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Minggu, 06 Juni 2010

How to Start a Parking Lot Sweeping Business

First you are going to need to file for a business license. The requirements and procedures vary from state to state, so determine what is required for your situation. You will generally need to apply for a business license, file a fictitious business name for the business, and publish the filing in a local news paper to make the business official as a sole-proprietorship. I recommend beginning as a sole-proprietor, and later looking into a different legal structure for the business as it grows and accrues assets. I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice but I would focus my time on moving the business forward in sole proprietorship form without putting any energy or attention on a different legal structure until the business is operating and steadily generating a significant amount of revenue.

You are going to need a comprehensive brand image for your company. Flowing from this, it would be ideal, to at least have your logo and website professionally designed. I recommend using a company like The Logo Loft, they have affordable packages available for start-ups to get their basic branding needs taken care of. You can get your logo, website, business cards, flyers, envelopes, and letterhead designed professionally so that they all coordinate and deliver a cohesive message to promote your company. Once the website and your promotional materials are ready you can move on to the next step. I also recommend getting branded uniforms for yourself, so as to make an impression that your business is established, this important in a parking lot sweeping business, because property managers want to know that your company can perform it's function with minimal supervision.

Resources for Logo and Branding:

You may also want to get a 1-800 vanity number, for example 1-800-SWEEPING, this will also assist in having clients perceive your company as established. I would recommend purchasing and using 2 vanity phone numbers. One that plays a free recorded message to inform your clients about your services, how to request a quote, and any special offer you might have, and the second to reach a live person. This allows a curious prospects to call in without the sales pressure associated with talking to a live person. The technology used by many 1-800 number providers will capture the phone number and name used to call your recorded message line. You can then use this information to further develop or nurture the lead captured by your recorded message line. Information and resources on getting a vanity number can be found by Googling the term "1800 vanity number," look for a provider with low per minute cost and that offers a useful extension structure.

Resources for 1-800 numbers:

Once you've prepared the company to present its self to the public, you should identify and prepare your billing system and process. Choose the software you will use to organize this aspect of your company, I recommend QuickBooks. You will want to set a time with your CPA and ask them to prepare a "chart of accounts," this will make it very easy to use the program you choose because all the correct accounts will be categorized and set up (expenses, receivable, etc), and all you will have to do is enter data. The software will process the data and let you examine the flow of cash in your business. This will take care of your internal accounting needs. Now how do you simplify and automate billing your clients?

I would recommend exploring Freshbooks, they have a feature that automatically generates an invoice that can be sent via email, snail mail, or both. Your customer can then review their invoice online, they can review the current standing of their account online, and process payments through Freshbooks. This takes a lot of the hassle out of coordinating all the effort involved in proactively and accurately billing all the people who's parking lot's you've swept.

Ideally you want to sign a contract with your client first, then purchase a power sweeper because the holding cost associated with the monthly payments on your sweeper can be steep if the sweeper is not making you money. If you would like to purchase a sweeper, you can visit Masco Sweepers in San Jose, CA; or GCS Environmental Equipment Services in Sacramento, CA. Sweepers are also available on a for sale by owner basis, and these opportunities can be found in classifieds like Craigslist.

Now you know everything except how to get your first client. How you ask? I'll tell you what I did. First I "posed" as a student in the entrepreneurship program at San Francisco State University. I targeted the property managers of many large shopping malls, grocery stores, office parks, parking garages, etc and I asked them for an interview for a school project. Now I actually was a student in the program, and I actually was working on a project, but I had some alternate motives during these interviews, because I fully intended to start a parking lot cleaning business. When conducting these interviews I would chat people up, making them feel very important and knowledgeable through my questioning, and then I would ask key questions. I would ask what the best way to approach and sell to them specifically would be. I would ask about the faults of their current vendors, their motivations involved in the decision to use a vendor, the current price they were paying for their sweeping service and for a referral to another property manager to ask for an interview. These interviews brought me face to face with people who would have been totally unreachable had I been trying to penetrate as a sales person. These interviews gave me a great basis on which to continue interacting with these property managers.

I then used the information I gained to extrapolate a "rough" pricing model. I also followed up on the interview by mailing a $2 dollar bill to everyone who met with me face to face, this was a technique to stick out in their memory. Ultimately in many cases, I knew what people liked in a vendor, how they wanted to be approached, how much they currently paid, and I had all their contact information! This kind of high quality information would have been much more difficult to generate starting from a sales approach. I now had some rapport, some credibility, and an avenue for further conversation once I started my business.

I recommend attempting to identify and interview, whether in person, over the phone, or via email 50 important people that make decisions regarding parking lot sweeping. This will give you an understanding of what's important to your customer and how they think.

Now you should begin prospecting for new business, I recommend building a database of 1000 property managers that would prospectively require parking lot sweeping. Once you reach this number STOP. It is now time to focusing on creating sales for your business using these prospects. You will need a client relationship manager to work with this large amount of data. There are many CRM's (client relationship managers) out there that you can use to manage your processes calling prospects and recording the results of your efforts. There is a very simple and easy to use CRM called highrisehq, you can Google that and sign up for a free account that will allow you to have 250 contacts stored for free, this is very useful when starting out, later you will have to pay, but it is cheap.

Now put your sales hat on. Once you've done the leg work here, there is a pretty easy way to get people to accept quotes from you. Basically you want to call and speak with, not just call, but actually speak with as many property managers in your database as you can. You want to offer them a free quote just to help keep their current vendors honest and make sure they are receiving their sweeping service at a competitive price.

The great thing about this business is you can start out running it from your home, and grow as large as you'd like to grow. This industry is driven by price, and quality service, if you cannot deliver on those two things there is a much higher possibility of failure. I am happy to help anyone interested in pursuing this idea. I will connect you with the people who helped and influenced me, and offer my knowledge as a resource to you.

You can review my website to see how simple it is create a site that gets property managers to call: I will be updating this article as I write more on the subject so check back in frequently.

- There is another article on the topic of starting a parking lot sweeping business that you would find interesting if you liked this article. The article was written by Jerome Boykin, published in Inc Magazine, and is titled "How I Did It: Jerome Boykin, Owner, JB Sweeping Service" - How I Did It

-You can find forms like a sweeping proposal template, website templates, and example marketing plans if you Google "nitehawk sweepers partner plus program." You can call the sales department and ask for temporary access to the partner plus program. This company sells parking lot sweepers and they offer many resources for people starting out in the power sweeping business.

-North American Power Sweeping Organization, Google them you may gleem some information here that will be of service in your journey.

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