Written by Lee Burbidge
Of all the movie quotes in the world, this has got to be the one that most sticks in my mind.
A line spoken by Michael Douglas in the movie Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010): A fisher man always sees another fisherman.
The reference is made as Mr Douglas, playing a character called Gordon Gekko, points out another ‘player’ doing the same deals as he was doing on Wall Street.
Now – I know what you’re saying, what the hell is this got to do with window cleaning? That line stuck with me and so I started to use it whenever I spotted another window cleaner.
Because you do, don’t you? We know the sounds, sights and smells of window cleaning. Should a window cleaner prick his finger on a rose bush and ooze a droplet of blood another window cleaner can smell it 20 miles away!
I actually said it so much, that now the lads say it! I chuckle to myself when I find them questioning themselves as to where these words came from and why they are saying it.
It’s a fact! I like net working with window cleaners. Whenever I see the familiar sights of an ‘A’ ladder and a piece of scrim hanging from the fourth rung leaning against a high street shop front with a blue oblong bucket sitting beside it, I just have to go over and talk to them.
Not all window cleaners are as friendly. You hear horror stories of slashed van tyres and abusive behaviour.
I have never understood this.
I can count on half a hand the amount of times I have had a weird run in with another industry master. The fact I have 5 fingers on my hand means it has to of been at least two and half times in my 12 years of trading!
Four years ago I decided to canvass a round I had at the beginning of my business. Thing is at the time my office cleaning business had got so busy and grown so quickly that I was unable to maintain the round and so I employed a window cleaner, who did the work for a while. Over time he got sucked into the ever expanding office cleaning side of my business and I am ashamed to admit we got too busy and it was left by the way side.
I kick myself to this day. What a let down to the customers. But you develop yourself in business and you continue to improve your service.
To add insult to injury, I only bought the 300 quid round for 50 pounds. I just simply bought the book off a retiring guy. That’s all he wanted for it.
Anyway, so I decided about 4 years ago to see if canvassing the area would generate any work again. A simple leaflet drop.
I am in B&Q looking at bathroom tiles with my builder when I get a phone call.
Now, I have to say, the leaflet drop turned up nothing except a house on Queens Street. Funny enough it was one that I used to clean.
I answer the phone in between the Tesela Vento Marron tiles and Jazmin Mosaic.
“You have been delivering window cleaning leaflets in my area……”
Oh great, I thought. Someone wants a quote. “Well I don’t like it!!” the voice says.
“Ok then, who are you and what is it you don’t like?”
“We clean windows here, this is our patch. We don’t want no yuppie window cleaners in this area.”
“Is that right?” my leaflets were professionally printed carrying the FWC logo.
“I am sorry to hear that. But unfortunately you don’t own the street. Your customers will stay with you if they are happy. I am more likely to pick up customers that don’t already have a window cleaner, plus I never knowingly under cut.”
“My partner won’t be happy mate and we will be seeing you!”
For a second I had an image of this guy’s missus disapproving of my leaflet, of course it was his big bad business partner he was referring to.
I told him that I would be at number 75 Queens Street at such and such time on such and such day if they wanted to come over and say ‘Hi’.
He said nothing but slammed the phone down on me.
How bad can it get when a harassment caller puts the phone down on you! Safe to say nothing ever happened.
I would have much preferred chatting with these people in a proper way. But it was not to be on this occasion.
There are huge unseen benefits from networking with your fellow window cleaners.
Firstly, there is the banter. Getting to chat with others results in shared experiences. A lot of the time we spend our days working and talking to ourselves. It’s great when you get to hear the problems of others and how they solved it.
You get to laugh about the funny things our customers do and say too.
Getting to know who is in your area is good for geographical knowledge as well.
By knowing how heavy one window cleaner works in an area might help you save potential wasted time should you be considering canvassing the same area.
Another benefit is for those seeking to purchase more work. Only when talking do we discover who is nearing retirement and who is selling a round. I always find that if the guy you’re talking to does not have any work for sale but knows someone who does, in order to ensure that you get the details, I usually promise to pay for the information and for passing on my contact number to the seller. That is once a deal has been struck on the round for sale.
I have found nearly all window cleaners to be hard working, friendly people and like all walks of life, you will always get the odd one.
But it doesn’t stop there; a whole host of ‘fisher men’ are getting on line in network forums.
Talking to another window cleaner couldn’t be any easier. No longer do the days pass by before you see anyone. The forums are full of us!
Here in these Tron like places, another world exists. People from all ends of the country (and world!!) gather to learn, chat and advise.
For a newbie window cleaner it is the best starting point. All the information you need is there. If the question you need answering is not there, then you open up a topic and ask it.
I am always opening up debate and topics in the forums, sometimes, to test subjects I might be writing on.
Next time you’re out and about working on your round and you hear the familiar sound of a ladder hitting a brick wall or swishing noises of rising wfp sections with the clicking of clamps, stick your head over the hedge like a mere cat and say ‘hello’.