The Window Genie Story
Window Genie window cleaning, window tinting and pressure washing franchise is CEO’s ultimate ‘lifestyle business’
Car enthusiast Rik Nonelle figured out early on that he wanted to be the guy behind the wheel. Working for Chrysler subsidiary Ryan Insurance in his 20s, he reached a point where he didn’t want to work for someone else. He was 29.
A family friend had been highly successful running a janitorial supply company; their family was successful enough to retire to Vail, CO. Another family friend ran a janitorial business and, with just a handful of accounts, was able to make more than he could have in a job. Rik had already ruled out food businesses — too complicated and costly — and was already leaning toward a business in the cleaning industry when a high school friend gave him the piece of advice that would eventually create a national brand: “You should focus on residential window cleaning.” And like every prospect who has ever looked at us, he asked, “What is that?”
Like so many people today, Rik didn’t realize how large the market for residential window cleaning was. “I never had a window cleaner growing up,” Rik says. “In my eight years living as an adult in Cincinnati, I never used one. I wondered: Is that really a business? Who needs a window cleaner besides a rich person?”
His research in the phone book and at the local library indicated that window cleaning was a serious business, and a booming one. There were 45 residential window cleaning companies in Cincinnati in 1994. Rik wanted to be more than just No. 46. Looking through phone books from across the country, Rik called as many window cleaners as he could, mystery shopping and taking notes on pricing, marketing and size. “That was my validation,” he says. “I was documenting how to build the business, based on what we learned from existing businesses. We were modeling the local business toward franchising from Day 1.”
Windows and a whole lot more
In the beginning Rik was out in the field cleaning windows, talking to customers and learning the business from the ground up. It didn’t take him long to figure out there was a lot more money to be made — because people who pay to have their windows cleaned love a tidy and clean home. They like their gutters cleaned, their concrete pressure washed and their exterior siding cleaned, among a variety of other services. He began adding those services at the request of his customers, and in 1998 he sold his first Window Genie franchise, focused on cleaning the windows and exteriors of homes. The kind of forward thinking that broadens the moneymaking opportunity for franchise owners has propelled Window Genie to the top of its field. Rik began franchising Window Genie with a goal of sharing with others the opportunity to find success and happiness through business ownership.
It’s about more than the bottom line for Rik. He has a built a successful company with more than 145 locations by operating with integrity and treating everyone with respect. Rik’s strong belief in work-life balance is what led him into entrepreneurship in the first place, and he maintains that value today.
At Window Genie headquarters in suburban Cincinnati, Rik buys lunch for the office staff on most workdays. Sitting together in a Starbucks®-inspired kitchen, they share a meal and chat about everything from the local food scene to the company’s latest success story.
If you visit the headquarters for training or a Discovery Day, you’ll notice something different right away: the training room includes a game room. Employees and franchisees are encouraged to blow off some steam with arcade games, billiards, Ping-Pong and darts.
Rik also believes in the power of giving back, and through the company’s Windows 4 Wishes program, dozens of charities across the country have benefited from the generosity of Window Genie franchisees. Window Genie owners work with organizations of their choice, providing them with money, manpower, services or promotion.
“One of the things that makes us unique is Rik Nonelle,” says Debbie Owens, Window Genie’s administrative coordinator, who has been with the company since 1996. “He has such high morals. He makes jokes about it, but he says he sleeps well every night! We’ve treated our customers and our franchise owners well. It’s a mutual respect kind of thing. I think it comes through very loudly.”
“I wanted a lifestyle business from the beginning, and that means I didn’t want to do food or retail or some of the other service businesses that can create crazy hours.” Rik says. “The definition of a lifestyle business is really about what it’s about. A friend of mine owns a stand-alone restaurant. He takes one week off for Christmas, working seven days a week, 90 hours a week. That’s what a lifestyle business is not. When I was 29, I didn’t know what life would look like when I was older, but I was sure that I was not going to be in a business ever again where I had to be there nights and weekends. As I’ve always said, “People don’t need emergency window cleaning or call on Christmas day for window film.”