This interview with a local business owner is provided by First Impressions Window Cleaning.
18 Revealing Questions
My promise to you, the reader: I will strive to provide you with interesting information on small businesses in St. George.
Other important local businesses: St George Chamber of Commerce
1. What business do you own?
Although I currently own First Impressions Window Cleaning, this interview is about the previous business I owned, Home Sweet Home Rentals.
This was a residential rental company that served the St. George area. We probably were the fourth largest property management company in Southern Utah.
Current rental companies in St George click here (opens in a new window)
We managed around 130 units / doors comprising of houses, apartment buildings, condos, and townhomes.
2. How did you end up in St. George?
Although I grew up in Denver, I hated being cold. After making some money selling a small condo I had purchased when the real estate market was bad. I sold that condo in a good market and then used those funds to move to Phoenix.
Five years after moving to Phoenix, I visited my parents, who had moved to St George after they retired. I thought the area was super nice, so I moved here too.
3. How long have you been in business?
My ex-wife and I owned Home Sweet Home Rentals for 10 years before selling it.
4. Why this business?
I had worked as a real estate agent for about seven years when I found out this business was for sale. It was a good fit with what I was doing.
5. When did you start?
I purchased the business right before the crash of 2008. The business had been running for about four years before that.
Don Glasgow – Former owner of Home Sweet Home Rentals
6. Start from scratch, buy a business or buy a franchise?
I purchased the business.
7. How much did you pay for the business?
I paid $40,000. I later learned I had overpaid by about $12,000. That didn’t matter much, as we made about $1,000,000 in net income over the 10 years we owned it.
8. How did you come up with the capital to start? Was it difficult?
I borrowed from the equity in the condo I owned. It was super easy. At that time, if you could show your breath on a mirror, you could borrow money. If I had tried a year later, I couldn’t have done it.
9. How do you market your business?
We had to market to property owners to grow our business. We also marketed to renters to fill vacancies.
We grew the property management business from about 28 units to 130 units in about 24 months. Our marketing was very aggressive and remarkably effective. It didn’t hurt that the other property management companies provided terrible customer service. We promised to the rental property owners what the other companies failed to deliver and then kept our promises. Our clients loved us (most of them did anyway).
First, we mailed letters and later we mailed postcards to homeowners that owned property in St. George but didn’t live here. We mailed to homeowners who lived in Northern Utah, California, and Colorado. We didn’t mail to any local owners. Local owners were a pain to deal with because they would show up at our office without an appointment and they were often upset.
We marketed our vacant rentals using Craigslist. We were very careful about who we placed in our vacancies.
10. Please describe your typical day.
I would show up at our office at about 7:00 AM. My ex would show up a couple of hours later.
I dealt with incoming owner’s phone calls. I would also arrange repairs and figure out solutions to problems. We would inspect the rentals as needed. I would meet with renters to show them a unit they had called about. I would also walk renters through our 24 page lease agreement when they rented a unit from us.
During the first part of the month, we handled incoming rents and made deposits. We mailed funds to owners and posted 3-day pay or quit notices (pay your rent or move out).
My day would end at about 5 PM. I worked short days on Saturdays and I tried to work holidays. By working on holidays I could get a lot done, because no one bothered me.
11. Do you have employees? How many?
No employees. If I knew then what I know now, we would have had employees. We would have just grown the business larger to pay for them and hopefully make more profit.
12. What’s the worst thing to happen to you shortly after you got into the business?
The worst thing was that the business was too small to pay us enough to live on. We didn’t make enough to market the business either.
We ended up getting a $25,000 line of credit and used that to market our business. Borrowing the money was an excellent choice. It allowed us to make the million dollars I mentioned earlier.
13. What’s the worst thing to happen in your business during the time you owned it?
One of our renters sued us. They claimed we knowingly placed them in a home where meth had been manufactured. We didn’t know about any of this, as we had just taken on the property as a new rental.
$5,000 in lawyer’s fees and a bunch of angst later, those renters dropped the suit because they didn’t have evidence that we had done what they said we did.
14. Best thing to happen to you in your business?
The best thing was making so much money with our little 2 person business.
15. Have you ever owned other businesses? How did that go?
Yes, I owned a housecleaning business, sold real estate and currently own a window cleaning business. All were successful, some more than others.
16. Do you have any plans to sell your business or pass the business to kids?
We sold the business for $130,000. Looking back, knowing then what I know now, we would have hired employees and then grown the business large enough to get at least $1,000,000 at the sale.
17. Were your parents self-employed?
Yes, they owned their own business, making and selling fine ceramic pottery.
18. What advice would you give to someone starting a business?
* Make sure the business service or goods you sell are a “need” rather than a “want” to your customers. This is because it is easier to sell someone something they need than selling them something they want. For example, gasoline is easy to sell (need), a Lamborghini (a want) not so much.
* When you first start a business, there will be a “dip” (something bad will happen that will make you want to quit). Deal with the dip and keep pushing forward.
This interview is provided courtesy of First Impressions Window Cleaning. We guarantee our work 100%.
Window cleaning questions on the side:
What will you use to clean my windows?
Dawn Dishwashing detergent and water. We have a polishing spray that consists of pure water, rubbing alcohol, and a smidge of Dawn.
Window cleaning questions on the side:
How much does First Impressions Window Cleaning charge to clean windows?
For an average size window of 4′ x 4′ we charge $3 to clean the outside and $2 to clean the side. Smaller windows are less and larger windows are more.