Former FISH Operations Manager

Good morning everyone. Long time lurker, first time poster. I’ll do my best to keep my intro brief and to the point. I’m from Western New York (Buffalo Bills country) originally and was employed by FISH as an Operations Manager from 2006-2009. Since leaving them, I moved to Texas after finishing college and getting commissioned in the Army. I now live near Fort Hood, TX and have 14 months until I leave the military due to family considerations. I love Texas and have no intention to return to the snowy northeast. I don’t know where I’ll end up but it will likely be somewhere along I-35 between Austin and Dallas-Fort Worth. The plan is to take my knowledge I learned from the FISH System (it’s not really a system, more like common sense Business 101 stuff) and either start from scratch or purchase an existing business if the money and timing are right. Until February 2016 when I get out of the Army, I’ll continue to learn from your posts and would love to contribute to the conversations if you have any FISH related questions.

welcome to WCR, and thanks for offering your experiences. i do have one Fish-related question:

it seems the overwhelming majority of feedback concerning Fish and their model is negative. Former employees, former franchisees, even online franchise rating services- almost everything is see is negative.

what is your personal take on the model? what was your experience like with the business you worked for? would you ever consider purchasing a fish franchise for yourself?

Welcome to the forum.


The particular franchisee I worked for was a good guy to work for. He started the franchise in 2005 about a year before he hired me and grew it from $0 to $100k in his first year. During my 3+ years there, the gross sales went from about $100k to $350k. I’m no longer in touch with him but last I heard, he sold the franchise and moved onto something else.

The basic premise of the “FISH System” is to hit the streets and cold call like crazy, whether it be the owner, Operations Manager, or a dedicated salesman. FISH wants their franchisees to have a mix of 80% commercial/storefront and 20% residential. I know a lot of you on here say that FISH purposely underbids jobs in order to gain market share and I can tell you that’s not the official FISH way of doing things. Whether an owner or salesman takes less in order to secure a particular job is up to them, the franchise HQ doesn’t push that philosophy. When I worked there, we would shoot to gross at least $40 per man hour for store front/commercial or $60 per man hour residential. I know that sounds ridiculously low to a lot of you, but believe me, that’s typically what that particular market would bear at the time. I don’t know if things have changed there or if the new owner raised his prices, but this was 2006-2009 in a pretty depressed city with a declining population.

No, I probably wouldn’t entertain the idea of opening a new franchise or purchasing an existing one. I pretty much already know the “secrets” to building a successful window cleaning company from working there for over 3 years. Sell, Sell, Sell. I don’t see the point in paying 8% royalties plus all the little things that they nickel and dime the franchisees on just for the right to use their “brand name”.

A mixture of doorhangers, word of mouth referals, etc. certainly plays a role but the basic philosophy that FISH pushes is to get out there and cold call on storefronts and commercial buildings. I know a lot of you are against storefront work for whatever reason, but from what I’ve seen, we always picked up a lot of additional work just by cleaning a $12 gas station or a $40 Applebees. Owners of these businesses, their employees, their customers, or just people passing by would constantly ask us, “Do you also clean houses”? This is where a decent chunk of their residential work comes from.

There’s an existing franchise for sale less than an hour from me, but I wouldn’t even consider it. He did $300k in gross sales in 2013 and is asking $200k. While it would be extremely convenient to walk into a situation like that, the asking price is too high and like I said, I don’t see the point in giving away 8% of my sales to the corporate HQ in St. Louis when all they offer is a supposed “brand name” and minimal support.

I honestly didn’t even know Fish existed before I joined here.
And today they are still so far out of my sights, I couldn’t even begin to tell you.

I sear to God on my life, I LITERALLY clean the windows at the local Fish branch’s building.
And have for about 3 years.
(and no, I didn’t have the account before they moved in)

But welcome to the forum :slight_smile:

Grew up on the east coast
Lived in Clay n.y. ( near syracuse ) For a few winters
Now in Tejas also
Welcome aboard

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I hate (read:“I’m envious as hell of”) you Texans.

Say hi to Oscar for me if you talk to him. That dude cracks me up.

Yeah, 200k for 300 gross is ridiculous. I know owners who average about 15-25% take home. If you offered him that, he might sell you his list. Then open your business as Crawfish Window Cleaning… but you might run into some legal issues. :confused:

But the 200k [I]probably[/I] includes the 8k for transfer (the only way to sell it is if the buyer becomes a franchisee), 8k for initial equipment package (mandatory), 6k for support package (mandatory), 3k for software (mandatory), etc. So probably 20-30k of that 200 goes off to the franchise.

It sounds like you know the system, you don’t have a non-compete, so go for it dude! WCR is a great resource and will do you solid.

great answer, insightful and illuminating. hope you stick around, you sound like you could be an asset to the community.

Welcome to the forum!!!

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Welcome to the ‘land of the free, and the brave’

I sold over 250 cleaning franchises in Australia - I know the difference between franchisees and self-made men - it’s all in the ability to attract and win a customer …

There are a few guys (eg. Matt Pierce) who can use both modalities … But, as a rule, you belong in one world or the other.

Learn from these guys here to maximise profit and have delighted customers - your future is bright !

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Mat is one of my storefront competitors. I met him about ten years ago when I was the general manager / sales rep for another Fish franchise in the Boston Area, Wellsley, MA. He and his father were the only guys out of six at the owners and managers meetings who got it. They had more street smarts than the rest of them put together. I guess Mat has two window cleaning companies now. His own and the original Fish franchise.

Mike, I worked there for a year. He did a lot of the bad stuff you hear about Fish. Did you work with Marcio at all?

This space for rent!

Welcome, sorry about those 4 Super Bowls .
Does wide right still hurt?

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I worked for Fish Metro-West with Ed Hiller.

Honest question:
Is Fish even “a thing” outside of the window cleaning industry, itself?!?

People don’t actually think "[I]oh I should clean these filthy windows[/I]…[lightbulb]… ‘[I]better call Fish[/I]!’

  • do they?!? :confused:

No, they don’t.

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Yes, same as me, Mauricio was one of his window cleaners. He was really good.

This space for rent!

So you worked for Ed Hiller and not Mat Pierce?

Wow, only my second day as a member and I learned something I’ve always wondered about, all about Fish.

Anytime I go to bed for a job and they tell me that my price is higher than the fish window cleaning franchise, I always tell them “something smells Fishy about that offer”.

I’ve read an estimate they gave to a job we were bidding on where it qualified “accessible” windows" as a part of the job.

Later I saw what cleaning “accessible windows” looked like…that’s when the Fish worker skipped the upper portion of a single window (the pole part) and just wet and squeegee what he could reach.

That’s what I call “Professional Window Skipping”

Thanks to everyone that shares their insight. Looking forward to digging into WCR!

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