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Through The Looking Glass

April 14, 2011
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For those unfortunate souls stuck in cubicles all day long, trivial daily occurrences make or break the workday.

For instance, when workers arrive or depart from a building and gaze at the glass façade glistening in the sunlight, they do not want to see water spots, streaks or excremental gifts from birds.

And, when they are on the inside looking out, staring into the endless distance of five o''clock freedom, they do not want their ganders obstructed by dirt particles, fingerprints or whatever other substances miraculously mar otherwise clean windows.

Understanding that customers want clean windows — and knowing that your business is to provide cleaning and maintenance services desired by said customers — it seems foolish not to offer window cleaning in your repertoire.

With the latest available tools, equipment and training, it has never been easier, safer or more financially viable to break into the arena of window cleaning.

Getting Started

Compared to other add-on services or standalone businesses, window cleaning requires some of the fewest resources to get off the ground.

The necessary tools and equipment will vary depending on the types of accounts you wish to service.

For example, cleaning the windows of a one-story office building or retail store might only require a stepladder, a squeegee with a scrubbing mechanism, a bucket of water and cleaning solution and some rags to wipe the residual moisture from the window frames.

Naturally, a larger job will require more upfront capital for equipment such as telescoping poles — with or without filtered water feeding capabilities — larger ladders and lifts, scaffolding and platforms, ropes and harness systems, automated window cleaning machines, etc.

Just as the needed equipment varies, so, too, do the potential earnings: The higher up you clean, the higher the payout.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average pay rate for someone cleaning low-lying windows is $11 an hour, whereas someone cleaning high-rise windows averages closer to $25 an hour.

Many window cleaners only work part time or seasonally, and pay scales vary greatly with different employers, regions of the country and levels of training.

Some window cleaners have reported earning upwards of $100 an hour for their efforts.

Possessing the necessary accessories is, of course, a must.

But, knowing how to perform the tasks and informing potential customers that you offer such services is vital, too.

According to Patrick Marsh, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of IPC Eagle Corporation, the person cleaning windows doesn''t have to be a “professional” window cleaner, as anyone can be quickly taught how to clean windows using a simple scrub and wash technique.

If you are considering window cleaning as an avenue for income, it would be wise to check out one of the many forums catering to such professionals.

There are few better ways to explore an option than to speak with individuals who have already surmounted the common marketing pitfalls and found success in their endeavors.

Window cleaning franchises are also available that allow you to tap into their large customer base and use their polished marketing lingo and advertising campaigns to piggyback on their success for a royalty fee.

Additional resources include the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the non-profit International Window Cleaning Association (IWCA), which offer important safety information and provide insight for window cleaners at all stages of business operation.

Safety First

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) lists falls as one of the leading causes of on-the-job deaths, accounting for eight percent of all occupational fatalities from trauma.

Given the nature of window cleaning and the frequent need to be elevated, workers have an increased risk of injury if safety protocols are not followed properly.

Greg Nammacher, secretary-treasurer of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 26, said: “Over the past years, the window cleaning industry, we believe, has gotten increasingly dangerous. There is more and more pressure to cut corners.”

In an effort to minimize the incidents of injury, the IWCA worked with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to establish the IWCA/ANSI I-14 Safety Standard, which provided safety regulations based on reliable data — not marketing forces or other special interests.

To help employers and their workers remain in compliance with the regulations, the IWCA Safety Certification program was initiated, which helps individuals study the many facets of safety best practices and equipment usage.

To become IWCA Safety Certified for a five-year period, window cleaners must pass three preparatory exams and a final in-person examination.

Just as Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS) certification differentiates a cleaning service and can function as a sales tool when promoting the professionalism of an operation, having your window cleaners IWCA Safety Certified shows dedication to protecting your laborers, the buildings in which they work and the tenants of those buildings.

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