Our love/hate relationship with the ‘Nationals’



‘Nationals’ are the window cleaning companies that are able to reach the parts other local window cleaners cannot reach and they usually do it in a HUGE way providing a gift wrapped, all in one service and single invoice topped with a HUGE cute bow.

(I, of course, made that last part up)

National window cleaning companies are great for national clients, usually the big store brands we all know and love to shop at. They get to pass the responsibility of their quadrillion high street stores to somebody else in return for a clean image of their brand, limited paperwork and a bunch of KPI’s.

Not so great for the ‘national’ that has to manage those quadrillion stores. They take on the burden of organising sub contractors and cleaning teams and try to join that with each stores clean frequency and schedules.

Storefront window cleaning can be seen as a ‘cut throat’ business and with the majority of city centre stores and shopping malls serviced by long standing ‘bucket bobs’ or national companies and franchise organisations, for a window cleaner trying to break in, it can seem like a bit of a non-starter.

So let’s break this down. What gives? You hear window cleaners complain, stating there is no money in storefronts, the ‘nationals’ have took them all and they are cleaning them for peanuts! Yet, other window cleaner’s love it… are these the ones that were able to get on a subcontractors supply list somewhere?

Is there any truth in the notion that there is simply no money to be made in storefronts?

Last year Nationwide Window Cleaners (UK) pushed passed a £12,000,000 milestone in 2016. And they do a ton of storefronts. That sounds like a lot of money from a ‘founder’ that started out just like most of you knocking on residential doors with his brother.

Starting out as a residential window cleaning business, it took 20 years to build the first business up to a £6,000,000 turnover before Thornton Tasker and his brother, Austin, sold it in 2005. Two years later Thornton started another company, Nationwide Window Cleaning, based in Leeds (UK) with a start up capital of 50K. Since then the company has grown to employ 285 staff with satellite depots in Canary Wharf and Manchester.

Let us just pause for a second and take this in. This guy ( Mr Thornton Tasker) with his brother, knocked doors for residential work at the beginning of their window cleaning business! Like you! As a start up! And now he owns a multi million pound business. Yeah, did I forget to mention he did that twice?

Imagine if your business had to provide 35,000 window-cleaning visits per month all over the UK as opposed to say 700 residential jobs in your local region. It is mind-boggling and not for the faint hearted.

Then take the USA franchise company ‘FISH’, as a group turning over $57,000,000 with around 270 franchises. The largest window cleaning company on the planet. And guess what? A huge chunk of that are storefronts.

Still think there’s no money in storefronts?

That’s ok for them, I hear you say. But they do it for such a low cost; it’s hard to compete.

So here is the amazing thing. COST has a BOTTOM, and it’s not as low as you think. In my business, I deal with office cleaning contracts as well as window cleaning and I have come up against the national office cleaning companies all the time. But here is the thing.

Times have changed.

There is no more wiggle room left in the COSTS. The BOTTOM LINE has been achieved where a line has been drawn between being ‘worth it’, and ‘not worth it’… the clients are slowly understanding this phenomena and its happening RIGHT NOW!

Clients, of course, are still re-tendering…. then sticking with who they had last year. The only way to win that contract today is if they should mess up, BIG TIME. Or if a new decision maker joins the company and wants to do it their way or you apply CREATIVE SALES (more on CREATIVE SALES Vs. WIGGLE ROOM in another blog).

COST has a BOTTOM. Not even the national window cleaning companies will pass that bottom.

Now, I am 100% sure that there will be ‘bucket bobs’ that could clean all of these windows for a nickel in every city and every town, but ‘bucket bob’ just isn’t ‘national’, or PC in health & safety, damn – he might not even have insurance. I bet he walks his route with his ladder too.

Unfortunately, this is not the structure national clients are looking for. Besides, they have their day job to contend with. You know, conquering the planet and churning out cloned stores, reaching out to as many consumers as possible.

Here is the other side of the coin in relation to the BOTTOM COST. A lot of national window cleaning companies rely on sub contractors and although the cost is usually lower than other forms of work, it is regular and numerous and it simply would not work for a national and sub contractor if a profit could not be made on both sides.

Here is where the ‘LOVE’ for nationals comes in from window cleaners. Getting in with a national as a subcontractor can add thousands to your business turn over. Adding storefront national work to an already established route makes complete sense.

Stop complaining about ‘nationals’ learn to love them!

Sometimes it’s the same mentality as, ‘get off my patch’, sometimes its jealousy. Sometimes it’s a lack of sales creativity that draws out complainers.

Nike, the sports footwear and clothing company launched a campaign back in the spring of 1988. The campaign surrounded the slogan… “Just do it!”. Rather than complaining about national window cleaning companies stealing the entire clone stores in your region, up your game instead!

Decide where you’re taking your business. Include the ‘nationals’ into your growth strategy not exclude them. It is 100% mutually beneficial for them and for you.

National work can bring your company out onto the high street, once, twice, daily and every week exposing your business and your van signage to other stores that may not already be tied into a national contract. They may indeed have the authority to source local window cleaners. Your business is positioned well in picking up ‘bucket bob’ storefronts. You will be surprised when you discover that it’s not always low cost work. Some are amazingly rude prices. Top dollar I might add!

If you have residential window cleaning in a mixed portfolio of services then being exposed on the high street has the potential to bring in residential enquiries as the public head in to work clutching a morning coffee. And you may even get to pick up other commercial contracts too.

On one occasion, a national cleaning company that did not clean windows approached my company. Their business simply concentrated on providing internal cleaning services. Why did they ask us? Because they saw that we were cleaning storefronts in the city, daily.

There are so many opportunities, with so much glass, enough for everyone.

I have already identified national clients that do not use national window cleaning companies that, with the right CREATIVE SALES approach, are prime sales targets.

Make the national window cleaning companies one of the sales calls you make today and open some doors or find the next ‘national frontier’ (or semi national if you want to stay regional) and service it yourself.

No matter if it means you do all the work to get it running. Do what you have to do to make it work.

Just do it!