Starting a Power Wash Business
You have the proper training, state-of-the-art equipment, and a ‘can-do’ attitude. You are ready to get to work, but the phone is silent and your inbox is empty. It’s time to rethink your marketing strategy.
Good marketing campaigns are built on three things: research, planning, and implementation. But remember, good marketing campaigns also take time to work, so move steadily and don’t get discouraged if leads don’t come pouring in the first day your Facebook ad goes live or your email campaign begins.
First, you need to do some good old fashioned research. To begin, you need to figure out where you are currently positioned in the market and how it compares to your competitors. Next, figure out your Unique Selling Proposition (USP). Finally, create your ideal customer persona, this will direct your future marketing efforts. But, if you don’t know how to go about all that, don’t worry, we’ve got some ideas for you.
A quick SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) is a simple yet effective way to begin analyzing your place in the market. Be as honest as you can about where your company excels and where it falls short. Place your ego aside for this and (if possible) enlist an employee, a trusted friend, or business partner to help you brainstorm.
Get a free template to guide your SWOT Analysis here.
To figure out your unique selling proposition look back to your SWOT analysis. What strengths does your business have that no one else does? Keep in mind that if a competitor can truthfully say “me-too” then it’s not your USP.
Micheal Hinderliter, the internationally recognized “Dean of Power Wash,” suggests certifications/training, the quality of your staff, and your business’ involvement in the community as possible USP’s.
Hinderliter says, “The one thing you've got to keep in mind is that everybody wants to do quality service, everybody says they're going to be the best price, everybody has uniforms. If everybody can do what you do, they're probably going to do it. You're all fighting over the same things.”
The final part of the research stage is to create your ideal customer persona. Start with listing basic demographic information about the people you are trying to reach and then expand your research to be as specific as possible. The goal here is to create an imaginary person that embodies all the core characteristics of your ideal customer. The more complete a profile you create, the more effectively you will be able to target your marketing efforts. A good way to start is by looking at who your current customers may be, or if you are new to the business, who do you see that’s hiring other power washers. You can then use the demographics and characteristics of those people to determine who are typical customers, i.e., where do they live, what kind of homes do they live in, how old are they, and any other details you can identify about them.
Get a free template to guide your customer persona here.
Often you will find that you have several ideal customer types. That’s great! Focus first on your strongest customer base and then move onto secondary and tertiary demographics.
We’ve given you a lot to think about. Start doing your research and building your customer personas. You can use the free templates we’ve provided or build your own! Keep in mind these are ‘living documents’ so they will grow and change as your business evolves.
You aren’t done quite yet! You know how and what to begin researching, in our second part of this blog, coming next week, we will help you begin planning your strategy and offer best practices for implementing your campaign to reach your goals!
In the meantime, we suggest checking out these other blogs on marketing.
Generate More Leads From Your Website - https://www.powerwash.com/blog/tips-to-generate-more-leads-from-your-pressure-washing-business-website/
Crafting a Better Auto-Response Email - https://www.powerwash.com/blog/is-your-auto-response-email-missing-an-opportunity/
How to Hire a Professional Photographer for Your Website - https://www.powerwash.com/blog/how-to-hire-a-professional-photographer-for-your-pressure-washing-website/
Once you find, hire, and train a new employee your work isn’t over quite yet. It is important that you retain that person. You can do so by implementing a dynamic, ongoing process.
The key lies in maintaining a strong, supportive company culture.
According to industry expert Michael Hinderliter, “If you've got a good culture where employees can feel secure, so they're comfortable working there, if you have a lot of transparency in your organization, and if you have good core values in place so they feel like they're doing something that is for a good reason, employees are more likely to stay with you.”
A strong, supportive company culture can be one of the hardest things for your organization to define, but it also can become its most valuable asset. It looks different in every company and can look different from year to year.
Start by defining your core values. These are the values that you measure success for both the individual and the company as a whole by. They are not hard quantitative metrics but rather qualitative measures.
Hinderliter says, “If you don't understand and you don't really stand behind your core values no one's going to ... they're just going to be a piece of paper on the wall and it doesn't mean anything.”
For example, at Powerwash.com our core values are
- Growth Oriented
- Results Driven
- Safety Minded
- Environmental Stewardship
Once you have your core values in place you need to live them! Lead by example and make sure that employees at all levels of the organization are held accountable. This includes yourself!
There are no cut and dry formulas for creating or enforcing core values. They exist in a grey area where each situation is completely different, but that’s a good thing! This means you have the opportunity to create the core values that are right for you and your organization.
Remember, most importantly, you are asking your employees to build your dream with you. Make sure you are giving them the tools, knowledge, and motivation to do the job right and see it all the way through!
Now that your new employees are hired and ready to work. It’s paramount that they are trained consistently and up to your high standards. They are the face of your company out in the field when you are not around. In order for your company to maintain a reputation of high quality services, they need to be trained to do things right.
“When you go out and actually do the work yourself, it can be helpful to document how you're doing it, step by step. You can also find a resource that can systemize and be able to create the training for you,” says Michael Hinderliter, a leader in the Texas Power Washing industry and employer.
Write it down, take pictures, make videos, maybe do a screen grab. Whatever works best for you and your specific job/industry is the best way. Make sure you document every part of the process. A new employee won’t intuitively know where to find things or where things go, so make the process as simple as possible to follow.
Ask yourself these questions when making training resources:
- What are the exact steps, as detailed as possible, to do this job?
- Where do I get the resources needed?
- How do I utilize the tools needed?
- What constitutes an emergency? Who do I report to if there is a problem or concern on this specific project?
- What did I wish I knew the first time I did this?
This is when details matter, no matter how mundane or obvious they may seem to you. Now is also the time to note any shortcuts that are tempting and spell out in your training documents why they are a ‘no’ for your company. (Especially when they are concerned with safety procedures or procedures regulated by law.)
Hinderliter says, “No matter how you approach it, you need to take the time to train each employee in the same method, so that as the next guy comes in, they're all learning the same way of doing it.”
If you don’t standardize your training procedures you risk your company standards slipping. If every employee just trains the next one, then shortcuts get taken and some employees may never actually learn the “right way”. This leads to discipline, work integrity issues, and major headaches for you later on.
“It's always good to have someone train with a supervisor so that as they're going through the process, that supervisor can watch them and tweak what they're doing, so they get that corrective action as they're performing the service,” explains Hinderliter.
He continues, “If they get off track, the supervisor brings them back on track, and if they've got questions, they can answer those questions, and monitor the way they perform.”
Remember that your training processes and documents are not set in stone. They are a living document and should be updated consistently as industry standards, technology, or work place practices change. Whenever you update your policies ALL employees should be re-trained.
Stay flexible and be open to suggestion. We know you worked really hard to make a comprehensive training program but be open to ideas on better ways to do things from employees and outside resources.
Remember, these keys to successfully training a new employee whether it’s your first or hundredth.
- Document EVERY step of the process.
- Train every employee the same way and be sure they are using your training processes each time.
- Re-train ALL employees any time a process or policy changes.
- Training documents will need to change as innovation and law changes in your industry.
Finding employees can seem like a really daunting task. There are so many avenues to try and find candidates, how do you know where to look? And when you do start having interested applicants, how do you know if they’re right for your team?
Before you start sorting resumes and scheduling interviews, here is some advice from Michael Hinderliter. Over his 30 year career employing people in the power wash industry, he has tried many different ways to recruit employees. But he usually finds the most success when he returns to the basics.
Place an Ad Online
Take advantage of social media, job listing services, and even Craigslist to get the word out there that you are hiring. Spread your net wide because you are trying to catch A LOT of fish so you can find the RIGHT one.
Try These Online Services
An important factor in catching the “right” one is to be completely honest about what the job entails in your ad. This will help you automatically filter out people who aren’t right for the kind of work you do, if you are honest up front. While you may be worried it will scare off potential employees, this may actually be a good thing! With some job descriptions, what some candidates consider a negative, others may consider a huge bonus. For example, in Hinderliters case, letting candidates know that the work involved for his company is primarily independent work and outdoors is really appealing to certain people who appreciate that kind of work.
Tips For A Better Job Posting
Offer an Employee Referral Bonuses
One of the best ways to find talent is to network with your own team. You have a strong group of talented, motivated people right next to you. Utilize their network and grow together! Employees who are highly invested and motivated within your company will generally not give a bad recommendation and risk their professional reputation. Make sure and compensate them for valuable hires either fiscally, with time off, or other rewards.
Ideas for Compensation
Carry Business Cards
Did you get great service somewhere?
Did somebody really impress you with their knowledge or other skills?
“Whenever you find someone who you think would be a good fit,” Hinderliter says, “give them a business card and let them know, ‘We're hiring!’ Maybe they won't think of you at that moment because they're content, but things are always changing.”
Always Have These Elements on Your Business Card
Even if they are not looking for new employment right now you could be planting a seed in their mind and they will remember you when they are looking for work.
Good employees ARE out there! A little hard work at the beginning will pay dividends as your company grows.
Remember, utilize online services and the existing network within your organization. Don’t forget to compensate employees for bringing in the right people! Lastly, always carry your business cards with you and keep your eye out for the right people regardless of what industry they are currently in.
Up next in our four part series, “Training Once, Training Twice…”, advice on how to train your new-found employees for long term success!
Restaurant kitchen exhaust cleaning is an excellent pressure washing business that offers regular income with a relatively low entry cost. Kitchen exhaust cleaning can keep you working throughout the winter, even if you live in colder climates. The National Fire Protection Association writes the standards that all commercial cooking operations must follow. All commercial kitchens must be inspected on a regular basis, and “If upon inspection, the exhaust system is found to be contaminated with deposits from grease-laden vapors, the contaminated portions of the exhaust system shall be cleaned by a properly trained, qualified, and certified person(s) acceptable to the authority having jurisdiction.”(NFPA 96 Standard for Ventilation Control and Fire Protection of Commercial Cooking Operations, ©2017)
A common strategic error made by start-up owner-operators is to underbid the competition. The rationale is: offer a low price in the beginning to attract new business. After all, some work is better than no work. Right? Unfortunately what history has demonstrated time and again is that this mistake costs the business owner business in the long run - because eventually the owner-operator has to adjust his pricing higher, usually much higher, and as a result he typically then loses most, if not all, of his initial clients, clients that were accustomed to paying the lower rates.
Starting and building a profitable business starts with hitting the right balance for setting how much to charge as an hourly rate. The key to doing this is methodically taking business-related variables into consideration.
In the beginning it may seem that charging $35/hour is making good money. However, what causes many new pressure wash contractors to eventually fail is they do not grasp the reality that not all of that $35/hour is going into their pocket.
So, if the $35/hour isn’t going directly into your pocket, where is it going? As a business owner you need to be keenly aware of the “costs of doing business” because this is the invisible hole where most of the money goes.
Let’s sit down and take a hard look at the costs involved in pressure washing for profit. This will guide us to setting realistic and sustainable hourly rates.
The readily identified factors include the cost of supplies, transportation, rental space for the business, and a payment on the loan we took out for our new equipment and vehicle. If we add these monthly bills up we should have a good idea of what our expenses are; and once we know what our expenses are then we know how much we need to charge.
Oops, as it turns out, though, these are not the only costs of doing business, and not by a long shot. What may not be immediately apparent to a new business owner is the amount of time spent on the business that will not be billed directly to customers. As the owner-operator of a power washing business you have to make phone calls to set appointments, you have to take time to visit homes and meet clients, and you have to take time to work up quotes. You even need to take into account the time necessary to load and unload supplies at job sites. All this essentially unpaid time needs to be folded into the equation when it comes to determining how much our hourly billing rate needs to be to turn a profit.
A good starting point begins with a breakdown of the monthly costs listed above divided over the number of hours for which you will actually be able to charge your customers. As an owner-operator you could spend eighty hours per week working on your business, but you might only have 30 paid hours of work per week for 50 weeks in a year. These are the hours that you spend on jobsites performing cleaning services.
So, we multiply 30 hours per week times 50 weeks per year to get 1,500 billable hours per year. Then we divide 1,500 by 12 to get an average of 125 billable hours per month. Let’s start adding up the bills and what we will need to charge per working hour to cover monthly expenses.
- Advertising and marketing costs of $600 per month. Divide that by 125 to get $4.80 an hour.
- Phone and internet services of $150 per month. Divide that by 125 to get $1.20 per hour.
- If you are renting shop or office space at $900 a month, that requires another $7.20 per hour.
- Cleaning supplies of $400 is equal to roughly $3.33 an hour.
- One equipment or vehicle loan of $400 is equal to $3.33 per hour.
- Vehicle insurance of $125 is equal to $1.00 per hour.
- General liability insurance of $75 is equal to $0.60 per hour.
- Gasoline costs for vehicles of $500 per month are equal to $4.17 per hour.
- The cost to run equipment can vary, but if you are including maintenance and fuel $10 per hour is a good estimate.
These major and minor costs have already added up to almost $36 per hour and you haven’t even paid yourself yet - or made any money to put back into the business or pay taxes!
Let’s start to calculate what our 30-hours of workable time should be billed at if we want to start pressure washing for profit. If you would like to make a salary of $60,000 a year, and have money to put back into the business, and keep current on your taxes then you should break that desired salary down to a weekly amount. So, based on 50 weeks worked per year and 30-hours work per week $60,000 is roughly $40 an hour. ($60,000/50 weeks = $1,200/week. $1,200/week / 30/hrs/week = $40/hour.) Then plan for $20,000 to cover business growth and taxes, which equals about $13.30 an hour. We already know that the costs mentioned above have added up to $36 per hour, so add these together for a total of roughly $90 an hour ($36 + $40 + $13.30 = $89.30).
Determining how much to charge is a lot of work, but this up-front effort will enable you to have a clear picture of what your financial benchmarks are and how to evaluate your true profitability and sustainability.
As a small business, you aren’t going to buy Super Bowl air time or design a nation-wide Twitter campaign to impact change. You can get involved locally at a level that makes sense for your company size. Charitable giving is a great way to make a positive difference in your community, and help build your brand at the same time.
Most people know that giving means a tax deduction at the end of the year. (See the section below on guidelines for qualifying for the deduction.) That’s not the only benefit. Employees express higher job satisfaction and greater commitment to their company when their employer gives. They perceive that volunteering provides them leadership and professional skills experience (Director’s Notes: Making the Business Case for Corporate Philanthropy). In addition, future employees are more attracted to philanthropic businesses.
In a study conducted by Cone LLC, “85% of consumers have a more positive image of a product or company when it supports a cause they care about.” Further, 88% of Americans are fine with a company including a cause or issue in their marketing. A whopping 91% of respondents believe a business should consider a cause that is in the community where they do business. When consumers think well of your brand name because it gave to the community, they are more likely to do business with you.
Charitable giving is also an excellent way to network. Through volunteering, sponsoring and other ways of contributing, you meet others in the community and spread your brand name further than you would have otherwise.
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, around 75 percent of small business owners donate a portion of their profits to charity, around 6 percent on average. This can be as simple as writing a check to the Humane Society once a year. You can’t force employees to give as well, but you can offer to match their donations to a particular charity to give them incentive. You can also invite customers to donate during fundraising drives, for instance, through your newsletters or emails.
For some people, they would rather give time than money so organizing an optional employee volunteer day at a food bank, for example, might be a great way to give to your community. Again, you can share the information with your customers and invite them to participate. You might also want to use your services as the volunteer donation, like offering to power wash the homes of the elderly on fixed incomes or similarly needy home owners.
Sponsoring sports teams or a fundraising event is a great way to get public attention while doing good. Not all sports need a lot of gear – sometime they just need t-shirts. Donating money for an event means you get publicity on programs and advertising, and you often get special recognition at the event itself.
Below is a list of general guidelines if you want to use your charitable giving as a tax credit. However, you should consult your accountant or tax attorney to know if your donations qualify.
- Identify an eligible charity, usually a 501(c)(3)
- Make an eligible donation: cash, volunteered services, sponsorship of a charity event or the donation of inventory or services
- Understand that each category has its own limitations (for example, you can’t deduct the value of your volunteered service, but you can deduct expenses incurred such as supplies) — links to all the related forms and limitation information are available from the IRS (see also: IRS Publication 526)
- Ensure the donation is paid in full by the end of the tax year and reported through Form 1040, Schedule A
- Take your deduction, but remember that the IRS limits the amount of charitable donations that can be considered tax-deductible to 50 percent of your adjusted gross income
- Keep records — you’ll want them in the event of an IRS audit. Generally, an organization should give you a written statement if it receives a contribution from you
(From the U.S. Small Business Administration)
How you share your good will is up to you. On the one hand, consumers think favorably of a company that shows it cares about the community it serves, and on the other hand, you don’t want to seem like you give in order to tell everyone how giving your business is. As previously mentioned, you can share about fundraising activity in your newsletter or on social media. You will need to check with the non-profit to find out if you can use their logo on your own materials as they might have rules about that.
The most important aspect to giving is to make sure the receiving cause is one that is important to you. Don’t look for the biggest opportunity to make your company look good. As long as it comes from the heart, good deeds have their own rewards.
The theory behind cleaning with a power washer is to remove dirt and stains from a surface in a cost efficient manner. If you want to compare the cleaning power of two machines, you can multiply the GPM and PSI to determine cleaning efficiency. Most consumer power washers are only capable of 3.5 GPM or less. They also tend to have low pressure output. If you choose a power washer that is capable of 3500 PSI you can lower that pressure by installing a larger spray tip. If you lower the pressure you will be able to wash many surfaces that can't stand up to the higher pressure yet still clean the surface in a cost efficient manner. A home owner doesn't need to be concerned with the time factor, but time is money for power washing professionals. Labor is often the most expensive part of a pressure washing job.
If you are going to start a mobile power washing business you should make sure you start off right. One of the first things you should do is draw up a business plan. Doing the research for this plan will give you an idea of what it will cost you to start this business. Determine what you plan to clean, and what kind of equipment you will need to clean it properly. If you can't afford to start off on the right foot then wait until you can. You will need money for equipment, chemicals, insurance, advertising, transportation, uniforms and many other things. It is important that you make the correct decisions at this stage of your business planning. Don't set yourself up for failure from the beginning! Seek advice and training learn all you can and be prepared. Contact our Technical Advisors at 1-800-433-2113
The primary consideration should be load limit. The amount and type of equipment and amount of water that you will need to carry will be a major factor in choosing the best trailer to suit your needs. Trailers will be rated by the amount of weight that they can carry and by their GVW (Gross Vehicle Weight). You will need to know the weight of all of your equipment, the chemicals and accessories that you will be carrying and the water as well (Water weighs about 8.33 pounds per gallon.) Remember that these weights combined with the actual trailer weight will determine the GVW. An enclosed trailer will be much heavier than an open trailer. If you don't know the weight of your equipment you should be able to get that information from the vendor who sold it to you.
You will also need to know that your truck or the vehicle that you will be using to tow the trailer with has the rating to tow this much weight and the proper braking and lighting system as well. Once you have determined the size and load limits that you will need you can proceed to making the decision as to whether an open or enclosed trailer will best suit your needs.
Another thing to consider when choosing a trailer is the type of roads that you will be traveling when servicing your customers. If you are traveling on rough terrain such as one might do when performing work in the oil fields, an enclosed trailer may not be the best choice. There are certain weaknesses in the framework that won't stand up to rough roads because of the constant flexing of the framework as you go over bumps and ruts in the terrain.
Have you ever heard anyone say this before, "You wouldn't purchase a lawn and garden tractor and leave it sitting in your yard exposed to the damaging elements! So why would you expose the equipment that you make your living with to these same dangers?" Their solution is of course an enclosed trailer. It is true, that an enclosed trailer offers more protection for your equipment, but they are not right for every situation.
An enclosed trailer is a rolling billboard for your business. This type of advertising can be extremely effective for B to C contractors. Neighbors in a residential area can look out their window and see your trailer parked in front of a house you are cleaning. They are reminded of you every time they see the clean house on the block.
Also with an enclosed trailer pilferage and the loss of small items is less likely. Your equipment is hidden from view. This also helps you look more organized. People passing by will see your advertising instead of the wands, brushes and other items you have tucked away.
If you are still not sure what type of trailer is right for you, call PowerWash.com at 1-800-433-2113. We have been making custom trailers for power wash contractors for over 30 years.
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