When it dipped to about 15-degrees below zero last week, there wasn't much window cleaning going on at Tom Schwab's Fish Window Cleaning service.
“We drink coffee,” Schwab said.
He was joking. There isn't much downtime at Schwab's growing business. On the few days a year when the weather is too foul, he and his crew hit the streets making sales calls.
“You've got to keep your name out there,” Schwab said.
Fish Window Cleaning is located at 1240 Central Ave. and may be reached at 281-8277 or through its website, www.fishwindowcleaning.com/673.
Here's what else Schwab had to say about taking on a franchise and following a plan:
Nature of the business?
Fish Window Cleaning serves both residential and low-rise commercial customers. We provide these services:
Clean all windows inside and out, removing any hard water deposits or stains. Detail sills, frames and tracks.
Remove screens in homes and clean them thoroughly.
Wear shoe covers whenever we enter a home and use cloth pads under each window.
Clean chandeliers, mirrors, hard-to-reach fixtures and ceiling fans.
Clean skylights and solar panels.
We always offer free estimates and 100 percent satisfaction guarantee. The Fish Window Cleaning staff is professional, reliable, uniformed, friendly, courteous, insured, licensed and bonded.
Why start the business?
Look down any street and there is glass as far as you can see, and that offers unlimited opportunity. Fish Window Cleaning is a turnkey system that accelerates start-up time for a new business. It does not require evening or weekend hours, has low overhead and is relatively stress-free compared to other business ventures. This business model fits with my short- and long-term goals.
Where did startup funding come from?
Through refinancing and my retirement funds. As part of the franchise package, I received training, supplies and equipment, systems and marketing support, as well as in-field support from Fish headquarters staff.
How long have you been in business?
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Fish Window Cleaning was started in 1978 and began franchising its operations in 1998. I opened the first Montana franchise in Billings. Currently there are 239 Fish franchises throughout the continental United States.
Your biggest challenge during the current recession?
In any business, the biggest challenge, with or without a recession, is acquiring new customers and retaining current customers. That's why we stress customer satisfaction and focus on providing quality service to every customer.
What was done to overcome those challenges?
Customers stay with us because they know that we stand by our 100-percent satisfaction guarantee. And, we tell them that if it is not right we will return immediately and make it right. We acquire new customers as our reputation for quality and service grows. But, most importantly, we must constantly be out introducing ourselves to prospective customers and inviting them to take advantage of our offer to provide a free estimate.
What is being done to expand the business?
Fish Window Cleaning currently serves Yellowstone, Big Horn, Carbon and Stillwater counties. We plan to grow the business by following the Fish system and continuously marketing our services to prospective new customers while remaining the window cleaning company of choice for our current customers. Our goal is to be the dominant window cleaning company in the markets we serve.
Your best business decision?
My investment in Fish has given me access to a proven system, support of an experienced headquarters staff and the opportunity to build a very prosperous and sustainable business.
Your worst business mistake?
I wish I had acted on this opportunity sooner, when I was first introduced to the Fish system.
What advice do you have for someone running a business?
Everyone must share the same goals for the business. Success depends on: 1. Effective sales and marketing; 2. Emphasis on customer service; 3. Getting your staff to believe in the first two things; and 4. Hiring and cross-training a staff that is reliable and shares your goals.
Number of employees?
What is your five-year plan for the business?
We want to expand our current territory and continue to provide exceptional service.
We want Fish Window Cleaning to be synonymous with sparkling clean windows for everyone in the markets we serve.
A question you would ask other entrepreneurs?
What gets you out of bed in the morning and fires your spirit to succeed?
If you weren't doing what you are now, what would be your dream job?
I enjoy coaching my kids' basketball teams.