Window Cleaning Business Growth Patterns

The 3 Stages of Window Cleaning Business Growth

There are three distinct stages of growth that will occur when growing a window washing business correctly.  Many new owners do not survive past stage one.  Other sophisticated entrepreneurs may enter the market but without a game-plan or experience, end up fumbling through the first few years and waste time and money.

The “Crockpot Business”

When starting a window cleaning business, you should have an idea of what to expect for growth.  It is important to know about possible growth patterns for the financial purpose of putting together a business plan.  In the first year, you can expect that you will NOT make a million dollars.  You can also expect that you will NOT lose a million dollars.  The business is a “crockpot business.”  It takes time to build your customer base.  The goal is to keep adding customers each and every season and retain as many as possible for future seasons.  If you are doing things correctly you should see quick growth due to word of mouth in addition to aggressive marketing efforts and sales tactics.

Stage 1 – Priming the Pump

Many naive new entrants tend to get stuck in stage one and some of those folks are content remaining in this stage.  Stage one consists of the development of a client base to the point of maxing out the owner’s time cleaning windows, performing estimates, and conducting sales & marketing activities.  Early on in this stage, it should involve intense marketing and sales activities.  There eventually comes a point down the line in which the owner is extremely busy just cleaning windows and making money.  Depending on the market, an owner/operator (one-man-show) can probably clean between $60,000 – $90,000 per year with minimal expense.  The profit margin of a business in this stage is typically much higher (80% – 90%) due to the fact that the owner is cleaning all of the windows himself/herself and is not leveraging their time in efficient ways.  At this stage of the game, the owner is working for money and basically has a very intense and rewarding job.

Stage 2 – Strategic Quick Growth or Bust

Stage two is characterized by real profit margins (20% – 30%) beginning to set in and growing pains.  It is very important to get through stage two as quickly as possible.  In contrast with stage one, stage two exhibits the struggle that the owner inevitably needs to endure as they attempt to stop cleaning windows and start leveraging others (employees) to grow the business.  The goal is to get the company operating with enough employees and workload to get back to the cash flow level that the owner had during stage one while they cleaned all of the windows himself/herself.  This takes approximately 3 – 4 full-time employees.  Sometimes the owner can get stuck in this stage and become frustrated with lower profit margins and the challenges of recruiting, management, and sales.  If the owner does not have a good sales plan and method of getting new clients, then it can be even more frustrating.  This is one of the reasons why there are so many one man operations in the industry.  Many give up and go back to cleaning windows.

Stage 3 – Established & Ready for Real Growth

Stage three becomes official when the window cleaning business owner has successfully separated himself/herself from the day to day work of the company.  The owner is now successfully operating with his/her time devoted to sales and management.  Stage three usually occurs around the $150,000 – $250,000 per year gross revenue level (depending on the owner’s personal financial requirements).  This is just the beginning of “real growth”.  Now that the company is established, the owner will have less daunting growing pains and will now be faced with adding vehicles and employees at a pace that is as fast as the owner can add work.  If the owner has not done so already, an office manager and/or call center may be needed.  Further down the road, as the business approaches the $400,000 to $600,000 in gross revenue, it becomes important to hire or promote a manager to assist with employee training & management, customer service, bids, and job-site management.  The fully developed stage 3 window cleaning company may have 1 – 3 field managers, an office manager, and a sales manager on board.

The Reality

The reality however, is that most window cleaners do not make it past stage two.  Whether it is due to the owner’s lack of business acumen or due to the lack of game-plan, advice, guidance, or support, there are very few stage three window cleaning companies in the marketplace.

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