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I Just Sold My First Business. Case Study + What To Do Next?

FillyCheez

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Dec 11, 2016
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Hey guys,

I just wrapped up a 4 year process of starting and running a residential window cleaning company. A quick overview of how it all went:

  1. A friend of a friend introduced me to @GravyBoat, who introduced me to window/gutter cleaning. I quit my job and went for it.
  2. I started the business in Dallas. I spent a few months learning the trade from someone else, then moved to LA early 2021.
  3. At its height, the business did just shy of $250k a year in revenue, with the highest month being $40k.
  4. As of April of this year, I decided I didn't want to run the business anymore. I didn't see any other way to grow it, and I felt like I was spinning my wheels.
  5. I sold it to a competitor on an earn-out basis. All in, I'll receive somewhere around $100k for the business.

Things That Went Well
  • I'm really proud of the service the team delivered. Customers loved our service
  • I'm proud of the team environment I built. The guys loved working at the company, and I loved working with them.
  • Our systems were top tier. By the time I sold the business, I spent less than an hour a day on operations, if that. Towards the end, the only thing I focused on was trying to figure out marketing.
  • I acquired a couple of competitors in really creative ways, with no money down. These ended up being about half of my revenue by the time I sold the business.
  • I learned a whole lot about business
  • I learned to manage the emotional rollercoaster of entrepreneurship a lot better.

What Did Not Go So Well/Lessons Learned
  • Marketing was by far the biggest challenge. All of the other challenges in the business could have been dealt with if revenue/marketing was consistent
    • I tried a few different marketing channels, but a lot of the go-to digital platforms were difficult to get ROI on. All the top PPC agencies that I spoke to refused to do business in LA, because they thought the ROI wasn't there compared to all the other national markets they worked in. I was advised that other markets would get a 8-10x ROI on ads, while LA would be lucky to get 2-3x, which wouldn't work with our margins.
    • I eventually settled on door-to-door sales as the only way to grow the business moving forward. D2D sales actually WORKED. Towards the end, I knew exactly what the numbers would be: X conversations would lead to Y sales. It also solved route-density, which was an issue for us in LA. The only issue was, hiring for this was crazy difficult. Experienced D2D salespeople can earn way more in other industries, and hiring/training people from scratch is incredibly challenging. For the money I could afford to pay people, they could have done way easier jobs than D2D sales.
  • The business was logistically complicated. Insurance costs were high, equipment was complicated, and the service-delivery itself was very skilled.
  • Seasonality. If rain was expected, organic demand would dry up. While this could be counteracted somewhat when doing outbound sales (we would offer a rain guarantee), there's no changing the fact that aggregate demand was a lot lower.
    • The seasonality would make hiring tricky as well. I would keep the employees on the payroll for when it was slower, as busy season was "always around the corner"

How I would do things differently
  • If I were to do it again, I would try to focus exclusively on wealthy clients. We had a few super affluent people that did their windows monthly, with very high tickets. Not only were they the most profitable, but they were also the easiest to deal with. If the business was just 100-200 monthly high-end clients like this, it would make the business 10x easier
  • I would only sell recurring service packages. This would have made digital advertising easier, as the LTV of the customer would be higher and more predictable, and the ROI would be there. It also would have made hiring D2D salespeople easier, as I could have paid higher commissions.
  • I would try building out the D2D team again. I just spent a few weeks working with the top D2D sales company in the US, and learned a TON about how to make D2D work. Granted, I didn't know any of this while doing it, but what I could have done is put the business on pause, learned more about D2D, then returned to the business instead of selling it.
  • I would have quit earlier, or tried to pivot earlier. Running the business was difficult, which I expected. However, I kept trying to make the business work, because I didn't want to be a quitter. Theres tons of examples of people being successful with the business model, so I kept grinding at it. However, whether it was my skillset or the market I was in, I eventually decided it wasn't worth growing further.


What To Do Next?
At the moment, I am unsure of what to do next. I'd love to get your advice on what I can do next.

I know that I'm capable of running a business, but I don't know of a big problem I can solve using my skills. The only industry I really know is window cleaning. A few ideas I have:

1. One idea is to partner with window cleaning businesses across the country to make their operations more efficient. I would charge a monthly retainer, and/or get a piece of their business, in exchange for my service. I could eventually build a small team to implement all the process improvements, and keep building equity stakes in these businesses. Basically a HoldCo/Private Equity model. I came across a post by @BizyDad that suggested partnering with boomer businesses, helping them grow, which kinda falls in line with this idea.

2. I might restart the business, but only focus on super-high clients like mentioned before.

3. I'm open to starting/joining a business in another vertical. There's so many problems to solve out there, but part of my issue is that I'm in an echo chamber. While I know that I'm capable of hiring and building systems, I don't know how else I could apply these skills.


Would love to get your advice on what I could focus on next, or at least who I can talk to to get ideas.

Thanks for reading, and talk soon.
 
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Last edited:

Flakovski_

New Contributor
MEMBER
User Power
Value/Post Ratio
108%
Jun 8, 2023
13
14
Hey guys,

I just wrapped up a 4 year process of starting and running a residential window cleaning company. A quick overview of how it all went:

  1. A friend of a friend introduced me to @Gravytrain, who introduced me to window/gutter cleaning. I quit my job and went for it.
  2. I started the business in Dallas. I spent a few months learning the trade from someone else, then moved to LA early 2021.
  3. At its height, the business did just shy of $250k a year in revenue, with the highest month being $40k.
  4. As of April of this year, I decided I didn't want to run the business anymore. I didn't see any other way to grow it, and I felt like I was spinning my wheels.
  5. I sold it to a competitor on an earn-out basis. All in, I'll receive somewhere around $100k for the business.

Things That Went Well
  • I'm really proud of the service the team delivered. Customers loved our service
  • I'm proud of the team environment I built. The guys loved working at the company, and I loved working with them.
  • Our systems were top tier. By the time I sold the business, I spent less than an hour a day on operations, if that. Towards the end, the only thing I focused on was trying to figure out marketing.
  • I acquired a couple of competitors in really creative ways, with no money down. These ended up being about half of my revenue by the time I sold the business.
  • I learned a whole lot about business
  • I learned to manage the emotional rollercoaster of entrepreneurship a lot better.

What Did Not Go So Well/Lessons Learned
  • Marketing was by far the biggest challenge. All of the other challenges in the business could have been dealt with if revenue/marketing was consistent
    • I tried a few different marketing channels, but a lot of the go-to digital platforms were difficult to get ROI on. All the top PPC agencies that I spoke to refused to do business in LA, because they thought the ROI wasn't there compared to all the other national markets they worked in. I was advised that other markets would get a 8-10x ROI on ads, while LA would be lucky to get 2-3x, which wouldn't work with our margins.
    • I eventually settled on door-to-door sales as the only way to grow the business moving forward. D2D sales actually WORKED. Towards the end, I knew exactly what the numbers would be: X conversations would lead to Y sales. It also solved route-density, which was an issue for us in LA. The only issue was, hiring for this was crazy difficult. Experienced D2D salespeople can earn way more in other industries, and hiring/training people from scratch is incredibly challenging. For the money I could afford to pay people, they could have done way easier jobs than D2D sales.
  • The business was logistically complicated. Insurance costs were high, equipment was complicated, and the service-delivery itself was very skilled.
  • Seasonality. If rain was expected, organic demand would dry up. While this could be counteracted somewhat when doing outbound sales (we would offer a rain guarantee), there's no changing the fact that aggregate demand was a lot lower.
    • The seasonality would make hiring tricky as well. I would keep the employees on the payroll for when it was slower, as busy season was "always around the corner"

How I would do things differently
  • If I were to do it again, I would try to focus exclusively on wealthy clients. We had a few super affluent people that did their windows monthly, with very high tickets. Not only were they the most profitable, but they were also the easiest to deal with. If the business was just 100-200 monthly high-end clients like this, it would make the business 10x easier
  • I would only sell recurring service packages. This would have made digital advertising easier, as the LTV of the customer would be higher and more predictable, and the ROI would be there. It also would have made hiring D2D salespeople easier, as I could have paid higher commissions.
  • I would try building out the D2D team again. I just spent a few weeks working with the top D2D sales company in the US, and learned a TON about how to make D2D work. Granted, I didn't know any of this while doing it, but what I could have done is put the business on pause, learned more about D2D, then returned to the business instead of selling it.
  • I would have quit earlier, or tried to pivot earlier. Running the business was difficult, which I expected. However, I kept trying to make the business work, because I didn't want to be a quitter. Theres tons of examples of people being successful with the business model, so I kept grinding at it. However, whether it was my skillset or the market I was in, I eventually decided it wasn't worth growing further.


What To Do Next?
At the moment, I am unsure of what to do next. I'd love to get your advice on what I can do next.

I know that I'm capable of running a business, but I don't know of a big problem I can solve using my skills. The only industry I really know is window cleaning. A few ideas I have:

1. One idea is to partner with window cleaning businesses across the country to make their operations more efficient. I would charge a monthly retainer, and/or get a piece of their business, in exchange for my service. I could eventually build a small team to implement all the process improvements, and keep building equity stakes in these businesses. Basically a HoldCo/Private Equity model. I came across a post by @BizyDad that suggested partnering with boomer businesses, helping them grow, which kinda falls in line with this idea.

2. I might restart the business, but only focus on super-high clients like mentioned before.

3. I'm open to starting/joining a business in another vertical. There's so many problems to solve out there, but part of my issue is that I'm in an echo chamber. While I know that I'm capable of hiring and building systems, I don't know how else I could apply these skills.


Would love to get your advice on what I could focus on next, or at least who I can talk to to get ideas.

Thanks for reading, and talk soon.
Great story man.
 
Last edited:

BizyDad

Keep going. Keep growing.
FASTLANE INSIDER
EPIC CONTRIBUTOR
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Read Unscripted!
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Oct 7, 2019
2,952
12,461
Phoenix AZ
Hey guys,

I just wrapped up a 4 year process of starting and running a residential window cleaning company. A quick overview of how it all went:

  1. A friend of a friend introduced me to @Gravytrain, who introduced me to window/gutter cleaning. I quit my job and went for it.
  2. I started the business in Dallas. I spent a few months learning the trade from someone else, then moved to LA early 2021.
  3. At its height, the business did just shy of $250k a year in revenue, with the highest month being $40k.
  4. As of April of this year, I decided I didn't want to run the business anymore. I didn't see any other way to grow it, and I felt like I was spinning my wheels.
  5. I sold it to a competitor on an earn-out basis. All in, I'll receive somewhere around $100k for the business.

Things That Went Well
  • I'm really proud of the service the team delivered. Customers loved our service
  • I'm proud of the team environment I built. The guys loved working at the company, and I loved working with them.
  • Our systems were top tier. By the time I sold the business, I spent less than an hour a day on operations, if that. Towards the end, the only thing I focused on was trying to figure out marketing.
  • I acquired a couple of competitors in really creative ways, with no money down. These ended up being about half of my revenue by the time I sold the business.
  • I learned a whole lot about business
  • I learned to manage the emotional rollercoaster of entrepreneurship a lot better.

What Did Not Go So Well/Lessons Learned
  • Marketing was by far the biggest challenge. All of the other challenges in the business could have been dealt with if revenue/marketing was consistent
    • I tried a few different marketing channels, but a lot of the go-to digital platforms were difficult to get ROI on. All the top PPC agencies that I spoke to refused to do business in LA, because they thought the ROI wasn't there compared to all the other national markets they worked in. I was advised that other markets would get a 8-10x ROI on ads, while LA would be lucky to get 2-3x, which wouldn't work with our margins.
    • I eventually settled on door-to-door sales as the only way to grow the business moving forward. D2D sales actually WORKED. Towards the end, I knew exactly what the numbers would be: X conversations would lead to Y sales. It also solved route-density, which was an issue for us in LA. The only issue was, hiring for this was crazy difficult. Experienced D2D salespeople can earn way more in other industries, and hiring/training people from scratch is incredibly challenging. For the money I could afford to pay people, they could have done way easier jobs than D2D sales.
  • The business was logistically complicated. Insurance costs were high, equipment was complicated, and the service-delivery itself was very skilled.
  • Seasonality. If rain was expected, organic demand would dry up. While this could be counteracted somewhat when doing outbound sales (we would offer a rain guarantee), there's no changing the fact that aggregate demand was a lot lower.
    • The seasonality would make hiring tricky as well. I would keep the employees on the payroll for when it was slower, as busy season was "always around the corner"

How I would do things differently
  • If I were to do it again, I would try to focus exclusively on wealthy clients. We had a few super affluent people that did their windows monthly, with very high tickets. Not only were they the most profitable, but they were also the easiest to deal with. If the business was just 100-200 monthly high-end clients like this, it would make the business 10x easier
  • I would only sell recurring service packages. This would have made digital advertising easier, as the LTV of the customer would be higher and more predictable, and the ROI would be there. It also would have made hiring D2D salespeople easier, as I could have paid higher commissions.
  • I would try building out the D2D team again. I just spent a few weeks working with the top D2D sales company in the US, and learned a TON about how to make D2D work. Granted, I didn't know any of this while doing it, but what I could have done is put the business on pause, learned more about D2D, then returned to the business instead of selling it.
  • I would have quit earlier, or tried to pivot earlier. Running the business was difficult, which I expected. However, I kept trying to make the business work, because I didn't want to be a quitter. Theres tons of examples of people being successful with the business model, so I kept grinding at it. However, whether it was my skillset or the market I was in, I eventually decided it wasn't worth growing further.


What To Do Next?
At the moment, I am unsure of what to do next. I'd love to get your advice on what I can do next.

I know that I'm capable of running a business, but I don't know of a big problem I can solve using my skills. The only industry I really know is window cleaning. A few ideas I have:

1. One idea is to partner with window cleaning businesses across the country to make their operations more efficient. I would charge a monthly retainer, and/or get a piece of their business, in exchange for my service. I could eventually build a small team to implement all the process improvements, and keep building equity stakes in these businesses. Basically a HoldCo/Private Equity model. I came across a post by @BizyDad that suggested partnering with boomer businesses, helping them grow, which kinda falls in line with this idea.

2. I might restart the business, but only focus on super-high clients like mentioned before.

3. I'm open to starting/joining a business in another vertical. There's so many problems to solve out there, but part of my issue is that I'm in an echo chamber. While I know that I'm capable of hiring and building systems, I don't know how else I could apply these skills.


Would love to get your advice on what I could focus on next, or at least who I can talk to to get ideas.

Thanks for reading, and talk soon.

Thanks for the tag and I'm glad it got you thinking. What about something like a window cleaning franchise model? Read more about what @Johnny boy is doing in landscaping as an example. Some old @Walter Hay posts might help too. (Sorry I don't have time to review and find the hepful ones right now.)
 

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