Teresa and I went on a honeymoon retreat in the Amish Country, Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It was so quaint and beautiful. The rolling country hills with farms, horse and buggy, small antique shops, and farmer's markets were such a breath of fresh air to our normal busy and chaotic life. We planned multiple day trips from our wonderful bed and breakfast called the Barn at Strasburg. Sight & Sound's Esther was on the list for sure. We've been eager to see one of these captivating representations of the biblical account. We booked that. We found many covered bridges that we arranged on a map to visit. We even found a working Amish farm to visit. We checked out the pictures and reviews on Google and decided to make a few hours of it! We were excited to see the Amish make butter, see the schoolroom, the farm. The pictures and stories online really painted a story of what the place would be like. We were excited to see it! But, oh man... the TRUE story did NOT match the pictures.
Let's journey together into an update of my own solo cleaning business. 2020 was a great year. I started at $29,000 in total cleaning revenue, which was the beginning of the Stabilizer Phase of my ISO Model. After hitting multiple 60-day SMART goals, I ended the year at $80,000! That's a $51,000 increase in 1 year! Our profit tripled to just under $5,000 per month on 2 cleaning days per week. As you follow my podcast this year, I'll be showing you how I take this $80,000 Stabilizer business, cross the Optimizer threshold, and convert it to a $90,000 revenue, $6,000 per month profit on 2 days per week solo cleaning business. This is my SMART goal for 2021. This Optimizer business will be worth over $100,000, which means I could sell it again like I did in 2018! Please do not take that as a brag. I'm excited and grateful. This has been a journey. If you're new to my podcast, make sure you check out my 2020 catalog of podcast episodes as they take you on the $51,000 increase journey.
I still remember the car ride to Gatlinburg, TN with my wife when she told me this story. I had no idea that one story about shopping at the discount racks would turn into a podcast episode that has helped solo cleaners understand their value in the marketplace.
In my first full year as a solo cleaner, I worked a lot but we had no money. You've heard my story on this podcast a dozen times! We just lost our car to repossession. We had $170,000 in debt and no house! We earned under $2000/mo, lived in a ghetto, had bill collectors calling every day. We lived 5 hours from our closest family and we were new parents. In December 2006, we had no idea how we'd pay for our rent, let alone get a Christmas gift for our 2-year-old Kenny! That's why I'd like to introduce my dear friend Sean Rogers. We were in the Amway business together. After a Nite Owl (business mastermind session after hours at TGIF), Sean gave me a hug and followed it up with the Italian handshake. He had slipped me a $100 bill and said, "Get your son a Christmas present." I was in tears. How did he know we had nothing and couldn't even afford the air we were breathing? My guess is that Sean is a Christian and he was being obedient to what God told him.
In this episode, I have an important lesson to share from a new friend of mine in the digital marketing space on the power of Facebook and Google. Eric Laylon is a consultant with ReachLocal. He understands the online landscape more than almost anyone that I know. He's a new member of the MCBA networking group and had a chance to share a presentation on his work. I asked many questions as I wanted to understand a little more of the trends he's seeing in 2021.
Today is a very sad day for me. My Nana passed away 1 year ago on February 22nd, 2020 and my Pop-Pop passed away 3 months ago on November 22nd, 2020. They were married for 63 years and raised me to be the man that I am today. I miss them tremendously. If you are interested, check out the podcast episodes where I read the eulogies for each of my grandparents. My Nana - It Was All a Blur, My Pop-Pop - Tribute to My Father. I don't want to make this episode about me and the grieving I'm still doing. I wanted to share an important mindset shift that I hope you hear loud and clear.
This is an article I wrote for my solo cleaning company, Carfagno Cleaning. I encourage you to check out my cleaning website for ideas on how you could build An Optimizer's Website.
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I'm not sharing as many of my own solo cleaning business updates as my own personal goals are beginning to shift. I am following my own ISO Model System. I am almost through the Stabilizer Phase of the plan, which focuses on growth and earning enough profit and experience to remove ALL financial stress from your family. In 2021, I'll be optimizing my company to $6,000 per month profit on 2 cleaning days per week without employees. Here are a few updates from the past week.
I love listener questions! Here's one I got a few weeks ago that was a perfect excuse to teach on the topic of affiliations.
"Hi Ken, I listen to your podcast religiously! I got "legit" (DBA, EIN, sales tax ID, etc) at the end of last year, and fully launched at the beginning of January. I previously was a manager for Pizza Hut in my area for 15 years. I started working there when I was 17. When covid started the franchise in my area completely folded. I began working for a janitorial company and was getting a lot of positive feedback. I have a one-year-old son and needed something flexible to work opposite of my husband. I had toyed with the idea of starting a business for a long time (I have a business degree). I just got my solo cleaning business up and running. Your tips have been instrumental! What are your thoughts about joining the BBB? Someone from my local chapter just cold-called me asking me to join."
Do you struggle with selling and not charging enough? Do you believe you offer something special to the world? Listen to this "Best Of" episode called "Blueberry Pie". This is one of my favorite episodes of this podcast. I've used this mindset to teach multiple solo cleaners the value they can offer.
This is a story that will cost a cleaning supplier a lot of money. First of all, I hope you all know me by now. I am not vindictive. I did not have a bad experience with the company I'm going to mention. However, I chose to do my 3-stars out of 5 review to the world because it will illustrate a vital lesson on the lifetime value of a client. I purchased my Mosquito Carbon Lite vacuum cleaner from my friend Joshua Burnstein, owner of Sawgrass Cleaning Solutions, Boynton Beach, FL. Joshua is a authorized distributor for Mosquito, which he does as a side hustle. I now use him exclusively to take care of my vacuum needs. But I almost didn't and here's what happened.
There are so many questions that clients and prospects have asked me over the years. As a consultant in the cleaning industry, I get asked even more. My cleaning company website has an in-depth Learning Library that I'm very proud of. Several of these articles are FAQs that I've pulled to the home page of my website. From time to time, I'll bring you one of these articles. Today is such a time as I wanted to mentally equip you, the solo cleaner, with how to answer the naysayers that believe solo cleaning is not possible, not worth it, or not professional. Here's a link to my article, "How Can You Possibly Clean Alone, Ken?". For the purposes of this podcast, I'm going to read it! There are 6 misconceptions that I highlight in this article and I encourage you to remember them as you connect with potential clients. As a side note, I added a 7th misconception for this podcast for solo cleaners directly.
Right off the bat, let me make this statement. There is not one way to properly do a COVID-19 clean and disinfect, but there is science that governs us to follow protocols and procedures to ensure best results. There are so many companies out there doing COVID disinfection. Unfortunately, it's hard to tell which are tried and true with years of disinfection and training from the ones that saw an opportunity in 2020 and short-cutted the system to make money. I would first like to give a shout out to a good friend who has become an expert in disinfection in the Washington D.C. area. Mark Lineberry of Universal Janitorial Services has an incredible article on COVID & Reopening Your Facilities (Guide) and another on properly doing Electostatic Disinfection Services. It will show you just how much training it takes to do this right and I HIGHLY recommend that you begin learning this science so you can help more families and businesses in your community. As you know, I've become a local expert in Philly on the same topic as I've been called to share to various audiences my "9 Mistakes in Disinfecting". I don't use a delivery system like fogging or UV or electrostatic spraying. These require a lot of training and expertise that I don't have. They also require a large equipment investment. I have companies that I refer when clients request this. My clients understand that I do "High Touch Point Disinfecting". The philosophy is simple. 80% of the pathogens lie on 20% of the surfaces. I don't need to kill 100% of the pathogens with a complicated delivery system. I kill 80% by hyper-focusing on the surfaces where pathogens are most likely to settle.
I have two related funny stories to the theme of this podcast. Have you ever seen the "Polar Express" movie during Christmas? Most of you have. Toward the end, when the main characters are lost in North Pole, they stumble in the elf operations room. There are a number of videos playing of kids and a red buzzer goes off. One kid is shown on the Naughty List as he repeats the phrase, "I didn't do it. I didn't do it. I didn't do it." After the movie, my own kids were repeating that phrase including my 3-year-old and if you have kids, so are they. This innocence is cute as a kid, but not as an adult leading a business. My Uncle Bob told me a story about a friend. This guy is a jack of all trades. He does lawns, gutter cleaning, moving, tree service, power washing, whatever. He just goes wherever the money is. But this Jack is uninsured and thus, unprofessional! He takes on a lot of risk. If he is guilty of any damage, the homeowner better hope he doesn't pull the Polar Express line. My uncle told me that a neighbor of his called Jack over to remove an oak tree. When he asked him if he had insurance, Jack lied and said he did. He successfully removed the oak tree, but he didn't put the tree where it was supposed to go. A professional would survey the yard and take vital measurements first. Jack did not and the cry of TIMBER lead to the sound of an oak tree smashing into the roof of the house! It was a miscalculation for Jack. Thankfully, no one was injured. But the house was severely damaged. My uncle told me me how this will play out. When the homeowner hires someone knowingly that doesn't have insurance they take the risk and hope that their own insurance will cover damages if something happens. Sometimes it will, sometimes it won't. Sometimes it covers partial, but never the whole thing. In this case, if it turns out the contractor lied about having insurance. The homeowner can file a lawsuit, but the guy has no money and he won't get anything anyway. The homeowner is screwed either way. What's the lesson here? It's pretty obvious. Don't be Jack. Don't hire Jack. Let him keep rolling down the hill with Jill
In this episode, I'd like to share a few updates from my solo cleaning business. It is true that I stopped striving for my goals in late 2020. But I didn't stop marketing. My "Optimizer's Website", strong "Google My Business" profile, and participation in local networking and chamber events. Recently, I had a couple find me on Google that lead to my website and a phone call. They had their questions answered on my website and the rest over the phone, so they scheduled an in-person estimate. After the estimate, I sent out a proposal my typical menu of customized house cleaning options. Matt and Laura had a few days to digest the menu, so Matt called me to negotiate as any good sales guy would. I explained what my options were so he understood them. One of my monthly cleaning options was of interest but it was about $20 too high above their budget. Ultimately, he asked if I was willing to negotiate, which means could I lower my price to get him as a client? My answer was simple and it never changes. This is not hard for me and it should not be for you either. "I don't lower my prices or my quality, but I can definitely lower the scope or the frequency of my options and provide another option which hits your budget." This would be a win for him as it hits their price. It would be a win to me because I still will earn my same hourly rate because I don't compromise on my prices.
It's a new calendar year. 2020 was so difficult for many families and so many are exploring other options for income. In this new "Best Of" series, I bring you an older episode that truly connected with my audience. "How to Start Your Solo Cleaning Business" is still one of my most downloaded episodes to date. Everything that I taught in this episode is valid in 2021 and beyond. The only addition would be for you to take cleaning science seriously. I did a wildly popular talk in my area called the "9 Mistakes in Disinfecting". It turned into webinars, YouTube videos, and a podcast. I encourage you to become an expert in cleaning science so you can disinfect like a pro and increase your stock as a cleaner in your area. It will set you apart big time.
I was listening to the Tim Ferriss Podcast recently as he interviewed the one and only Seth Godin. Between comments, Tim uttered the metaphor of the duck does all of its work under the surface. I literally had to pause the episode and write out this one! In my last episode, Mission 20/20 Accomplished, I painted a picture of team cleaning companies growing through insurmountable odds and I shared my success in 2020. I don't want anyone to think that we had it easy or growing our cleaning businesses come easy to us. Let's learn from the duck and then come back with the goal of encouraging you and giving you truth!
2020 started with such promise to many. Unfortunately, it ended much differently. This episode is not a co-miserating-let-you-off-the-hook-if-you-did-nothing-about-it episode! This is an episode to fire up the winners. With all the doom and gloom in the media of pandemics, failing economy, and people's livelihoods being destroyed, do you know that there are scores of absolute winners that crushed it in business in 2020 despite the doom and gloom? It's true. In fact, billionaire Mark Cuban predicted it early in the pandemic when he said that many new corporations will be birthed during this time. He also said that the entrepreneur who can pivot toward the future will always thrive. I've paraphrased Mark, but it's so true. I challenge you to search for entrepreneurs who have crushed it in 2020 and learn why and how they did it. Many had their backs pressed against the wall and had no direction but ahead. That's a winner. I facilitate and lead the SMART Cleaning Tribe. This is a group of cleaning business owners growing with employees toward 7-figures and I keep them focused and accountable to their WHY, BHAG, SMART goals. On a mastermind & accountability call recently, we were discussing 2020. They all had SMART goals to double their revenues in 2020. One of the members did. Carrie Cottrell from Cleaning by Carrie out of Galion, OH more than doubled her company well past the quarter million mark. Carrie is crushing it. I've watched her all year. She provides a high quality service at an affordable price. Her product is solid. Plus, Carrie is in a rural, small-town area and she has networked like crazy. She has put herself out there on local news interviews, the chamber, local networking groups, and posting on Facebook every single day something of value to others! It seems that everybody knows Carrie in Galion, OH. She may as well be the only cleaning company there because it certainly seems like it. I'm so proud of Carrie! Jenn Jubrey (Maid Spotless Cleaning, Albany, NY) had to shut down completely by order of the state for nearly 3 months. Yet, she still managed to grow enough just to hit the same revenue as 2019 and position herself to pass $500k in 2021! Her accountability buddy is doing the same thing. Michelle Allegrezza (Sparkling Homes Cleaning, Albertville, MN) lost a large percentage of her clients and staff in 2020 due to the pandemic and she personally dealt with severe illness and family crisis. Like Carrie and Jenn, Michelle is a winner. She dug in big time and went back into the field to personally clean solo again until she had her new hires trained to replace her. Check this out. She finished the year 11% down in revenue from 2019, but was extremely wise with the money that did come in to become a 100% debt-free company! How many business owners can say this in 2020? Michelle and Jenn are racing to $500k and I love stoking the fire of competition! Hannah Brees (Shine & Sparkle Cleaning, Dallas, OR) had wild fires and a pandemic nearly take out her business. Heck, the Oregon wildfires were within miles of her house. She grew her revenue in 2020 while losing more than half of her team and also having to clean solo again for a short time! Way to go Hannah! Kate Sloan (Chicka Chicka Broom, Montgomery, MN) has also crushed it in 2020. She is in a small town with a Big Dream to show her community what a well-run business looks like. She was able to grow revenue in 2020 while many other local businesses were going out of business. She worked hard, building up a waiting list of clients over 30 deep to replace the ones she lost during the pandemic. Kate also put the time in to find great hires while she worked solo in the field again in 2020. 2021 looks so bright for Kate. She's newly married, has the majority of her business running without her again, and she's on route to 7-figures and time, money, and location freedom. All of these ladies are amazing examples of what winning looks like.
I started this podcast with no expectations. It's a highly niched show for people wanting to optimize a solo cleaning business. When my show got to 1,000 downloads, I was shocked! It kept growing. Recently, the Solo Cleaning School Podcast crossed 20,000 downloads in 13 months! That's incredible to me. I am a member of the podcasting community and the "Downloads" metric is so important to people. I've seen some tote their download number around as if they are really big stuff, yet I've seen others with millions of downloads with such humility, you'd think no one listened. I was somewhere in the middle. I couldn't figure out what this number meant until recently. The man I'm talking about with 3 million downloads and total humility is John Stange. He's a local pastor to me and runs the Desire Jesus Website. John is a total stud. He is a master content creator and has a book coming out this May with a major book publisher. I'm so proud to call John a friend.
"Hi, I'm Ken and I'm an overthinker." I constantly make simple things complex. That's what an overthinker does. We complicate the most simple task to the point that we cannot take any action to complete it. Another term for this failure disease is procrastination as Dr. Schwartz talks about in "The Magic of Thinking Big". The rare person that can take the complex, make is simple, and take massive action are the most successful in life. Our president, like him or not, is a great example of this. Unfortunately, I'm an overthinker and so are most of you!
Make this a play on the year 2020. No one could have ever guessed 2020 would go as it did. There was a major pandemic that shutdown the country for months. Riots broke out across the country. A presidential election turned into a 2 month battle in court. On a personal note, I lost both grandparents and nearly lost my mom. No matter what goals you set for 2020, few of us were able to hit them. In fact, I've been connecting with cleaning owners from all over the country all year and most were just trying to get back to where they were as 2020 started! At the end of 2019, I shared an important strategy planning episode called "Think Week". I followed that up with a 5-part goal-setting series prior to the pandemic. (Goal Setting I: What is Your Why? / Goal Setting II: Why Set Goals? / Goal Setting III: Make Your Goals SMART / Goal Setting IV: The Accountability Roadmap / Goal Setting V: Kill Parkinson) I highly recommend that re-listen to each of these 6 episodes as you close 2020 and prepare for 2021.
In my last Carfagno Cleaning update, I shared about my honeymoon getaway with my wife, my grandfather in the ICU, and some wins in my solo cleaning business. I've already shared a "Tribute to My Father" in a previous episode as well, so you know how that ended. I have a few other updates from this week in business.
This was my 4th episode of the Solo Cleaning School Podcast. My goal was to share the top tangibles and intangibles that made solo cleaning so awesome. I also wanted to balance this with the Cons of Solo Cleaning. This has been one of my most popular episodes, so I wanted to bring it back. Enjoy!
I've shared about my mastermind community many times. Total Life Freedom has members all over the US and for some cool reason, there are a few in my area. We formed up TLF Philly and held our first local lunch get together recently at Chili's in King of Prussia, PA. We had a wonderful time and discussed big ideas, what's working and what's not in our businesses. We laughed. We shared. At the end, the bill dropped and John Stange took it and as quickly as he could was paying with his credit card. A few of the others objected until I stepped in. I shared my lifelong struggle with this and told them to allow John the honor to give to us. They understood and John was so happy. We allowed a giver to give. This is powerful. Now let me explain the mindset
2020 has been a year none of us will ever forget. Is that not the understatement of the year!? We had a global pandemic, government shutdowns, trillions in stimulus, panic, fear, riots, election chaos, and it's still not over. None of this even scratches the surface of how I'll remember 2020. For me, it's the permanent end of my childhood and the time for me to prove out the legacy left to me. What does that even mean... "the end of my childhood"? In 2020, both of my grandparents on my father's side passed away. On the surface, this may seem extraordinary that I still have grandparents living... and it is. It's so much deeper. Ken Sr and Gabriella Carfagno were my Nana & Pop-Pop for 43 years. In reality, they are the true mother and father in my life. I spent every weekend with them growing up. They are the ones I sought approval and affirmation, especially my Pop. Their loss ends my extended childhood, where I still had a father to go to for counsel. Pop was the patriarch of the Carfagno Family and now he's gone. I'm now left to stand on my own and become the new patriarch, but I don't stand from the ground. I stand upon his shoulders. This episode is a short departure from cleaning as I want you all to pause and reflect on what you have already. What are you grateful for? Your family? Your health? Your business, where ever it is?
Ken Carfagno optimized his first solo cleaning business to $60,000 annual profit working 2 days per week without employees, sold it for close to 6-figures, and is currently following his ISO Model to do it again in a different state! This podcast will equip you to do the same!