Lead Collection

Customer
Relationship
Management

Fulfillment

Financial
Management

Before we jump into this, I'll tell you about myself so you know where this information is coming from. 

Introduction

I’ve been cleaning windows since 2010. I was hired right after my high school graduation as a summer job. One thing lead to another and a couple years later I started my own company. It was always my dream to own my own business but I never imagined it would be window cleaning. As a matter of fact I didn’t even know there were window cleaners. My dad was the ultimate DIYer and we never had service people come to the house growing up. Once I got into the industry I couldn’t believe how many people were out there paying for window cleaning and other convenient services. My training for cleaning windows was my employer handing me tools and learning as I go. After learning the trade I had no business experience but I was eager to learn and make money. While I learned a lot, I also made a lot of mistakes. I hope this book can save you from mistakes, save time, money, and hopefully fast track you to where you want to be.

 

A couple of years into my business I decided I wanted to get into the restaurant business. Unlike the window cleaning business, restaurants require a lot of planning and capital to get started. I knew I had to do my research. I repeatedly read and heard that restaurants live and die by their numbers. With my research I realized I didn’t really know anything about the numbers for window cleaning and service businesses. I started digging deeper and realized I could make more money cleaning windows with better margins and less startup headache if I could manage my finances correctly. Most of the information I found was promises making X dollars per day cleaning windows. But I couldn’t find anything talking about the operational expenses of running a company. I gathered as much information as I could through researching other service business and broke it down into this book. It took me years to learn some of the things in this book, but I hope it will help you fast track your business to where you want to be.

 

I had set a goal to make $10,000 in a month. I thought once I got here I would be financially satisfied. After hitting that goal, I realized that was not enough to run a business. I continued to pursue larger months, setting my best month at $65,000. The money I made really didn’t matter if I wasn’t managing it responsibly. Making $500 per day sounds exciting, even life changing.

 

I’ve realized this industry is incredibly critical of technique and opinion so take the information as you want. You’ll get a lot of opinions from others in the industry as well as feedback from customers.  Always go with your gut and intuition, no one knows your business better than you do. No business will ever be the same because they don’t have you. Compile what you want from this book and everyone else and then get out there and be the best you can be. Unfortunately I never learned anything until I started having issues. Frustrated customers, disgruntled employees, broken equipment, collection issues, safety incidents, marketing mistakes, and the list goes on. These things can’t be taught but only learned over time as you grow. Your challenges in your business change as you grow but they never go away. I think you’ll find a lot of information in this book that could relate to you at different phases in your growth.

 

The worst day I ever had was on a huge commercial project. We were hired to do some work for a company and I was working on their roof. I was decked out in safety equipment and I ended up slipping on their roof. There was no chance of me falling off but I ended up breaking two ribs near my spine because I hit a rivet on the roof. My life flashed before my eyes but I was more scared for my family, being able to provide for them. This was all after being completely behind on the job and having some important equipment break down. That night I was in the ER with my wife thinking how grateful I was for this business and the ability to provide for my family.

 

A few days later I was back at work with some painkillers, doing what I could on the ground. I ended up finishing the job early and I profited more than $20,000 in three days. That’s profit. I went from such a low to such a high. This business seems to be like that a lot. It’s a lot of ups and downs. It can be so draining and triumphant.  You’ll lose great accounts but find better ones. Great employees will move on but better ones are on the way. I say this to be encouraging and realize your worst day will be over soon and your best is on the way. This industry has been so good to me and provided so well for many. I ended up selling my company to another local window cleaner and pursuing a different career path.

Lead Collection

Now let’s go over all the questions I asked potential clients. Keep in mind you might set a form up like this completely different to bid jobs, but you can use the same principal to collect data to create estimates. Another point id like to make is that there are a ton of situations where you can’t put out an estimate collecting this data. You might need to do it over the phone or meat a customer at the job. If you’re not confident in this process then do what you’re comfortable with to provide accurate estimates. Keep in mind that when your company grows your time runs out and driving to jobs for free estimates significantly eats into your time as well as profit margins. When you’re at a customer’s house to provide an estimate you’re making yourself vulnerable to the fact that you’ve already invested into this job with nothing in return, the customer’s know that. By collecting information like this you can control the estimate by the accuracy of the customer’s input. If they put 20 windows and they have 35, you have record of them providing inaccurate information, making the estimate invalid. You can politely adjust the price because you’re providing information based on their inputs.

 

Basic Information

Company

First Name

Last Name

Email

Phone

 

Property Information

Address

How many square feet?

How many stories?

Job needs to be done…

What kind of roof do you have?

 

Service Information

How many windows do you have?

When was your last professional cleaning?

Is there any construction debris on the glass such as paint, stucco, glue, etc?

Are your windows french windows with dividers on the outside of the glass?

How old are your windows?

Is everything accessible in regards to knick knacks, furniture, landscaping and other personal property?

Do you have any skylights you'd like cleaned on the exterior only?

Is there anything else we might need to know?

 

 Most of these questions had dropdown menus with answers in them to make it simple for prospects to answer. I would use google maps as well as real estate sites to look up the house and confirm information before pricing. Like I said above, if I didn’t feel comfortable providing a price I would arrange other means to get the customer an accurate estimate but this seem to work great for 90% of our work. I’ll break down each section to show you how I would bid the jobs.

 

Basic Information

This information provides basic contact information and will let me know if I’m dealing with a residential or a commercial client. The email is especially important because it provides our company an automated way to keep in touch with the individual whether they hire us or not. I can send updates, coupons, and more with minimal effort. I’ve had tons of people not hire me the first time around but call back later after being dissatisfied with a competitor.

 

Property Information

This section provides us information on the property itself. This is a good indication of the effort that might go into a job. For jobs over 4,000 square feet, over 3 stories, etc. I would want to visit before providing an estimate. I might need to include the cost of a lift in a job this size or find something else I need to include in an estimate.

 

Service Information

I kept this separate from property information because we offered other services.  So property questions pertained to the property where these questions were specific to the service the customer was interested in. So they only checked their interested services and answered questions specific to that service, which in this case is window cleaning.

 

We broke down jobs into 5 different categories. Over the years I realized I could find similarities across the bored based on the houses square footage. I would call this a typical house. A typical house usually has 1 window per 100 square feet. This was always my starting point. So a house that was 1,000 square feet would typical have 10 windows. If I were charging $10 per window then I would quote this at $100 window inside, outside, screens, tracks, and sills. If someone filled out a form and said they had 12 windows on a 1,000 square foot house, I would quote it for $120. If someone filled out a form and said they had 35 windows on a 1,000 square foot house I would immediately know that someone has either input wrong information or this is some kind of job that isn’t “typical” and I could look into it more. This also goes the other way. If someone put in a house that was 3500 square feet and only put in 10 windows, I’d know a house that size has at least 35 windows typically. I could confirm this before sending someone out to do a job. As the questions progressed I would either raise the price or keep it the same based on answers. I found this method of bidding to be incredibly efficient and accurate for our company. It allowed us to estimate virtually and keep accurate records if the customer didn’t fill out the form correctly.

You can also use real estate sites and google maps to confirm what the home might look like. Beyond these questions there really wasn’t much we could run into that would cause us to not be able to do the job within the estimate. If that did happen I could eat the cost and raise the price for them next time. More often I was able to charge more based off of inaccurate information like missing a few windows, saying they’re not French windows, not realizing there’s paint overspray, etc. and our crew would simply show them the different before they started work. Once we had customer’s in our database we start keeping track of the job duration. This allowed us to adjust prices based on how long it took our crew to do it and it kept great detailed notes on the property.

 

Now I’ll go over each answer option to help our prospect fill in their form quickly.

 

Property Information

Address

Form autofills their address.

 

How many square feet?

0-1,000 SF

1,001-1,500 SF

1,501-2,000 SF

2,001-2,500 SF

2,501-3,000 SF

3,001-3,500 SF

3,501 + SF

 

How many stories?

1

2

3

4+

 

Job needs to be done…

in no hurry.

within 1 week.

within 2 weeks.

within 3 weeks.

ASAP.

 

What kind of roof do you have?

Asphalt singles.

Flat concrete tile.

Rounded concrete tile.

Rounded clay tile.

Slate.

Metal.

Wood.

Other.

 

 

Service Information

How many windows do you have?

Enter a number.

 

When was your last professional cleaning?

Less than one year ago.

Over one year ago.

Over two years ago.

Over three years ago.

Never.

 

Is there any construction debris on the glass such as paint, stucco, glue, etc?

Yes.

No.

 

Are your windows french windows with dividers on the outside of the glass?

No.

Some.

All.

Most.

 

How old are your windows?

0-5 years old.

6-10 years old.

11-20 years old.

21-30 years old.

31-40 years old.

41-50 years old.

51 + years old.

 

Is everything accessible in regards to knick knacks, furniture, landscaping and other personal property?

Yes.

No.

 

Do you have any skylights you'd like cleaned on the exterior only?

No.

Yes 1-3.

Yes 4-7.

Yes 8-11.

Yes 12+

 

Is there anything else we might need to know?

This gives the customer the opportunity to disclose anything else we might need to know to accurately bid their job.

 

Before submitting their form there’s a checkbox to accept the following terms and conditions. See the sample below and rewrite to your company guidelines.

 

Terms & Conditions (SAMPLE)

Safety Policy

Safety is our number one priority. By nature our work can be inherently dangerous and we train to deal with as many scenarios as possible. We reserve the right to walk away from any project that we feel is not worth the risk.

 

Minors

We require an adult to be present at all times when a minor is home. If we show up to a job where a minor is home alone, our cancellation policy will go into effect and you will be charged accordingly. The home can be vacant but please let us know beforehand and give us direction to access. 

 

Satisfaction Guaranteed

We believe no one should have to pay for something they're not happy with. In the event you're not satisfied with our service please reach out so we can make things right. 

 

Service Refusal

Some jobs may not be worth the financial gain due to general liability or safety risk as a business and we reserve the right to refuse service. Some jobs maybe be out of our scope of work and we reserve the right refuse to service. 

 

Cancellation 

We require 72 hours notice for cancellations. Cancellations with less notice will be subject to a 10% of job charge. Same day cancellations will be subject to 80% of job charge. Policy will be waived in reasonable circumstances beyond customer's control. 

 

Rain

Rain happens. Please follow our cancellation policy in the event of rain. If you're scheduling during rainy season and you know you'll cancel then please reschedule for a different time of year and within our cancellation policy. Dirty windows create dirtier windows in the rain and clean windows are clean in the rain. We are no longer offering a rain guarantee because the policy would get taken advantage of and the windows still look clean. 

 

Pets

We know you love your pets, and so do we. But we've still got a job to do. Please keep your pets in a safe place so we can work without interruptions. Remember that your pets act different around strangers when you're not there. Please don't leave us in a vulnerable situation. Our job may require us to open windows, doors, gates, and require us to access different areas of your property. Please have a plan to let us access the areas we need uninterrupted and keep your pets safe. 

 

Accidental Damage

We ask that you move valuables and breakables before our arrival. Our company will replace anything in the event we accidentally break something while working. If something breaks while it's being used as designed then the customer will be responsible. Example: We drop a tool and it breaks a window, we will replace the window. Example: We open the window as designed and the window slams shut and breaks, the customer will be responsible. Sometimes things just break and we were the next one to touch it. Common damage we see:

Scratches

Glass isn't perfect. When it's dirty or in different lighting, you can't see imperfections. It's common for scratches or other blemishes to be revealed after the glass is cleaned. Rest assured we don't use any equipment, supplies or methods that cause these issues. Scratches can come from a factory, supplier, transportation, installer, numerous tradesmen during construction, pets, or someone simply bumping into it. Our company is not liable for scratches. 

Bent Screen

Screens are commonly bent from someone putting pressure in the middle of the frame. Screens also sit in the sun and naturally deteriorate over time. We will remove all screens properly without putting pressure in the middle of the frame and replace them the same. We will not be liable for bent or ripped screens unless we accidentally caused it. 

Broken Seals

Broken seal or failed seal is a term used to describe a bad seal around the window that allows moisture to build up inside. These are common on all types of windows and eventually happens to all dual pane windows. The more harsh weather or sun a window gets, usually the faster the seals go bad. No one can cause a broken seal. If your window looks foggy or has moisture in it, you most likely have a broken seal. Our company is not liable for broken seals. 

Hard Water Spots or Mineral Staining

Hard water on glass is from water drying out and the minerals being left behind to cause stains. Depending on how severe the minerals are, how much sun the area gets, how consistently it gets wet, what kind of minerals are in the water, how long it's been on the surface and other factors will determine if the stains will come out. These are common from sprinklers, hosing or pressure washing a house, condensation on windows, rain, watering plants etc. Make sure that you avoid getting your windows as much a possible and tried to get them cleaned as soon as possible after. Soft water will still leave damaging stains and should not be use on your glass. We use special techniques and supplies to remove what we can on the surface of the glass. If the stains are deeper than the surface then you may need to replace the glass or hiring a restoration company. Our company us not liable for hard water spots or mineral staining. 

 

Satisfaction

We want you to be happy. If you're not completely happy with our work we will either try to come out and make it right or refund your money. We ask that you please communicate with us so we can learn and fix any issues that arise. 

 

Payment Terms

All payments are due on receipt. We ask that you respect this so we can pay our employees, sub contractors and vendors on time without cashflow issues. If your invoice goes past 30 days, you will be subject to 1.5% interest per month from invoice price. Accepted payments are cash, check, and all major credit cards. 

 

Price Raises

No one likes prices going up, we get it. Unfortunately business expenses go up annually due to inflation and other factors. To keep our business financially healthy we reserve the right to raise prices. This could mean a price change on your original service, next service, or multiple services later. You will be notified of price changes before any work begins. 

 

Exclusions 

Exclusions on all projects unless otherwise specified: Additionally insured certificates, waiver of subrogation, permits, bonds, inspection fees, water supply/source, traffic control / lighting, dust control, trash hauling, drilling or screwing (screen installation), standby of other contractors, overtime / night Work, trash receptacles / hand washing station / portable restrooms, any work unless specifically included in estimate. 

 

Estimates

Pricing is based on questions being answered accurately. If they’re incorrectly answered we reserve the right to adjust our pricing or terminate our estimate/contract completely. We price our job based on quantity of work, access and how much time we think it will take based on other factors. Your estimate is good for 30 days only. The schedule of work shall be mutually agreeable to both parties. 

 

Access

Access must be granted to all places requiring admission, codes or other access procedures for the purpose of our work including access to water and bathrooms. If we cannot access your property for the agreed upon service you maybe be subject to rescheduling fees or extra waiting costs.

 

Special Equipment

Special equipment needed to complete a project will be billed at rental cost and all associated expenses plus 15%. You will be notified in the event special equipment is needed. 

 

Other Expenses

Customer or contractor shall pay for any and all waiver of subrogation or bonding requirements, special insurance or insurance requirements beyond what we hold for insurance limits and any other special requirements required on their specific project. 

(END)

 

These terms were the forefront of protecting our company from liability. It lays out the ground rules for our relationships with customers before they even have work done. Once they’re all finished with their answers there’s a submit button that only submits when there is accurate information in each input. There are a ton of companies that collect leads for contractors just like this and try to sell them to everyone in that area. Creating your own information collection lets you manage the information you need, saves you time, gives your customers accurate prices, and simplifies your marketing to all point towards this lead generator.

 

Now I’ll break down the answers so you can see my thought process and how I train estimators based on the answers. Remember that this information was helpful to my company but you might need or want different questions. Focus more on the automation of information collection and how you can use it to your advantage than copying this exactly.

 

Basic Information

Company

If the customer put in a company name then I would know this was usually for a commercial project. It could be a contractor, storefront, industrial facility, etc. Someone you might not be able to bid these online depending on the scope of work.

First Name

Sometimes it’s hard to hear on the phone and collecting first and last names can get complicated. Using the form to collect it allows you to get their name spelled every time. Having an accurate database of names and addresses can also help with direct mail marketing down the road.

Last Name

Email

Email was one of the most overlooked pieces of information for me. Email automations is one of the most power tools for companies today. A good CRM will allow you to send tons of different personal automated emails. Things like marketing, frequency reminders, scheduled job reminders, payment collection reminders, automated invoices, automated payment systems, and the list goes on. Email automation can save you so much time while also giving your customers a personal experience you couldn’t give them over the phone.

Phone

Phone numbers are obviously important for working out details and other communication needs. I found the phone the be the best form of communication when you’re actually ready to schedule the customer. The lapse in email can be really difficult when try to offer different times to customers.

 

Property Information

Address

As mentioned above, having accurate information is key from estimating, to scheduling, directions, marketing, etc. After you’ve come up with a price on the house you should cross reference information by putting the address into real estate sites and google maps. This will help you confirm the accuracy of the information you’ve received and your estimate.

 

How many square feet?

As mentioned above, the square footage gives you a general idea of the scope of work. It also helps you quickly recognize if the data provided is not accurate or you’re dealing with a house outside a typical scope of work. I’ve realized that a typical house has one window per 100 square feet. Consider this your starting point.

 

How many stories?

Stories can make a huge difference on how much time you’ll be working on a project. A job with 20 windows on the ground might be faster than 4 windows at 3 stories. Consider this into your estimate. If someone is in a condo will you drop on windows below? Each of our trucks could go up to three stories on a ladder and 4 stories on a water fed pole. Know your limits and capabilities so you can estimate accordingly. If it’s outside your scope of work maybe you could visit the project to put a bid in worth buying new equipment to get it done. Most projects we did we 1-2 stories with an occasional 3 stories so we set out trucks up for success on our most common projects.

 

Job needs to be done…

An urgency in getting the job done could mean your crew works late or weekends to keep a satisfied customer. You could bid this accordingly with an extra overtime charge or simply communicate that you can’t get the job done in time but you’d love to still put in an estimate. Customers often use window cleaners for special event on their property and forget to call last minute. This was common with graduations, weddings, local events, etc. You could also use this to your advantage to offer them a certain discount if they schedule on a day you’ll be in their area within their timeframe.

 

What kind of roof do you have?

My company tried to stay off roofs but it’s inevitable as a window cleaner to be getting onto the roof. If we have multiple windows over a roof and we can’t walk on the roof, this could add significant time to getting the job done. Slate roofs and clay tile are almost inevitable to crack when being walked on. Take this into consider if the house has that style of roof with skylights or it’s two story.

 

Service Information

How many windows do you have?

This might be one of the most important questions that people always get wrong. Naturally everyone is going to count windows a little different. As mentioned above, compare this number to the square footage. If it seems close enough then you can move forward with the estimate. If it’s off dramatically then do a little more investigating either online or call the customer for an accurate recount.

 

When was your last professional cleaning?

This question tells us if the prospect has ever paid for these services before and also how dirty these windows might be. Someone who is hiring a new window cleaner probably wasn’t happy with their last guy and also should have an idea of what a service contractor might cost. Windows that haven’t been cleaned for years can take a significantly more time for their first cleaning, which is something I’d take into account when estimating.

 

Is there any construction debris on the glass such as paint, stucco, glue, etc?

This question is almost always answered with a no, even with contractors on new construction projects. Construction debris on the class takes way more time, exposes you to more company liability, and needs extra supplies. This question was asked more in the event that we show up and there’s overspray over all the windows, we can show the customer and adjust the price. I’ve seen overspray on glass from neighbors a few doors down painting their house. This has saved me a few times on needing to adjust the price for the first time cleaning. Most customers are understanding after you show them and once it’s done right, the followup service is a breeze.

 

Are your windows french windows with dividers on the outside of the glass?

French windows are the most time consuming types of windows because if the detail involved. French windows could adjust the price upward hundreds of dollars and add a lot more time to the service.

 

How old are your windows?

Older windows can be more difficult to open, get screens out, detail, adjust window coverings, and just overall more difficult to work with. If the windows were brand new (including replacements), I’d assume they have sticky residue and probably other debris on them.

 

Is everything accessible in regards to knick knacks, furniture, landscaping and other personal property?

This question was helpful to make customers evaluate how accessible their widows actually are. If we had to rearrange someones house to do our job then we’re taking on unplanned liability and spending time doing something that isn’t our job. It also helps clients understand why the exact same house could cost significantly more or less. I had multiple houses that were the exact same layout but completely different pricing because of difficult access. The things mentioned above as well as overhangs, shades, pools/spas, hills, broken blinds, etc. all make a difference in your ability to get the job done within budget.

 

Do you have any skylights you'd like cleaned on the exterior only?

I used to clean skylights inside and outside every time but I got into some really difficult situations. Things like three story skylights, curved drywall access, staircases, etc. made some interiors incredibly difficult if not impossible. If the customer had exterior skylights they wanted cleaned, I’d go back to the roof type and see if I could walk on it. If a customer wanted the interiors cleaned, I’d make them specify and get more details on what the inside access would look like.

 

Is there anything else we might need to know?

This gives the customer the opportunity to explain anything else they might think we need to know. On the phone a lot of people want to over explain things which could turn into a 30 minute phone call. Multiple that times 40 calls in a day. When people have to type things out, they tend to

 

 

All of my marketing pointed towards our website which promised an easy three step process that I mentioned above. 

  1. Go to www.website.com

  2. Click on get started.

  3. Fill in the form for your estimate.

This kept our marketing incredibly simple and our streamlined our process for our 90% our estimates. It cut a ton of time out on answering phone calls and collecting the exact information our form did, but instead our form was 100% accurate because the customer puts in the data. It also made it incredibly easy to confirm customers are agreeing to our terms since they have to to submit their form to us. This protected us from liability and it laid down the expectations for all parties. The questions above were for window cleaning but we also used this for other services like pressure washing, solar panel cleaning, and gutter cleaning.  

As soon as the form was filled, we used an auto responder to send them a special email coupon and told them we'll reach out in 1-2 business days with their estimate. We also had a note to check their junk/spam folders. 

When you look into using lead collection sites like Yelp, Angi, Homeadvisor, Thumbtack, Bark, Houzz, etc. they're all doing pretty much the same thing. Collecting leads through online forms and trying to sell them back to you. These companies are incredibly difficult to work with because they want to control the information. When you collect your own data on your own site, you're in control.  These sites ask general and unspecific information because they don't know your service like you do. This gives you an opportunity to do the exact opposite. 

Imagine going to a nice restaurant and the chef wants you to explain how to cook your food. Isn't that why you pay all the money to go to a nice restaurant? Yet individuals in this profession do it all the time. They allow customers to walk on them, devalue their service, and tell them how to do it. When you ask specific and detailed questions about their job, lay down the terms, and explain your company process, you absorb a completely different kind of customer. Think of the form as a pre qualification to the kind of customer you want. 

Customer Relationship Management

Your customer relationship management software will manage a huge part of your customer experience. These are commonly known as a CRM. Before you stick to one you should do a lot of research and do some trials. Look for the following. 

  • Basic customer data input. 

  • Custom input sections.

  • Scheduling multiple crews. 

  • Invoice features. 

  • Estimating features. 

  • Payment processing. 

  • Email and text automation.

  • Follow up. 

  • Reminders.

  • Confirmations.

  • Updates. 

  • Invoices.

  • Multiple users. 

  • Coupon tracking. 

Most CRM will come with these basic features. Make sure other window cleaning companies are using it as well, and that will encourage features geared towards the industry. Of all these features the most powerful one was email automation. Email automation can do so much communication on behalf of your company to update the customer instantly. Collecting emails also helps send out specials to help with lulls in the schedule.

So now we have our lead generation from our website, we've got all the data we need to fill out our customer profile and get them an estimate. If we couldn't get an estimate by the data collected, we would reach out by phone for more information and schedule an in person estimate. Most accounts we were able to provide an estimate. Our CRM presented a detailed estimate which also include thank you letter, copies of our licenses, insurance, bond, and testimonials. We also had a lowest price guarantee by 10%. We would beat any price to a company who provided written and detailed estimate showing proof of city license, county license, contractor license, contractor bond, worker's compensation insurance, and liability insurance. I knew for a fact that no competitors had this so in ten years I never fulfilled a price cut. More importantly this forced a lot of customers to compare our prices apples to apples to competitors. You probably won't be able to make a promise like that in the beginning but your estimate should show your customers what they're paying for. Show them the insurance and licenses that protect them as a consumer so they compare that to another estimate. 

It's important to note that at this point the customer has taken the time to fill out all of your questions. It's imperative that you're responsive to forms being filled out and submitting estimates. Customers like quick service and the sooner you get out their estimate the more likely you are to close. Once you submit the estimate you should follow up to confirm estimate was received, answer any questions, and try to close the deal. Each morning myself or my office manager would reach out to prospects of the previous to close on the job. 

I kept my lead collection plus auto responder separate from my CRM. There are ways to integrate these but I found I could provide a better experience to our customers by keep these separate. Once I had a lead, I used a split screen app to input data from one screen to the other quickly. We'll get more into the actual pricing in the financial management section. Once the job was done we would update the duration by how many man hours it took. This helped us adjust prices to meet our financial goals. If we needed to re estimate jobs if our costs went up, we knew how long the job took so we could stay on budget. 

Once the job was complete our lead tech would settle up with the customer. He would go over anything we noticed on the job and get a payment from the customer. Our credit card processor went through our CRM so he could run the card right there which would automatically close out and invoice and send a paid receipt to the customer. Throughout the day our crew member out something called an end day report which we eventually labeled as EDR. This helped our office track down exactly who was on a job and any details we might need to know. 

EDR >

This was especially helpful with cutting down daily communication and keeping down unnecessary payment collections.  You can download this in our download section or use it as inspiration and create your own. Either way, get an EDR created for your crew to keep accurate daily records. We used these forms time and time again to go back and look at different things that happened that day on the job. Your EDR should help you update your CRM daily. During the week we collected all checks and cash to be deposited at once. Once we deposited all payments we went into the CRM and closed all the invoices associated with the deposit one at a time. Managing payments like this confirmed they were deposited since the deposit was our reference guide. If you close invoices before deposits and something goes missing or forgotten, you might never know since that invoice was marked paid and completed.

 

As an internal accounting safeguard control we never allowed the individual that closed invoice/managed invoices also be in contact with any money. This meant that lead techs filled the EDR and submitted to a safety deposit box along with coupons and payments. When it was time to deposit the checks, the EDRs were submitted to my office manager while I made the deposit. Then the deposit slip was submitted to the office manager who could now cross reference the CRM, EDR and bank deposit for any discrepancies. 

Fulfillment 

Once you get your marketing figured out, you start collecting leads, submitting estimates, and closing deals you need to fulfill the promise. 

Financial Management

You hear "know your numbers" all the time. But what does that mean? In this section we'll go over basic financials. The most stressful part of starting a business is probably the money. There’s never enough and everything seems to be the chicken and the egg. Do you go out and get business or get equipment first. I’ll address those issues, basic startup costs, money best spent, what your numbers should be, scaling and other financial avenues. 

First let's talk about debt. You’re starting a business and you need to buy things but might lack the finances. There is something called book value that I believe is important when it comes to borrowing money. For example tech companies borrow a ton of money to grow fast not necessarily in liquid assets, but usually in payroll to build software. Book value is the asset value of a company if all debts are paid back. If you go out and buy squeegees, washers and other equipment on debt what’s the book value worth? Let's say you buy all your basic startup equipment and finance it on credit. The initial expense would be $250 on the credit card but the value of this equipment is immediately worth less. You now have something financed worth less than you financed for.

 

You would now have negative equity. Negative equity is when someone owes more than the value of the asset itself. That’s a small example but it’s important as you grow. Only borrow money on an asset that you can liquidate for more or what you have is financed for. The term asset is thrown a lot when learning about business. Your business is an asset, yes, it makes you money. But borrowing money on your business for normal expenditures can be dangerous and create insolvency quickly. If you’re borrowing money on small tools, marketing and recurring expenses, you’re buying something that has no liquidation value. This is a key practice by Warren Buffett. Warren would buy companies at book value and tries to turn them around. If he can’t, he sells assets, pays off liabilities and still makes a nice profit. You can’t lose. I learned how valuable this was a few times when I had large pieces of equipment that needed to be liquidated unexpectedly.

 

Good debt vs bad debt. You want to use debt to your advantage and it’s not all bad. Invest in your business like Buffet would. Think about what is easy to liquidate and maintains value. Vehicles (especially used) are easy to liquidate and real estate maintains (usually goes up) its’ value, which is also easy to liquidate. Now if you go out and order squeegees, belt tools, DI equipment, ladders, buckets/bins, etc. and throw it on the credit card what do you think those will sell for used?  Definitely not what you just financed it for. Even worse what about post cards, online marketing, internet/phone bills, etc. how much can you sell those for? Life changes, investments change so be ready for it. When you’re buying equipment put it into the price of the job. I’ve done it a hundred times. I bid a job that needed a 32 foot ladder. The labor cost was about $200 and the ladder was around $450. I got the job for $650! I worked “for free” that day and I owned the ladder outright. The clients have been great repeat clients and i’ve been there ten times since. And now when I bid a three story project I’ve got the equipment for it paid off so it’s all profit. It has allowed me to build my company completely debt free except for my trucks. If I needed or wanted to I could close it down today with a nice check for my liquidation. 

Using short term debt to manage cash flow and getting credit card points is great if you can manage it. As your company grows you will have more and more clients owing you money. This is referred to as collections. Always keep your short term debt less than your collections preferably at 50%. This means if you have $5,000 on your credit card you should have $10,000 worth of projects where money is owed to you. Do not let your collections get over 20% of monthly revenue. That means for $20,000 in revenue that month you want your collections to be around $4,000. This can obviously go up significantly with one large job but don’t let someone go over 30 days without paying. Collections happen because the person (on commercial accounts) isn’t there to sign check. That’s reasonable. For homeowners you should expect payment immediately. For commercial make your terms Net 30. This means they have to pay the full amount within 30 days. I’d recommend not offering discounts for early payments as your cost is labor and it’s not something that you can cut back on. I did Net 30 in all of my commercial contracts which we’ll talk about later and I say due on receipt for residential. Once an invoice goes past 30 days you should start getting more aggressive (respectfully) with collecting the money. Remember that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, meaning bug them and they will pay you. After an invoice goes past 30 days immediately start documenting your procedures for contacting the customer. Write down what you said, when, and any response you’ve received. With over 15,000 jobs completed I can count on one hand how many customers never paid. But there were a ton I had to really make an effort and get firm with. A great way to deal with this is credit card processing. The processing fees are another expense but it gets you paid immediately. Then the credit card company has to collect money from the client, not you. What is that worth to you? I’ve realized the alternative of not using credit cards can be more costly and time consuming, especially when you can automate collections. When you’re coming up with pricing just ad in your typical coupon and card processing cost to cover the extra expenses. 

We’re now going to talk about financial statements. Two in particular. The Profit and Loss statement and the Balance sheet. These are key for managing your numbers. First the profit and loss. In simple terms a profit and loss statement is your revenue (money coming in) minus your expenses (money going out) and the profit or loss is at the end of that. Revenue is simple for your business. You get a check for cleaning windows and put it in the bank. You now have revenue. Now if you’re offering different services it’s the same idea.

Profit & Loss

Next are your expenses. It’s imperative for the success of your business to understand what these should be. This could be the difference be success and failure. Expenses can be broken down into four main types that I really like to use for this business. Most businesses use fix, variable, intermittent, and discretionary expenses. I felt like this help me stay organized better. If you don’t properly understand your expenses you’ll never know if you’re charging enough.  

 

Fixed Expenses

These expenses are consistent and their price doesn’t change. It gives you a base expense to operate your business. This could be rent, some utilities, internet, phone, CRM, payroll software, etc. It’s not going anywhere and the price is consistent. 

 

Variable Expenses

These expenses recur regularly but vary in price each month. This could be payroll, insurance, some utilities, supplies, marketing, etc. These numbers are really important because they’re the ones you can change in regards to revenue. 

 

Intermittent Expenses

This is something that is a random expense. Like a vehicle expense, broken equipment, new equipment, design costs etc. Usually a one time situation that solves a problem. 

 

Discretionary Expense

This refers to an expense that isn’t vital to the operation of the company. This could be snacks, meals and entertainment for the crew. 

 

This is where we’re going to learn how to “know our numbers”. You can’t do this alone so hire a good bookkeeper to keep you in line. Your bookkeeper will help you get organized with your finances and should provide you with monthly financial statements so you can stay current on what’s going on. Ask them for a profit and loss (P&L) with percentages on it. This is really important for your variable expense. You can also set up sub accounts for things like supplies or marketing. Which would look like this:

Expenses

      Variable Expenses

            Marketing

                  Facebook

                  Google

                  Postcards 

                  Print

                  Other  

This is great for showing if your marketing is directly boosting your sales. Your CRM should be able track coupons as well which we will get to later. Now look at the following P&L for a window cleaning company. I kept the numbers simple so you can see what it should look like. The percentages are really important as these are things that you can easily adjust and control to make your business run properly. It will tell you which numbers are too high and hurting your profits. If your payroll is too high then you’re either not charging enough or you have an inefficiency you should deal with immediately. Like i’ve said before, you’re selling labor so it has to be the best. It’s imperative that your employees are trained correctly and efficiently. Payroll will be your largest expense and when we’re talking about payroll I mean costs associated with it on an hourly/regular basis. 

​Now that's a lot of numbers. Look at this as a big subtraction problem and your goal is to get the answer as big as possible.  Let's go over why these are important, how to manage them, and making adjustments. Now please keep in mind that these numbers will vary dramatically across states as well as other countries. There are some places where worker's comp isn't even required, minimal licenses/permits/fees, or you run your business from home so there's no rent expense. Because you're selling skilled labor I'd say that's the number one thing to pay attention to. Any expense that reflects hourly payroll should be included under payroll expenses. This will tell you how much you need to charge in order to stay profitable. Also make note that if you incorporated your business then your salary or payroll would be included in the payroll expense. This financial statement would pertain more to someone who is a sole proprietor.  I did this because the owner (you) can opt out of required employee benefits which would change your payroll expenses in regards to actual payroll. I feel like this method represent payroll costs better for simplicity.

 

For example: Net Income goes down to  $14,750 and wages goes up to $160,000 to account for an $85,000 salary. 

Your total payroll costs are at 40%. This is a great percentage but if you can go under great. A huge part of this is your pricing, what you need to pay employees and employer benefits. I've found that when I have newer employees my payroll costs are low and as my crew gets more experience it can go up to 60%. While that’s getting expensive an experienced staff gives you more time to focus on growth and other things. If you're going up over 60% of revenue in payroll costs you need to make adjustments, quickly. Sometimes it doesn't mean raising prices. You could have inefficient employees, broken equipment, bad scheduling (drive time), or slow season (crew is doing shop work). You as the owner need to figure out what the issue is to get your associated payroll costs down. 

Now look at marketing. About 5% of revenue goes into marketing. This number can go up to 8-10% of revenue. If you're getting over 10% then your marketing probably isn't working. However, when you first start it’s fine to go up to 12-20% as you need to get your name out there and build your brand. It's a good idea to start digging deeper into your marketing efforts to see where your money is coming in from. Marketing does work but it needs to be clear and to the right audience. We'll get to more of this later in the marketing section. 

Now the rest of the numbers are smaller and will bounce a round a bunch. Some months you need a ton of supplies and then you’re good for awhile. So don't panic if you have 3% supplies for a statement. Try to keep an eye on this monthly as a reference guide and then a year end statement will really tell you how you did for the year. Things like "broken equipment" is great tool to go over with employees. You can set goals with these too. Do bonuses when payroll is under 50%, pizza parties when broken equipment or supply costs are low because employees are using them correctly. 

 

THE FIRST TRUCK

Now you got your first truck. It's on the road, it's branded, and you know your numbers. But you have no accounts or revenue. The first thing you should do is find recurring commercial accounts. The reason is, you've got fixed expenses. You pay them every month no matter what. So build a base to cover those. So in this example you have about $1,300 in fixed expenses every month. So you'll want to come up with $1,300 in monthly accounts to cover this. Keep in mind this can be quarterly accounts or another frequency. The goal is recurring, show up do the work and leave an invoice. For example I had an account that is $900 every quarter. That's counted for $300 per month. One problem. You didn't account for your variable expenses which are associated with income. In the example above your variable expense are about 50% of revenue. So now your $1,300 really needs to be 50% higher which is $1950. So goal # 1 is fixed expenses + 50% revenue (variable expenses minimizes ability to pay fixed expenses at 50%) = recurring route work goal.

 

$1,300fixed + $650variable (1,300X.5variable)= $1950 recurring route work goal

Setting this goal will give you a great start to your company and will cover your basic operating needs through the highs and lows of business, while also paying the associated variable expense to get the work done.   

 

THE SECOND TRUCK

Now you ad a second truck. This is the beauty of scale. Your first truck took care of all of your fixed costs. So guess what the second truck doesn't have? And the next 100. That's right, your fixed expenses are gone. However fixed costs can go up slightly as the business grows but not nearly as significantly as the original fixed costs. So run the same numbers for your second truck. 

Truck 1 brings in $1950 pays fixed expenses, pays variable expenses and has $0 in profit.

Truck 2 brings in $1950 pays no fixed expenses, pays variable expenses and has $975 in monthly profits. 

Route work also has your crew out in public places for marketing purposes. They get to see your brand, talk to crew, see the work and ask for a business cards. Obviously don't stop at $1950 per truck, continue to grow your route work. This is the kind of work that saves you in the business slumps, covers your expenses, and secure your finances. As your company grows you should have a salary for yourself that could be added into this expense, but you have to start somewhere. Keep in mind that if you’re doing the work, which you most likely will in the beginning, you’re getting paid for this in payroll costs (variable expense) even though you’re not showing profit on your first truck. 

As your company grows route work becomes an amazing base but can be a small portion of your work. Some companies really dislike route work or commercial accounts and that’s all some companies do. Try not to get caught up in that, you’re building a business and this is a key to your finances. If you’re doing all residential work and things slow down your still left with all your expenses and a crew who needs work. Route work is also easy to train employees on be it’s consistent and they should have a good timeline of when things need to be done.

 

I used the same math to look at all other jobs, every day. I ran trucks with two guys in them, sometimes three depending on other factors.

 

Lead Tech $22 per hour.

 

Assisting Tech $16 per hour.

 

The hourly rate for this truck is $38 per hour plus my variable expenses associated with it which was around 50% to include worker’s comp, liability insurance, and employer taxes. So the hourly rate of this truck was $57 per hour x hours worked. An 8 hour day would cost $456. This should include morning safety meetings, morning load up, job brief(s), drive time, paid breaks, setting up time, customer service, and end of day side work like unloading, stocking supplies, laundry, etc. So with this being said, how much should this truck bring in on an 8 hour day? Is $600 enough? Probably not considering you do still have other inconsistent variable expenses not easily tracked like gas, customer acquisition cost, supplies, etc. And that’s if everything goes good. What if something breaks or you have a call back? You could be at a break even quickly. Understand this basic math really helped me take the emotion out of pricing my jobs and gave me to confidence to walk away if I couldn’t make a safe profit. I can’t really tell you exactly what daily totals should be because there are a lot of factors but take this as a principal. If you’re not attracting the right employees with good pay then what kind of quality of work will you have? You need to keep your prices at a level that will provide your perfect employee a good job, while keeping your variable payroll expenses below 50% and having good margins for error while still profiting. If these numbers are too close then something as simple as a little traffic could eat up all your profit in a day. Your best customers will appreciate that you take the responsibility to provide a great service to them at a price that will keep your company profitable and in business. If someone doesn’t value a business while they’re here, then they won’t value them when they’re gone.

 

In the example above, I would want a truck like this to bring in $750-$1,000 per 8 hour day. This kept my company healthy financially without having employees rush to jeopardize safety and quality of work. When the day ended outside these numbers I would quickly step in to see if there was something we needed to fix.

 

The important thing to realize is that your expenses tell a story. It’s your responsibility to look at these regularly and know them, so when something isn’t right you can spot it immediately. The profit and loss above is just an example and can vary greatly on a lot of factors.

 

 

 

Balance Sheet

Now let’s talk about the balance sheet. The balance sheet basically measures your assets (something valuable you own), how much you owe aka liabilities (your debt on assets), your equity which is what’s paid off or liquid in the company. 

Assets = Liabilities + Owner’s Equity

So in real life you buy a truck for $20,000. You put $5,000 down on the truck and owe the bank $15,000. 

$20,000 (value of the truck) = $15,000 (what you ow the bank) + $5,000 (what you put down is your equity/ownership in the truck)

A balance sheet is always balanced. Meaning the two sides will always equal each other. To break down the three sections review the following:

 

Assets

Current Assets - Cash or an asset expected to be converted into cash within the year. For example accounts receivable (money owed to you), prepaid expenses, supplies, etc. 

Long-Term Assets - An asset that isn’t expected to turn into cash within a year. This could be real estate, vehicles, furniture, equipment etc. 

=

Liabilities

Current Liabilities - These are expenses due within a year. This could be credit cards, taxes, salaries, etc. 

Long-Term Liabilities - These are expenses that will be paid over a period longer than a year. Usually would be some sort of loan. 

+

Owner’s Equity

Owner’s Equity - the investment or total in actual ownership that the business owns. 

 

The balance sheet will help you manage your debts responsibly. Earlier we talked about building route work to cover your fixed expenses. You can apply the same principal to buying vehicles or large equipment with debt. If a new work vehicle will cost you $350 per month in payments then you could add this to your fixed expenses when building your route work to cover the cost of that vehicle. So a vehicle costing $350 in monthly payments would need $525 in monthly work to break even. If you can justify this then do it, and use your debt responsibly. If you can’t do this then maybe you need to adjust your financing to make your cashflow look better? You could put more down, longer terms, etc. Also consider the cost of not having good vehicles and being able to constantly get to jobs. The beauty of this is purchasing equipment like this is responsible and make sense from day one. Eventually these debts will be paid and that fixed payment will turn into an additional $350 in monthly profit. Use your balance sheet to manage when to borrow and when to pay off your debts.

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