Brian Winch is the author and creator of Cleanlots, America's Simplest Business. Brian has been involved in all aspects of the parking lot litter cleaning business since 1981. He can show you how to start and operate a simple business based from home and make money from a green service that's almost as easy to do as going for a walk!
- CEO Hack: Attitude I bring to my business and your life, start small and get satisfaction from your achievement
- CEO Nugget: Quote from Matt Twain; “The two most important days in your life are the day you're born, and the day you find out why you were born
- CEO Defined: Being able to work for me, being independent
Do you want to learn effective ways to build relationships, generate sales, and grow your business from successful entrepreneurs, startups, and CEOs without listening to a long, long, long interview? If so, you’ve come to the right place, Gresham Harkless values your time and is ready to share with you precisely the information you’re in search of. This is the I am CEO podcast.
Gresham Harkless 0:29
Hello, hello, hello, this is Gresh from the I am CEO podcast and have a very special guest on the show today at Brian Lynch of cleanlots. Brian, it's awesome to have you on the show.
Brian Winch 0:39
It's great to be here, Gresham.
Gresham Harkless 0:40
no problem, super excited to have you on. And before we jumped in, I want to read a little bit more about Brian so you hear about all the awesome things that he's doing. And Brian is the author and creator of Cleanlots, America’s Simplest Business. Brian has been involved in all aspects of the parking lot litter cleaning business since 1981. He can show you how to start and operate a simple business based from home and make money from a green service that’s almost as easy to do as going for a walk!Brian, are you ready to speak to the IAMCEO community?
Brian Winch 1:07
Gresham Harkless 1:08
Awesome. Let's do it. So to kick everything off, I wanted to kind of rewind the clock a little bit here a little bit more on how you got started. Could you take us through what I call your CEO story and what you can start with the business?
Brian Winch 1:16
Sure, okay, well, we have to go way, way back to 1981. And I was working a full time job and quite frankly, couldn't see myself doing that for the rest of my life. I didn't see where I could progress in that company or, or as a career, seeing as I didn't have a lot of job skills. I barely graduated high school. So you know, I've kind of reached the peak as to where I would probably go doing that job. So I started looking at various possibilities as to what I could do with my life. And I, I decided, you know what I want to pursue the the idea of working for myself, I'd always kind of had an entrepreneurial bent. I remember when I was about five or six years old, I took some of my brother's toys, cleaned them up and set up a table in front of the house and sold them to the neighborhood kids. My brothers weren't too happy with me. But you know, I always had an interest in kind of working for myself and making my own money as opposed to you know, making somebody else rich and working for them. And so like I said, I was looking at possibilities, I didn't have a lot of money, I didn't have a lot of you know much of an education. But I had a passion to work for myself, but you know what, what was I going to do? And so I looked started looking at things you know, I could do and things I didn't want to do. And one of the things I quickly realized was I didn't want to work inside a building within the same four walls all day, I kind of loved my independence, my freedom of being outdoors working outdoors. And then I remembered you know what Mike my recently passed father at the time, he had a number of gigs or side hustles to supplement the family income, he was a caretaker or a janitor. So as a result of his income, he always kind of had to have something going on the side. And when one of those, those, moonlighting, your spare time jobs, if you will, was was cleaning up litter from a nearby shopping center. And he had taken me on with him a couple of times. And I remember it was almost It was really simple to do was almost as easy as going for a walk, all we did was get to the building, you know, first thing in the morning before the doors opened, and walked around the property, or the sidewalks, the parking lot the surrounding landscape and, and you know, clean up litter into our litter collection tool. And you know, there's no bending over and handling this stuff or picking it up, it was just simply going for a walk and cleaning up the material. And, you know, since we're, you know, he was providing the service on a daily basis, you know, quite often we would walk several yards, 10 1520 yards between one piece of litter to the neck, so it was just a matter of minutes to get this job done. And, you know, he off he went to work and, and you know, I'd go back home and get ready for school. And so I you know, I thought you know what, let me see if there's a market for the service. But you know, unfortunately, he had passed away and I didn't have his experience in his context to call upon. So I just decided I would use the Internet of the day back then, which was the old Yellow Pages telephone directory. And I started thumbing through the the property managers listing and made about three or four or five calls. And all of a sudden, I had a prospect that said, You know what, that sounds great. Here's three addresses. Go take a look at them get back to me with some prices, and we'll see where that goes. And long story short, no, actually, this has been a long story, hasn't it? But nevertheless, that's how it all started. I got those three contracts and the school of hard knocks, the learning process all began from there.
Gresham Harkless 4:58
Nice is definitely a great start. Where you go, and I'm sure your dad definitely, you know, happy that you're able to kind of guess carry on a family business in some form, shape or fashion. And I think that, you know, sometimes we forget at the heart of entrepreneurship is being able to solve problems. And obviously, to see that problem be able to create, and sometimes we can overthink what those solutions are, but really just kind of being there and listening and paying attention to what's not going right and be able to kind of solve that is such a huge thing for all of us. That reminder is CEOs, entrepreneurs, and business owners.
Brian Winch 5:26
That's right, you don't need to reinvent the wheel just to find a need or demand for a service or product and fill it. And the great thing about this, this business is, you know, quite frankly, there are a lot of people that don't want to clean up after others. But for others that enjoy working outdoors and great get great satisfaction, seeing the results of their work, and also knowing they're providing a great community service. It's a great opportunity.
Gresham Harkless 5:54
Yeah, absolutely. And like you said, that opportunity is real, when you again, can look at you know, the the parking lot or or wherever it might be that's been cleaned up, you see kind of the fruits of your labor and the things that you're putting in, it does a tremendous amount to the property value. So I think even the look and the feel, and the even the kind of unspoken emotion, I've seen a place that really looks good. So I'm sure a lot of property managers and people that you work with, definitely appreciate that. And so I know you touched on it a little bit. But I want to hear a little bit more about your book and clean loss as a whole and how exactly you serve the clients that you work with.
Brian Winch 6:28
Okay, well, the book came about about four years into my business about 1984. And that's when I realized that I had something really great here. I mean, it was a great opportunity for other people similar to myself that wanted to be self employed, have their own business, but, but maybe didn't have a lot of money, or job skills or education and you know, you know, how do you get started. So I put on, I started writing all of my experience down into what became the first version of clean locks or the book. And I began marketing it through the old direct mail channels. So you know, way back, then there were quite a few business opportunity magazines that you could pick up on the newsstands and, and people you know, what would go to those, you know, and, you know, thumb through the pages and, you know, find different opportunities. And, and I you know, I had some success with that. But the main focus has always been building the actual cleaning business. And we scaled that from a one man operation. And to be honest with you, when I started the business, the the whole intent, basically, just to keep it simple, and just be able to work for myself, and I didn't really, you know, see, you know, a huge army of people working for me, and etc, etc. Just wanted to keep things simple. But as I came as I became successful, I quickly realized, my customers, you know, they wanted me to work more and more of their property. So, you know, I didn't want to say no, and possibly allow a competitor to come in and take my business away. So I scaled the business, by bringing my brothers and other people into the operation. And we became quite successful there we can we continue to scale the business upwards to the point where basically, in recent years, we're building out anywhere from 650 to $707,000 a year, just in literal cleanup contracts. And, and then, you know, I revisited the book, again, about sharing this opportunity and decided to set up a website. And, and, and I made some more revisions to the book is you know, as I continue to learn more and more about this business, I put more than experience into the book, or operations manual, if you will, and make it available from my website, clean launch.com. And I provide free support. And the reason I do that is it's it works. It's a simple business to learn. But it's also my way of, of giving back and helping other people that were in the same situation, situation I was back in 1981, just kind of looking for any opportunity that you could afford, and you could work. And as long as you brought that passion, patience and persistence, you could be successful.
Gresham Harkless 9:16
Absolutely love that passion, patience and persistence. And I think that's such a great reminder. It's so funny when you were kind of just talking about how simple it was and the ability to be able to scale the business I was thinking of. There's a movie called The founder. And he said a lot of the reasons for McDonald's ability to scale out and grow is the simplicity of the business. And kind of what you were speaking to with your success kind of reminds me so much of that is being able to kind of scale not because it's rocket science all the time. I think so many times we can kind of overcomplicate things, but because again, you find what that problem is and you create that solution for it and then it starts to kind of go from there.
Brian Winch 9:49
Well, and you make a great point about people complicating things and I'll give you an example. I did that for a brief period of time. You know what, there's the adage that you should give your customer What they want, but you know, at the same time you learned that there are some times when you have to say no, you can't keep saying yes, yes, yes. So, at one point, we had a couple of clients come to us and say, Brian, we love your letter cleaning for us at our properties, we love what you're doing for us making our jobs easier, etc. But you know, what, we have a little bit of grass on the back of the building, can you cut that for us? Oh, and in the winter, we have a little strip of sidewalk off the city street, can you clear that force? And, you know, back then we were afraid to say no. And, you know, we were afraid that no, if we say no, they're just simply going to take their business elsewhere. But, but that was a mistake on our part to assume that but but also a mistake for us to take on the work. And we did that for probably about four years, you know, on a on a small basis. And, and quite frankly, we hated pay to doing that type of work. And so we decided, you know, what we're going to, to, you know, talk to our our clients that were had were entered into this arrangement and, and we told them look at, you know, we want to get out of those other services, that's not who we are not what we do. Our service, our niche service is parking lot, litter cleaning, we do that better than anybody else. And you know, quite frankly, they agreed with us. And they said, no problem, we don't want to lose your litter pickup service, we can find somebody else to do these other services. And, you know, that was a good learning experience. And we've kept the business simple, ever since then, and grown our business as a result. If you enjoy doing what you're doing, you'll be successful. If there's something you don't like doing, by all means. I mean, there's no reason for you to continue doing it, you know, contracted out or whatever, or just get out of it entirely.
Gresham Harkless 11:43
Yeah, absolutely. And it's a great reminder, because not only are you doing yourself a disservice, you're doing a service sometimes for your clients, by not loving exactly what you're doing and being able to kind of put your hole into it. So I absolutely love that reminder. And so would you consider that to be what I like to call your secret sauce of the thing you feel kind of sets you apart? and makes you unique? Is you or the business I should say? Is it that ability to really focus and create the simplicity of the business and really only kind of stay in that lane so to speak?
Brian Winch 12:08
Yeah, we do that. And also, though, I mean, we've kind of expanded upon, you know what we do, I mean, we I mean, anybody can clean up, I mean, it doesn't matter what cleaning service you're doing. But the successful companies that have been around for decades are the ones that give more than what they say they'll do so. So like I say, when we're out, our crew is out cleaning, cleaning up litter from the properties if we, if we see some fresh graffiti that's been tagged on a wall, or a stop sign that's been run down, or somebody has done a midnight drop off by dumping off a mattress and the boxspring in a kit or kitchen table, at the back of the property next to the waistband, we make a point to communicate those issues or concerns, as soon as possible the next morning to our clients, and they really appreciate that feedback. It does so much more for us. It helps solidify that business relationship. They know we're at the properties, they know that we care about their their building. So we're going to communicate these things that we see. And it's surprising that there are so many cleaning companies out there, whether they be maid services or office cleaners. And they just take the attitude that we're there to, you know, to empty the waste baskets and vacuum the floors and dusk, the the desks and then we've done our job and we're out of there. And you know, that's the wrong attitude to take, in my mind.
Gresham Harkless 13:35
truly appreciate that reminder. And I wanted to switch gears a little bit. And I want to ask you for what I call a SEO hack. So this could be like an app or book or habit that you have, but what's something that makes you more effective and efficient?
Brian Winch 13:46
Well, you know, I guess it's the the attitude that you bring to, to your business and to your life. And some people call it planning and you know, I don't have this big six months six year plan. I start small, if you will, by say okay, this is what I want to accomplish today. This is what I want to accomplish by the end of the week, you know, and then you know, by the end of the month, etc, you know, nice small, bite sized chunks, so you feel and you can you can get satisfaction from your small victories.
Gresham Harkless 14:20
And so I want to ask you now for what I call a CEO nugget. And this could be a word of wisdom or a piece of advice. It might be something if you were to happen to a time machine, you would tell your younger business self.
Brian Winch 14:29
There's a quote from Mark Twain, the two most important days of your life are the day you were born. And the day you found out why
Gresham Harkless 14:37
I want to ask you now my absolute favorite question, which is the definition what it means to be a CEO. And we're hoping that different QuickBooks CEOs on this show So Brian, what does being a CEO mean to you?
Brian Winch 14:46
Being able to work for myself and be independent.
Gresham Harkless 14:49
I appreciate your time too. And what I wanted to do is pass you the mic so to speak, just to see if there's anything additional you can let our readers and listeners know and of course how best they can get overview, get a copy of the book and find out about all the awesome things you were
Brian Winch 15:00
Well, you know, you can go to my website at cleanlots.com and there's a wealth of information there, there's a video on my homepage that you can take a look at. And it shows me actually providing the service and showing how easy that work is to do. And you get a better understanding what tools I use, and you know how the work is done. And I'm, like I say all sorts of great information on the website. But also you can order the book it comes in either a ebook download, or a hardcopy, some people still like prefer the hard copies, and the contact page, you can reach out to me if you need more help I personally, deal with with everything about this opportunity when it comes to dealing with people if questions concerns, like I say, the free support, I provide the phone rings on my desk, I don't hire people and coach them to provide answers. You know, if you order my book, I will work with you and you're going to deal with me directly.
Gresham Harkless 15:58
Nice. I definitely appreciate that Brian and we will have the links and information in the show notes. And I always say I think they think even there's a saying that says you know a true show of you know, being an expert at your craft is not being able to kind of do it yourself but to be able to teach and support so many other people. So I provide you I appreciate you for providing those opportunities to do that through your book and also through the support you provide. And again, I appreciate your time and hope you have a great rest of the day.
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