When Wayne Shockey helped his friend market an awning and pressure wash cleaning company, he didn’t know it would change his career, yet that is how Specialized Maintenance and Awning Cleaning Services came to be.
Shockey’s experience with cleaning began in the mid 1960s by helping his dad with his cleaning business. At night and on weekends they serviced a bathing suit factory and, even at 12 years old, Shockey took notice. “I was always amazed by how messy it looked when we started and how wonderful it looked when we were done.” Later, he worked his way through college as a custodian for a motel in Southern California cleaning parking lots and sidewalks. His business degree from Cypress Community College directed him to marketing and he became a consultant.
Around 1989, Shockey met Scott Luttrell, a professional cleaner with a power wash unit, who hired him to market the company. Shockey went with Luttrell on a couple of jobs to better understand the work and, after a while, Luttrell asked Shockey to work for him part time. At first, the two friends would go out on jobs together, working and talking – it was fun. Then Luttrell got busy and Shockey went out on jobs by himself.
This small change led Shockey to leaving his marketing consulting business behind.
First, Shockey realized how much money he could make: “One day I made $850 in 6 hours of cleaning and I realized that I made more money in that period of time (than in marketing)…and I thought ‘Wow! If could just market this more, it would be so much simpler.'”
Second, Shockey fixed his first awning. On a solo job, he didn’t inspect the awning properly and as he began cleaning it, the seam opened up. He didn’t actually tear it (the seam had rotted) but he thought he had.
Shockey recalls, “Awnings are not cheap. This awning probably would have cost $500 to replace. That really freaked me out.”
He had to figure out how to fix it without taking the awning down. He went to the local Wal-Mart and found glue that would hold canvass together, stirring sticks and map pins. After three hours, the awning was fixed and it held together for a long time. “They replaced all of the awnings two years later but it held for those two years,” Shockey says.
He realized that “I developed something no one else knows how to do. I repair awnings without taking them down.”
Lastly, cleaning awnings was simply a lot more enjoyable than consulting. “I could just see it was much more fun…In the consulting business, if you made mistakes or you didn’t actually help somebody succeed because they didn’t actually follow your instructions, there was always hard feelings, and I just got tired of that.”
Eventually, Luttrell got bought out with the awning manufacturing company and he was tapped to run the much bigger operation. He offered the awning cleaning business to Shockey. That was 20 years ago.
Since adding awning repair, he also added rust removal to his services and teaches an awning cleaning training course for Power Wash University instructing others. Offered 6-12 times a year, the class teaches students on how to clean and repair awnings, what equipment to buy, and how to talk to clients. Shockey enjoys giving students a new career possibility.
Though he left marketing consulting behind, Shockey is always using his marketing skills. One technique he’s learned from his own experience is finding the right language to engage and keep clients.
“When I first started out, I would just say, ‘Yeah, we can clean your awnings’ and they expected the awnings to look brand new,” even if the awnings were 10 years old. Now he tells clients he “can remove between 70-90% of the environmental dirt, bird droppings and mildew.” He also hands out a list of what clients can expect, and he cleans a small portion of the awning as an example. This way, Shockey can manage client expectations.
He also uses the Internet to sell his services through SEO tools and publishing videos. He has 150 videos on Youtube.com with over 200,000 views showing how to clean awnings and remove rust from concrete, which help sell his services.
Shockey isn’t looking to add employees. He is happy controlling the customer experience and the work that is done. If he needs extra help, he hires friends and family. “I don’t want to fire anyone,” he adds.
At 60 years old, he works only in the morning – “I physically couldn’t clean awnings eight hours a day,” Shockey admits – and the rest of the day he completes administrative tasks like writing invoices and answering the phone.
The job isn’t easy, he admits. “It’s 5 a.m., it could be 30 degrees outside, its really hard for me to get out of my nice warm bed and get into my pick up and drive an hour somewhere and set up my stuff to start cleaning…But it is kind of nice to…change the way a place looks.”
Shockey continues, “What personally brings me joy is saving people money. Instead of buying a new awning, I am able to take what they have and clean them and repair them and give them more years of life.”
What I love about this business? Awnings get dirty.”