When starting and running a business, most entrepreneurs fall flat because they overcomplicate it and make it harder than it needs to be. Simplicity is the key, as Brian Winch has demonstrated by literally creating a high six-figure business out of trash.
In today’s episode, Brian talks about the stigma attached to picking up trash, letting his entrepreneurial spirit lead the way to success, and the two-way value created by going the extra mile for your clients.
You will also learn:
- How doing work others are unwilling to do can make success easy.
- Why being a “born salesman” isn’t always an advantage.
- How you can start a successful business on a shoestring budget and some basic hand tools.
- Why specializing and finding a niche is important for growing your business.
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SSP059 Talking Trash and Cleaning Up in Business with Brian Winch
So after that first property, then you’re obviously going to be better at pricing your service, and then you can quickly get two or three, four, or five properties and be making $3-4000 extra a month just doing this on the side, and then eventually, the choice is, everyone’s got different motivations.
I mean, some people that buy my book, they want to just simply do this on the side, do maybe two or three hours of work in the morning before they go to work, and others want to continue to scale it into a full-time business and quit their job and never look back.
You’re listening to Brian Winch, creator of Clean Lots, America’s Simplest Business. And truly that tagline is probably true because if you can walk, and are willing to follow some simple advice, you could easily pick up a few thousand extra per month on a very part time basis or grow it into a six-figure business with only a little more effort. And you’re about to hear all about it because Brian is today’s guest on Solopreneur Success.
Welcome to the Solopreneur Success podcast, where successful business owners gather to share true stories and sound advice to help you start and grow your own solopreneur business. Come soar with us and design the life you love. Now, here’s your host, Steve Coombes.
Hello, solopreneurs. Today, I’m interviewing Brian Winch, creator and author of Cleanlots, America’s simplest business, and today, we’re going to talk trash – but I don’t mean foul language. We keep that junk out of this show. Rather, we’re going to talk about a simple side hustle Brian started in 1981 that he grew into a high six-figure solopreneur business. Brian started with little money, education, or skills, but plenty of passion, patience, and persistence. Now, he shows others how to make good money from the same kind of simple home-based business, providing a green service that’s almost as easy to do as going for a walk. So, let’s talk trash. Brian, welcome to the show.
Hey, Steve. It’s great to be here.
Yeah. We had a great conversation just the other day, I said “wow, I’ve got to have Brian on the show and talk about this,” and we already hinted at it in the opening, but what exactly does your business do anyways?
Well, we provide a simple on-foot service using a unique hand tool where we walk exterior property outside commercial buildings like strip plazas or small office buildings, industrial warehouse parks, and easily clean up litter into our collection tools from the sidewalks, the parking lot, the surrounding landscape, and the entire exterior property.
Yeah, so really very basic. It doesn’t take a lot of education, going to college for four years, and tons of student debt. So, this is something that anybody could really do. By the way, let’s talk about that for a second. I’m going to get a lot more on your background and such, how you got on this path, but for those right up front, there’s two things I think many people are going to come to mind right off the bat. Number one, is there a stigma sociated with picking up trash, and number two, how fit do you have to be to do such kind of work in the first place? Maybe you could just hit those right off to top.
Yeah. Well, your second question right away, before I forget it, you don’t have to be in any great shape. I mean, if you can go for a walk, you can do this kind of work. There’s no heavy lifting, there’s no bending over, or anything like that. With the tools we use, it makes the job very easy to do, and the stigma, well, you know what? There’s always some people that will think “well, this is not a sexy business. I wouldn’t want to be caught dead doing this,” and then there’s a lot of other people, such as myself, that feel good about the service that we’re providing in the community, and we get satisfaction from seeing the results from our work, and really, it is simple work to do. I mean, if you can go for a walk, you can do this kind of work.
Yeah. Absolutely, and I know that’s just one of those things I know some people are going to have that in the back their head. This is why I hit it right up front, but to me honestly, the best businesses are the things that other people are unwilling to do, and you know what? If you want to provide a service that other people aren’t really willing to do, that’s a great thing in your corner because that means you have less competition, and you have a service that you said that you can provide very easily, that you’re just cleaning up. You’re literally cleaning up in the bank, because you’re willing to provide this service, and it shows real results in your community, and I just thought that was important to address that right of the top.
So, we talked about this a little bit when we were chatting the other day, Brian, but, for our listeners, how did you get involved in cleaning litter from parking lots as a business? How did it come about that you went down this path to say “this is going to be a side hustle” and then it became a full time business for you? How did that come about?
Well, I was 21 years of age back in 1981, and I was working a full time job, I barely graduated high school, I also didn’t go to college, didn’t have a lot of money in the bank, not a lot of skills, and just finally came to the realization that there wasn’t much of future for me working at this job for the rest of my life, and I wanted to do something on my own. I always had an independent streak, and as a kid, had the lemonade stand, and I shared the story last time with you that I had a twist on the lemonade stand, but I set up a cart table in front of my parents’ house when I was about five or six and started selling my younger brothers’ toys. They weren’t too happy with me, but anyway. I always had that entrepreneurial vent trying to find ways to work for myself.
My dad was a caretaker for the public school system, and he did a number of things to supplement his income. When I was growing up, he would cut grass in the summer and clear snow in the winter, and he also cleaned up litter from a nearby shopping plaza a couple blocks away from where we lived, and he’d taken me along with him a couple of times when I was a young teenager, 13/14. It was 1981, and unfortunately, my dad had just unexpectedly passed away at the age of 61, and I thought “you know what? I remember doing this work, him taking me along with him with a couple times. Let’s take a look and see if I can turn his side hustle into a full time business.” So, it started from there.
I didn’t have his experience to call upon but I did know my market was property management companies, and he had dealt with one in particular, so I just grabbed the internet of the day, that big fat Yellow Pages telephone directory, and started to let my fingers do the walking, and started cold calling property management companies, and I guess three or four calls in, the property manager told me that it was a very opportune time for me to be calling them because they were just having the discussion in the office that they needed to find somebody who was reliable and punctual, would show up and do the work, and would I be interested? So, they turned out to be my first client, and I started out with two or three properties, and that’s where the school of hard knocks began.
I learned how to market my business, the best tools to use, and I refined my elevator pitch, etc, and my business grew with my experience from starting up from those first two properties.
That’s awesome. So, it was a side hustle, became a full-time business. So, when you talk about a full-time business, how many hours does that really entail for you and this kind of work?
Well, the goal when I started this was to work for myself. I saw it originally as just a simple one-man operation, so I within a matter of several weeks, scaled it from a side hustle into a full-time one-man operation, and I was quite content for a couple of years doing that, but then I became a victim of my own success, I guess. Quite a few of my customers were asking for more of me and more of their properties, and I could only be at so many places at one time, so I continued to scale the business and I started recruiting other people that shared the same desire to work outdoors, make some extra money before they went to their jobs.
A lot of people had at their full time jobs but they did this on the side, and my business continued to grow where I had an army of people all across the city, and over the years, we kept adding more people that were full time, part time, weekends only, and we grew the business to the point where we’re filling out over $700,000 a year and just cleaning up parking lots from the litter, providing no other services.
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