with a lean team (as most janitorial companies do), creating efficiencies is critical. And without software, that’s hard to do.
How Aspire’s estimating features improve your ability to create winning proposals
There are standalone estimating solutions that can help speed up and standardize the bidding process for commercial cleaning companies. We’ll share a few at the end of this article, but first we’ll explain why you might want to consider a cloud-based business management system like Aspire.
End-to-end business management software lets you run your entire company in a single, centralized location. It helps you prepare excellent estimates, but it doesn’t stop there. Instead, it lets you move through the entire process:
- Creating a sales opportunity
- Conducting an initial walk-through
- Creating an estimate
- Scheduling the work for won bids
- Time tracking
- Conducting inspections
- Sending invoices
- Reviewing real-time reports and dashboards
All within the same cloud-based platform, accessible from any internet-enabled device or Aspire’s mobile app.
If you’re not ready for a complete business management system, skip to the section on standalone estimating solutions. Otherwise, read on to see how Aspire’s estimating features are part of a cohesive solution for growth-minded janitorial companies.
In Aspire, each estimate consists of pre-defined bidding kits. Bidding kits are created at the company level and combine your unique production factors with labor and material costs to form neatly packaged building blocks used to generate each new estimate.
You could have bidding kits for anything from carpet cleaning to vacuuming to cleaning drinking fountains, emptying waste receptacles, or washing windows.
Example of a bidding kit "Stripping Kit with Materials"
For example, you can create a “strip and reseal” kit that includes the labor hours and materials needed for a single square foot of work. Then, when a salesperson puts together an estimate for a job that involves stripping and resealing the floors, they simply pull in the bidding kit and set the number of square feet.
Kits can be nested within other kits, and the number of kits you can have is unlimited—allowing you to build a complex, well-organized, standardized system to use in generating proposals. No more guesswork or inconsistent bids between team members.
On the estimate, you can group kits into categories and easily toggle them on or off, which makes it easier to visualize your data or make adjustments. On a commercial cleaning contract proposal, for example, you could have categories for light cleaning, floors, exterior services, and optional services broken out individually, with each one populated by the relevant kits.
Kits streamline the estimating process, but templates take things even further.
You can create templates for as many different types of jobs or properties as you need. You’re not restricted to preset categories; you can set up templates in the way that makes the most sense for your individual business, or branches within your business.
Create unlimited templates for work in Aspire
Templates are created the same way you would build an estimate from scratch, by adding the desired categories and kits. The difference is, you only have to create a template once. Then, anytime you need to bid a particular kind of job, you can just apply a template, input your square footage, adjust as needed, and go.
Even when you’re using a template, each proposal is unique and will probably require tailoring. In Aspire’s system, you can edit freely, adding or removing kits and changing square footage, frequency of work, or type of material. Plus, there’s an option to add a complexity adjustment when you need to account for factors that affect the time it takes to do a job (like the basement-only water access we mentioned in an earlier example).
Company service catalog
All of your bidding kits live in your company service catalog, which administrators manage—adding, editing, or removing items as needed.
Administrators can add, edit, and remove items from the company's service catalog
There’s no limit to the number of things you can have in your catalog, or to the level of complexity allowed for any given item. That means you can customize the system to work how you want, and grow with you as you scale.
And with dedicated support from a customer success manager (CSM), you don’t have to do it alone. Aspire is a robust and flexible platform, but you won’t be stuck wondering if you’re following best practices. CSMs are there to support you with templates, direction, and advice.
While templates and kits allow for extreme efficiency and standardization across projects, there are also times when you need to be flexible to win the bid. Knowing this, Aspire allows you to create pricing overrides on estimates if you need to be extra competitive (or if there’s enough room to increase your margin).
To keep things from getting out of hand, though, you can set limits on how much those numbers can be adjusted. And for particularly high-stakes projects, you can create rules that trigger estimates over a certain amount to be sent to a supervisor for approval before they’re released to a client.
Adjust pricing as needed to stay competitive or boost your margins
Aspire makes it easy to create bids for one-time services in addition to contracts. All bids associated with a property can be accessed from the property and client records in Aspire’s CRM, enabling professional proposals and preventing mistakes or duplicated work.
Contracts and one-time services are both created the same way, using bidding kits and templates. The difference is in the frequency and payment schedule you set.
Build estimates out of kits (the underlined blue text) for contracts and one-time services
To make things even more efficient, opportunities for upsells can be created directly from inspections. The team member handling quality control simply flags an issue, allowing the salesperson to review the issue, turn it into an opportunity in a few clicks, and build a new estimate from there.
(We’re not looking at inspections in detail here, but to learn more about how they work in Aspire, check out this blog post.)
Single solutions for estimating software
If you’re not ready for a full business management system like Aspire, you probably still want software to help handle your estimating process digitally.
If that’s the case, Aspire may not be the right fit for you right now, but there are solutions out there more targeted to single-feature use. Here’s a few to think about if you’re looking for a standalone janitorial estimating solution.
CleanBid by CleanGuru is a bidding solution that starts at $49 per month, but you can only choose one type of bid (janitorial services, disinfecting, maid, carpet, construction, move in/out, tile, or window). Their other tiers range from $69 per month to $119 per month and allow you to select multiple bid types and functions.
Learn more on the CleanBid website.
Jobber includes features in a few more areas, and their plans start at $49 per month for a single user. Quoting features are limited on the Core and Connect plans but are all available at the Grow level ($299 per month for up to 30 users).
For example, basic quoting and consumer-financing features are included for Core and Connect, but you need the Grow plan to use markups, optional add-ons, line item images, and automated quote follow-ups.
Learn more on Jobber’s website.
Route is a software for handling walk-throughs, bidding, and job proposals. You can get unlimited estimates for $49 per month (up to three users), or use all of their features for $129 per month (unlimited users).
Learn more on Route’s website.
Choosing the best janitorial bidding software for your business
Standalone janitorial software may save you time and prevent you from losing data, but it can also complicate your operation by giving you another type of platform to integrate with the rest of your processes. You might want to avoid this if you’re planning to scale your business significantly or don’t have a tight administrative process that can ensure nothing gets lost between the stages of any job.
We’ve found commercial cleaning companies that are able to use a cloud-based business management solution find themselves in a better position to scale efficiently, get the most insight out of their data, and make the best business decisions.
If you’re interested in learning more about Aspire’s janitorial estimating software, request a free demo today.