Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Growing your business - Part 5

Part 5

In part 4 we stressed the importance of understanding the key basic elements of any business and then highlighted some of the industry specific requirements of the window cleaning industry. Please remember that this is not an exhaustive coverage of the topic and there is a lot more key information required in order to build on these key elements but for now, lets take a closer look at some of the areas mentioned in part four.

Client acquisition-
As highlighted in part 4 one of the key areas of client acquisition would be the knowledge to grow your client base. Unfortunately, there is more to this than just having a very large number of clients. The quality of the work you will need to provide a substantial foundation for your business is also vital.

What do we mean when we say quality? Isn’t a window cleaning customer a window cleaning customer? Well the answer to that is not as straight forward as it seems.
Some clients are fine for owner operated businesses where they can provide for the individual concerns of their clients, while the quality of clients for a growth business with higher overheads is quite different.

So what is a quality customer? Well firstly clients need to understand two definite rules of your business and be happy with them.
Rule one for a customer of a growing business must be that the client will accept a reliable service. Unfortunately, in our climate this means that occasionally you will call when the weather is far from ideal. Your client must understand that unlike many window cleaners they may have had experience of in the past, you and your staff are professionals and this is your living, if they will not commit to a regular service, you and eventually your staff will end up with a long list of ‘please knock first’ homes on your list and will spend more time knocking empty homes than cleaning them.

Rule two is closely related to rule one, in as much as your service to them will also be regular, meaning that clients who always refer you ‘till next time’ have the same result on your business as those who refuse your service in the rain. Once a client understands that your service is regular, you want to clean them without having to constantly knock and check every time you call.

Now the trick here is not to fall into the trap that almost all new business and even growing businesses fall foul of, thinking that all work is good work, it is defiantly not the case. Nothing is more disheartening and frustrating for both you and more importantly your staff, than starting the day with £400 on the work list and then only cleaning £200 of that work because of the referral and drop of rates.

The trade off that new businesses make is that they sacrifice the quality of the work just to increase the amount of work they have on the books. This is understandable as this extra work provides an immediate physiological boost; however, the boost is cut very short when compared to the impact of the frustration of that new, irregular work.

Instead of concerning yourself with those kind of irregular clients, more attention should be paid to gathering quality clients. This is not as hard as you may first think, but does require attention in order to get the very best results.

Now, when window cleaners think of increasing the amount of clients they service, most think of leafleting campaigns. A well worded leaflet posted through the doors of prospective clients is by far the most common method of growing the average window cleaning round. The trouble is, we are not trying to build an average window cleaning round and so we have to look a little closer at whether or not leaflets really are as effective as they appear.

Leaflets do not work effectively for the following reasons-

Compact work
Leaflets by their very nature lack the ability to deliver compact work. Compact work is vital for maximum return on investment. As a quick illustration, if you had a number of homes to clean and each were 10 minuets apart; you might clean 4 homes in a hour at an average cost of £10 per home that’s £40 per hour. If however the homes were only two minuets apart you could clean 8 homes in the same hour, double the amount! That’s £80 per hour and a massive £83,200 in extra cash per year. Compact work is very important.
Leaflets cannot deliver this kind of work because a high response rate for leaflets is, on average, 1 in 100, meaning that 1 out of every 100 leaflets you post will bring in one new customer. That client could be next door to the first client or 100 homes distant.

When a leaflet is posted through a potential clients door that client may well be initially attracted to your service, but very few persons act immediately on the information they receive. How many times have you received a posted leaflet thinking that the service presented was a good idea or a useful service but then never got around to contacting the company?
The reason for this is simple, as we have already discussed in an earlier part of this series, we now live in a cash rich time poor society, many people just don’t have enough time to do all the things they want to do and sometimes even the things they need to do. Unfortunately, even if a client really wants your service, other more important things in the clients mind just get in the way of calling you.

The next reason you should carefully consider leaflets as a main form of gathering new work is this; you are offering a personal service, you are requesting permission to enter the grounds of a client’s property and access the rear of that property in most cases. The fact is, a potential client is unlikely on the strength of a leaflet to employ your service without first being introduced to you.

Ok, this leads us neatly to door to door canvassing, by far the best way to ensure your businesses growth in a steady controlled and efficient manner. To most window cleaners the mention of door to door canvassing sends shivers of dread up ones spine, but considers the advantages;

Every time you knock a door, you are commanding a client’s attention. For that few seconds you have been able to briefly interrupt their busy time schedules to present your service. This has obvious benefits, you can be sure that if a client would respond to a leaflet you will gain that client by calling personally, but also you will gain those clients who would have seen your leaflet but would have never called because of their busy schedules.

When you canvass from door to door, you are personally introducing your service to a potential client; they will be able to see who is asking permission to call at their home. If you are polite, well mannered, present yourself smartly and respectfully, you have a very good chance of gaining a massive amount of clients.

Door to door canvassing has further advantages. There are tried and tested, set canvassing ratios that apply wherever you are in the country and whether or not the areas you call on has an active window cleaner or not. These canvassing ratios will help you organize your business growth around the operations side of your business. The flexibility of this cannot be overestimated; you will need to be able to plan the service all new clients will receive and this imperative for a service based business.

To summarise briefly, pay real attention to the quality of your new work, you wont want to do work that is to spread out, under priced, or is constantly referring your service. Leaflets on their own are not really effective enough to bring in the quality new clients your business will need. If you want to use leaflets, by far the best way use them, is to leaflet homes a few days before you call and canvass personally.

Well there is so much to say on this subject, I am sure that I could write a book on the subject but for the purpose of this series, we are going to move on now to part 6 where we will take a look at logistical operations.

As always, if you feel like you would like to comment, post below!


Carl Phillips
Clear View Plus Ltd

Monday, November 5, 2007

Growing your business - part 4

Part 4
The basic elements

Ok, we’ve covered quite a bit on the background of the window cleaning industry in general. Believe or not there is more, much more but for now, we are going to move this series on to the essential parts of a window cleaning business.

Every business has basic elements that will not change throughout the industry, regardless of how individual companies within that industry structure their modus operandi. These basic elements are the building blocks of an industry, the functional and operational issues and opportunities that will be encountered. The modus operandi or mode of operation is how an individual company will deal with these opportunities and issues.

Focusing on the essential elements is vitally important for the business owner and entrepreneur. Without identifying these essential elements, it is impossible to plan your growth, and as we all know, growth is just a series of small but well planned steps.

Bear with me while I relate an illustration to demonstrate how important identifying essential elements are to a businesses health.

Over in the states, lived an entrepreneur an his business partner who’s dream it was to open a bar in the busy tourist area on the coast. However, the problem was the average bar business in the area had a life expectancy of only 18 months.
Undeterred, the partners spent the next year or so frequenting as many of the bars as they could in an attempt to identify the basic business elements for their bar businesses in the locality.
They were already aware that there were plenty of potential clients around, the area was a tourist trap and most of the new bars had no problem filling every seat when the bar was new.
The pattern followed in all the bars they observed however, with a new bar opening, filling for the first 6 months or so and then declining over the next 12 months until finally closing.

The pair finally identified the essential elements and then discovered that the current bars all made the same fatal mistake.
All the bars had very good looking female bar staff, meaning that all the bar stools located around the bar, were filled with hairy, male bottoms.
While the good looking bar staff kept the men entertained, every time a female, couple or group of females entered the bar, the fact that the bar stools were filled with male occupants made the females feel less comfortable than needs be, providing a ‘singles’ atmosphere. In this particular tourist area, this was obviously undesirable.

The pair decided to employ some good looking male and female bar staff. The result is that the business thrived, recently celebrating its 30th anniversary.

Planning for these business nuances is a vital step for any business and especially for those that deal with the general public. The basic business elements of the bar business in our illustration were;


Without a full understanding of these elements, growth at best would be difficult and at worst, catastrophic. So what are the essential elements for a window cleaning business then? What actions make up the business and affect our decisions?

The three basic business elements in window cleaning cover the subjects;

· Client acquisition
· Logistical operations
· Client retention

Each of the above elements needs to be addressed, planned and developed in order to ensure business health and growth.

Client acquisition covers the how to grow your client base. What makes a valuable client, how to find them, how to present to them and win over their confidence and finally how to train them to help ‘click’ with your business requirements.

Logistical operations will include; how the rounds are structured, employment of staff, time schedules, equipment, hardware and software, technical improvements and innovations, training routines and further considerations.

Client retention is a simple matter of keeping all your clients happy! No seriously, its entails; How far to go for a client, how to inform clients of business practices, how to deal with complaints requirements and preferences and communicating price increases and new developments.

Each of these headings and subheading requires substantial explanations so as to understand why our own business operations are run the way they are, in fact over 30 years of experience led to such information and so it isn’t possible to cover each subject in full detail. However, I would like in part 5 to briefly cover one or two of the subjects and show how we as a company are on target for a 400% increase this year.

As always, if you feel like you would like to comment, post below!


Carl Phillips
Clear View Plus Ltd

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Growing your business - Part 3

Just to quickly re-cap on the first two parts of the series, we learned in part one about the importance of firmly establishing the motivating reasons for growing your business. in part two, we took a closer look at the window cleaning industry and found that although at present the greatest majority of the UKs window cleaners are owner operators, the window cleaning industry is an established service and the industry is growing rapidly.
We also touched on the fact that until pure water systems, growth of a window cleaning business was limited because of staff retention issues.

In this section I think it necessary to examine how pure water technology can and indeed for many has, affected the window cleaning industry.

For many years, the world of business has some hidden diamonds, businesses that are more likely to work than others, pay a better return on investment than most and are scaleable, meaning that the business can be systemised (more on that in a later article ) and then replicated. Window cleaning with pure water is one of those businesses. The reason is simple, many people think that for a business to work and be successful, the business idea has to be new, exiting and never been done before, but the reality couldn’t be further from the truth.
With a new business idea, the inventor has to explain his idea and then persuade the general public that it is necessary to use the new invention. Very few brand new inventions succeed in breaking the market.

The best business ideas take an established market and then improve on the service or product. Take for example James Dyson’s vacuum cleaner. He did not invent the vacuum cleaner, but he did think of an innovative way to better the existing models.

Michael Dell followed the same route, he did not invent the PC but he did understand that as that technological industry moved so fast that it was better to sell his PCs online rather than the vast sums of money and the huge amount of time and effort that establishing and stocking a huge distribution network would take. He took an established idea, selling PCs and then offered a better service – mail order = up to date PCs.

Window cleaning with pure water is so exiting because it ticks all the right business strategy boxes. In the UK window cleaners have been around since glass was first invented, a truly established service. The industry is growing rapidly, and more importantly, the window cleaning business is a profitable one, but the industry required a little more to truly flourish.

This is how pure water has found the window cleaning industry; desperate to modernise, it has been the same essentially since its inception and the people who are in the industry want to be viewed as professional trade’s persons but the accessibility to all sorts of people have prevented this.
Scalability has also been an issue has we have seen, growth has always been limited to the number of staff that can be persuaded to stay.
Finally, as every business requires a unique selling point, something to help stand your business apart from others, window cleaning with traditional methods left price as the only real bargaining tool when attracting custom, and price wars have always been self defeating.

Pure water systems directly addresses these issues, firstly pure water technology removes the skill level from traditional window cleaning and replaces it with a capital investment. The investment serves to discourage window cleaning staff from leaving your business and starting out on their own. It also means that as the skill level required is lower, staff can be trained faster.

Secondly, the use of pure water systems means that the time that it takes to clean glazing is substantially cut down, on average, a third faster than quick traditional work and 50% more efficient on commercial work.

The third benefit is that the use of a pure water system provides a better service to your clients and it accomplishes this in many ways, from the ability to access previously inaccessible windows to the framework being included in the clean, privacy factors and many further advantages.

Individuals inside the industry desperate to grow their businesses have welcomed the use of pure water systems with open arms. Window cleaners who do not necessarily want to grow their businesses have had a more difficult time in accepting the technology, but both sides would have to agree that pure water systems have become an established tool in many hundreds of businesses in the UK, and there is little wonder when you consider the benefits for the window cleaner, the clients of the window cleaner and the business growth opportunities.

So now that we have established a little on the background of the window cleaning industry, some of the issues and the benefits of window cleaning and how pure water addresses these. Let’s take a look at growing a business using pure water technology.
As the vast numbers of properties in the UK are residential, it follows that there are more residential window cleaners than commercial, for this reason, I am going to concentrate on the residential window cleaning business.

As always, feel free to leave a comment.

Best regards,

Carl Phillips
Clear View Plus Ltd

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Growing your business - Part 2

Well after reading part 1 I hope you have been able to identify some of the motivating factors for you when you are growing your business. The importance of these motivating factors cannot be over-stressed, identify them and you will be able to fall back on them time and time again, they will serve you well. If you’re unclear on your personal motivating factor/s, then please spend more time thinking on the subject, you will not be disappointed, I can promise you that.

Lets move on now to the window cleaning industry itself and why you should consider it worthy of your time, energy and investment.
Now when the general public think of window cleaning, what do you think springs to mind? Unfortunately for most of the public, the image of George Formby plucking a banjo singing that rather irritating song is the default image, followed by the ‘adventures of a window cleaner’ film of questionable repute.
For those of the general public who have never seen a television, the very mention of cleaning windows brings to mind unhealthy images of Joe flatcap with a set of ladders, old jeans and a holly t-shirt.

None of the above stereo-types are what you really want as a business owner as you can imagine, if your motivating factor is pride in your business you should justifiably be feeling a little uncomfortable at this point because the general public’s perception of the window cleaning industry at present is not that far from the truth.
In order to help us understand this issue and why things are the way they are we have to take a closer look at the industry.

Window cleaning falls into the category of home services. The home services industry at present is worth some 6 billion pounds annually and is one of the fastest growing industry sectors. Which is nice. A home service is categorised as a service carried out for the general public on their own properties.
As you can imagine, the sector is growing fast for two reasons. Firstly, the swing to ‘cash rich time poor nature’ of our society. People are working longer and harder than ever before and there is less time to do those laborious but necessary tasks around the home. Secondly, the population of the UK is growing at the fastest rate in many years, causing the home building industry to build far more new homes than ever, more good news then.

So why is the window cleaning industry viewed as negatively as it is then? Well firstly, using traditional methods, ladder bucket and a squeegee, window cleaning is a cheap to business to start. We have already provided some testimony as to the size and growth of the industry, so with plenty of work out there and cheap set up costs the industry is open to anyone. Even those of an unscrupulous nature unfortunately.

That is until they start to view it as a business. when a person decides to become a window cleaner, they find that gathering enough customers is not the issue. There is always work for a good window cleaner. The trouble is, is that window cleaning using traditional methods has a skill level, a skill which has to learned over time, even ladder work is suited to some individuals more than others.
This is fine if you just want to earn cash and work for yourself rather than for an employer and by far and away the greatest majority of the window cleaners in the UK at present fall into this category of individuals working on their own rounds.

As we said before the problem arises when that same individual decides that he or she has been cleaning windows for a long time and wants to grow their business by employing staff of their own. After all, there are only so many windows one person can clean in the day.
Now the same individual runs into all sorts of problems. They can always find someone to help out, but the training process is a long one and staff are never as fastidious with your clients as you are. Window cleaning with traditional methods is hard work and there is always the temptation to cut the odd corner or two.
Besides the training times and trust issues, the problem is further compounded by the fact that once trained, there is nothing stopping your new staff member from purchasing his own ladder and equipment and starting out on his own. From personal experience this can be very frustrating to say the least and the employment process has to start all over again.

Since the introduction of water fed pole technology some ten years or so ago, this was just the way it was and this state of affairs may account for the fact there are still no national domestic window cleaning companies in the UK.

Pure water systems have changed the status quo beyond recognition. They clean windows faster in a safer manner and provide substantial extra benefits for their clients.

In part three, I want to focus on how pure water technology affects the traditional window cleaner in a little more detail, in the meantime, as always, feel free to leave me a comment.

Best regards,

Carl Phillips
Clear View Plus Ltd

Monday, October 8, 2007

Grow Your Business - Part 1

Growing your Business - Part 1: Introduction

Now I would like to start this series by chatting to you a little about why you would want to grow your business in the first place. This is important because as you will already be aware, growing your business takes a lot of motivation, hard work, and patience.

If business growth was easy, then everyone would be doing it and we would all be as successful as Richard Branson, James Dyson and every other top entrepreneur's appear.
It may seem strange then, that many, very hard working business owners never seem to make it off the starting blocks so to speak, struggling on year after year as frustrated owner operators.

During our conversations with business owners both small and large, I have come to notice a pattern with those who are succeeding and those who’s businesses are not heading where their owners desire. The reason for this is that when a person decides to grow their business, they don’t have a clear goal or target in mind, but more importantly, they are confused about their motives for wanting to grow their business.

A large part of a successful growth campaign is having your motivation crystal clear to begin with. This forms a solid foundation for your business growth and so when the going gets tough, these individuals have a seemingly endless supply of motivation to call upon. As a wise man one said its always too early to quit, and these business owners are the ones that make it to the top of their fields, simply because they refuse to give up when they suffer setbacks.

These guys are not super human, they simply have the reasons and the motivation clear in their minds, then they just get out there and make things happen.

During our conversations with our clients, we come across all sorts of reasons why individuals decide they need to grow their business, and contrary to popular belief, its not all about wanting to be stinking, filthy rich!
Of course, there is nothing wrong with wanting reserves of cash in today’s society; it is the wealthy that get the best of things. Just take the NHS for example. It seems every day there is something in the news about the NHS facing a new crisis with either waiting times, withholding treatments, the MRSA virus Ect… Private health care on the other hand, suffers far less issues. You or your loved ones can be seen straight away, in clean hospitals, and you can have any treatment you want - provided you have the cash that is!

The vast array of reasons why our clients want their businesses to grow always astounds me. Many don’t want more money at all. Most business owners just want more time. With the financial pressures faced by us all, some employees and business owners find that they have to work such long hours, they never seem to be able to spend much time with their families and even when they do, they are just too tired to make the best of it.

Other clients of ours just want to own a business that they can be proud of, getting up and actually being excited to go to work in the morning.

Whatever the reason why you want to grow your business, and im assuming you do as your reading this, the first step is a realisation that without this motivation, growing your business is going to be very hard indeed, if not impossible.

So before I focus on how to grow your business, I want you to think about the reasons why you want to grow your business, and please feel free to share them with us.

In Part 2 of growing your business we are going to take an overview of the window cleaning industry and highlight some of the opportunities window cleaning offers.

If you want to send me an e-mail directly you can do so from the contact us page on the site http://www.clearviewplus.com/

Best regards,

Carl Phillips
Clear View Plus Ltd

A Warm Welcome

Hi, I'd like to welcome you to our very first blog ever!

As you can imagine, we have the opportunity to chat to many hundreds of window cleaners with varying sizes of business, from the owner operators to the large multi-vehicle operations.

We thought that it would be nice to share some of the experience we have gained through our interactions with these businesses and of course within our own sucessful window cleaning company.
Your can find out more on our window cleaning operations at: http://www.concept2o.com/

The longer that I am in Business the more I realise there is to learn regarding Marketing, Customer Care, Finance and the list goes on and on. So using the analogy that a problem shared, is a problem halved, this is your opportunity to test us and find the answers to your business questions.

We are privileged to have a very strong management team with a broad skill set and all of the senior management here at clearview, have had vast window cleaning experience, so the likelihood is that we can help you with almost any window cleaning related questions you may have.