In the 1990s, Steve Landis was a single dad working at UPS and not spending enough time with his kids. He quit his job and went through his savings to look for more family-friendly work.
One day, he saw a neighbor pressure-cleaning a sidewalk. A city boy, Landis said he had never seen a pressure cleaner before, but he loved how fresh it made everything look. He borrowed the machine to brighten his own walkway. Then a neighbor asked him to do hers.
Landis saw an opportunity. He rented a pressure cleaner from Home Depot and began knocking on doors with dirty sidewalks. People started asking for estimates for patios and driveways, and a business was born.
Landis founded People’s Choice Pressure Cleaning in 1999.
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He borrowed from a friend to buy a truck and equipment, knocked on doors and put fliers on mailboxes. His big break was in 2000, when he got a contract for 106 Blockbuster locations. Today, the Davie company has 13 employees and more than $700,000 in sales. People’s Choice splits its time evenly between residential and high-profile commercial jobs, including the Hollywood Broadwalk and work for the cities of Boca Raton and Delray Beach. About four years ago, People’s Choice added a painting business as a subsidiary.
Landis would like to expand but doesn’t know how. “I’m a blue-collar guy, a hard worker. That’s what got me here,” he said. “But I don’t really know our target. We need a master plan if we’re going to expand.”
Landis asked the Miami Herald for a Small Business Makeover, and the Miami Herald brought in Broward SCORE. The SCORE tune-up team was led by David Harris, director of marketing, Greenway Golf Course Management. Other team members were Margarita “Maggie” Morales-Perez, a certified public accountant with Gutierrez, Morales-Perez and Assoc., and Michael Schunk, president of Employee Benefit Advisors.
Here is the SCORE team’s advice:
Write a business plan: “Decide what you want to be — do you want to make a big profit, or do you want to grow the business just enough to pay yourselves?” Harris said. “Be strategic about how you want to grow. What cities? What type of business?” Morales-Perez said “Put a plan together based on that. If you start throwing darts, it’s inefficient.” Broward SCORE has a business plan templet on its website, Schunk said.
Decide on your target market: Commercial work is most profitable, but residential work fills in the gaps between big jobs, Landis said. Decide on the target market and make sure marketing materials reflect that, Schunk said. Join professional associations that have members of the target market, he said. Work on growing the more profitable commercial business, Morales-Perez said.
Figure out job costs: “You need to know margins to determine if a job is profitable,” Morales-Perez said. Estimate jobs by the hour, and include labor, materials, overhead, callbacks and downtime, so the company is accurately accounting for all job costs, she said. Get control of costs to increase profitability, Harris said. “You have to apply the estimating process to every job so you can make sure you’re making money on every job,” Harris said.
Add structure: Create a dashboard to track quotes, jobs, sales, downtime and other key performance indicators of the business, Morales-Perez said. Use the information to periodically track how the business is doing.
Update marketing materials: Change the company’s email to its website domain name to look more professional, Morales-Perez said. Make the website mobile-friendly and add a lead capture form to create a database of potential customers, Harris said. Schunk offered this advice: Update the look of the website and add video tutorials. Create a YouTube channel with how-to videos, tips and testimonials. Add a blog to the website to establish the company as an expert in the field and help with SEO. Use LinkedIn to find property managers and other members of the target market in South Florida. Emphasize what sets the company apart from its competition, such as licensing and a low callback rate, in marketing messages.
Increase online exposure: “You could have a much better presence without spending a lot of money,” Harris said. Take advantage of free business listings on Google My Business, Bing Places, Yahoo Local and Yelp to create backlinks to the website and improve SEO, he said. Improve the company’s presence on referral websites like Angie’s List, HomeAdvisor and Thumbtack — add before and after photos to the Facebook page. Create a Google+ page and an Instagram account. Ask happy customers for an online review because reviews help in search rankings, Harris said.
Update training materials: Make sure employees are following set procedures to reduce callbacks and increase profitability, Harris said. Do a field manual and have a meeting with employees to make sure everyone is following the same procedures, he said.
Delegate: Landis should delegate duties so he has time to look at the big picture and lead, Morales-Perez said. Hire an outside marketing firm or look for a marketing intern from a local college, Harris said.
Landis said he learned a lot from the makeover process. “I needed the push,” he said. “They gave me a lot of great ideas, and to see it down on paper is a big help. I’m going to go for it.”
The client: People’s Choice Pressure Cleaning & Painting, 4341 SW 73 Terr., Davie. The company offers pressure cleaning, sealing and painting services to commercial and residential clients. It has 13 employees.
The experts: David Harris, director of marketing, Greenway Golf Course Management; Margarita ‘Maggie’ Morales-Perez, a certified public accountant with Gutierrez, Morales-Perez and Associates; and Michael Schunk, president of Employee Benefit Advisors.
The challenge: To track costs and expand strategically.
The advice: Write a business plan. Track costs. Identify target market and most profitable clients. Update website and increase online presence.
Based in Washington, D.C., SCORE is a nonprofit with more than 12,000 volunteers working out of about 400 chapters around the country offering free counseling to small businesses. There are seven chapters on Florida’s east coast, including Broward SCORE, which has more than 60 volunteer counselors.
Counselors from Broward SCORE meet with small business owners and offer free one-on-one counseling, as well as dozens of low-cost workshops, such as ‘Supercharge Your Website’ on Tuesday and ‘Build Your Brand’ on Wednesday. See more under ‘Local Workshops’ at broward.score.org. To volunteer or learn more about SCORE, visit score.org or broward.score.org.
How to apply for a Small Business Makeover
Business Monday’s Miami Herald Small Business Makeovers focus on a particular aspect of a business that needs help. Experts in the community will provide the advice. If you would like a makeover, concentrate on one aspect of your business that needs help — corporate organization, marketing, financing, for example — and tell us what your problems are.
The makeover is open to companies in Broward or Miami-Dade counties in business at least two years. Email your request to rclarke@MiamiHerald.com and put “Makeover” in the subject line.
Recent makeovers include: