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