Starting a $100/Hour Cleaning Business (See What it Takes)
- Do you wanna make a hundred dollars an hour? That is the standard rate for Peakwalker, a cleaning business that's so popular. They regularly have to turn away their customers. So stick around and find out how exactly the business got to this point. (upbeat music) On this episode, we'll be featuring Josh Raff, who is the owner of Peakwalker roof, gutter, and window cleaning.
He is an avid rock climber and this experience paved the way into starting this business. Also, he has worked in large cleaning businesses and notice they didn't prioritize customer service in which, he decided to change that by starting his company. Where does your expenses go the most you would say? - This year you know starting out it's gonna look like breaking over a hundred grand. I've been increasing my prices because I have so much work coming in. - Today, we're gonna catch Josh and action. Peakwalker has grown so quickly that Josh has stopped paying for advertising and still receives more job requests than what he can handle, and that is a great problem to have as a business owner.
Can you show me your current setup for your cleaning business? - So I spent some time getting this truck nice and a Built-out. - So by the end of this interview, you will understand first on how to start a cleaning business company. Secondly, how to build a reputation that will bring the customers back. And lastly, what Josh will do to take his business to the next level.
(upbeat music) - Hey everybody, this is Max Babshinskiy. I'm the new host and I'm very excited to join the Upflip team. So let's get into the interview.
- Hey! - Hello, Josh. Nice to meet you brother. - Nice good to meet you. - So with the first question Josh, tell me about yourself as the owner of the Peakwalker cleaning business. and how did you transition from working for a company to now working for yourself? - I was kind of halfway forced into it by finding out I was more or less unemployable. And I thought I kind of come across the lucky break when I got hired to be a lead technician for a company doing this work setting up here.
And they were from out of state and they wanted to get developed in Oregon. And there's just like a lot of half hazard procedures within the company. And I just gotten back in California I got my skydiving license. So after exercise and that kind of like competency for like a week straight. - Yes. - I just realized I could probably do this better on my own than these pile of idiots.
So I ended up taking out the expenses for the initial startup and here we are. - Awesome. (upbeat music) - How do you decide on the price estimates and also you charge hourly or is it a flat rate, how does that work? - It's a flat rate. The estimates are based off of mostly square footage to begin with - Okay. - And then - Roof type, window type, the pitch of the roof, how difficult it's gonna be to set up a rigging system to work safely on it.
Other little variables like for example this roof here has a porch roof on the front end the back. - [Max] Yeah. - [Josh] So, and that situation that expands the actual square footage of roof that's gonna have to be addressed. There are other things like balconies, if the neighbors are super close, I ended up having to clean their properties off from any over-spray. - [Max] Yeah. - [Josh] In this case, the neighbors are a good distance away.
So this is a good scenario, but yeah it comes down to square footage, roof type, and the pitch of the roof mostly. (electronic music) - I'm guessing the equipment is important part of this business. - Yes. - And so when you buy equipment you mostly buy use or you buy new equipment. How does that work? - Well, there's some things that I probably just wouldn't want to buy used.
You know, the harness, for example that's kind of something I want to know who's had it before or what it's been exposed to, you know make sure it's not been used in ways that shouldn't have been that might compromise its ability to, you know do the fall protection that it's supposed to. It all really just depends on how much of a headache you want to deal with. If you want to buy a used pressure washer, it's just like you know, anytime you buy a used engine, you know you don't know this person really keep up with the oil changes. Did they do something to it that really, it was hard on it.
And I personally bought most everything new except for the truck, obviously. - Okay. - The way I sort of reasoned around that was I could spend a little bit more upfront for something new and probably make it back, you know in a matter of months or I could go on the cheap and buy something used and then end up at a job where it breaks on me.
And now not only do I have to buy something new but also this job I'm losing money on because it wasn't bid for me to go run and grab a new pressure washer or something like that, so. (upbeat music) - So when it came to advertising, what would you say was the best method to attract new customers and new clients? - The pay-per-click ad? - Okay. - services. made the most sense to me. when I first started, I looked at everything and you know, I created an account with everybody.
I won't name names, but there's a lot of these services out there that offer you a means to make a business profile and then you'll get referrals through them. And basically the way it worked out was you pay several hundred dollars a month. - Okay.
- For a minimum of six months. - Okay. - And they have no guarantee or even way to show you the metrics as to whether or not you're reaching anybody on top of that, you had to offer a discount for your services to advertise to their customers.
- Now you compare that to the service providers that offer pay-per-click ads, I can set a budget, I can see exactly how many people were looking at the ad versus how many clicked it. And once I hit my budget then no more money is gonna be spent meaning that it's really easy to gauge how effective it is. And also it's very safe for spending the money but when just starting out, it just made no sense to me to pay a subscription fee to a service that doesn't have any transparency as to whether or not the money you've given them is weeding to you making money. (electrical music) - Okay Josh, so I see a rope coming down from the roof, I see your truck. What exactly is going on here? - You know, whenever a roof is too steep that you can't stand up on it, you should be roped up but regardless OSHA law requires that you be roped up for anytime you're working on a roof.
So you got to set up some sort of rigging fall protection. - Okay. - I have techniques that are adopted from you know, tree work and a bit of rock climbing that allow me to do ground-based anchor systems. Like for example, to my truck here I have ways to set up fall protection that if I were to fall off a roof, I wouldn't hit the ground. - And then I have a shock absorbing lanyard and that'll prevent the static line you know, putting all the shock into my spine.
- Yes, yes. - So what I'm doing now is just rigging that to work this route safely. ( upbeat music) - So Josh, what's your annual income per year you would say. - This year, you know, starting out it's going to look like breaking over a hundred grand. - A hundred grand. - Yeah. - And so what would you say For example, - Over a hundred grand.
- Oh over a hundred okay. So someone just starting this cleaning business company, would you say is it possible the same year to achieve this annual income, or does it take time year or like, is it possible? - I don't know, I moved here from Kentucky and I don't think you're making this kind of money on that side of the country. You know, the minimum wage is higher over here in the Pacific Northwest. There's a lot of fields that pay better here. So, you know, yeah. If you're in this area on the I five corridor where range issue, maybe you can but I don't think I could charge what I charged for these services the same back home.
- Hey everyone, sorry for interrupting. But if you decided that cleaning business is not for you, it's okay it's not for everyone, but if you're interested in starting a business and need a business loan, you're in the right place. As you could check out upflip.com/business loans
which you'll be able to receive the best loan offers. And secondly, checking the rates will not affect your credit score. So let's get back into the interview. (upbeat music) - So Josh, when it comes to the cleaning business what would you say, where does your expenses go the most you would say. - Pretty much just gas and moss treatment right now.
- Gas and moss treatment. - I'm not paying anything for advertising. - Yes.
- And as far as the equipment I use on a daily basis, you know, ropes will wear out, prospects will wear out those need to be replaced. You know, depending on use once a year every six months, regular monthly expenses it's just gas in the Moss treatment you know. - So how much would you just say right now being as a one man team. How much does it cost you a month on these expenses? - I don't know, I can break open QuickBooks right now. - No, like an estimate. Like throw a number right now. - Yeah, I guess with the brushes that I use to remove them off those were down.
And so it seems about every month I spend anywhere from you know, three to $500. - Three to $500. Oh it's not bad. - It's not a lot of overhead.
(upbeat music) - So Josh, can you show me your current setup for your cleaning business? - Sure, I got four ladders, various sizes that I found gets your bag anywhere you need to get on residential. They're all accessorized with leg levelers, stabilizer bars. That's important that, you know you have the safest setup that doesn't do any damage to the property.
I think altogether, those added up with the accessories somewhere around like $600. - $600? - Yeah, you can see that organization is pretty important to me. So I spent some time getting this truck nice and built out to fit everything stays where I put it last and it's easy to access and I don't have to go rifling through things pressure washer here. One of the things that saved me an immense amount of time is before I was willing to staying out on board ramps. Now I've got it set in here with a hose reel. - Oh nice.
- This thing was well worth it. It was kind of a pain to mountainside there. - How much did it cost this? - Ah, the reel was somewhere in the range of like one $150 to $200. - Okay. Worth it (inaudible) - I shopped around for the right one, I'm kind of like an Uber dork when it comes to reading reviews and stuff and making sure I'm not spending money on a subpar product but this was so worth it because you know this whole it's 200 feet of hose. I really want to use a pressure washer for distributing treatment using the soap nozzle on the roofs and cleaning up after like, for example if I splatter anything on the gutters - Yes.
- Or the softener that you use on a property like this then I'm not guaranteed that the hose pressure from the regular house tap is even going to reach there. - Yeah - So I've got a nozzle that will shoot a stream, you know up to 40 feet and it just makes it makes cleanup a breeze. And I don't have to go through the hassle of wheeling that thing out to the ground. I can just park the truck close enough that I hook up the garden hose. And then the hose reel allows me to just pull, spray wrap it back up and I'm out of there.
(upbeat music) - Do you mostly do commercial or residential? It was just cleaning, cleaning business. - Yeah. Residential, for sure. - Okay. - It's easier to adjust the profit margin or I should say it's easier to constrain it, meaning that if a job is under bid, then you'll probably make it back in the next ones. - Okay. - and you won't be stuck there for days.
Whereas if you do a commercial property, that's like you know, 6,000 square feet and you don't really nail that bid, you'll feel the pain a lot more. - Yes - And I, I took a couple of like warehouse jobs and stuff and it's just kind of hard to gauge exactly what the scope of the work is going to be. There was one where I was just running football field of links along this roof of the blower, just getting all the leaf debris off of it. And, you know, I made a good price on it or whatever but it's just a lot easier to gauge the, how long a job is going to take and what the profit margin is going to be. - Yes. - when you're doing just the homes.
( upbeat music ) - Okay Josh so you have no employees yet, right? - No employees at this time no. - Well you're planning on expanding the business rights and employees and later on in the future. - Yeah, it seems kind of like an inevitability because I'm getting to the point where I spend so much time having to respond to quote request that I don't have the space in the schedule still. It's kind of like I'm handicapping my own company in a way right now, just 'cause I don't have the infrastructure and the employees to take it all on 'cause here's the thing when things go right, that's not always the blessing that you thought it was going to be.
Like in my situation where I didn't expect to have as much work coming my way as I did. And then it's very easy to burn out. So you add one other person on that and things go right, well now you probably need to have an office personnel to handle the double the workload of scheduling and stuff like that.
And it's going to be like one of those wool, you know those little marble machines, you send a marble down and it all just starts happening. That's what I want it to be because I came really close to burnout during this COVID season with all the work that came through. And it really taught me a valuable lesson about knowing how to regulate how much you work. I didn't realize this, but when you own the company you can work in ways where you don't consider yourself as working. You know, you can be sitting there responding to emails at 8:00 PM because they came in because you didn't put the discipline in place to say I'm only going to respond to emails from this hour of the day, to this hour of the day.
- Okay. (upbeat music) - So Josh, What would you say, what are some ideas you would offer to those who are watching, who are planning on starting a cleaning cleaning business? - I would probably work for somebody else first. - [Max] Okay. - And make your mistakes, you know, learn from doing without it being your reputation and your money on the line. - Okay.
- Not to say that I think you know, you should do a bad job working for someone else, but I think you should really get some experience under your belt and know what doing before you go and present yourself as a one man show. So even if you haven't done this work per say having experience - Yes. - With ropes and ladders and hand tools is probably a good thing to get before you just jump into something on your own. There's a lot of this that doesn't necessarily take specialized training, but there's a cumulative knowledge you get that's only gleaned from being on the job. - Yes - And that becomes really valuable, specific knowledge.
- So basically first to get comfortable with all the things before you move on to kind of build a foundation before moving on type of thing. - Yeah, and you know, be humble and willing to learn for a period before you try and go and play the expert in the field. (upbeat music) - So underneath that says the setup for my Diana's water cleaning system. So this right here, this brush head that's boar's hair.
Did you ever think Boar's hair is best for cleaning windows? - Never would guessed. - Yeah, it was a surprise too. - Nice, nice. - Italians. So this thing right here it feeds water is this quarter inch hose that I run through a filter that has a resin.
So you run the hose, tap through that, and the water that comes up the other side which you can test this with the parts per million meter. - Yeah. - It has no mineral content in it at that point.
I'm assuming it's usually calcium deposits that we the sort of white milkiness it's on your shower. All that gets bound up to the ionic resin. And then this right here this is the carbon fiber extension pole.
And it can extend to something like 35 feet - This one running at 35 feet. - Yeah so what this does is in certain situations when you have windows that clean up pretty easily you can run the water through that hose attached to this pole, connected to the brush. And whereas you would have to set up a ladder, you know to get some of these windows up here, Now you can just get it from the ground the brush is renting the whole time that you're using the abrasive qualities of the bristles and then you rinse off the windows. (upbeat music) - So Josh, when it comes to hiring what exact characteristics are you looking for? - Hiring people? You know, it's interesting 'cause on one hand, I'm looking for someone that has some degree of creativity because problem solving is probably the most important aspect of finding a good employee.
Not every house is the same after doing this job long enough, it can kind of feel like Groundhog day but you'll come across properties more often than not, that have little strange quirks about them that require an adjustment and the usual methods that are used. So I don't necessarily want to hire somebody like me. I want to hire somebody that they enjoy the improvisation that is required job to job, but they don't necessarily want to take in the full scope of the business. You know, the advertising side of things or the scheduling or the communicating with customers and explain the services. They just kind of want to do the work, but at the same time, they can't be someone who is so bound by formula and procedure that they're help less to work on their own on certain jobs.
(upbeat music) - So most of your customers are recurring customers, right? Are they mostly just new customers or are they most the same was just coming back to kind of touch up in saying? - Right now, most of the customers are new customers. - New customers, okay. - I'm building up the recurring customer slowly. I don't like to sell people on stuff they don't need. And a lot of them are condensed to the busiest seasons too.
- [Max] Okay - So all lot of the work I take in is still new customers and I've been increasing my prices because I have so much work coming in. That that is one way of filtering out what jobs I take, so there might be a little bit of a restructuring where if the new baseline for prices, if the people sign up for the recurring services don't meet that margin anymore. And they're not willing to pay the higher rate, then maybe some of those will get dropped off - Okay.
- And new ones will come in, but we'll see. (upbeat music) - So like I'm really curious on how big you want your team to be like, is there a number like, how do you plan on building this team and like what specific number? What areas like, how would that look like? - Man, max some days my mind is like franchise go down the entire I five corridor, go huge man, beat shine to span out nationally. And then another part of me is thinking, you know part of the problem with labor based businesses incentive how do you get somebody to wanna stick with it for the long haul? Or how do you be honest about people's situation? How many people, you know when they were on elementary school and said I want to clean windows and gutters, you know. People end up where they end up in our society. Not always because they wanted to be there.
So part of me thinks that to live with myself as a boss I have to acknowledge the reality of why people are working for me. - Okay. - And if it's a means to an end that could be something better than what they're currently doing, as a leader I want to put protocols in place to get them thinking about that. Hey, how long do you want to be here? Where would you like to end up at the end of this? Have you ever thought about that? No, okay let's think about it. Did you come up with something? Okay, can we put together a plan for how to get there or, hey, I like working at doors, I like working with my body, this is it for me, but you know, by the time I'm 50 I'm not going to be able to go as fast as I was when I was 20.
So how can I set up a system where they can take on additional leadership responsibilities and maybe not necessarily be working at the revenue based hustle they were before. Maybe if they're willing to relocate they can be a decentralized command over a separate area far from where the company was started. That's all the sort of stuff that you can be idealistic and you can strategize all day, but the reality is a logistical problem that you can only learn from experience. - So coming to the end, the one thing that stood out speaking with Josh is that safety always comes number one. Thank you all for watching, don't forget to subscribe and hit the like button. See you all next time.