In the last few weeks or so it seems that I’ve been getting a lot of questions pertaining to what is involved in hiring helpers/employees for folk’s window washing businesses, so I figured I’d write an article about it.
Growing your business with helpers!
Making six figures a year in the window washing business is relatively simple IF you piggy back off of other people’s efforts.
Although you can certainly achieve that financial milestone being a one man/woman show, it’s tough. It requires you to day in and day out, do it all-washing windows, handling customer service issues, marketing, estimating, following up, etc.
So if you’re superman and you feel you can do it all solo, more power to you. But for the rest of us mere mortals, the more logical (and much less demanding) path to a yearly financial windfall in the window washing business is to make a healthy override off of each helper we employ in our company.
Let me back up for a minute though.
As I stress in my manual How to Start Your Own Residential Window Washing Business, don’t go out on the first day of your business and hire a helper. Residential window washing is a
business that requires you to get knee deep in the middle of it to learn the in’s and out’s. Build the biz around you first.
I can further emphasize how important it is to work the business yourself first by telling you about a phone call I received a few months ago from a guy who wanted to hire a helper or two on day one. He didn’t want to wait.
His background was management and he was one of these “know it all types” (yeah we’ve all experienced these folks), so he was going to buy my program, insert employees right away, manage his business from his office, and make a million dollars.
I tried to talk him out of buying my system because I knew he was setting himself up for disappointment. He didn’t need me. He
needed a thump on the head by somebody telling him to wake up. :o)
Anyway, he went against my advice, purchased my system, set up an auto dialer (an automatic dialing system where it calls hundreds of people automatically), hired two people from a newspaper ad, and promptly fell flat on his face.
How in the world can you support keeping helpers busy from day one? Sure there’s tons of glass out there, but it still takes
time to expose yourself and your company to your target market, it takes time to learn and grow the business, and it takes time
for the repeat nature of the window washing business to kick in.
The last I heard from Andy, one of his helpers stole something from one of his customers and he had to reimburse the customer $370 to make it right. I think at that point he realized that he couldn’t manage the biz from an ivory tower.
Which leads to the question I get all the time-“when should I hire my first helper?”
It’s really a tough question to answer with a concrete response because I don’t know at what level out of the starting gate people will promote their window washing business. Many folks are simply washing windows part-time while they slowly phase out their jobs.
For the window washers who hustle and bustle from day one, I think 6 months is a good target to shoot for as far as hiring someone.
I hired my first helper after 6 months when I was about 2 to 3 weeks backed up with window washing jobs.
But I will say that it was tough to make that leap because my mindset was all wrong. Here’s what I was thinking: “Well if I have this window job for $300, why not just postpone it to a day where I can do it alone and make the entire $300, instead of cleaning the windows sooner with a helper and making only $220 or
Sounds logical on the surface, but this was entirely the wrong way to look at it, and once I got my head out of the sand, the big picture emerged.
And here it is:
A $300 job would take about 7 hours in my area if I did it by myself. But with my trusty ‘ole helper at my side, I could do it in around 4 hours. He would get around $40, I’d get $260.
Two huge benefits came out of the above scenario, and here they are:
–My hourly income went from $40/$45 per hour to $60/$65 an hour.
–We could go off and do another house in the same day and repeat the process (making more $). If I did that $300 house all by
myself in the alloted 7 hour time frame, chances are that I’d call it a day when I got done with that job.
So there IS an absolute incredible financial incentive for anyone to hire a helper.
But keep in mind that this assumes you have some kind of backlog of window washing customers (2 weeks, 3 weeks, etc). Obviously if you are only doing one house every two weeks, then pocket the money yourself and stay away from hiring a helper.
Okay…so let’s assume you’re approaching the stage of your business where it’s now time to take the next step-hiring a helper. Hire a person part time who likes the flexibility of working one day, two days, 3 days a week or so, or even half days. Work it into a full time gig slowly.
Half days are great because you can make some serious profits before lunch working with your helper, then send him away, and
spend the rest of the afternoon promoting your business via the various marketing techniques I discuss in my manual. We all know that marketing can’t stop.
Students played a big part in my business. Do you have a community college or university around where you live? Make up a flyer and stick it on the bulletin board in the student activity center. You’ll definitely get calls.
Students love the flexibility of working around their school work and they’re USUALLY pretty reliable. Just make sure you don’t hire someone with purple hair and rings sticking out of their nose. Scaring our customers isn’t the best way to get on their good side. :o)
Regardless who you hire or how you go about hiring (through the newspaper, students, etc), you’re still going to end up kissing some frogs before you find that great guy or gal that fits into your business.
That’s just the name of the game and it doesn’t matter what business you own to experience that. But the payoff sure is worth it.
Once you find someone you feel comfortable with, always, always, always put any new person through a 60 to 90 day “probationary period”. Let them know that right up front. But also let them know that if they stick with you, they’ll be rewarded (more money, more independence where they do jobs themselves, etc).
And keep an eye on ’em. Work side by side with them both outside and inside a customer’s house. Don’t have a helper do to you like Andy’s helper did to him as I talked about above. As a side note, you should have bonding insurance to protect you from this kind of thing but who wants to use it? So again…keep an eye on ’em until you feel comfortable with them.
When you feel you have a good person that fits your business well, promote him or her to crew leader and hire another helper and repeat the process.
…as many times as necessary depending on how big you want to grow. We all know there will never be a shortage of glass, so we’ll never run out of customers.
Think about it like this. For every single hour one of your helpers works, you’re making at the very minimum, a $20 an hour override on his or her efforts.
I came up with this number by staying conservative and assuming your helper is slower than you when it comes to washing windows. So due to his slower speed, he might only make the average of $30 per hour. If you pay him $10 an hour, you’re left with the tidy sum of $20 an hour for every hour he works.
And of course, the faster your helpers become, the more you make per hour for each hour they work. It doesn’t matter how you slice and dice it, you’ll come out on top each and every time.
But just remember…share the wealth. If there’s one thing I’d like to stress more than anything else is that “money motivates”.
I’ve been in sales my whole life and I say that only to explain that whenever sales managers would dangle cash bonuses in front of us sales reps, we became even more motivated then we already
were. We simply flat out worked harder. Smart Sales managers knew this. The recognition was nice, but the cash bonuses were nicer.
On the other side of the coin are the business owners who will nickel and dime their employees. Don’t do that to your helpers.
Many, many moons ago when I worked at Sears in appliance sales, we had a Sales manager come in who never worked a day in sales in his life. Fresh out of school with his fancy degree. Strictly
a numbers kind of guy looking at the bottom line who didn’t know squat about motivating the sale force.
To make a long story short, he made the critical mistake of slicing up the commission rates for all the appliances, and in doing so, he essentially de-motivated an entire sales force.
A good example which is fresh in my mind is the lowering of the sales commission on Microwaves to 1%. 1%!!
Many of the Microwaves at that time were priced at around $99. So if I sold a microwave, I’d make the whopping sum of 99 cents. Great…now I can go out and buy a candy bar.
So (and I really hate to admit this) when shoppers were in the Microwave section, we all used to hide and become “invisible”. No one wanted to spend a half hour talking about how great this microwave is, what kind of neat features it had, yada, yada,
yada, and get paid 99 cents for it.
If you happened to be in the Microwave section of the Sears location in Boca Raton, Florida back in the late 80’s, and you couldn’t find any help, now you know why. :o)
So back to window washing, if your helper does a great job, give ’em a big ‘ole pat on the back AND an extra $20. Or pay them a small override on each job (in addition to their hourly pay) as long as they do well and the customer is happy. Or if the job starts at 8:00am, pay them from 7:30am. Again, as long as they did good.
Of course, you don’t want to give all your profits away, but one of the nice things about the window washing business is there’s plenty of profit. So dip into it and reward your people. It’s an investment that will pay you back in multiple ways.
If my Sears sales manager understood that, he would have found ways to reward us instead of taking away from us. I’m sure you know the rest of the story. Sales dropped at that Sears store so the sales manager with his fancy degree was given the boot. A new sales manager was hired who knew the sales game and knew that business depended on sales not on “numbers”. Therefore, he took care of the sale people, appliance sales went back up, and everyone lived happily ever after.
So…to finish this talk about hiring people, I’ll simply say as I said earlier, yes you can certainly make a great income washing windows all by yourself, but if you want to take your window washing business to the next level, and really leave a huge footprint in your town, and get it to the point where you can phase yourself out of the actual window washing responsibilities eventually, then you need to do it with crews.
Keep in mind that as business owners, our ultimate responsibility for the success of our business depends on four things:
–coordinating marketing campaigns
–following up with prospects/customers
Nowhere listed above does it say our success depends on washing windows. And we can’t rely on our helpers to do any of the above, so it’s up to us.
Although I don’t believe you can ever achieve TOTAL absentee ownership in the residential window washing business, it’s pretty fun when we can get a crew or more out there doing some work for us knowing that as we’re driving around doing estimates, coordinating a marketing campaign, or even eating lunch, they’re making us money. Ah…what a life!