Thursday, January 10, 2008

Growing your business - Part 6

Part 6

Referring briefly back to part 4, we learned the components that made up a window cleaning business and in part 5 we discussed some ideas for gaining the type of quality client that makes running a window cleaning business easy. In this section, I want to focus on the operations side of the business. to be absolutely clear of what we are discussing, operations in this context refers to the actual window cleaning itself and the structure behind it.

The subject of window cleaning operations is truly massive, covering sub headings such as equipment choice, time scheduling, employing staff and employment law, client database organization, customer service, complaints and how to deal with them, staff training and recruitment, advanced cleaning techniques, problem solving, marketing and brand advertising and the list could go on. It is difficult to determine which subjects to cover here because they are all important and all play vital roles at various degrees at various times in your business growth so I am going to deal with the two of the most essential for your business; equipment and customer service, they are both interrelated and are very, very, important.

Before I go on though, id just like to warn you that what follows is not going to be popular among many in the window cleaning industry and I must admit it is a little strong, but nothing irritates and upsets me more than the way window cleaning is viewed among the general public. A little while ago now I was sent an e-mail from an old school friend inviting me to join friends reunited. During the login process, I had to fill out my job title, what I did for a living. At this point I hesitated. Was it because I hated window cleaning? Defiantly not I love the job and 16 years in I still enjoy it. The truth of the matter is, as soon as window cleaners are mentioned, certain stereotypes will be applied. We have George Formby’s banjo solo with a voice like a high pitched kazoo, or there is the porn film, which I haven’t seen yet, which follows the adventures of a window cleaner. or the dole bum who lives a few streets over who cleans windows for beer money and to buy his 19 kids shoes. And that’s why I hesitated, did I really want to open myself to this kind of abuse.
I must add here that its not me being paranoid either. I once went to the bank for a small bank loan to invest in couple of sets of ladders and an abseil training course. I had a well written business plan and some financials to show how I would pay the monies back. He nodded all the way through my presentation, smiled broadly at the end and gave me the ‘we’ll call you’ speech as he walked me out of his office. Nice. I got the distinct impression that he would rather invest the money in Ronnie and Reggie Cray’s collection business than to a window cleaner.
To be honest here, this is what the Concept 2O™ machine and the corporate vehicle branding was all about, to try to change peoples view on the window cleaning industry. to finally shake off the stereotypes and allow people to see just what a fabulous little business window cleaning really can be. So please excuse me if I get a little passionate about this subject. Read on at your peril!

Ok, so I don’t know at what stage your business is at currently, you could be quite established just looking to polish some rough edges or brand new to window cleaning but whatever your situation, the following will apply to you.

Customer service
This may seem obvious to most but to emphasize the point, a business without customer service will not grow and will be lucky to survive at all. Common sense really, but have you ever wondered why so very many companies get it wrong?
All of us at some point have been dissatisfied with the customer service we have received, but the important question to ask is how did that make you feel about that company afterwards? Would you use them again? What if they treated everyone that way?

Unfortunately, you may have had your issues with a large business or company so the next question that we need to ask is if the ‘big boys’ get customer service wrong, what chance do we have?
Well customer service is called customer service because its just that; serving your customers. So what we need to do is radically change our thinking when we view our business. instead of thinking what we think is good, acceptable or the norm, we have to ask how will my customers view this?

To do this effectively, we need to put ourselves in the position of our present or would be clients. I want you to imagine if you will, what your perfect window cleaner would look like. Would he wear a uniform? Would he have a security pass? Would he be polite, courteous and well mannered? What vehicle would he drive?, would he have the correct equipment? What would his literature look like? If we are imagining the perfect window cleaner he would probably have all those things.

The point missed by many window cleaners is that just because many people accept the way the status quo as it is, doesn’t mean to say that they are happy

Just to give this story a little balance, I want to tell you about our local window cleaner. He drives a very old van, it has rust on it and has not been cleaned well… forever I think. He wears jeans to work and they have tears in them, not designer tears either, just threadbare knees and a Manchester united fleece. He has an eyebrow ring and both his ears are pierced. He has a home made pure water system that uses the same rain collection butts that I have in my garden and a plastic B&Q hose cart, the same as my neighbours. He fills a little yellow trolley from his water butts and pushes it up and down the street refilling his trolley every 1-2 houses. Now before I get a brick through my window I want to add that he is one of the nicest guys, very friendly and surprising approachable, but would I think of him as a successes business owner? Not really, but would you?

The purpose of this story is not meant to be unkind to people who make an effort to earn a living rather than steal everything that isn’t bolted down, but it is meant to show to you how dangerous it is to only think of what you think is acceptable and not take into account what your clients think is acceptable.

Our local window cleaner doesn’t see anything wrong with the way he looks or the equipment he uses. He doesn’t feel it is necessary to clean and maintain his vehicle, he doesn’t think that his jeans having holes in them makes any difference to the service he provides. But in business, he doesn’t count, his client’s do.

Which window cleaner would you have if both called and offered their services to you? Once you appreciate that our clients and potential clients view of us is vital, you will begin to understand one of the essential keys to business growth. After all if we don’t want to spend money on our own business how can we expect others to?

Unfortunately, I have heard it said many times that image doesn’t matter, it’s the service you provide that counts. Every person who has told me that has been a single owner operated business similar to our local window cleaner. Meanwhile every person who has told me that image is vital, has been a millionaire business man or women.

I did say that this was going to be a strong one and im sorry if I have given offence to anyone, but the whole point is this… lets stop thinking about what we think is right and start worrying about what our clients view of our business is. If we have plenty of happy clients, the rest kind of follows naturally.

Seasons greetings to all and all the best in the new year!

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


Carl Phillips
Clear View Plus Ltd