One Window Cleaning Business: No Shame In Rolling Up My Sleeves
There seem to be one of two paths that a new business follows I was thinking to myself as I climbed a fully-stretched extension ladder for the tenth time this morning: fail or expand.
In starting my own window cleaning business early this year, I was dizzy with the possibilities that lay ahead. Of course, I would succeed where others had fallen because I was going to do things differently, no, better than the next guy. Of course, I knew that everyone else felt the same when they started their first business and that this overconfidence that often led to the prompt collapse of their company.
From my conversations with other small business owners, I believe that the majority of them started out on their own for one of two (and often both) reasons. One, they were simply intoxicated by the prospect of making more money than they had been able to while working for someone else or two, they simply liked the idea of being their own boss. I was prompted by both.
Here in San Diego, California, the competition amongst window cleaning companies is fierce. The year-round sunny weather, low startup costs and relatively inexpensive labor accounts for the 100+ window washing businesses listed in the county. And the turnover is spectacular! But why?
I have my own philosophy.
I suppose that simple businesses like mine are unsuccessful because of one or the other eventuality. The first and most common is that the business simply fails before it gets off the ground. Under-motivated, under-trained, unimaginative, self-employed person crash early as they were probably driven by the prospect of “cash for the taking” and not committed to creating a truly successful, unique business.
The second possibility for the fail of new small businesses (here I am more specifically speaking from my experience in the industry of window cleaning) is expansion. Yes, expansion. So many of my new window cleaning customers relate the same story, like the one I worked for this morning did. Our conversation went something like this:
“Have you had someone else cleaning your windows in the past?”
“Yeah, but their work just kept getting worse every time I had them back.”
“Do you mean that the same guy just got sloppier every time?”
“No. The first time I had them come to clean the windows, the owner showed up and he was great. Nice looking fellah, clean, and did a great job on the windows. But the next time I hired them it was a different guy and he didn’t take so much care to be neat and did only barely a satisfactory job.”
“But it was good enough that you had them back again?”
“I just figured that maybe he was having a bad day or that he was just not one of their best workers.”
“So what about the third time?”
“When a different employee showed up the last time, he looked like some guy off the street and did such a poor job that I had to stop him partway through the cleaning and asked him to leave.”
This is NOT the first time I have heard this story and it IS the reason I decided to be my only employee. It seems that too many companies take their early success for granted, expand too quickly, hire less and less competent workers and seriously stifle their further growth and ultimately the success of their business.
Why is it no longer OK to run a profitable small business and not turn it into a sloppy, second-rate corporation?” Although there are plenty of great companies out there that started small and eventually built into successful empires, I think these to be the vast minority.
Rather than leave my successes in this business to questionable employees to look after, I will continue to guarantee the service my window cleaning company provides by being the one that provides it. My successes will by mine and so will my satisfied customers.
My suggestion for new business owners: Start small, stay small. Do you work the old-fashioned way, with a smile and the sweat of your brow. And when and if you do decide to expand, do it slowly while choosing only the most qualified and trustworthy employees. It may not make you a millionaire overnight, but it will come closer to guaranteeing your success.
For writing this article I am sure that many will look upon me as a young man with a tired back and no right to be a part of the business world, and I am OK with that.
If anyone wants to discuss the issue with me further, I will be on top of this ladder with an open ear.
Ryan Fritzsche is a San Diego resident and owner of Clear Intentions Window Washing. He has been in the window cleaning industry for 10 years in Michigan, Florida and San Diego, California. For more information about him and his company please visit http://www.clearintentionswindowwashing.com/