I had something funny happen to me recently, and it’s written about here by the very entertaining Azucar of The Jet Set.
Now, onto today’s post, the final one in my window cleaner series (Believe me, I’m just as relieved as you are. But once I began I had to finish, right?)
So I was mostly kidding at the end of my last post advising you to avoid becoming an entrepreneur isn’t worth it. It really isn’t worth it for most peeps. There are faster, surer paths to fame and fortune. But it was well worth it to me, and I suspect Bell Expert Window Cleaning won’t be the last business I start in my lifetime.
So I quitting my job, I birthed Bell Expert Window Cleaning (that’s not hyperbole. You really do feel like you’ve given birth to your business. They are fragile, demanding, simultaneously beautiful and maddening little things) and did what every business founder does if he wants any chance of success: I hustled. I knocked every fancy door in town, I took out ads, I put up yard signs at key intersections (was this technically legal? It doesn’t matter to you when you’re hustling), and I joined a business networking group. There are two kinds of people in the world; those who detest business networking groups and those who should be put to death or sent to Perv Island (Perv Island is an island—if I’m ever president or head of coast guard—were we will send all people society has no use for: including Goths, people with glass eyes, people who let their small children bear their testimonies in church every month, multiple cat owners, people who watch the show Numbers, and teenagers who opt out of the government program I’ll implement that removes their voice boxes and puts breathable bags over their heads. We’ll send major pervs there too but that’s not why it’s called Perv Island. It’s called that simply to cause awkward conversations for all its residents. “Hey Bob, great to see ya again. You still down there in Tulsa?” “Uh, no Phil, I’m, I’m actually on Perv Island now, out in the suburbs there on the north side.” “Oh [pause]. Ok. Sure. I, um, I hear the bugs aren’t too bad there, so that’s good, I guess”) but you do what you have to do.
I started to get a few clients. Again, getting a sale for your own business is like a taste of crack cocaine. I haven’t personally done crack but Davis has and he tells me it’s like putting on a new Jcrew lambs wool pea coat for the very first time. My clients gave me referrals and I grew. But not as quickly as I wanted. Many times I got to the point where I thought, “Ok, I’ve reached critical mass. I’ll be booked solid from here on out. I’m done worrying” Or “I can keep an employee or two busy all the time now.” Then things don’t go according to plan, as ‘things’ are prone to do. But we got by. Some months I was working 12-hour days and turning down work, then in the winter I would have Sundays when I would look at next week’s schedule and see only a few scribbles of ink on a mostly blank white space. So you go hustle some more. You put on your long johns and knock doors in January. You make calls. You pester people a bit, but you don’t care because you are working for survival. Winters were slower, but also nice in a way. I played with my kids a lot, read a lot, wrote 50 pages of a book I hope to finish one day (about a cabal of politically powerful sharks who put a sleeper in the White House. No, but it really is about a boy shipwrecked on an island with a group of intelligent apex predators. Laugh it up. We’ll see who’s laughing when I’m the next Danielle Steele.) and spent a lot of time chopping wood, which I bought from a man on the side of a road, which wood turned out to be too wet to burn unless I chopped it all down into tiny kindling-sized pieces and kept the fire as hot and those of Mordor.
One thing I loved about cleaning windows was that I was really good at it. I was fast, efficient and meticulous. I was called back to fix mistakes on about one of 250 jobs. This made for almost no day-to-day stress (unless business was slow, of course). I went out every day and did something I was great at for clients who always ended up extremely happy and complimentary. I will miss that.
So the business continued to do grow. I hired employees. People always tell you that personnel are the most challenging part of any business, and that is certainly my experience. But I eventually found a great one (the one who now runs the business), and was very grateful for it.
Unfortunately, as business increased, my shoulders’ and back’s ability to do the work decreased. And the business wasn’t yet to the point where I could do only admin and sales and survive off the labor of employees. I thought I could be careful, do physical therapy, and push through things. I did for couple years. But it got to the point where I was tired enough of feeling old and sore and broken down to make me look around for a career change. We also wanted to be closer to family. So I was very, very lucky to find the perfect job for me. I work for a unique private equity fund that invests is promising businesses that want to franchise. We help them franchise and do all the marketing and selling the franchises (so let me know if you know of anyone in the market to own a cool franchise business). I love it. I work for entrepreneurs, selling franchises developed by entrepreneurs to other entrepreneurs. And we’re back in Utah too.
The other night I was outside my childhood home in Farmington. It was 10 at night, the temperature was ideal and unnoticeable, the nightly breeze out of the canyon was coolly working its way around my exposed skin, carrying the flowery scent of my young summers, and I thought, “Man, this is where I’m supposed to be.”