By Diane M. Calabrese / Published March 2017
Ah spring…Those are two words that can be read inflected with delight or with a measure of regret. It all depends on the level of readiness for the burst of business activity that tracks with the advent of the season.
Savvy contractors from across the country expect to welcome spring with delight. They tell us that even where business is decidedly year-round, there are definitely more customers in spring. They are ready for them.
“Spring season starts early here in North Carolina’s mild climate, starting in February or early March,” says Alan Gruenwald, the owner of Intercoastal Exteriors in Chocowinity, NC. “We usually see as much work as we can handle during this time. Due to damp, wet winters, all the organic growth comes out full force with the first warm spell…”
When the organic growth, such as fungus, gets going, customers see how dirty their property actually is, says Gruenwald. When they call, his company is ready. “We prepare throughout late winter,” says Gruenwald. The organizing takes two forms. Equip-ment and supplies are upgraded, replaced, and maintained; and new customer contacts are made.
“We use the slower time of year to introduce ourselves to as many people as we can, including contact through e-mails, handshakes, and phone calls,” says Gruenwald. The reciprocity of that goodwill bears itself out not only in customers, but also in customer understanding in spring, when most customers are aware of the need for some flexibility in scheduling.
There are unique issues in spring, too. High winds or heavy rains might require rescheduling, explains Gruenwald. Then, too, some customers obtain an estimate early in the season, but actually do not want the project completed until the pollen has stopped falling.
Something about spring—the obvious renewal of flora and fauna and the increasing daylight hours—causes many contractors to push themselves. Be careful about that.
Like most contractors, David Grice, owner of Next Generation Cleaning Solutions in Lebanon, MO, does not want to say “no” to customers. He explains that in the summer of 2016, he and his team pushed themselves relentlessly. Whatever the need, he was determined to make it happen.
“That being said, I have already started to look into more summer help for 2017,” says Grice. “We are going to run a day shift as well as a night shift because HOAs want you there during the day when no one is home, and stores want you there at night when no one is shopping.”
Capitalizing on the boom in opportunities in spring gives a boost to a business. “In our area, everyone has spent a good part of the winter inside due to cold, rain, snow, ice, and just plain gloomy weather,” says Grice. “In the spring, everyone, no matter what age or social status, wants to get out and enjoy the sun and fresh air.”
That means more entertaining.The entertaining in turn brings more requests for cleaning, says Grice. The only difficulty is that it sometimes seems “everyone wants it done ASAP.”
Staying active in winter is a key part of preparing for spring, says John Tornabene, owner of Clean County Powerwashing in Kings Park, NY. “We keep marketing.”
There are many parts to keeping marketing robust. “One of the ways we do this is by having a company rework our website to keep very active in doing search engine optimization (SEO). We keep its ranking very high in my area, so people can find us on the Internet,” says Tornabene.
“We also do cold calling through the winter, especially for our commercial sector,” explains Tornabene. “I learned years ago, the down time is probably as important, if not more important, than the busy time of year to keep marketing your company. Twenty-one years in business has taught me this, and it is probably the biggest reason why we’re still in this field.”
Tornabene’s company begins to open its residential component in mid- to late-March. When it does, that brings a definite uptick in business. There’s a strategy to accommodate the influx of customers in a short time period.
“My wife sends out our first round of postcards to our customer base—more than 5,000 now—around the first week in March,” says Tornabene. “The goal is to get them to start booking as early as possible because we tend to fill up April, May, and June pretty fast when it comes to residential cleanings.”
Compression of work for spring customers poses challenges. “My residential customers always get impatient anytime in May and June because most of them want dates within those two months,” says Tornabene.
Customers are encouraged to book as early as possible so they can get close to their preferred dates. “It’s rare we can give exact dates because we need to set up our scheduling when we have multiple jobs in their area,” explains Tornabene. “We can usually get them scheduled within two weeks of a date they need if they call us early enough.”
With the crush of interest in contracting for cleaning and related work in spring, a contractor must be ready for challenges, says Tornabene. If anything disrupts the schedule, it may be necessary to move jobs around.
Another challenge is a wood restoration or house staining job that gets interrupted by a forecast of rain. Working around rain for restoration or staining projects can become so complex that Tornabene has cut back on the number of such jobs he takes, keeping those he has manageable.
The renewal spring heralds manifests itself in ways beyond a growing number of customers. The season of renewal motivates many contractors to grow as a professional, thereby preparing to take on jobs of more kinds.
“We typically maintain a pretty steady flow of business year-round, but spring always brings an uptick,” says Trey Posey, general manager of Power Wash University in Fort Worth, TX. “As weather warms up and contractors have been restless over the winter months, I think they start looking at their business and looking for new types of business. That leads many people to our training programs.”
By listening to its customer base, the educational group to which Posey belongs strives for improvement in existing courses and development of new courses. “If anything, we prep hard in the fall and winter for new material and exciting programs to be ready for a late winter or early spring release.”
Inclement weather can be a boon as well as an obvious bane to a power washing contractor. “Spring rains and thunderstorms are always a thorn in a power wash contractor’s side because it forces cancelations and rescheduling,” says Posey. “Our institution’s students can use this time to increase their knowledge by taking a training course.”
That does not mean spring stands as the exclusive season for learning. “We are and have been power wash contractors for many years, and we have a unique perspective because we try to keep a finger on the pulse of the industry year-round on a national and even international level,” says Posey.
Emergency preparedness is a vital part of doing business 365 days each year. Spring, though, is often the most volatile season in many parts of the country. True, tornadoes have been recorded in every month of the year in the contiguous 48 U.S. states, but they do cluster in spring.
Working full schedules should not preclude contractors from taking shelter should it become likely severe weather will overtake a worksite. Ready.gov, the federal website, offers an array of free information regarding preparation for emergency situations, including tornadoes.
If you are working outdoors and there is no building in which to seek shelter, choose one of the following options: get in your vehicle, buckle up, and drive to a shelter; stay in a stationary vehicle, covering your head with your arms, cushion, coat, or the like; or lie flat in an area lower than the road (a ditch, for example) and cover your head.
Ready.gov advises against getting under a bridge or overpass or trying to outrun a tornado. Moreover, the site reminds us that most deaths and injuries caused by tornadoes result from contact with flying debris.
If there is time and a windstorm is approaching, all equipment and ancillaries, such as ladders and cones, should be secured if feasible so they do not become projectiles.
Contractors should also be ready to act following a damaging storm by rendering first aid, knowing how to contact first responders, and encouraging calm among those who have been affected.
One of the greatest assets an individual has in an emergency situation is a clear-headed approach. It’s easy to think of the things that might happen or are beyond one’s control. It’s more important to consider what can be done to mitigate the damage. Consider what can be done to protect life to the fullest extent possible; then act with speed and care.
When the calm sets in following a storm, reach out to those who have experienced losses; outreach is a powerful dimension of assistance.