Setting Cleanup Expectations

A business transaction is best executed when all transacting parties know what is expected of them. As a Post Construction Cleaning entity, all your interactions with Construction Companies must be treated with all the seriousness of any business transaction.

If someone asks you to come for a meeting tomorrow morning, and you get to the venue at 9 A.M and waited till 11 A.M. And just when you are about to step out, they walk in. Would you be upset?

I think you would. What if they say that 11 A.M is still morning and that as long as it wasn’t Noon yet, you should not be offended.  Would they be right?

If anyone schedules a meeting for tomorrow morning, the simple and smart thing to do is ask for a specific time. “Are we meeting at 9 A.M or 11 A.M”? That way, you both know that you have a meeting scheduled for 11 A.M tomorrow.

It is interesting how many of us in the Post Construction Cleaning industry take this important activity for granted. 

I once had a situation with a new cleaning company who got a go-ahead from a Project Manager to clean his project. No walkthrough was done, she gave a price based on the size of the job, and she was asked to come and clean. The PM told her he would sign her invoice when the job was complete. 

The building had VCT and for most people; it is a given to strip and wax VCT tiles. She did the strip and wax.

Fast forward to inspection day, PM was upset that she did the strip and wax. He could have sworn that he told her on the phone not to strip. Superintendent was not on site on the weekend when she did that scope. It turned out that they had other plans for the tiles, which did not involve her. They wanted her to scrub, only.

Situations like this do not always occur, but when they do, they have effects that are usually avoidable if expectations were set from the start.

They can cause strain:  Events like this can put a heavy strain on the relationship between you and the Project Manager. A strained relationship is what you need to avoid because you need that referral. Every new job is a stepping stone to the next job.

That means keeping the relationship going is part of your goal as a subcontractor. You might be called to do another Job for the same GC, need them to put in a good word for you with another Project Manager. 

Set expectations from the start to avoid straining the relationship.

Lead to avoidable loss of funds:  As a cleaner, you want to impress. You want to do everything to make sure that they love your work, pay you, and help you with references.

However, if you do more than is expected of you, you may spend more money and get at best a thank you for all your efforts. We need to earn and keep money, not lose it.

Too much work: Imagine coming back to clean a building multiple times after you are done. Unfortunately, this is a regular experience with many cleaners. Sometimes, it is not entirely the cleaner’s fault. Clumsy scheduling with other trades could lead to those scopes messing up your cleaning job. 

At such times, it’s best to understand the cleaning schedule and figure out how to manage the other scopes you are working side by side with.

At other times, when the damage is more than you can easily manage, you might want to ask for more money through change orders. We will talk about this in another article.

Delays: Delays come in different kinds. It could be delay payment due to an unfinished job requirement that you might have missed, or delay on-site due to other unfinished trades. 

Sometimes these delays are unavoidable, but if you are clear about your expectations, you stand a better chance of being treated fairly by the General Contractor. 

                         How To Set Expectations

Know what you (don’t) want: It is hard to explain to someone else what you expect if you do not know clearly what you want, or in most cases as a cleaner, what you do not want. 

  • You do not want to be delayed
  • You do not want other trades to mess up your already finished work.
  • You do not want to come back to a job site and have to re-clean a spot you already cleaned. 
  • You do not want your payment delayed. 
  • Add anything else.

The key here is to ensure that you know clearly what your expectations are. That way, it would be easy to spell it out to the Project Manager

Know what is important: It is good to know what you want and what you do not want, but you will be more successful if you know what your client expects and tailor your expectations to meet theirs. That way, you would not just be working for money, but you will be adding value. 

Write them down: Your proposal is arguably the most important document that can detail the expectations of you and the GC. In your proposal, you have the opportunity to outline the scope of work you are going to cover. 

Usually, if your scope does not meet the expectations of the Project Manager, he would draw your attention to what he needs to be included or removed from your proposal.

So then, your proposal becomes an ideal document to not only guard your interest but also help you meet the requirements of the project.

Unfortunately, many cleaners don’t take this function seriously. I have seen proposals with only a price detailed on them. 

Some folks may itemize rough, final, and fluff cleaning and put price tags on them and submit them.

That is not the best practice. Making the extra effort to detail your scope would go a long way in making you stand out as an expert.

A magnificent tool you can use can be found in these construction templates by Construction Clean Partners.  There are several templates for different types of post-construction cleaning projects.

Get a written contract: Understanding the contract and all the clauses written in it is very important to your success. If you cannot understand, get someone to go through it with you. A contract once signed is binding to all parties

The contract protects the interest of the General Contractor. However, it gives you the opportunity to accept, reject, or prepare for any clause that does not go down well with you.

For example, some General Contractors put in their contract the -Pay When Paid- clause. You really cannot ask them to change it, so it is either you reject the contract or accept and wait or look for a third party that would pay you as soon as you invoice the GC.

Whatever you decide to do, reading and understanding a contract is an important part of setting expectations.