This article has been a long time coming. I am prepared to hear from many companies how I am wrong or overly opinionated. The sad truth is this needs to be said.
Why are you considering this industry? Is it because you knew someone who did it? Is it because you found someone on YouTube that said “you can get rich quick”? Or is it just because you have been told this is an easy business with high profit margins?
Regardless of what the reason is, you need to understand that self control is extremely critical when starting your new business. I have many subjects I could tie to this, but I am mainly going to go over 1 major topic. The topic is STOP BLOWING MONEY ON EQUIPMENT YOU DON’T NEED!
When I began this industry as a contract cleaner in 2015, I did not understand much about this industry, or business in general. I had limited money to start up. I did NOT take out a loan. Why? Because I had no customers.
Why does a “sane” person think it is logical to spend $35,000 on a pressure washer rig when they have no customers, systems, field experience or business ownership experience? It is simple, because they are being told it is the sane thing to do. You will also hear “go big or go home”. This is not the correct mindset if you are considering this business with no “outline”. An “outline” is an easy way of saying “having my stuff in order”.
We are going to do an exercise. I am going to give you a circumstance and I want you to best choose the answer that suits you.
- I want to wash on the weekends for supplemental income.
- I want to feel out the pressure washing industry to see if it is right for me.
- I was told I can make a lot of money in this industry and I am ready to finance.
- I did some research on the pressure washer industry and came to multiple conclusions and I want to verify if A B C D E F G H I J K L are true, and if they are I am looking at possibly buying my first pressure washer and proceed.
- I want to work for myself and replace my job with one that gives me more freedom.
- I want to create a business that employs 1 to 2 guys that can perform the work while I sell and develop better systems.
- I want to create a large company with 3 or more trucks and dominate my city.
- I have a contract pending that is forcing me to buy equipment and I need it as soon as possible.
- I have a large client base and am ready to convert my customers with my current business to my new pressure washing business (this is common in the landscaping or carpet cleaning industry).
- I currently pressure wash, but I want to change the type of work I do (most commonly people will transition out of residential washing to commercial washing).
This covers about 95% of the people who begin a pressure washer business. Some of these you may read and say “wow, that is absurd”. No, I hear this frequently when someone is inquiring about getting new equipment.
Many people will not be genuine when giving expectations of this business. And this is why I felt compelled to write this article.
Let’s break down each of these 10 reasons to start a business to paint a painfully accurate picture for you.
I want to wash on the weekends for supplemental income.
This is a pretty common reason for people to begin. This was in fact my reason for beginning. I had a full time career as a police officer with 3 days off a week and I wanted to make additional income that didn’t involve me having to work overtime at the police department. This is very common for firefighters, police officers, oilfield workers and plant/refinery workers. Why? Because many of these professions work “shift work”. Many of these professions work 10 to 24 hours a day, with a lot of extra days off. Many firefighters work a 24 hour shift twice a week and many times have 5 full days off a week. That would seem like a lot of offtime for someone who wants to get out of the house.
This is what I consider the safest way to begin a business if you want to have a low risk operation. But keep in mind when you do this, your business will grow at a slower pace. What makes this a safer option is that you can afford to live (hopefully) off your full time jobs income. With that being said, it makes it easier to reinvest into your company instead of paying yourself a large sum of your profits. In my situation I actually didn’t quit the police department until it cost me money to work there. When I realized it cost me more than $65,000 a year to work at the police department making $65,000 a year, it was time to go full swing into my company.
I want to feel out the pressure washing industry to see if it is right for me.
This is also a common statement that we see coming into our store. When someone says this to us, what it tells me is that they are looking for a change in their life and they want to see if this business is right for them. Many companies will convince you this is what you need to do in order to make money. The reality is you can begin selling bathroom remodeling or roofing work, it doesn’t have to be pressure washing. If your market is oversaturated, you may not want to begin in this industry. And that is OK.
If you feel that this best describes you, we recommend starting small with a budget of no more than $3000 and get a small 4 or 5 GPM cart with a smaller surface cleaner (16 to 21 inch range).
Why do we recommend this? Because if you find out in 6 months this industry sucks and isn’t right for you, you are only out $3000 instead of $35,000. And what else is good about this? You have a great pressure washer system to use for your home for many years to come and can also wash your neighbors properties (and much faster than they can). So you don’t really lose with this option that we aggressively recommend to people unsure about this business.
If I sell you a trailer with 2 hot water pressure washers on a large trailer and you finance this project, what happens if you decide this isn’t for you? You now have a huge financial liability in your hands.
If you grow fast and make a lot of money in your first 9 months? GREAT! Let’s get you a $35,000 trailer now that you have a client base and systems. But don’t spend all of your money (or credit with money you don’t have) when you are not sure this is the right path for you.
I was told I can make a lot of money in this industry and I am ready to finance.
This is not really something we saw a lot of until 2020 after the COVID-19 quarantine bonanza. What we saw were many people losing their jobs and becoming hopeless. Seeing grown men lose a sense of themselves because of a not so ordinary crisis is not something we ever predicted would happen. Because of this sense of hopelessness, we have seen an increase of desperation. Anyone who has been in business for over a year can tell you, desperation has no place with a business owner.
We have a serious problem that has become a plague in our industry. I have seen countless videos on YouTube that explain to the viewers that “this is an easy business to get rich quick in”. This is very far from the truth. Like any business, this is a business. To some readers that may sound like a stupid statement. Let me repeat that real fast. Like any business, this is a business.
You need to have a business plan. You need to have a strong marketing plan backed with a great product. Many guys are financing equipment they cannot afford, which helps having the great product. But if you have no marketing plan, you have no plan at all. If you don’t find customers (or allow customers to find you), you will go out of business very fast and have your expensive rig for sale in no time (Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace are a great place to look).
If you look up Facebook Marketplace and find 10 different pressure washer trailers listed within the last 7 days in your market area - you may not want to start a pressure washer business.
I did some research on the pressure washer industry and came to multiple conclusions and I want to verify if A B C D E F G H I J K L are true, and if they are I am looking at possibly buying my first pressure washer and proceed.
This is a funny one that we see from time to time. A popular quote for this one is “analysis paralysis”. A person will have so many questions and perform so much research to in the end never make a decision. This isn’t rocket science, it is just pressure washing. Find out if you have a strong market and find out what exactly it is you want to do. It is that simple. If you want to just wash trucks, then research the trucking industry and your area's “market share”. If you are in an area that has only 1 fleet washing company but there are over 50 fleets in your 20 mile radius, you may have just found a winner. If you are in Houston (we are notoriously known for having an oversaturated market) and want to begin washing parking lots with an expectation of getting 20 cents a square foot on every job, you will want to consider something outside of a concrete cleaning company.
So if this fits you - stop being an engineer and over analyzing. Make a decision, quit wasting your time and quit wasting vendors time. It shouldn’t take someone 13 months to pull the trigger and begin washing. But we have had people who have taken that long to make a decision.
Time is something you will never get back. If it takes you 13 months to decide if you want to power wash as your primary business, you may not want to own a business. Owning a business does require the ability to make decisions quickly and under pressure. This mindset creates a lot of roadblocks as a business owner and although may still be successful, will struggle with minor tasks and over complicating them. If this article offends you and this describes you, you may continue reading and thank me later. As a business owner we have no business being offended. Our obligation is to make sure our employees are taken care of. We can’t take care of our employees if we waste energy getting offended.
I want to work for myself and replace my job with one that gives me more freedom.
This is a category many people fall under and is a rational reason to want to start a business. But if you believe by starting a business and buying a rig you are automatically granted this freedom, you are wrong.
This freedom doesn’t exist until you have an established business model. You have no freedom until you are off the wand yourself. If you are quitting your job with the expectation of working 40 hours a week for your company that you are starting, you will struggle to create a strong company.
In this situation I encourage you to start small and do this on off days. This is what I did myself. Once you realize the steady paycheck and benefits from your job make no sense, THAT IS WHEN YOU QUIT YOUR JOB!
I want to create a business that employs 1 to 2 guys that can perform the work while I sell and develop better systems.
This is a very modest and reasonable expectation from this industry. Whether you are in a saturated Houston / Florida market or in Boise Idaho, this is a business model anyone can accomplish with their market. This doesn’t mean that the residential cleaning market is the answer for you in any market. But when we say Boise Idaho and a business, it means there are enough trucking companies, restaurants and residential as a whole to sustain several companies in a mid-sized city in a secluded area.
You will be surprised how much work there is in a geographical area, even for a rural town hours away from a major city.
The best way to make this system work is to begin washing yourself and become a good sales person. Once you are at a point where you are washing 20-30 hours a week you need to find someone to wash for you. Once you find someone to wash for you, you will find that it is easier to acquire jobs since you can shift your focus to marketing instead of performing the actual work. This is the point where you transition from an owner operator to a “business”.
Are you a business when you are an owner operator? Absolutely! Will someone want to buy your business as an owner operator and pay a premium? Probably not.
Develop systems as you grow. I made the mistake of growing TOO FAST and I had too much work with not enough people and not enough systems in place to facilitate the work in an organized manner.
What is a system?
Go to a mom and pop restaurant where there is a stack of receipts that someone has to count through with a calculator at the end of the day to find out what gross revenue was. This is a common problem with especially older mom and pop restaurants and stores.
Then go to McDonalds and place an order with a computer to get your food twice as fast with 0 mistakes. That is because they have a well thought out system.
Because of the lack of systems and organization with the mom and pop, they generally have a higher operational cost which prevents them from growing. Some companies are content with this process, some companies want to have 10 restaurants by the end of next year. If you want 10 restaurants, you need to develop systems and efficiency.
I want to create a large company with 3 or more trucks and dominate my city.
This is the kind of statement that gets me FIRED UP! But at the same time we have to establish reasonable expectations. If you are in rural USA with no large cities nearby this may become a hard business model to produce. If you are in a city like Houston or Dallas it is very much possible to have a cleaning company with 10 or more trucks and have them busy every single day.
When you decide you want to do this business model you need to realize you need a large amount of money starting to make this possible. You will need to have consistent and constant marketing to make this business model a reality. I don’t have a lot of advice to give on this particular scenario because I have not grown a cleaning company this large, and I have only serviced these companies as a vendor.
What I do know is if you want to have a company like this, you need to be strategic and intentional about what you do with your company. It is not uncommon to add other services to make this possible. If you want a large cleaning company with 3 or more trucks it would be important to have an add on service like parking lot striping. As a fleet washing company you would want to have interior cab cleaning as an add on service if you want to acquire larger fleets like Central Transport or Coca-Cola.
I have a contract pending that is forcing me to buy equipment and I need it as soon as possible.
This is one of the only circumstances that I firmly believe financing equipment is necessary. If you are already on contract and you need this equipment right now, finance it so you aren’t tying up your money on the equipment and pay the loan off through your contract. Outside of this reason, I don’t recommend financing equipment (unless you want to build business credit, which is a great direction to go in that case).
Don’t be the guy who has analysis paralysis and ends up here. We have had companies with a pending contract on the 1st of April and are inquiring about buying equipment on or about March 25th. Needing custom equipment made in 5 business days(and asking for a discount) is an unreasonable expectation and it likely won’t be met by any vendor including myself. Make up your damn mind and get the equipment prior to your contract beginning so that you AND your customer are not in a bind.
I have a large client base and am ready to convert my customers with my current business to my new pressure washing business (this is common in the landscaping or carpet cleaning industry).
I love these walk-ins because they don’t need to read this blog.
I currently pressure wash, but I want to change the type of work I do (most commonly people will transition out of residential washing to commercial washing).
This is a very common thing we see. A person will buy equipment to wash residential and purchase a cold water 8 GPM power washer with a soft wash system. After a year they will discover residential is a turbulent business and may want to add commercial or fleet washing services.
This is one of those “never say never”.
I “never” would wash a garbage truck, until I washed a garbage truck.
If an opportunity arises that is out of the norm like washing a bunch of frac tanks for an oil company, you may find yourself changing how you do business. It is OK to change directions if the direction you went isn’t working for your business.
Just keep in mind if your business card has a picture of a stick figure power washing a 1 story house, you may want to change your branding to something else. In fact, like I have said before “Your logo can be a damn square, just like how Target uses a red butthole”. It doesn’t need to be extremely detailed, people just need to know that square represents YOU! If you begin branding with something generic, it is easy to reproduce on shirts and hats. It is also universal branding that you won’t need to change every time you decide to add a new service.
I am concluding this with a message, I want to see you and everyone around you succeed. If washing isn’t for you, I’d like to see you be successful somewhere else.
Did you know it is ok to be an employee? I was one for 20 years and it definitely has its benefits. There is also a lot of stress a business owner has that an employee will never have to experience. There are also times being a business owner you MAY work 80 hours a week and somehow come up with -3500$ profit for that same week. That is the stuff people don’t tell you when you begin a business. Or when you begin fleet washing you have to wait 60 days to get paid, by the time you are paid your first $1500 dollars, you are out 12,000$ washing for 2 solid months with no pay. Can you afford to be out 12,000$ and continue working with no revenue coming in because you are at the mercy of a net 60 term from a billion dollar enterprise that doesn’t care if you stay in business or not? They net 60 you to see if you CAN survive and CAN fulfill their contract. If you don’t keep cleaning (because you can’t afford to) they can waive the contract and make it harder for you to get paid for the work you have already done and put you in a serious bind.
Do you plan on renting a lift to wash a large building for 3000$, paying a crew 4500$, spending 1000$ on fuel and soap for this job that will pay you $14,500 in 90 days? This is a harsh reality. Being out 5 to 10 thousand dollars is not uncommon in our industry when you get into the commercial game and wait to get paid. Many of these companies are looking for reasons to NOT PAY YOU. This is part of their procurements business model (unwritten policy of course).
Am I trying to scare you? No.
I am giving you reasonable expectations that many people don't want to tell you.
Just because you are researching how to start a power washing business doesn’t mean YOU HAVE TO GET INTO THE POWER WASHING BUSINESS!
A true statement not also saying everyone, and their brother will try to sell you something else to make your business run better, a hard business to start and always remember the other guy will undercut you to get the job. If you think the money is yours after very job don’t do this business