“An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” “Give us this day our daily bread.” How many times have we heard sayings like that? That’s because those who are successful at business, sports, or life are usually those who can consistently practice the fundamentals. As the great motivational speaker Jim Rohm once said, “Some things you have to do every day. Eating seven apples on Saturday night, instead of one a day, just isn’t going to get the job done.” Truth is that in order to be a successful window cleaning business owner, you need to consistently practice the fundamentals of business. Just about any part of our business, marketing, hiring, production, sales, administration, could be improved with more consistency. Consistency is the oil that lubricates the gears of progress. It’s not good enough to be good sometimes; you have to be good all the time.
The house I live in was formerly owned by the family of a 2010 NFL rookie. Tim Masthay, the punter for the Green bay packers and former University of Kentucky standout, grew up running down the same stairs and raiding the same kitchen pantry that my own kids now do. Just six months ago Tim was working as a tutor for $10 per hour, after being cut from the Indianapolis Colts team because of a lack of consistency in his punting. Although I’m a pretty dedicated Redskins fan, I was saddened to read in our local paper that Masthay’s coaches at Green Bay were already thinking of cutting Tim after only four games because of a lack of consistency.
Last week after the Packer’s handed the NY Jets their helmets on a platter, head coach Mike McCarthy Talked about Tim’s punting and said “I can’t tell you how good this feels to say this, this is the finest punting performance I’ve — I’m not exaggerating, I’m not dramatic — the finest performance of that I’ve ever been a part of in all my years on both sides of the ball.” Wow! Way to go Tim! His spectacular, almost flawless game was called “the finest performance” a NFL Head Coach had ever seen. Pretty impressive stuff, if you ask me. The coach actually said that Tim’s performance made him want to cry, until he added “He just needs to do it every week now and we’ll be fine.”
What!? Every week? The coach wants his rookie punter to give the finest punting performance he’s ever seen, every week, every game, every time? The answer to that, my friend, is YES. Your customers (and employees) want your best performance every day, every job, every week, no matter what. That’s what peak performance is all about. For most of us the thought of consistently performing at a Hall of Fame level is overwhelming. It’s easy to get into the crisis management mode of returning calls, fixing trucks, paying bills, training people, ordering supplies, and countless other last minute “crisis” that prevent us from reaching that high level of performance that we all desire in our window cleaning operation. Probably the one thing that we can all do to improve the bottom line of our window cleaning business more than any other is to improve consistency.
Think about an inconsistent person. You know the one; he or she gets out of bed at a different time every day, doesn’t have any concrete plans for the month, week, or day, and refuses to commit to any because their life is “too chaotic.” They fly by the seat of their pants, spending every day putting out fires that would not even have flared up if they had taken care of them sooner rather than later. They start a new diet every month; join the latest multi-level-marketing craze every year, attend the best marketing seminars money can buy, purchase the latest technology, and on and on the list goes, but they progress very slowly if at all. What’s missing from these highly energetic, motivated business owners? Consistency. That’s right; simple and old school: grind it out every day, and practice the fundamentals, consistency.
Our customers don’t like it when our prices, processes, or personnel change all the time, and neither do our employees. In my recent round of hiring for the fall season I asked each prospective employee what was important to them in a company and without fail every one of them at least mentioned that they wanted a consistent workplace. So how’s your consistency? If you are the Rolex watch, Swiss chronometer of accuracy and bejeweled movement of business consistency, accurate to 1/100th of an operational second every year, go ahead and turn the page now, this won’t help you. But, if you could use some improvement here’s a few practical tips:
1. Don’t forget the fundamentals. Remember when you started your business and you placed a yard sign at every house that you did? Or how you presented every new customer with a refrigerator magnet? Now you look over in the corner of the garage or shop and the signs are sitting there with so much dust on them you can grow corn in it. People stop you and ask if you’re still cleaning windows, because never see your sign anymore, and you can’t remember where you ordered those magnets from but customers sure did like them. You probably still have a few in the glove box under the McDonalds condiments but you never give any out anymore. What happened? Well, like a lot of us, you got busy and neglected the very thing that got you busy: consistently applying the basics of business. If you think you might benefit from a immediate boost in business, go back and start doing those things you haven’t done in a while, you might find a gold mine right under your nose.
2. Narrow your focus. Problems in our business often arise from a lack of focus. When I started out, I was a window cleaner, that’s it. I then took on power washing at the request of a customer. A few months later, the city I live in solicited me for some building maintenance that included spraying weed killer, blowing off parking lots, and mowing the downtown area landscaping. Heck, they even contracted me once to clean up candy and paper along a parade route once. I found myself doing painting, changing light bulbs, fixing weather vanes, patching roofs and I was even asked to detail a few cars. Whoa, Nellie! I had to step back and remember why I called my business “window cleaning.” Yes, we still do power washing and gutter cleaning and, of course, sell Rain Flow leaf protection, but that’s it. It was, and still is, impossible to be consistent when offering every service under the sun. Truth is, you cannot hit your stride in business trying to be a “Jack of all Trades, master of none.” You just can’t deliver consistent quality by constantly expanding your list of things you are willing to do.
3. Use checklists and a calendar. This one seems simple, right? If it is, then why aren’t more business owners doing it? I was in business several years before I put together a checklist for my employees to use every morning before leaving the shop. The list includes things that seem obvious, but are easily overlooked, like “Is there enough gas in the truck?” We also now have one that has to filled out at the job site to cover quality issues. We also use checklists for employee hiring and training. We ask the same 10 questions to every prospective employee, fill out the same paperwork for every employee and train everybody with the same DVD’s and books. If you aren’t using checklists in your business give it a try, you might be surprised at how much less stress you have in your daily operation. You can also use the calendar to help with running a consistent operation.
You can also start eliminating crisis management with your calendar. Business is hard enough for the small to medium operator without adding to the stress by letting time just happen to you. In our business there are so many variables that we need to take control of those things we can. One way to do that is to plan ahead for every non-variable item on your to- do list. Do you pay bills every month? Plan one day and do all of them at the same time each month. Put a reminder on your calendar each month, quarter, or year and order your supplies. If you know that you will be ordering every quarter, you also know how much to buy. Plan your marketing campaign, service of your equipment, do your safety training, and plan for growth all by using the calendar. When you bring this kind of consistency to your organization, you make room for future growth.
So, as the New York Mets pitching great Tom Seaver said: “In baseball, my theory is to strive for consistency, not to worry about the numbers. If you dwell on statistics you get shortsighted, if you aim for consistency, the numbers will be there at the end.” Tom’s lesson is one that every window cleaning business owner could use: strive for consistency and the numbers will be there in the end.
By Steve Stevens
Sonlight Window Cleaning