Saturday, August 8, 2015

Starting a BBQ Grill Cleaning Business
Part Two

Everywhere you go you see ads for someone offering to build you a website, and if you own a new business, you get bombarded with emails of the same nature.

It seems everyone's convinced that you must have a website if you want your new venture to succeed. However, that's not entirely true.

A few years ago my online bookstore was "punished" by Google's Panda algorithm, and after that experience I vowed that if I ever decided to start a new business, its success and—most importantly—its profitability, would not depend on a website.


HAVING A WEBSITE BUILT

When I finally decided to start a new business venture, buried at the end of the "to do" list, was having a web presence.

So when the time came to have this done, I hired a local company that specialized in creating websites.

We met and I explained that I wanted a simple site with, maybe, four or five pages, some photos, and that sort of thing.

After a few days they called to say that my new website was ready.
It was horrible.


THE DO-IT-YOURSELF APPROACH

After I fired them I talked to a few other website designers. But the prices I was quoted made no sense whatsoever, so I decided to build one myself.

Not my favorite thing to do but—since I built my first web page from scratch back in 1994—I sort of have a pretty decent idea on how to go about it.

For the platform I chose Blogger.


BLOGGER

Yes, Blogger is a blog platform but—like anything else involving HTML, CSS, etc.—it can be customized quite a bit. Besides, I've been a Blogger user for years now, so I am somewhat familiar with it.

Now, webmasters and—especially—SEO "experts" everywhere will say that using Blogger to create a business website is the wrong thing to do. The beauty of it is that I don't care. I just needed a basic website for my barbecue grill cleaning business.


UNWEB YOURSELF

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Having a website is a necessary evil, at least in my case. I am not counting on customers finding me online. If they do, great, but I will not depend on it.

If my new enterprise had an ecommerce component, I would be singing a different tune. But since my new business is a local grill cleaning service, I plan to reach potential customers in more traditional ways. These include postcards through USPS's EDDM (Every Door Direct Mail), subdivision newsletters, and ad books.


WRAP IT UP


In addition to those advertising channels, I will have my equipment trailer vinyl wrapped and have custom magnets made for the truck.


Because of the nature of the service, I plan to take advantage of the fact that while on a job, my truck and trailer will be parked in front of the customer's home, and while I am there I can use my vehicle to advertise my services to neighbors.

It is liberating not to have to depend on web traffic in order to have a successful business.

Stay tuned for Part Three.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Starting a BBQ Grill Cleaning Business
Part One

After two-and-a-half years of exploring different options—from buying existing businesses to getting a regular job—my entrepreneurial spirit has lead me down a familiar path, yet again, and I am getting ready to launch a new business.


THE IDEA

While flipping through Small Business Opportunities magazine, I ran across a full-page ad promoting The BBQ Cleaner­™. Frankly, I thought it was a crazy idea at first, but for reasons unknown, I came back to it and read the copy.

At first I thought the program was a franchise, something I am not interested in, but to my surprise it was not. Instead it was touted as a "business opportunity." The ad went on to say "You keep 100% of what you make and pay no ongoing fees!" Now that's the kind of biz opp I like to see. So I visited their website and requested more information.


THE GRILL CLEANING BUSINESS

While I waited for someone to get back in touch with me, I Googled "grill cleaning Daytona Beach," and found very few results.

A similar search for the Orlando area, only yielded a handful of related services.

Excellent!

Limited competition is a plus for any business.

A couple of days later I talked with Jeffrey Krentzman, owner and president of The BBQ Cleaner. We discussed the business model, required investment, training, etc. I asked him to send me more details as well as a few names and phone numbers of current businesses currently using The BBQ Cleaner system.

Over the years I have learned that a sales person will tell you only part of the story, while a business owner will, most-likely, have far more to say.


DUE DILIGENCE

I called several current operators in Florida, Missouri, Arizona, Texas and other states, and I was right. I got a lot of additional info. All of it good.

Everyone was helpful, open and candid about their business operations, number of customers, and what they charge for their services. Very valuable information for me, which I quickly added to my spreadsheet in order to try to determine the break-even point, and also what I can realistically expect to earn.

Numbers don't lie, and after factoring in salary, marketing costs and other expenses, I was pleasantly surprised to see that profitability was easily attainable, without breaking either the bank or my back.

Another important fact: More than 80% of U.S. households own and use a grill. That's a lot of people.

With my due-diligence out of the way, I requested the agreement/contract in order to study it for a few days. When that was done, I signed the documents and sent them to The BBQ Cleaner, along with a deposit check.

The following couple of days were busy with visits to my accountant's office to figure out the requirements to obtain the proper permits, licenses, etc.


MARKETING THE NEW BUSINESS

With the licensing process underway, I started researching marketing services. These included vinyl wrapping the trailer and magnets for the truck, flyers, business cards, and EDDM (Every Door Direct Mail) mailers.

The USPS offers one of the best deals for local businesses to reach residential and commercial addresses per zip code. You can research the service by visiting the EDDM page on their website.

Once you determine the marketing area, you are able to see exactly how many households, businesses, or both, you can reach and for how much. You still need to use a commercial printer to produce the mailers, but that's easy nowadays.

One caveat though; shop around and get several quotes for EDDM services, as printing prices can vary significantly from one place to another. The postage is a fixed amount, but most if not all printers will charge a fee for the mailing service. Those fees can vary greatly as well.


NAMING THE NEW BIZ

I looked online at similar businesses in order to get ideas. Not very original I know, but there only are so many ways to say that you clean barbecue grills, and—after gathering a few ideas—I wrote down several potential names.

A few days later, while having lunch with friends, I read them my list of name ideas. We all agreed that My Grill Pro was the best one.

Later that same day I used GoDaddy to secure the URL. I also reserved the name on Facebook and with Google+ just in case, even though I do not plan to rely on web traffic to get customers.

Frankly, the website and social media channels are more of a necessary evil in my opinion, and after having a website "Pandalized" years ago, I just won't put all of my marketing eggs in one basket. Actually, my plan is to spend as little as possible on the web-side of things.

I even used a free blog service to serve as my website, something that most SEO experts and web designers frown upon. More on the subject in Part Two.

Thanks for reading.