End of Summer, but hopefully not the end of your business

Hello, and welcome to the end of summer.

For many of you time is running out for you to make the main money of your season. But that does not have to be the case. I know this has been a very rough year so far. Every one’s business is down whether due to drought, high fuel costs, higher costs of everything else or just regular business that is just not there this year due to your customers not being able to afford your services.

Unfortunately some of our customers have had to take on second jobs or new more stable primary jobs and put their pressure washing business on the back burner or on hold to make ends met.

Here are some ideas to help you think outside the box to keep your PW business going in these lean times.

One problem when the economy slows down is that your customers slow down payment to you as well, especially true if you are doing monthly contract work instead of pay as you wash jobs.

One way around this to keep a good cash flow is to look at your contract jobs and see how much profit you have built into each one and then decide if giving a customer a prepay discount would benefit you and your cash flow. Say you are making $350 profit on a fleet wash job that you usually give NET 30 to but lately that has been becoming NET45 or worse. Wouldn’t it be worth say $50 for you to have the money in your hands sooner and for sure than worrying when you are going to get it, especially if you will have to spend extra time and money to get it later? So go to your customer and offer them a prepayment discount on their next job. Of course if they are already so behind in paying you on past work taking this money now may slow down the payment of the older money, but not always. This can also work with a split payment discounts. Say give them a certain amount or % off if they pay half up front and the rest stay NET 30, or give them a discount on the entire job for early payment such at 3% Net 10, or NET 15.

Also with so many small PW going out of business call on them to see if they would like to sell their contact list for a small fee or get a kick back from you for introductions to clients they are no longer going to service that turn into business for you. For instance if they have a customer that they were washing each month; they could introduce you to the customer, saving the customer the time and trouble to find a new and probably different PW then yourself, with the promise of when this customer uses you, you pay the old PW a one time set fee for the introduction. This one time cost will easily pay for itself in a few jobs with your new customer. I have seen this work with PW’s that are having to retire or go out of business for other reasons in the past.

This is why it is always a good idea to be friendly with the other good PW’s in your own area. Don’t treat them as an enemy that are out to get you and your business but as someone that can help you and back you up when needed. Just be sure they are as ethical and do good work like you do for your mutual benefit.

Join websites with other local and national PW’s. You can network sometimes to the point that if you need help on a job to get a bid they can even work with you like a subcontractor to get the job done. Or if one of you are too busy to do work for a customer that the other one can do the job, giving the other PW a referral fee. Some PW’s have been in business for so long and know the others in their area so well that they can swap customers or give referrals to each other without hesitation of monetary reward because they know they will be paid back later with a new job from someone else. EX: Some PW’s may specialize in commercial flat work and will hand off house washing to a friend knowing when the house washer gets has major flat work they will call on them or use them for that customers job.

As I mentioned in a previous session, even if you normally do private home jobs, go by local businesses that need washing or you have seen someone else clean in the past and leave your card. You never know if their old washer is one that just gave up the business and they will be needing someone new. Odds are they will at least call you for a quote if not the job and the more cards you have out there the greater your odds become. Also I will again mention that the bad housing market is a boon for a PW to create curb appeal. Visit Realtors and give them a stack of your cards as well. Even offer to wash their house for free for the referrals and thier testimonial.

I hope you all have a better last half or quarter of 2008.