How a Broke, 19 Year Old Skinny Farm Boy from IN Built a Seven Figure Window Cleaning Business
You know, it really isn’t hard to build a successful window cleaning business. It is not. I was 19 when I started my first one. I just got out there and marketed myself. I was a skinny, broke, and eating on $3 a day. Just a kid trying to make it in life after packing my VW bug and moving from IN to NJ after I had just quit college. I had no clue what the heck I was going to do next. None!
Is this a rags to riches story, well sure, why not? Window cleaning is a little-known secret niche business where most people don’t understand what the business upside potential is. Most have no clue just what the success barometer can be raised to. I often tell this story… When my wife and I are out and we meet people, the conversation always leads to “what do you do for a living?” Granted, these can be charity events, neighborhood socials, gatherings of what I’ll call ‘successful people’. And when they ask me, I smile with proudness and say. “I’m a window washer.” And that’s all I say. Oh, the look on their faces as they try to conceal their discomposure! Every single time. I just chuckle to myself. Of course, later on in the conversation, if they haven’t quickly walked away because they don’t want to ‘hang’ with a window cleaner, I’ll subtly mention how we serviced almost 4,000 storefronts last year and are on track to do 4,000 residential jobs this year. Oh, the look on their faces then… priceless! All of a sudden, their look of dismay turns to shock. What did he just say?
But you know what, this is you. This is your business too. You are in a great business. You are the president and call the shots. You are the driver of your bus. But do you know where you are going? Or what your destination is? Well, I can tell you, on your journey somewhere down the road, you need to tie in some marketing. Why?
Does this make sense?
- Scaling your business starts with marketing.
- Getting off the glass starts with marketing.
- Building an empire starts with marketing.
- Retiring comfortably starts with marketing.
I have an exercise for you. Here is what I want you to do, I want you to come to the IWCA Convention in San Diego this coming Feb, 2019. I want you to introduce yourself to me and other ‘mover and shakers’ in the industry and just listen and learn and then when the convention is over, I want you to go home and implement. Go there on a mission to build your business to greatness. Don’t go there to just hang and party and waste your time and money.
In life, surround yourself with those that you’d like to be. Did you know, that you become like the 5 most people in your life you surround yourself with? Think about that one for a minute. Whoa. I remember the first time I heard that. I did a quick analysis. Here are the people I have surrounded myself with in my personal life the most over the last decade.
- Owner of 3 million dollar hardscapes business
- Owner of 10 million dollar athletic turf company
- Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force / Fedex Pilot
- President of my Company
- High Ranking Lowes H/I Executive & multiple rental properties owner
In our business and at conferences, there are three or four 7 figure owners I always have a drink with to catch up PLUS the keynotes, and other top people in the industry I have yet to meet. Did I know them from before? No, I just introduced myself to them… and the things I’ve learned? Are you seeing a pattern here?
Oh, and does it help my business? ABSOLUTEY! The ideas alone generated are worth ten times the conference. Learn to market yourself as you do your business to better your company.
Go here right now to register!
Then I want you to attend my class. My class will help you take your business to the next level like we are talking about here. The class is called:
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Sales and Marketing Strategies for Your Window Cleaning Business
Let me tell you something. My first conference had my head spinning with ideas like a bowling ball flying down the alley for a strike. I was FULL SPEED EXCITED! I KNEW this business worked and people were becoming financially free as a result and I wanted to hop on that train. My confidence gap closed very quickly. No one was going to shake my faith. When I go, I always come back even more determined to reach my goals and targets. Do you have written goals and targets you are trying to reach? What are you doing to grow your business?
Just today as I write this, I sent out the following group email to the WindowWashingWealth.com Licensees I have scattered around the country and Canada. Here it is:
Subject line: Did you mail them?
…that would be, letters to all of your competitors? If you've been with WindowWashingWealth for more than 3 months and have yet to put the acquisition process in motion you are, I hate to say it - but failing in this department.
I've been recently talking about "force feeding" your business. This in other words is doing the uncomfortable to grow faster in spurts. It is uncomfortable because what if the phone DOES ring and in this case, he wants to sell 97 commercial accounts to you? What then??
Herein is where it becomes "uncomfortable", because deep down perhaps you are afraid of success. This is what holds so many people back. It truly separates the wildly successful from the average. So many fall into this. They are afraid of how they’re going to handle such a victory and achievement?
We just put a bid on over 1,000 gas stations!! Yikes! And in the famous words of Christina, "We will figure it out!" This is why she is president of my company. Just like you are of your company.
Year 2, I started this acquisition thing and had no clue what I was doing. Today as I write this, well... let me put it this way:
I had a call with new Licensee Kevin out of AL this morning and he said, "oh, and yea, I need to get those letters out!" Now this was our first call and he's already knowing to get on it. This is why you make the competitor list.
- Christina is doing buyout #18 in south Charlotte. Bought for 2/m worth of revenue. Deal!
- I JUST got off the phone and negotiated #19 for 2.5/m worth of revenue! Deal!
Hope this little email drives the motivation. I truly want 2019 to be the year WE ALL hit the mark!
I send these random emails out to my licensees as part of the training process of course, but to show and tell that WE are doing it too. I’m in the trenches just like you. I make mistakes just like you. But I also have grand successes because I’m not afraid to “force feed’ my business. And neither should you! And this was the point of this email. Do the uncomfortable and get ready to grow!
We do practice what we preach. But going beyond that as you read this article is to present yet another “marketing plate” to spin to expedite your business – acquisitions. We are at 19 buyouts. Super simple to find, negotiate, and structure. Almost like bowling for dollars – a strike almost every single time!
One of the biggest secrets to successful marketing is understanding that marketing is just a numbers game whether residential or commercial. You need to put the time in, systemize, and start in order to reap the big benefits. Anyone running a growing business will tell you that in order to establish any growth you are going to have a to get an understanding of marketing for YOU and your company.
Do You Think You Need to be a Marketing Genius to Build a Wildly Successful Business?
Throughout your life, you have been selling yourself without really knowing it. From job interviews, to dates, to meeting people for the first time, you are selling you. Marketing yourself or marketing your business should be seen as no different than having a normal job interview. In a job interview, we tell the potential employer about our training, education, experience, etc.
Selling new accounts for your business is no different. So, let’s start with the need for marketing. Marketing is a process whereby you advertise your company to your prospective target market. Marketing can be carried out in many forms. Once you have mastered the art of marketing (the basics at least), it does not stop there. Marketing and selling your service is an on-going process. It must be consistent and tracked for results to make sure each marketing strategy is beneficial and profitable. And keep in mind, marketing is the backbone to any successful enterprise because without it in one form or another you won’t have a business.
So, how do we apply this to our business? Where does all of this start?
It starts with LEADS! A steady flow of leads is one of the best predictors of whether your window cleaning business will remain in business now or in the future.
Generating Leads is One of THE Most Important Actions You Can Take to Build Your Company
More leads means more customers, which means more work. And more work is good for your business because it turns into revenue. An important question you should be asking yourself is this: “How do I get the right leads for my business?”
Did you catch that? I didn’t say “how do I get more leads... ” I said, “how do I get more of the right leads...” See the difference?
You need to put into place what I have referred to as a “marketing arsenal” with “marketing plates”. These plates are tested with aligned strategies to see if they are successful. If yes, they are “rolled out” to get the word out to those “right” people that you are in the window cleaning business. This “roll out” begins the force feeding of your business.
So what are we talking about here?
- Know that leads come from marketing
- Select ‘marketing plates’ to spin
- Get the right leads to come in
And #3 is what I want to address for a moment.
In my company, we utilize several methods of lead generation to fuel our residential and commercial divisions and each one is meticulously tracked each month and year to see how successful it was or was not. Each of the three markets described below have a lead generating program in place. It’s an adhered to system. Meaning it’s automatic. Tracking all leads and sales (conversion) tells us if the marketing plate in motion needs tweaked, changed, deleted, overhauled, etc. We track everything, including the calls and walk-ins that come from the Office Sign out in front of my office. We, like you, must know what is and what is not working.
In our residential division, we sometimes turn the marketing dial up and other times we turn it down or almost off depending on how much business is coming in and how far booked out we are. The good thing about residential window cleaning and pressure washing is the retention rate is very high provided your company does good work. Your customers, if marketed to, will call you back once or twice per year or more, repeatedly year after year.
The great thing about commercial program work is the residual money that comes in month after month. It can be more time consuming to build but once built to the size you want, it becomes easy to maintain and the revenue just keeps coming in year after year. When you go to the next step and start hiring people to man the routes - this commercial storefront division starts to become a machine, and if done right, a well-oiled machine that will pay great dividends over the years. My commercial ‘machine’ does 7-figures annually.
Then there’s large commercial. You know, the low and mid-rise buildings accessed through water-fed poles, man lifts, etc. and of course high-rise. These types of jobs can be great money makers with large chunks of money coming in at a time. And if you can get them on a program like the storefronts, even better.
The first thing to consider is where do you want to go with this business. The upside potential is certainly 7 figures but some may want to stay small. Either way is ok, just know where you want to go. Over time, your goals will change and may take you in different directions you didn’t think about in the beginning.
When I started, I was solely commercial. My goal was to build a commercial storefront business that were regularly serviced and build it to where I had 600 stores or approximately 4 routes. Once reached, I would simply maintain it. My goal to get there was a monetary monthly goal, and that was to pick up $500 every month in new business over and above any losses until I achieved the goal. I did that month after month after month and the goal was reached, then my goal changed. I wanted 1,000 storefronts. That goal was achieved. Now, the goal is 5,000 storefronts.
During this time, we branched out into new construction window cleaning and pressure washing. This led to one time and on-call cleanings of low, mid, and high-rise buildings.
Then the residential division came along in fall of 2008 as the economy was starting to crash. I put together a marketing plan to find customers and quickly began implementing it and the customers started coming in one by one, then the referrals, and then the same customers came back, and more new customers came in over and over.
If a 19 year old, skinny farm boy from IN, eating on $3.00 per day can do this, so can you!
That’s it for now. Remember, the IWCA Convention is coming. Register and attend as many classes as you can. In between classes and events, network with the movers and shakers. I promise you will walk away with insight.
Jim DuBois is founder of Squeegee Pros, Inc. out of Mooresville, NC. He is the creator of WindowWashingWealth.com, which specializes in aggressive marketing tactics, the importance of internal company systems, and how to dominate your window cleaning/pressure washing marketplace. All things a serial window cleaning entrepreneur should know to build a huge business. Visit the site for a FREE MARKETING REPORT. Do you have questions you’d like to see answered in this column? Email them to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or call my office at 704-799-0313.