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Write a Better Janitorial RFP

Whether you’re a facility manager looking for a new cleaning partner or a homeowner needing new windows for your split-level, you want to ensure you’re getting the best value for your dollar. We get it. And while we can’t help with the windows, we can help you better evaluate potential cleaning vendors through a smarter Request for Proposal (RFP) process.

You may already have experience creating an RFP for consumable items you use in your facility, but crafting an accurate RFP for janitorial services can be a little trickier. The problem is, depending on your specific role, you may or may not be an expert on the cleaning industry—which could make creating an RFP or a scope of work that much more daunting.

The good news? With a little up-front work, you can send out an RFP and feel confident you’ll be able to compare apples to apples, and also set the proper expectations right out of the gate.

Do your homework first

The first step to creating a solid RFP happens before you even start writing it. You must first ensure that the purchasing specs you’re using are up-to-date. Have you recently replaced a surface or flooring area that now requires a different cleaning technique? Have your high-traffic areas changed since you last sent the job out to bid?

Talk to your end users, the employees who work in the various areas around your facility. If you work in an office building, talk to the department manager who knows his floor of the building inside and out. If you work in a school, talk to the art teacher and the gym coach. Are there certain locations that require more attention? What would they like to change about your current custodial service? Dan Wagner elaborates on the importance of this kind of research in American City & County magazine:

“Too often, antiquated purchasing specs are used that fail to accurately reflect the needs of the organization … A few simple steps at the front end of the process can save a lot of time, money and frustration. It will also help locate a cleaning organization that has proper management systems in place to clean in a way that protects the health of the building’s occupants—the first time.”

Once you have your list of priorities, you’re better prepared to explain your needs in your RFP.

Aim for Accuracy

As the Minute Maid tagline goes, “Put good in, get good out.” Accuracy is crucial when you’re crafting an RFP. Check your numbers: Make sure you’re including the most current occupant rate (which can fluctuate frequently), and always ensure you include updated floor plans and accurate square footage data of the facility—including how much is hard surface and how much is carpet. Also, include if there’s a time of year when your facility won’t require the same level of attention.

Next, don’t assume a cleaning vendor will just know what your building requires. Set your expectations clearly: Include areas that may need special attention, what type of data you expect in a monthly report from the vendor, how you will measure success, if you require only environmentally friendly products, etc. Don’t make anyone guess on what you’re wanting; it will only lead to miscommunication down the road.

Finally, Judy Gillies of Cleaning & Maintenance Management advises an interview with your current cleaning vendor:

“If your current contractor is going above and beyond their job assignments, chances are you might not be paying for these extra services and you may end up comparing apples to oranges when you go out for pricing. These extra services must be clearly documented so that all contractors are bidding on the same Scope of Work. This is also a good time to get some input from your current contractor on possible changes that would improve the cleaning program. After all, they have intimate knowledge of your facility.”

Trust me, I understand. Writing an RFP is hard work! We’ve helped schools, office buildings, medical facilities, manufacturing plants and special use venues (and everything in between) work through the process for more than 25 years.

If you have questions as you’re writing an RFP, we can assist you in creating one that allows you to better evaluate your janitorial options. Just let me know how we can help!

Dave Harvey is the president and CEO of SG360, a facility services company specializing in janitorial, facilities management, restoration services, and inventory management. What challenges have you faced when writing an RFP? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page or on Twitter @ServiceGroup360.