By Paul Gianni / Published November 2022
Being from Connecticut, I know that winter is just around the corner. For many of us in the exterior washing business, this means our days are numbered, and the end is near! Well, that is a bit dramatic. However, mother nature is going to bring on the winter wrath—cold, wind, driving rains, and snow.
Upon further reflection, as soon as the leaves started to turn colors, I was thinking about the end of the season. There was a to-do list: winterize the machines, cover the trucks, and pull the ads. Oh yeah, then I had to tell the employees, “Winter is coming, so get ready to be laid off.” This mindset I had led to terrible repercussions for the team and my business.
The team would slowly start to lose momentum, interest would wane, and checking out became the new norm. Basically, I created a one-foot-in-and-one-foot-out-the-door culture. Many of my top performers started looking for other jobs. This was completely my fault and not due to the impending winter weather, though at that time I thought I was a victim of the looming winter. The crazy thing about this was that it was all a mindset, anticipating what mother nature might bring. Living in the colder regions, we all know that many times winter is late or can be milder than average. So, I was shutting down the business and getting ready for a winter that might or might not come. There was even a date that year, November 23, the day before Thanksgiving.
Ironically, while all this shut-down planning was taking place, I would expect my team around me to be engaged and stay dedicated even though as the owner/CEO, I was also checking out. When I had this epiphany, I realized it is more about a mindset shift—the idea that we never shut down, and we will always be ready to wash. This is not so much about the action of washing, because there are going to be days and even weeks when we cannot wash. It’s more about eliminating the idea and mindset of shutting down.
This has changed my entire team’s attitude. There is now a more positive energy flowing through the company during the colder months compared to years past. Everyone is ready to wash, and we continue to schedule jobs just like any other season, even if it does snow or is too cold. What we do now is check the weather. Everyone stays in touch in order to figure out the best days to wash. Keeping in touch is very important, and letting your team figure out our next wash day(s) captures their attention even when they are not working every day. It also creates a sense of camaraderie. My company can keep the high performers around and lay off the employees with low key performance indicators (KPIs).
There are a few other important aspects to winter washing besides having the right mindset and keeping your team engaged. We keep our Google ads up, place signs out, and have our trucks on the road, which helps build our customer base by marketing when most washing companies have pulled their ads. This gives us an edge when the weather breaks by having leads and jobs already in the pipeline from the early-bird people who want to get a jump on spring. Secondly, we have been branding all winter long, so we don’t look like a fly-by-night company; and thirdly, it attracts commercial work. The result is we are always informing and reminding our customer base that we are here and ready to wash.
From our experience, calling on commercial jobs or HOAs that we sent a bid out to earlier in the season gives us the best results. We ask if the job has been completed yet. If the answer is “no,” we educate them about winter washing. Then we explain that they will receive the same exact wash that they would receive in warmer weather, followed up with a one-year guarantee that there will be no organic regrowth; and if there is, we will rewash that area for free. Then we offer them a winter washing discount. We have learned to be careful to set the standard and let larger projects know if the job cannot be completed due to a long cold spell or snow. We reassure the client that the job will be completed as soon as the weather breaks, and we will honor the winter discount.
There are a few lessons we have learned to help a company prepare for winter washing. First, let’s start with the temperature. We have found it best to not wash under 38 degrees because you lose your labor pool if it is colder than this. Then there are additional rules to the 38-degree threshold. If the temperature at night drops below 25 degrees, we cannot wash in the shade, or if it is cloudy the following day, we don’t wash if the temperature is below 40 degrees. The reason for this cutoff is that the water will freeze when it hits the ground in the shade, and that is a slip hazard. We are also very mindful of windchill and will not wash in a windchill that is 38 degrees or below.
Other items to take into consideration are soaps and chemicals. We have never had problems with using sodium hypochlorite in the cold weather. It works well, and we simply use a stronger batch than we would in the warmer months.
Let’s talk about gutter brightening. We use Gutter Butter™, which can be used at 38 degrees or above with few problems. This was a game changer. It’s important to keep the Gutter Butter warm. Now we can offer gutter brightening in cold weather. Patrick Clark, who distributes Gutter Butter, tells us to dilute Gutter Butter at 17 to 1 per mixture. However, in temperatures that are 50 degrees and under, we use it straight out of the bucket with no dilution, and it works like butter. I would not advise trying that at temperatures higher than 52 degrees.
There will be a time in the winter when washing will need to stop. What do I do to combat this? I tell all new hires we believe in a little rest and relaxation. Every winter we will take an R and R for three to four weeks to reboot. Once again, this creates a mindset. So, for all the great Northerners that shut down in the winter or have that shut-down mindset, I say, “Stop it.” My advice is to stay open, not so much for the washing aspect but for the mindset it creates. Keep your team in the game. Keep your name out in the marketing world so your company is a lean, mean washing machine when spring comes along. Be ahead of your competitors. While they are trying to fill positions and schedule jobs, you are washing—winter washing.
Paul Gianni served in the Army’s 101st Airborne Division for four years. After obtaining his real estate license, he bought houses and refurbished them for sale. A customer asked him to power wash a house and that was it. He loved power washing and focused all his energy on it. He started The Powerwashing Kings in 2006 and has been serving Connecticut for over 16 years. Paul’s motivation now is to help the power washing community change their mindset to drive value into house washing. He knows how much responsibility any company takes washing a house and wants to see appropriate compensation for a job well done.