To Join or Not to Join.....Those Are the Questions....But What Is The Answer?
In the cleaning services industry, pressure washing is a relatively inexpensive market to crack. In theory, you could spend as little as a thousand dollars and be in business with a basic contractor-grade piece of equipment, some insurance, and a business license.
Back in the old-days, YouTube videos, Facebook groups, and Google weren't in existence so much of the experience was learned by trial and error. Industry organizations were a means to share information, network, and trade ideas.
In today's world, newbies into the pressure washing industry have a plethora of information available to them....sometimes its almost an over-abundance of information. It's free and readily available. Whether or not the information is correct is another topic.
So if the information that wasn't readily available is now readily available and FREE.....what is the purpose of an industry organization? And beyond the purpose.....why might you want to join?
I still consider myself a newbie to the industry compared to many of the old-timers in the industry. My six years in the industry doesn't compare to 20 or 30 years so in many cases, I feel like my viewpoint is from the newbie-perspective.
First....let's talk certifications. Are they worth anything? Are they recognizable? Does a potential customer care? My background is in education. I went to school to be a elementary school teacher. I completed my degree at a State recognized university and then passed teacher certification tests that are administered by the State. I hold a certificate that has a valid teaching number and that number can be transferred to others states within the country. The pressure washing industry doesn't have "certifications" that are recognizable by any city, county, state or government. But does that mean the certification is useless? Depends on your train of thought. I believe that education is important. Knowledge is power. And I believe the more educated you on your business, the better you will be in sales to potential customers. I also believe that you gain important safety information, techniques and methods to be more efficient. Now that I have been to a few conventions with a few different orgs, each has their own style and feel. Most choose speakers that have years and years of practical experience and expertise in their market. These folks have built businesses and brands. You have the opportunity to learn from some of the best in the industry. So while the certification itself may not be worth the paper it's printed on, the education that you receive to get the certification (usually), is very valuable. Does your customer care? Some might but honestly most probably won't ask and even if you give the pitch about an org or a certification, most probably won't care. But that education should help you in processes and technique to get you on and off the job quickly thereby increasing your profits. Can you get that same type of education through random YouTube videos? I haven't seen it yet and worry somewhat about some of the suggestions made and techniques used. There are some excellent videos out there too. But when you are new to the industry, how you can dissect what information is right or wrong, good or bad? It takes time and some of the education associated with the certifications give you a quick-start.
Second...let's talk networking. Many organizations have very involved members who truly have a passion for the industry, love people and in general just want to see others do well too...just downright friendly folks. And many of these members have a lot of contacts having been in the industry for years. You never know how a beer at the bar after your education sessions may lead into your next big job. We routinely hand-off leads to our customers throughout the country. When we know you and your quality of work, it makes it easier for us to recommend you to others. If we make a reference, your work can affect our reputation. Because of our web presence, many times we will get calls from customers looking for cleaning services. After we explain that we are a supplier, we also look on our customer list and make some recommendations. Can you network through Facebook groups and forums? Sure you can. Organizations and conventions are another method and you have to determine if that is important to your business and its growth. Sometimes it's the quality of networking that you get through the orgs that can be beneficial to your business.
Finally....discounts. Everyone wants to save a buck or two. We get it and so do the orgs. We have discounts for certain org members. We've try to support all but just like you have a membership fee, so do we. We've chosen a few that we feel align to our business mission statement and the commitment to education and customer service. If you use your discounts wisely, you can recover the cost of a membership.
Let me close with this.....does it all matter? What matters is that you become the expert for your business. Do you have to have an org or a certification to become the expert? Nope....people became knowledgeable long before orgs existed. But it can fast-track you on your path with solid, reliable information from a lot of smart folks.
Look at your business plan and determine what's important to you and to your business and let that be your guide. Thanks for reading and feel free to comment with your thoughts.
- Kimberlee Handl