In this interview, we chatted with Bobby from TRT Pressure Washing & Window Cleaning. Before starting his business 19 months ago, Bobby had been thinking about running a service business as a side-hustle, with the idea of eventually doing it full time. Life unexpectedly stepped in, however, and he lost his job. With this new-found freedom, a couple hundred bucks, and next month's rent needing to be paid, Bobby started a window cleaning business with his son. Since then, he's added pressure washing to his services, which is where most of his work comes from these days.
Bobby also has a YouTube channel where he talks about pressure washing, business, and more. And if running a business and creating videos for YouTube weren't enough, he also hosts a podcast, Journey of a New Entrepreneur, that details how he went from working for someone else to being his own boss with the goal of expanding his business.
You spent around $200 to get started. What were your initial expenses? If someone is starting their own window washing business, what would you recommend they invest in?
It's very simple—you're gonna need your basic squeegees, a pole or two, and a few different squeegee sizes to be able to do different window types. If you're one guy with a single pole, make it an 8-foot pole. A 12-foot pole will probably be overkill.
You need a bucket, of course, which you can get for like 4 bucks if you have to keep things cheap. You can also get one for $50 if you want. You're also going to need some basic microfiber towels for detailing out the edges of windows, and a T bar—you got the squeegee that takes the water off, and the T bar is the thing that puts the water on the window.
If you're going to do residential stuff, your most expensive thing is gonna be ladders. If you're going to do more than single story homes, you'll need a 24-foot extension ladder. At Lowe's or Home Depot, you can probably get one for 250 bucks. You can also buy one of those Little Giants, which is like $300. That allowed us to do stuff inside the home and get on top of a roof to get a window up there if we needed to.
You got the gear, and you kind of had an idea of how to price stuff. How did you get your first customer?
There are kind of two answers to that, because there were two types of customers. Our very first customers were storefront work. When I say storefront, it's basically strip malls and things like that. Restaurants and stuff. We do none of that now. We've 100% moved away from it.
With strip malls, it was easy. I just started walking in to places. Actually, I sold the very first one I went in to, and he's still the only one we do it for because he was my first guy, you know. I walked up to this Mexican restaurant, and I just so happened to find the owner. I said "I'm just going to shoot you straight, I found out I was losing my job and instead of standing on the street corner to beg, I've decided to open a window cleaning business. I want to know if I can clean your windows." He was like, "I love that", so he hired me, and he overpaid us. We still do his windows.
Then I just kept doing that—walking into businesses non-stop. At first, I was basically doing that for 8 hours a day because I had no work. Then if I went into a business and someone said, "Yeah, you can do it", I'd have my window cleaning supplies with me and I'd clean it real quick.
As far as residential work, the very first job we sold was a 20,000-square-foot mansion. It was the second or third week, and I actually sold this one by walking into a business. I went to downtown Orlando and tried to go into bigger buildings to try to get some bigger jobs.
I talked to one guy that said, "My boss just bought this big house. Do you do big houses?" I said "Oh yeah, as a matter of fact we specialize in high-end residentials."
We'd never even done one. So he's like, "Oh okay, how would you do the higher up windows?" I'd watched some YouTube videos, so I said, "Well, there's this RODI system with a telescoping pole," and he says, "Okay, sounds great." So, I met them on-site two days later. I had reached out to someone online and was like, "Man, can you help me quote this thing?" and he helped me quote it. It was actually a friend of a friend that has a window cleaning business back in Texas.
I knew how to sell, so I was able to sell myself and get the job. We did it, and it was like a $1700 or $1800 job, and it took us two-and-a-half days. When it was over, I asked him, "Well, would you like to get on a regular schedule? If you do it quarterly, we can do it for $1550 a quarter." And he said, "Yeah, let's do it," So we've been doing it quarterly ever since.
That's how I got the first house. But at first, it was basically cold-calling. All the work we got early on was cold-calling. Whether it was doing flyers or walking into businesses. We did very little door-knocking. We did a little bit of that early on and stopped because frankly we hated it and eventually moved to flyers.
When you got things off the ground and had some customers, at what point did you start experimenting with advertising and trying to get customers other ways?
We started doing some flyers in that first month, but then started doing them relatively heavily in probably month three. We were getting out 1,000 or 2,000 a month. We were using one of those lead generation web sites that helped us called Thumbtack. I don't use them today, but if you're an owner-operator starting up, things like that can be helpful.
We started in February, and we had our first $20,000 month in September. Through August and September we were using flyers, and in the second half of October we started doing some Adwords. Basically we've stopped doing flyers since then. We've done a couple batches of flyers since, but since October we've been doing Adwords for all practical purposes.
Do you typically have a slow season?
In Florida, the slow season is during the summer. We're kind of the opposite of the rest of the country. If you're anywhere but Florida, your season starts around March or maybe into April, and depending on where you're at, you're going to be shutting it down around November. March is super, super busy and you're going to get a bump in October and then it kind of slows from there.
For us, January is one of the slowest months and then May, June, July, and August are our slow months. November is actually the big month, so November for us would be like April for the rest of the country. Basically, it's because all the snowbirds and rich people that live everywhere else come down here for the winter, getting their homes ready for the holidays and winter stay. So October, November, and the first half of December is our big season.
From a business perspective, how do you deal with the slow season? Do you know it's going to be slow, so you put money back, or are your margins good enough that you don't have to consider it? Do you try to pickup any other different types of work that is maybe more geared toward getting you through the slow season?
This upcoming year I have to basically do two things, I think. We're in the process of hiring our third guy and then our fourth guy, and I want to have both of them before October. So I'm going to have to do a combination of making sure my staffing is where it needs to be, and making sure I have enough money put back for that slower season to help with payroll and stuff like that. I'll figure it out when I get there. I'll learn through some pain, and won't make that same mistake again and go from there.
How do you deal with customers who don't pay on time? Have you ran into that yet?
It's really not an issue for us because we're mostly residential. Payment gets taken the day of work. We will send people an email with the invoice if they're not home to pay, and I stay on top if it pretty well. So if someone hasn't paid within 36 hours, I'm sending them more emails, and it's really not an issue for us.
What would you say has been your biggest challenge over all with the business?
A couple of things. First off, just getting enough sales. Doing the work is the easy part. Sales are difficult. And the second challenge is trying to scale—trying to transition from doing the work to having people do it for me. I've got one truck, and now I'm looking at scaling to the next two trucks. Those are probably the most difficult things for me, just because there's that cashflow burden where I need the equipment, but I also need the money for marketing, and I also need the money for payroll.
Have you taken on any debt for the expenses you have, or have you considered that?
One regret I have is that basically a month into it, I bought some better window cleaning equipment, and I bought it on a lease—the kind you can't pay off early. That was a mistake. It wasn't a lot of money, it's not like it was going to sink me or anything like that, but I still regret it.
We did finance a truck. We have two trucks now—one we paid cash for, one we financed. I don't have a regret for financing the first truck, and I'm not sure if I'm going to finance it or not for the third truck.
What advice would you give to someone starting a business like yours, whether that's a service business in general or pressure washing/window cleaning in particular?
Don't spend more than 2% of your time on the technical things. I'm just going to use pressure washing and window cleaning as an example, but apply this to your industry and take this advice. Customers don't give a shit about what your gallons-per-minute are on a pressure washer. They don't care how fast the machine can get something done. The squeegees you use, whether you use a water-fed pole versus traditional—they don't care. All they care about is they have a problem and they want you to fix it. So with that, now you know you need to spend 98% of your time on marketing and sales.
There are four things you want to do when you start up.
1. You want to market, and your marketing early on is going to be handing out business cards at store fronts or flyers door-to-door.
2. You need to sell, which is the next progression once you hook someone and convince them to buy from you.
3. You need to do the job, so go out there and actually clean.
4. The fourth one which is everyone's favorite—cash the check and just do it again.
What would you say to someone that has a little trouble with the sales and marketing aspect? Is it a thing you just need to get out there and do to get better at it, or are there any books people can read or advice you can give?
First off, let's just say you're terrible at it. Let's say you're an introvert, you're not outgoing. Action beats inaction everyday. Even if you're terrible at it, numbers are your friend. So if you get in front of 100 people a day, just by numbers alone you're going to sell something. If you're bashful and shy and you can't look someone in the eye, someone's going to hire you just because they think it's cute or they feel bad for you or they respect your drive.
Second thing you gotta remember when you're selling is don't talk about what you do, talk about what they get. That kind of goes back to when I mentioned people don't care about gallons-per-minute or methods and stuff like that. All they care about is that it gets done. Every time. Focus on them, not you.
Since this isn't my greatest weakness, I don't have a list of a lot of resources out there, but I would like to recommend two of them, and they're actually by the same person. This guy gets a little bit of crap on some stuff, but these two books will help you. His name is Grant Cardone, and the first book is The 10X Rule. If you're not good at sales, trust me, read this book. It doesn't teach you how to sell, it teaches you how to win. The other one he has is called The Closer's Survival Guide, and it's helpful for someone that's not good at sales because it teaches you how to overcome obstacles and stuff like that.
We're grateful to Bobby for taking the time to tell us his story and for talking about how he runs his business. Folks in the Orlando area should check out his website if they need some pressure washing done. His YouTube channel and podcast are worth your time, too. They're both entertaining, fun, and informative for anyone looking to get into the pressure washing business or any other type of service business. Be sure to check 'em out.