In this, the first installment of “Out In The Field With…”, we meet Russel Willis, a real VLM Carpet Cleaning PRO from the great state of Texas.
[VLM Central E-zine]: Russell, how long have you been a Carpet Cleaner?
[Russell Willis]: I have been cleaning carpets since 1998 but this is my first year doing it “full-time”. Once you start depending on carpet cleaning as your only source of income, you really start to understand what it takes to make it out there. You get a real since of urgency.
[VLM]: Believe me, I know exactly what you are talking about! I see you are located in Arlington, Texas. Are you a native Texan?
[Russ]: Yes, I was born in Midland Texas and moved to Dallas/Fort Worth when I was a teenager.
[VLM]: What is it like cleaning in Texas in the Summer time?
[Russ]: It is Hot! Sometimes, it is all I can do to compose myself when entering a client’s home, wiping the sweat off. Some of your tools will burn your hands if left out in the sun for only a short while! I would have to say it is not fun (LOL) but you get use to it.
[VLM]: What first attracted you to the carpet cleaning business?
[Russ]: It was the instant gratification I got from cleaning a client’s carpet. It may sound corny but I enjoy cleaning carpets and when a client tells me how much they like my work, I really get a little bit of euphoria from it!
[VLM]: I get that same feeling too! What carpet cleaning systems do you currently use?
[Russ]: I use the Oscillating Pad System from CCS. This system has enabled me to take my carpet cleaning to the next level. With it, I am capable of walking into most any cleaning job with complete confidence.
[VLM]: What about upholstery cleaning?
[Russ]: I use Hot Water Extraction (HWE) with an upholstery “dry-tool. I feel that anyone who is planning to go into the upholstery cleaning business should first take the IICRC’s Upholstery Cleaning class. While the new dry-tools can make it very easy to clean most any upholstery. There is much to gain from taking an IICRC class. This will help you perform a more professional job.
[VLM]: I agree 100%. Receiving proper training really takes the “fear-factor” out of
upholstery cleaning. What additional services does your company offer?
[Russ]: Tile and Grout cleaning as well as Leather cleaning. In addition, at the end of
this month (October) I will be taking a Marble and Stone Restoration class given by
[VLM]: That’s great! Keep us updated about how the class went. Which would you say is
your main market, residential or commercial?
[Russ]: Currently, my main market is residential but I would like to acquire some more
commercial accounts this year.
[VLM]: Why did you choose the carpet cleaning system you are currently using?
[Russ]: Well, I have a few friends who are carpet cleaners and I did not want to copy
what they were doing so I started researching various “Dry Cleaning” or VLM carpet
cleaning methods. I was not impressed with “standard” Bonnet Cleaning systems so I
started researching for alternatives on the Internet. I found the Cleanfax Message Board
and the “old” ICS Message Board (I don’t know if any of you remember the old ICS
board but there was a wealth of information there!). Once I became friends with people like John Geurkink and yourself (not to mention a
number of others professionals who were and still are the best of the best) I was able to
put together a VLM system that just worked well for me and was also very consumer
friendly for my clients.
[VLM]: That’s very interesting. I suspect that those Boards may be responsible for many
of us who are carpet cleaners today. Ok, next question. What cleaning agents do you currently use and why?
[Russ]: Argosheen. If you ever used it with a Pad Machine, you will know why. I have
tried a host of other products and continue to use some of them but Argosheen is
always the one I keep coming back to.
[VLM]: Ok. Here is a personal question for you. What was your most embarrassing
moment on the job?
[Russ]: That happened shortly after I started cleaning carpets. I was cleaning at a
client’s home which happens to nearly back into to the golf coarse country club were
they hold the Byron Nelson Tournament (and, it just happened to be going on at that time). Well, somehow as I was cleaning, the family dog got out and ran onto the golf
course. The client was not home at the time so I had to chase him. He ran in and out of
the crowd with me giving chase. (LOL) I was just happy that I didn’t make it onto the
Evening News! (LOL) I have had many more embarrassing moments but that is the one
that comes to mind as “most embarrassing”.
[VLM]: That is hilarious! (LOL) Ok, what was your proudest moment on the job?
[Russ]: There have been a few. I guess the latest would have to be just the other day when I pulled up to a job and one of my clients was at this clients house (they did not know that they were both using my cleaning service). She came out, gave me a big hug, and then turned to her friend to tell her what a great guy I was. Then, her friend could only say, “I know. I know.” Not to be vain, but that was a very happy moment for me. When people appreciate my work, it always makes me feel very proud.
[VLM]: What would you say has been your most effective marketing tool?
[Russ]: We all know that “word of mouth” is the best. However, I would have to say leaving my clients with a bottle of free spotter (with my company name and telephone number on it) has been my best marketing tool.
[VLM]: What advice would you like to give those just starting out in this business?
[Russ]: I am probably not qualified to give advice as others are, but I would say, “Just hang in there! Do the best job you can do on every job. Remove every stain you can, even when you are not being paid to do it. Follow up on every job and every ideal you have. Nobody knows you better than you do. Just when you think you are not going to make it, you will meet that one client that pushes your company to the next level. Furthermore, year after year, the more you have these types of clients, the better you will do. Believe in yourself. That is good advice for anything you do in this life!”
[VLM]: That is excellent advice for anyone! Any final thoughts?
[Russ]: Carpet Cleaning has probably been the best thing to ever happen to me, other than my wife and kids. It continues to challenge me, while at the same time, rewarding me. It has put me on a level playing field with many of the people, that at one time, I did not feel I was equal to. The friends I have made online alone are reward enough, to do this work.
[VLM]: Thanks, Russell!
[Russ]: Thank you!