From Military Veteran to Entrepreneur: Growing a Pressure Washing BusinessDec 08, 2023
Chris found himself facing potential homelessness when he left the military after 16 years. With limited job prospects and six kids to support, he turned to pressure washing to rebuild a stable life.
Together with his wife Bonnie, they grew the business from nothing to over $350K in revenue in just its second year.
Their journey holds powerful lessons for anyone wanting to start their own service business.
Starting with Drive and Persistence
Despite having very little starting capital, Chris focused on working relentlessly rather than making excuses about lack of resources. He knew fancy gear wasn’t what ultimately drove success – consistent daily effort and discipline was.
"There's no secret like, either you're going to work hard and you'll be a, you'll be consistent discipline and do it every day or you're not."
This grit to put in the effort day in and day out, no matter how difficult, is at the core of why Chris found a path forward.
Pounding the Streets to Build the Brand
Rather than relying too heavily on paid advertising, Chris and Bonnie turned to old-school local outreach to establish their business. Tactics like flyers, door knocking, and yard signs helped create grassroots community connections.
This bootstrapping forced them to be scrappy and creative instead of taking shortcuts. The face-to-face interaction with potential customers and letting their ambition shine through ultimately built trust and recognition for their brand.
Despite doubts about pricing higher than competitors, Bonnie and Chris stayed firm on charging premium rates from the very start. This gave them critical room to re-invest revenue into further growing the business.
It also allowed them to deliver focused service that matched the premium pricing, rather than chasing every low-budget customer. Quality over quantity was vital for sustainable success.
Hiring Slowly, Firing Quickly
Hiring was admittedly a steep learning curve, with around 95% of people over 2 years not being the right fit long-term. Things like constantly checking phones or asking about lunch breaks early revealed lower dedication.
Yet letting go quickly freed up opportunities to find those rare game-changing team members. Being selective and trusting their instincts on culture fit enabled finding staff that could properly serve demanding clients.
Communicate Through the Tough Times
As Chris’ wife, Bonnie represents the stability-seeking part of relationships. The uncertainty of business finances exacerbated her fears about reliably providing for family. She admits to constantly reminding herself that ambitious Chris has their joint interests in mind.
Chris does his part by reassuring her that his driven efforts are there to serve the family’s best interests. Communicating through doubts helps maintain necessary harmony while pursuing entrepreneurial growth.
Reinvest in Growth at Every Level
Upon hitting major revenue milestones like $200K in their first year, Chris immediately asked himself what adjustments were needed to get to $500K, $750K and higher numbers. The same discipline applied after hitting $350K this past year.
There is always room for improving strategy, fine-tuning operations, and challenging oneself. The learning mindset matters as much as actual capital for systematically scaling up a business over time.
Put Community Impact on the Horizon
Chris often thinks about how the business prosperity he works so tirelessly for can eventually give back once growth plateaus become sustaining. He dreams about donating tiny homes to get homeless veterans off the streets.
Having a long-term vision for positive societal change provides a larger purpose. And sustainable profits enable fulfilling this calling to help those in need. Building community and business can thereby transform lives.
How was Chris able to start a pressure washing business with limited funds?
He focused on using his existing basic equipment and relentless work ethic rather than making excuses. Consistent discipline in effort drove outcomes more than resources.
What local outreach tactics did they use to get the word out when starting out?
They pounded the streets with flyers, door knocking, yard signs, and being active in neighborhood Facebook groups. This in-person presence built connections.
Why did they start with premium pricing right away?
It gave them room to keep re-investing revenue into better gear and quickly scaling the business rather than get stuck at lower tiers barely scraping by.
What employee red flags should you watch out for?
Things like constantly being on their phones, obsession with lunch break times early on, lack of grit to work until the job is fully done, resistance to company culture, etc. can indicate poor fit.
How did Bonnie work through fears and doubts on their journey?
She had to constantly re-affirm her belief in Chris' ambition and remember they were a team with joint interests. Clear communication of emotions is key.
How often did Chris aim to post on social media?
He tried to post work pictures featuring their truck logo on Facebook once or twice per day to build consistent brand familiarity driving referrals.
What was their #1 marketing strategy in the early days?
Yard signs promoting the hyper local areas they served. Low cost but high visibility to locals. Repeated impressions led many to remember and refer them later on.
How many employees did they go through before finding the right fit?
Around 20 over 2 years - so 95% turnover initially. But letting go quickly until finding the ideal match enabled exponential growth thereafter.
How often does Bonnie feel deeply secure in the entrepreneurial journey?
She admits to never quite feeling secure day-to-day. But focusing on controlling what she can, believing in Chris' ambition for their family, and embracing the roller coaster helps persevere.
What business book had the biggest impact on their mindsets?
Chris highlighted Napoleon Hill's book "Outwitting the Devil" written in the 1940s but published decades later for the first time. Transformative lessons on navigating your inner voice/doubts.