How I Turned My Side Hustle Into $650K a Year Cleaning Business

Joining us today is Brian Winch, creator and founder of Cleanlots – America’s Simplest Business.

Since 1981, Brian has turned his side hustle into a thriving six-figure business over forty years.

Key statistics:

  • Gain: $53,000 per month
  • Founder: 1
  • Staff: 1
  • subtitles: 7
  • Started: 1981

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Meet Brian Winch

I’m Brian Winch, creator and founder of Cleanlots – America’s Simplest Business. I grew my business from a simple side hustle in 1981 to a six-figure business spanning over 40 years. I started with little money, no special skills and a high school education.

I was inspired by my father to start my business. He was a janitor who supplemented his income with a few part-time jobs.

He mowed the lawn in the summer months, cleared snow in the winter, and picked up litter outside a shopping plaza near our house.

When I was growing up, he would occasionally take me along to help him. I don’t know if I helped much when I was younger, but I certainly enjoyed the treats afterwards!

I was about 12-13 years old when he asked me to come with him to his parking lot litter pick-up gig.

We walked the exterior grounds and cleared all the litter from the sidewalks, parking lot, and surrounding landscape before the businesses opened in the morning.

We used simple hand tools, which made the job almost as easy to do as walking.

It only took us a few minutes more time than necessary to walk through the property. I couldn’t believe he was getting paid for this.

When I was considering side hustles as a way to start my own business, I thought about my dad’s pick-up time.

I was 21 and had a dead-end job at a major sporting goods company. I’ll be the first to admit that picking up litter isn’t glamorous.

But I really enjoyed working outside in the early morning hours. I felt satisfied when I saw the immediate results of my work and knew that I had made a positive impact on the environment in my community. People litter.

They always have and they always will. Someone has to clean up their mess, so I thought, why not me? Unfortunately, my father passed away unexpectedly at the age of 61, just as I was starting out.

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What is your litter removal company?

Litter removal is a year-round service that is best carried out on foot before businesses open so that any waste material on the premises is clearly visible from the outside and can be cleared away.

We use unique hand tools that allow us to clean up more litter in less time than with other tools. Our services are provided a minimum of 2 or 3 days a week to a maximum of 7 days a week, depending on the type of commercial development.

No electrical equipment is required as this is not a major service. We also replace the waste bags of waste containers in the common areas located on the sidewalks of stores. Anyone can clean.

We go even further by offering our customers a free reporting service. They are informed of any incidents of material damage, graffiti, burnt-out outdoor lighting or illegal dumping. My business is based at home.

How did you turn your side hustle into a six-figure business?

My intention in starting my business was to operate as a simple sole proprietorship for as long as possible.

The success forced me to hire more people to help with the clean-up efforts. I started getting requests from my clients to take over more properties.

I decided the easiest way to accommodate this was to outsource the work to other small cleaning companies.

You’d be surprised how many cleaning companies are looking for work. I have found them to be reliable and most importantly, they understand that the work must always be done on time.

Each subcontractor must sign a contract that I have drawn up before he or she starts working for me. It describes their legal and service obligations. This arrangement has made it possible to grow as much as anyone would like.

What tools and equipment do you use when cleaning up litter?

All you really need is a trash collection tool and a broom to sweep the material into it. I recommend a specific one in my book that I have been using for over 40 years.

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I suggest another as an alternative that can be found at Home Depot. My business model has proven successful in large part through the use of these tools.

I’ve seen many competitors struggle with grab tools, where you grab one item at a time, and with small lobby pans. They are either not thorough or spend too much time cleaning.

A reliable vehicle to get you from one job site to another is a necessity.

How do you arrange contracts with property managers?

It is quite easy to find prospects for your business. Do an online search for property management companies and minor variations thereof.

Once I’ve compiled a list of potential clients, I start calling them and asking who is responsible for picking up litter outside their properties. You need to develop a short elevator pitch.

Briefly introduce yourself and then mention one or two of the benefits your service can provide. Once you have received the decision maker’s name and contact details, send him/her an introductory email. You’re not trying to sell them anything.

Your goal is to obtain an address for one or two properties to provide an estimate for your service. I cannot emphasize this enough; sell the benefits of your service. How does my prospect benefit from my service?

Can you discuss the growth of your company over the past 40 years?

Once I determine my price (based on estimated time) while walking through the property, I email it to my potential client.

If they respond that my price is acceptable, I will forward them a formal contract proposal. I never start work on a new property before I have received a signed copy of my contract proposal.

Once I have started providing my service, I make it a point to communicate any issues or concerns with my client.

They would appreciate hearing from you about any cases of property damage, illegal dumping or graffiti. This is a great way to build a business relationship that builds trust and often results in more work for the same client.

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When I started in 1981, there was no internet yet. We had the telephone directory of the Golden Pages. You can look up any type of business and most likely it will be listed. Today you need to be where your prospects are.

Start with a Google Business Profile and LinkedIn company profile. These won’t cost you anything other than a little of your time. A simple website that uses relevant keywords should come next.

You could say that my company has grown organically over the past 40 years.

It has grown at a pace that I have been comfortable with, as a result of the systems I have put in place. I have focused on providing exceptional customer service and have been rewarded with many referral business.

I have simple but very effective profiles on Google and LinkedIn that drive traffic to my website. I’m not a salesperson.

I love what I do and can share how my service can benefit my prospects. I’m an introvert who likes to be an early riser and takes advantage of that.

Why did you decide to write “Cleanlots” and offer free support?

I wrote Cleanlots – America’s Simplest Business as my way of sharing these business opportunities with people who were like me when I started.

People with little money, no special skills and a high school education, but with passion, perseverance and patience, need an opportunity like this. They most likely couldn’t afford a high franchise fee, ongoing royalties, or a costly coaching program.

I offer free support as my way of giving back, but also to honor my father. He would be proud of how I turned his simple garbage collection job into a six-figure business spanning over 40 years.

What is your top piece of advice for starting a low-cost, service-oriented business?

Offer more than you promise. Do that little bit extra that makes you stand out in your customer’s mind. It’s the best investment you can make.

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