I am thinking that this could be an interesting topic. Most of us never had a chance to go to college, many of us were involved in various service industries like cleaning and such, and we have had some limitations placed on us. So I thought it might be interested to see what has worked for people, what hasn't, what the progression has been, where people went wrong and where they got it right.
I'll start. I passed up scholarships to engineering school so that I could pioneer. I was also into electronics in high school and while I fixed tv's and vcr's and microwave ovens and such on my own I was offered the chance to go to school to learn the repair mobile electronics (pagers back then, cell phones were just coming in) and my own storefront, of course I turned that down as well.
I stopped pioneering before year one was up though I had my time. Ran out of money. Bounced around doing telemarketing, managed a marketing department for a construction company, read meters for the gas and electric company, and lots of random things (worked in a laptop repair facility, did basic inspections on commercial and residential properties as a contractor, and more). Cleaning was that thing I always went back to though. I could make more money washing windows or pressure washing parking lots or cleaning common areas in apartment communities.
Eventually I got married and we cleaned banks and car dealerships at night as a subcontractor from some other Witnesses who ripped us off. They lost their contracts and my wife and I took our last few hundred dollars and decided to go out on our own cleaning. We started in the apartment rental industry because we wanted to work during the day and picking up communities meant that we would get a bulk of work at once. Much easier and faster than building a house cleaning business one house at a time. We did this for 4-5 years. My dad and brother worked for us. Then one day the largest property management company in town sold their properties, our business was cut in half or more, and we had to let my dad and brother go.
So I started a mobile auto detailing business out of thin air. I had the idea and although I was clueless we got started. I offered cheap group rates through employers locally and realtor agencies and they spread the word for us. We started fast and cleaned lots of cars, especially for realtors as it's part of their livelihood.
While doing this we were building a residential cleaning clientele and keeping up with the few rentals we had left. Eventually we transitioned to houses full time, cross promoting what we did with our detailing clients and we ended up cleaning for many of them.
Now we clean houses full time, just my wife and I. We make decent money, have money in the bank, and we have a full schedule with probably a 10-20 family wait list. People wait for years to get on our schedule. If we lose a client due to them moving or having a financial reversal, we can just call our list and pick up a new client easily. We pick and choose who we work for and are not afraid to fire a bad client. We love our clients and are friends with them. Our first holidays have been spent with some of them and it is great. We have a lot of control over things but we do work very hard physically every day and we have a ton of things to keep up with.
My fear is that eventually there will be a point of diminishing returns physically. I'm 40 now, not getting younger, and definitely feel the exhaustion of constant physical work, cleaning 2-4 houses most days, and a few offices as well. So at some point I feel like I need to find something else for us to do. Maybe it is expanding our cleaning business somehow and hiring, though hiring house cleaners is scary as every house is different and it's hard to standardize, and often these are fairly low wage employees that require lots of babysitting that I don't want to do.
I love marketing and study it. I'd love to get involved with it someday. If nothing else, I love to grow as a person and don't think I want to clean forever, but I do enjoy it and would have a hard time going back to a traditional j-o-b where I punched a clock. So we're in a good place, but that may not last. I'm wondering if others have transitioned from cleaning into something else and what that was, or maybe you built a cleaning empire.
So what's your business? How did you get there? What are the pros and cons, where are you heading, what do you want?