photo_paperworkTake Massive Action Every Day

In order to achieve above average results in this business, you need to take massive action every day. There are simply two things you need to be doing to start; marketing and cleaning windows. I call this ‘phase one’.  I want you to make it a goal to get yourself in front of 20 people a day, and then watch what happens. Soon you will find yourself cleaning windows every day with no time to do any marketing. You will be making two to four hundred dollars a day and thinking that this is the best thing since sliced bread. This is when a lot of people take their foot off the gas, settle into their comfort zone, and get out of ‘phase one’. I am here to tell you that when you are in your comfort zone, you’re not building your business; you merely own your job. Get out, and stay out of your comfort zone, and stay in ‘phase one’. Don’t ride the roller coaster of getting a bunch of new business, doing the work, and then having nothing to do until you find more business. Dedicate some time every day to prospecting for new accounts. It’s ok if you need to space out your cleaning schedule to make time for marketing your business. Remember this is not a sprint; it’s a marathon, so pace yourself and keep a good balance in your life. I promise if you dedicate yourself to staying in ‘phase one’, you will have tremendous results.

Taking it to the next Level

Once you have a steady amount of window cleaning accounts to keep yourself busy all day every day, you have a couple of choices to make. You can keep doing the work yourself and keep making the same money every week, or you can take it to the next level. In order to take this business another level, we need to focus on growing it instead of cleaning windows all the time. It’s time to start hiring somebody to do the labor so that you can get used to managing and marketing your business. Imagine yourself not cleaning a single window, but rather adding more accounts, and managing your crew. This is next level. Initially when you hire someone, you might make a little less than when you were doing all of the windows yourself. As you add more accounts to your schedule, as you get out and bid more projects all day every day, your business along with your income will grow.

Hiring Employees

Your schedule is completely full, you have more clients calling in wanting work done; it’s time to start hiring some help. I used Craigslist to find all of my employees. Here is a good example of what to say in your ad:

“Experienced window cleaner needed. Here is a checklist of what you need in order to do this job.
Your own cell phone
Your own work vehicle that can transport our ladders and tools
Good client relation skills

Average $15 hour
Call 555-555-5555 to set up an interview”

 

Keep your ad short and simple. Your goal is to get people to call so that you can interview them and ask them question about themselves. The next step is to have them meet you for an interview so that you can check them and their work vehicle out. They need to have the ability to carry all of your ladders and tools safely on their vehicle. Remember they are going to be representing you and your business,  so don’t take the first person to come along, and be picky with who you choose.

I have found that the better you pay people, the better work they will do, and the longer they will stick around. If you pay 8 or 10 bucks an hour, you will have high turnover and will be constantly training new people. The headache to go through all of this over a couple dollars an hour is not worth it. Pay your people between 13 and 18 bucks an hour. Remember if you are bidding your projects properly at $50 to $75 per man hour, you are still making plenty of money.

Don’t cut any corners with training, and take the extra time to help a new person learn the right way the first time. Let them practice for a full day or until they have it down. If the person is experienced already, make sure they clean according to your standards. I have seen my share of experienced window cleaners with a lot of bad habits who do sloppy work. If you pay your people every Friday, they will stick around. If you don’t want to bother doing your payroll in QuickBooks, use a payroll company. Paychex is a good payroll company who does everything for a reasonable fee.

One of the normal things you will experience in this business is your employees stealing accounts and trying to start their own window cleaning businesses. What happens is they see how easy it is to clean windows, it goes to their head that they can do what you are doing, and they run out and start their own, while taking some of your clients with them. It’s hard to avoid this situation if they are really determined; however there are a couple steps to take when hiring someone new. Have every person you hire sign a noncompetition agreement. Also make sure the agreement has some teeth by stating that if they do compete, then the penalty is $10,000.00. If they refuse to sign it, don’t hire them. This method weeds out the potential thieves and piece of crap individuals. Do I sound a little bitter? J

Reinvest in Your Growing Business

I realize that some of you reading this book may not want to spend the money on advertising and a website right way. It is possible to operate this business without these tools. Remember the goal is to continually grow your business. When you are out making two to four hundred dollars a day, set some of that aside to reinvest in advertising and for better tools for your potential employees. Also set aside a payroll expense account, and don’t let this account ever dip below five thousand dollars. During your busy season you might have ten to twenty thousand in receivables, yet you need to pay your employees every Friday until your invoices are paid. That payroll account can drain rapidly, so keep a good reserve built up. Set aside some money to move into a commercial office space someday. You may need to move into one sooner than you think, especially if you are an alligator.

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resid3-pgBidding Techniques

There are numerous ways of estimating window cleaning jobs, and I have seen plenty of different techniques from numerous window cleaners. We will cover a couple of techniques that will ensure that you average anywhere from $50 to $75 per man hour. Once you are cleaning windows at the pace of a professional, these numbers will go up. Window cleaning is challenging work that not everyone can do, and so you should be paid well for your efforts.

Residential

Acquiring residential clients is a must in order to operate a successful window cleaning business. When a potential client calls you and requests an estimate, you can give them some general numbers over the phone to save you a trip, or you can be more thorough and go visit the property for an accurate bid. It is going to depend on how busy your schedule is, and how soon they need a price. If you have good closing skills over the phone, and can fit into their schedule, you can usually book the appointment over the phone.

The way we will figure out the price for residential windows is to charge per pane of glass. A pane of glass is each piece of glass in the window. Most homes have two panes per window, some have three or four panes per window and some are single pane windows. If you come across a home that has huge panes that are larger than four feet by four feet, then count those panes as two panes.

A good bidding formula to use is to charge $4 per pane for in and out cleaning, or $3 per pane for outside only cleaning. If you clean twenty panes an hour, which is one pane every three minutes, you will average $80 per hour. Let’s say you are brand new and can only clean fifteen panes an hour, you would still be making $60 per hour. If you counted 60 panes on a home, and the price is $240, it should take about three to four hours to complete. If you have counted up the panes on a home, and the price comes to $240 but it looks like it will take you eight hours to complete, then multiply 8 x $60 per hour, and charge $480. This is a good way to back up your original formula. For example, if you have a home with a majority of the windows that are 3 stories, it is going to take you much longer. In this case, size up the job, figure how many hours it will take, and multiply those hours by how much an hour you want to make.

We also need to price the cleaning of the screens. I recommend charging between one and two dollars per screen. In places like Phoenix and Las Vegas they use really large solar screens. These screens require a special cleaning treatment, and take longer to do than to clean a window. I think charging between seven and ten dollars per solar screen is a reasonable price.

Another type of window you will come across is a window with a bunch of small panes, usually having ten to twelve small panes in it. These are called divided lights, or French cut panes. A good amount to charge for these since they are a lot of work is $1.50 for in and out cleaning or $1 for outside only.

Commercial and Route Work

The formula to bidding commercial work is very similar to bidding residential work. Again, we want to average between $50 and $75 per man hour. Walk around the building, count the panes, do the math, and make sure the numbers match up. Sometimes you will find buildings that are covered in glass where you can clean a pane every minute. You may not need to charge $4 per pane to be competitive, and may want to consider lowering your per pane price. Sometimes a property manager will need a bid for several buildings. You can provide a volume discount for the work, especially if you are bidding against other window cleaners.

‘Route work’ is the easier and more frequent window cleaning work such as salons, restaurants, and store fronts. These accounts are usually cleaned each week or at least twice a month. This is the more competitive part of the window cleaning market, so keep this in mind when bidding on these accounts. Since most of the windows are ground level or done with pole work, they are done much more quickly than a normal commercial building. Go ahead and bid these lower at around $2 per pane. Remember to have a minimum trip charge for some of these accounts. Let’s say that you have to drive across town to do a store front with 8 panes of glass. I recommend a minimum trip charge of $25 for your time. Even though it will only take 10 minutes to clean that account, you may spend 40 minutes in traffic getting there and back.

If you happen to not be the winning bidder on commercial work, don’t hesitate to ask what the winning amount was. When I had my business, and when an owner or manager would inform me that my bid was not the winning bid, I would say ‘Look it’s my goal to be competitive in this industry, and was wondering what the winning bid amount was.’ Usually if you already have good rapport with the person, they will tell you how much it was. After I found out the amount of the winning bid, I would even ask which company won the bid. It’s a good way to get to know your competition, and adjust your bids accordingly. Don’t be afraid to ask these questions because the worst thing that can happen is that they will decline to tell you that information.

New Construction

New construction window cleaning is going to be bid at a higher amount than regular window cleaning. Since it will take longer to clean each window and frame, we will need to raise the amount to at least $5 per pane for in and out cleaning, and $4 per pane for outside only cleaning. If there is a bunch of paint and mortar slopped onto the glass, charge at least $7 per pane. Every company’s requirements for construction window cleaning are different, so find out exactly what has to be cleaned or removed from the window. Some companies will not require you to detail the frames, and others will require you to remove every little sticker and all paint from the frames. Again, do your math, figure out how long it will take to complete, and make sure you are making correct amount per hour. Also check to see what attire is required to work on the construction site. Most companies require a hard hat, a vest, steel toed boots, long pants, and a sleeved shirt.

Some construction projects will require you to rent a lift, or some call it a cherry picker. Check with your local equipment rental company for pricing. Also see how much the insurance, fuel charges, and taxes are for your bid. I always mark up the price of the rental in my bids by $100 to cover any other incidentals like extra fuel. I highly recommend taking a class on how to operate this machinery. The equipment rental company will offer these classes. If you are unsure what size of lift to rent, the rental company can send out one of their reps to measure it and recommend the correct lift. The two companies that I know do a terrific job, and have plenty of equipment available are United Rentals and Sunbelt Rentals.

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