Window Genie Franchise Review: Steve Sarafin, Sparta, NJ
Window Genie franchise owner says if you follow the playbook, success will follow you
Steve Sarafin’s family likes to take regular vacations, visiting favorite spots with regularity: the Bahamas in July, amusement parks in August, the beach again in December. For most trips, he and his wife Deirdre take their children — Mikayla, 19, a student at James Madison University in Virginia; Justin, a 17-year-old senior in high school; and eighth-grade daughter Delaney. The one exception: the annual Window Genie meeting each spring. The Sparta, NJ, pair use the annual meeting as a couple’s getaway — and they are looking forward to the upcoming meeting in New Orleans. The flexibility to travel is one of the things they love about owning their Window Genie franchise. Steve, 44, talked with us recently about his experience as an owner.
How long have you been a franchisee? Since 1999.
What were you doing before you owned a Window Genie franchise? I managed a lawn care company for eight years before that.
How did you find out about Window Genie? Through Entrepreneur magazine. I was managing a lawn care company for another franchise owner. He was looking to expand into the pressure-washing business, so we started researching it and came across Window Genie. I liked the concept and invested. It’s been great for me. I’ve created a great little business.
Do you perform any of the services yourself? Only if I have to; I used to do it when I first started. If I’m short-handed — if somebody calls in sick or if I overbook myself — I’ll pitch in. I keep it simple and do the easy work.
How many employees do you have? That can fluctuate from 9 to 14. For the most part, they’re full-time.
How important is it to have window-cleaning or other home services experience before joining Window Genie? Not at all. I think the franchise is really going to educate you and get you through it. The only type of real experience you need is you need to be able to sell. You’ve got to be able to communicate with customers. Window Genie takes care of the rest.
What do you like about being a franchise owner? The fact that I’m my own boss. I can determine my own fate, so to speak. I worked my butt off to get to where I am, but now, I can come and go as I please, and I know what it takes to keep nine guys employed.
How large is the opportunity to grow with Window Genie? It’s endless. I still continue to grow every year. I started initially by hiring somebody right from the get-go, so there were just two of us. We were running one guy to a truck. Now, it’s two men per vehicle. Right now I have seven vehicles. The sky is really the limit, depending on the area you’re in and how aggressive you want to get. I continue to grow; I’d like to be in the $1.5 million to $2 million in gross sales.
Who are your best customers? I cover five counties in New Jersey. Anyone is my target customer, anyone with a house. We offer all services and my biggest source of income coming in is window cleaning. I have about 25% of my customers who get their windows cleaned every six months, and I have customers who do it once a year in the spring or once a year in fall. The services we offer can be set up on a schedule: We can come in and clean your windows twice a year, clean the gutters two or three times a year, do pressure washing one or two times a year. Our services are perfect for anybody with a home that doesn’t want to give up their free time to do those things.
How does Window Genie compete with independent contractors? I run into them from time to time, but they’re not looking for growth. They’re kind of set in their ways. They usually have a certain customer base through referrals, but they don’t do any marketing. I’ve acquired two businesses in the past year and I’m working toward acquiring one more in spring. It’s a little different if you’re an independent contractor. Looking at some of my competition, one guy is a fireman and it’s just a part-time gig for him. He’s got a good customers base, but he’s not really looking to grow. Some are doing it full-time, and sometimes they just want to work a full day and then they’re done. But for me it’s a business that I’m looking to grow, either to sell on down the road or leave to my kids.
What attracts customers to Window Genie rather than its competitors? We’re fully insured. We run background checks, we have professional literature and promotional materials and marketing. In my case my guys all wear logo uniforms. The fact that we invested in the franchise makes a difference. Customers say I’d rather go with someone who has invested in a business.
What does your typical day look like? I come in the morning and get the guys out. I return phone calls, run estimates, schedule appointments, make a field visit to the guys here and there. Then I come back to the office. At this point in my life, I work maybe 6 hours. It wasn’t that way in the beginning, and it also depends on the season. In the fall, I work 6-8 hours a day. In summertime or spring, I could be doing 10 hours a day. I do all the admin stuff myself. I have somebody who does my payroll and stuff. The phones are ringing every day. I get a lot of business through referrals and word-of-mouth and the internet. I do pay-per-click internet marketing. My territory is huge; I’m one of the biggest in system at 1 million-plus households. My overall growth is limitless because I have a very large area.
What kind of person do you think would enjoy owning a Window Genie franchise? Someone that’s self-driven, someone who likes to be out and about on a daily basis. Selling window cleaning or pressure washing is somewhat flexible, somewhat contingent upon the weather, so your day can change. You have to be able to manage people. The biggest thing is to be self-driven and motivated.
What kind of training does Window Genie provide? In the beginning you get a week at corporate and a week onsite where they come to you. When a newbie comes in, I always give them my number. The camaraderie of other franchisees and the corporate support you get is great. They do phone conferences once a month. You have the opportunity to get involved. That’s the beauty of joining a franchise partnership. You have the camaraderie of people who are 14 years into it. There are a bunch of us you have that to fall back on. If you follow the playbook, the system works.
What does franchise ownership allow you to do in your personal life that you couldn’t before? The flexibility of taking time off when I want to, controlling my own destiny and a lot of the little perks that go along with owning a business.
Would you recommend a Window Genie franchise to someone else? Yes. If they’re interested in looking into franchising opportunities and they are circling back to this particular franchise after doing their research. It’s a niche business that can’t be replaced by computers or robots. It is a service business, so if you deliver great quality and customer service, you’ll have a customer for life. People don’t have to take out a second mortgage to take advantage of our services. It didn’t totally impact me when the market crashed in ’08; we were able to keep guys employed and we continued to grow. Instead of people getting their windows cleaned twice a year, they got it once a year. We’re absolutely slammed right now. You have to be somewhat self-driven and follow the playbook. Between marketing sources and multiple revenue streams, the sky’s the limit.
Learn more about Window Genie
Window Genie franchisees need a net worth of $150,000 and liquid assets of $40,000. Our 20 years of experience have helped us carve a solid lead in the home services market, and we have few national competitors. We added 50 units last year, bringing us to a total of 196 Window Genie franchises across the country.
If you’re interested in learning more about our simple, scaleable business model, please fill out the form at right. We’d love to start a conversation with you!