Dreaming of going back solo


I have 6 employees. I am making roughly 2x what I could likely make solo. I work about 30 hours a week managing and running my business (on average, peak season tends to be higher obviously).

Overall it is a good gig - don’t have too much stress. That is until:

Someone calls in “sick”
Someone breaks a windows
Someone breaks a WFP fitting/clamp/etc
Someone pisses off a customer
Someone does a shitty job
Someone is running late to a job and doesn’t let me know and a customer calls wondering where we are
Someone misses a window
Someone breaks a screen/tears a screen/bends a screen frame
Someone falls off a ladder and calls an ambulance
Someone quits without notice
Someone says they won’t work with another guy
Someone leaves tools/equipment on a job
Someone loses a power washing tip
Someone puts gas in a two cycle leaf blower
Someone scuffs paint on a wall with ladder

You get the idea…

Some days it just feels like the stress of running 3 trucks and 6 guys is not worth it at all, some days it does.

I find myself wishing I could go back to just cleaning windows myself - I keep my stuff in good condition, I take good care of my customers, my truck is clean and not trashed, I do a better job cleaning windows for my customers.

I miss listening to podcasts and music and not worrying about everything.

Anyone here in the same boat? Has anyone went from scaling up a business to scaling back down to solo again? What has your experience been? Obviously the income hit would suck, but I believe I would be a happier person with less stress and would be physically in better shape as well as emotional/mental (which I think the two are very closely related).

Any input/help/wisdom or guidance is greatly appreciated.



:joy::joy::joy::joy::joy::joy: not laughing at you but hear me out. I am an owner operated company that had a taste of employees for just a little bit I am friends with one of my competitors that has two to five employees depending on the time of year. He makes more money than me however. He spends time sitting at a public grocery store dining area on his evenings to do interviews for people that don’t show up or show up and then complain about the pay that was advertised in the freaking ad. Had an employee wreck a van t boning a customer, cost $1,200 of damage to a customer’s car hitting it with a water fed pool, fall off a ladder, come to work acting weird and refuse alcohol test, lose $300 worth of stuff on a window cleaning tool belt, miss customers windows, not show up, lie about having a driver’s license and then when they get fired message him on Facebook and tell him he’s a monster. All of this stuff but he makes more money than me. I make less not sure how much but I work when I want, take off when I want don’t have any stress of constantly feeding other mouths if I get slow and worrying about them quitting and then needing them two weeks later if business picks up again. I get absolutely zero complaints about quality of work, nothing gets broken. I cruise around and watch UFC fights or listen to Joe Rogan or other interest of mine between jobs. In regards to the money I don’t know how that works so my competitor that I am friends with does window cleaning, soft wash, gutter cleaning, moss removal, Christmas lights and he claims that he does on their side hustles now and then like changing dryer vents. He probably grosses way more than me but how much do you net versus solo after gassing up all of those vehicles paying all that workers comp all that unemployment insurance and fixing broken stuff. My plan is a solo person now is to just hire one dude that I can get as good or near as good as me. Pay him 20 23 25 hr and have one cool dude in the same van eating no more gas with tools I already have and just have a helper to save some labor on each job without managing a fleet. I actually had an old employee message me the other day that was awesome but he had one more year left of high school. Having one twin just like me where I go out and kill it and have another cool personality to chill with in the van would be awesome. being solo does get physically taxing but managing a fleet is a circus that I have no desire to do.


I can’t comment as someone who ever had employees, but as a career solo window cleaner, I have zero regrets. I might employ at some point years from now, if I begin having difficulty with the physical work. But I’m hoping that doesn’t become the case.

If you have the workload for those crews and you decide to downsize, you have the luxury of cherry picking the very best jobs. Your labor efficiency will more than likely go up, as well. I bet you could come pretty close to matching your current income.

I think @ChrisTripleC did the downsizing to solo thing for a bit. Maybe he’ll chime in.


Sorry, I “quoted” to read your post… it was long as shit, and my eyes arent getting any younger… no offense. :slight_smile:


It will, eventually.

  • and thats the rub… when do you start to build the balance between “I can do it all myself” and " I can do most of it, myself?"

  • to (I can do SOME OF IT myself)


“Headache or backache” pick your poison

window cleaning is a unique service that one can choose to have employees or not, so there’s always the pull of solo and minimal problems, most other businesses there’s no choice you need many people to function and one just deals with it, but knowing you have a choice . . .

one thing about solo is you can just keep upping the rates and experiementing to really raise profits


ha ha, funny how the other day I was thinking about how far I wanted to go with this biz and I settled on 4-6 techs.

I think around there would be my goal. Actually in the kind of position you are in at the moment.

I think all those are valid points and what every successful business owner goes through. There will always be bs when you take yourself out the field and just manage people.

At that point you are a manager of your employees and customer expectations.

Idk how my journey will be but these are all some things I’ll have to consider.

Question for you, have you considered hiring an office person to help with the office load ?

Like an office assistant, also try to take time off lol… if you can here and there.

All work and no play makes jack a dull boy as they say.

Have no time for play? Then find a way to take time off or have an easier work experience.

Obviously I’m not in your shoes and don’t have legit employees but there is a reason you got into this and we get into this. Try to tap into that old entrepreneurial drive and problem solving mindset you had before or still have.

If I was getting overwhelmed like this I would try to hire an office person to help out, maybe you do already idk and I would try to come up with systems for the employees to follow. I think however this is the reality of small business owners with employees and what they all face.

1 Like

I’ve had conversations with customers, friends, other business owners in service work. With the current situation in the job market, it is highly likely many of the people like us in the service industry will probably A. be getting rid of employees altogether or down sizing and B. getting a premium for our services.

I have progressively seen more of my customers retiring and now looking to find professionals to provide services in their homes for just about anything you can imagine. The younger generation is simply not interested trades, handymen, painters, etc. are extremely hard to come by. Many of them are getting old, simply no one to replace them, and service companies don’t want small jobs. This year my brother-in-law (retired firefighter) dropped his work days with me to 3 a week, so I decide to scale down as well. Over the last 3 years I have found it is just becoming to difficult to train employees to clean windows the way I expect and what my customers expect. I’ve been slowly getting rid of commercial work that doesn’t pay well, I no longer put the “ok” customers on my call list, and only took a few new clients on referrals, dropped my phone number from all advertising.

In the current economic environment, I decided it was time to raise my prices (I wanted a raise and it was time to give brother-in-law one too). There are decidedly enough customers who are wiling to pay $100hr that it is really a no brainer to down size and lose a few customers through attrition. In five years I pretty much expect to be completely solo. Winter is so slow, I even offered to take on some handyman work for customers, a nice break from cleaning windows.


@sambo i feel your pain man. I have 6 employees and 3 trucks running myself. As I read your post I kinda laughed as I checked of the list of things you described. The difference that I think really helps though is I work maybe 5 hours a week. I hired an office/estimator to do all the things that took up my time. Then that allowed me to be the guy who fixes when things go wrong which isn’t too often. At least it feels much more manageable when I’m not also tied up with other responsibilities. I do the customer interaction and cleanup when things go wrong as well as company culture and correcting poor attitudes with employees. It’s stressful but is worth the trade off of having so much free time to be with family and do my hobbies or projects. Not to say it’s easy but it’s at least easier to handle the stress. But I do still think it’s better with the employees. At least that’s what’s helped me. Feel free to reach out if you wanna chat. Happy to share input or be a sounding board if needed.


That is awesome, Dean. Good work :+1:t2:


I did do it for a bit, and promptly realized it was a mistake (for me, at least).

Now we are “big” again. My wife runs the office and I have a very adept operations manager to run the crews, which leaves me plenty of free time to do what I need / want to. I go in the field maybe a half dozen times a year, usually for bigger jobs or when we are short staffed for the day.

As much as I will probably probably get slayed for this, I’m not about that squeegee life anymore, and I have no plans to ever go back :slight_smile:


I’m in my first year so I don’t have anything to offer but I have wondered as I get busier if I want to go down the employee route. I have listened to the WCR podcast and heard profit margins are about 10%, seems like I would take a huge pay cut to start growing, along with growing pains. On the other side of things, I had to push my business for a while and now it seems to be rolling on its own, I worry about it getting too busy for 1 guy. I hope you find the balance that makes you happy.

1 Like

I’d like to be semi-retired by around 60 (only 27 years to go… yikes). I know a lot of guys that age and older who can still work circles around me. I just need to start taking better care of myself, lol. Oh, and about time I start saving up/situating ourselves for that early retirement.

Part of the plan hinges on having no mortgage, a low cost of maintenance/energy efficient home, and a simple lifestyle, materially speaking. I know I’m not going to be one of those people with $5mil in the retirement account to maintain our current wasteful spending habits, :laughing:


First year here as well.

Nice to hear business is rolling on its own for you.

Same here kind of.




I’ve scaled up and then scaled back several times in the last 12 years or so. I can count at least a dozen young guys we’ve used as part-time helpers and we’ve only found 2 with enough work ethnic and hunger and honesty to keep using. It’s honestly not worth it to manage for me. The profit margin is just too unattractive. Granted I’m also not the best manager.

Every time I scale back I base it on filtering out less than ideal clients. I do this by raising prices. It keeps things fresh and incredibly profitable. It also keeps it part-time for 8 months of the year and averages about 18 hours per week. I charge an absolute premium so I am very happy with 18 hours or less per week. This enables me to channel my time and energy into two other businesses.

I do not picture myself ever growing this business larger than occasionally using a couple helpers.


To the OP. You commented that with 6 employees you double what you could make solo.
Is that standard?
Iam currently solo. But looking to add another at some point. Thought it would be more than that.

1 Like

I have no idea if it is standard - but here’s how it works for me:

Solo - I can likely gross $125k myself - after taxes and business expenses I would probably be in the $80k net in my market.

2-4 employees - in “purgatory” basically - make only incrementally more than $80k I could make solo, but deal with all the headaches and BS of managing lower-skilled labor and you can’t spend as much time out in the field. I was able to hurdle this stage in about a season and a half. It takes a bit of a leap of faith, but it’s a necessary growing pain.

4-6 employees - economy of scale kicks in and putting up with the BS of managing an outfit makes financial sense.

Beyond 6 I see as much more difficult to manage all the moving parts myself - would require hiring an operations manager ($50k/yr) which would then necessitate hiring additional 2-4 employees to offset if you want to keep that $100-$150k net income.

I figure I can net about $25k/employee on a good year. But that leaves very little time and energy for a guy to work out in the field and answer phones, take care of administrative side, etc.

I gross $50-$60k per employee and aim for a 40% margin on their labor.

Other business expenses add up and take a lot out of the gross - increased liability insurance/work comp; fuel & vehicle costs, consumables (rubber, steel wool, DI resin, tools/equipment, shirts/hats, etc) then of course marketing costs and all other housekeeping/G&A overhead).

Hope this helps.


The intangible benefits of managing crews over slinging a squeegee are hard to measure monetarily:

Easier on your body (presuming you don’t get lazy and gain weight)
“more” time with family and friends (I say “more” because it doesn’t always feel that way - often times it feels like my time is constantly being picked apart by small ticket items throughout the day, and by the end of a day of “not working” you look back and don’t have a lot of R&R to show for it)
ability to strategize (i.e. work on business not in it)
more time to network and grow business
more time for hobbies/side projects

1 Like

I think the 10% estimate is pretty aggressive in that if you run a lean operation and are savy with your expenses/pricing it is much closer to 30-40%.