How should cleaning contractors respond to COVID-19? Now deemed a global pandemic, the coronavirus is causing panic across the country. Businesses are concerned about the spread of the virus and attempting to take preventative measures. Additionally, almost all state governments are enforcing quarantine measures for both citizens and companies, ensuring certain economic woes.

The fear, uncertainty and economic fallout have many implications for janitorial businesses. What if our employees get sick? What if a customer site becomes infected? What if customers temporarily close their doors?

Here are three specific considerations to help you navigate these uncertain times.

1. Take a proactive approach with each of your customers. Avoiding conflict and difficult discussions is often our default. However, with uncertainty on the horizon, we must map out our strategy and communicate this plan to customers.

The biggest issue to address is what will happen in the event of a facility shutdown. Outside the safety of our team members, the greatest fear we face is the immediate loss of revenue resulting from multiple customer shutdowns. Our proactive approach must address this scenario with clients.

I recommend having a frank conversation with customers to keep your employees working and revenue at contract levels. In the event of a client shutdown, this can be accomplished in a few ways. First, your team can offer disinfection services during the closure. Second, your staff can perform project work ahead of schedule or new projects not part of the contract.

The key is helping your customer understand the need to keep staff working. If you encounter mass layoffs, it may be extremely difficult to re-staff when the customer is ready to resume services.

Regardless of your strategy, work diligently to keep your team working and revenue constant.

2. Understand the difference between sanitizing and disinfecting. Most cleaning contracts spell out the level of service required, typically specifying things like vacuuming, trash removal, spot cleaning and dusting. These services are different from cleaning and disinfecting, the removal and killing of germs.

While sanitizing can help with the spread of illness, it falls short of disinfection. Make sure customers understand this difference, how it relates to their current needs and how price relates to each.

3. Consider liability. I am not an attorney, so my suggestions here should not be taken as binding or authoritative. However, as business leaders, we have a responsibility to protect those entrusted to our care, both employees and customers. As such, you need procedures in place to limit those in high risk categories, respond to infections at a customer site and handle confirmed cases with your own employees.

Trying times can place significant strain on businesses and leaders. However, this is our opportunity to shine, to prove ourselves and our value. Moments like these will define your leadership. Be wise, be humble and be courageous.

Jordan Tong is a BSC consultant and founder of Elite Business Coaching, in addition to being a third-generation owner of Frantz Building Services based in Owensboro, Kentucky. For more information on his coaching services, visit