Commercial cleaning businesses in Colorado Springs are seeing lots of new and repeat business due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, as more and more business owners are hiring professional cleaners to try to provide a safe and disinfected environment for their clients and staff.

For many businesses, the crisis has created several unique challenges — in addition to those new opportunities.

Russ Negaard is the president of Buffalo Builders Inc., a commercial cleaner specializing in catastrophe and construction cleanup, as well as biohazards, crime scenes, and infection and virus control.

Negaard said business has remained relatively steady during the pandemic, and it’s profitable enough for the company to retain all of its employees at their full-time hours.

As for the types of new business? They’re all over the board.

Negaard said some of the new clients who’ve come to Buffalo Builders in recent months have requested services such as an emergency deep cleaning after a person or group at a business tested positive for COVID-19 and the owner wants a thorough disinfecting performed as quickly as possible to minimize business interruption — as well as potential liability.

Negaard said Buffalo Builders is also seeing several new repeat clients establishing weekly or biweekly cleaning schedules.

But while the pandemic has positively impacted many parts of his business, Negaard said many of the new gains are being offset by losses in other areas.

For instance, a big part of Buffalo Builders’ business is construction cleanup services, and while most of the construction companies they work with have pushed on with their budgeted projects during the pandemic, some have been forced to shelve them.

They also have several clients in the travel industry, where closures have reduced or eliminated the need for frequent cleanings.

“So it’s a wide range of things,” Negaard said. “But we’ve been able to keep people busy.”

Overall, Negaard said new clients are making up for those lost or those that have had to put their businesses on hold while effects of the pandemic unfold.

Ups and downs

For the national franchise cleaning business JAN-PRO Commercial Cleaning of Southern Colorado, owner and CEO Robert Posch said his business has seen similar ups and downs during the pandemic, adding that in the first month of Colorado’s stay-at-home order, JAN-PRO saw its overall business decline by about 25 percent, as some of its usual clients, which include Colorado Springs schools, were forced to shut down.

Since that time, Posch said, the business has rebounded. Despite a dismal month of March, Posch said JAN-PRO’s total revenue is now significantly higher through the end of July than it was at this point in 2019.

JAN-PRO is seeing an influx not only of new clients, but also clients purchasing more expensive proprietary services and products — and prospective franchisees.

Posch said that since March, JAN-PRO of Southern Colorado has already signed eight new franchisees who have seen the demand for commercial cleaning services in the current business environment and have come to JAN-PRO through referrals.

But because so many cleaning businesses across the country are experiencing an overall increase in demand, national distributors of cleaning and disinfecting products are often in short supply.

“It is much more difficult to get materials,” Negaard said. “The good materials that everyone is gravitating towards are harder to get a hold of and if they’re coming from out-of-country, it’s, of course, that much harder.”

Material costs, Negaard said, have remained about the same despite the supply shortage, but equipment costs, such as fog and mist applicators, have “definitely seen a spike.”

Fortunately for Buffalo Builders, Negaard said they were well stocked before the pandemic and have so far been able to acquire all of the equipment needed to keep up with demand.

But while business owners may be more interested than ever in using professional commercial cleaners to disinfect their facilities, many are still reeling financially from the pandemic.

Why, while businesses are facing declines in revenue, wouldn’t they just deep-clean the properties themselves?

Negaard said certified professionals are trained to disinfect high-risk, high-transmission environments such as medical offices and facilities.

“It’s always interesting to find out, when you hire a professional, how much more thorough the conversation can be and how many things people may miss,” Negaard said. “In general we all do a great job cleaning our house, but we know we miss things, and a professional could identify the things we’re missing that are actually creating a risk. And that’s really the focus of the certifications that we’ve gone through.”

Posch said a professional cleaning and disinfecting in the current environment might not be cheap, but the advantages outweigh the cost.

“This way, you can at least reopen with optimism,” Posch said.

Posch said that for the first time in his career in the commercial cleaning industry, he’s starting to see more customers who are seeking the most thorough services and well-respected companies, rather than the best price.

“For the first time, reputation has trumped costs,” Posch said. “People are no longer focused on the total cost. They’re focused on, ‘Will you keep my people safe and happy?’

“So our reputation has gone way up throughout this crisis. And that’s something we can sell down the road.”