BY JULIE LANDRY LAVIOLETTE
Special to the Miami Herald
In the 1990s, Steve Landis was a single dad working at UPS and not spending enough time with
his kids. He quit his job and went through his savings to look for more family-friendly work.
One day, he saw a neighbor pressure-cleaning a sidewalk. A city boy, Landis said he had never
seen a pressure cleaner before, but he loved how fresh it made everything look. He borrowed the
machine to brighten his own walkway. Then a neighbor asked him to do hers.
Landis saw an opportunity. He rented a pressure cleaner from Home Depot and began knocking
on doors with dirty sidewalks. People started asking for estimates for patios and driveways, and a
business was born.
Landis founded People’s Choice Pressure Cleaning in 1999.
He borrowed from a friend to buy a truck and equipment, knocked on doors and put fliers on
mailboxes. His big break was in 2000, when he got a contract for 106 Blockbuster locations.
Today, the Davie company has 13 employees and more than $700,000 in sales. People’s Choice
splits its time evenly between residential and high-profile commercial jobs, including the
Hollywood Broadwalk and work for the cities of Boca Raton and Delray Beach. About four
years ago, People’s Choice added a painting business as a subsidiary.
Landis would like to expand but doesn’t know how. “I’m a blue-collar guy, a hard worker.
That’s what got me here,” he said. “But I don’t really know our target. We need a master plan if
we’re going to expand.”
Landis asked the Miami Herald for a Small Business Makeover, and the Miami Herald brought
in Broward SCORE. The SCORE tune-up team was led by David Harris, director of marketing,
Greenway Golf Course Management. Other team members were Margarita “Maggie” Morales-
Perez, a certified public accountant with Gutierrez, Morales-Perez and Assoc., and Michael
Schunk, president of Employee Benefit Advisors.
Here is the SCORE team’s advice:
Write a business plan: “Decide what you want to be — do you want to make a big profit, or do
you want to grow the business just enough to pay yourselves?” Harris said. “Be strategic about
how you want to grow. What cities? What type of business?” Morales-Perez said “Put a plan
together based on that. If you start throwing darts, it’s inefficient.” Broward SCORE has a
business plan templet on its website, Schunk said.
Decide on your target market: Commercial work is most profitable, but residential work fills
in the gaps between big jobs, Landis said. Decide on the target market and make sure marketing
materials reflect that, Schunk said. Join professional associations that have members of the target
market, he said. Work on growing the more profitable commercial business, Morales-Perez said.
Figure out job costs: “You need to know margins to determine if a job is profitable,” Morales-
Perez said. Estimate jobs by the hour, and include labor, materials, overhead, callbacks and
downtime, so the company is accurately accounting for all job costs, she said. Get control of
costs to increase profitability, Harris said. “You have to apply the estimating process to every job
so you can make sure you’re making money on every job,” Harris said.
Add structure: Create a dashboard to track quotes, jobs, sales, downtime and other key
performance indicators of the business, Morales-Perez said. Use the information to periodically
track how the business is doing.
Update marketing materials: Change the company’s email to its website domain name to look
more professional, Morales-Perez said. Make the website mobile-friendly and add a lead capture
form to create a database of potential customers, Harris said. Schunk offered this advice: Update
the look of the website and add video tutorials. Create a YouTube channel with how-to videos,
tips and testimonials. Add a blog to the website to establish the company as an expert in the field
and help with SEO. Use LinkedIn to find property managers and other members of the target
market in South Florida. Emphasize what sets the company apart from its competition, such as
licensing and a low callback rate, in marketing messages.
Increase online exposure: “You could have a much better presence without spending a lot of
money,” Harris said. Take advantage of free business listings on Google My Business, Bing
Places, Yahoo Local and Yelp to create backlinks to the website and improve SEO, he said.
Improve the company’s presence on referral websites like Angie’s List, HomeAdvisor and
Thumbtack — add before and after photos to the Facebook page. Create a Google+ page and an
Instagram account. Ask happy customers for an online review because reviews help in search
rankings, Harris said.
Update training materials: Make sure employees are following set procedures to reduce
callbacks and increase profitability, Harris said. Do a field manual and have a meeting with
employees to make sure everyone is following the same procedures, he said.
Delegate: Landis should delegate duties so he has time to look at the big picture and lead,
Morales-Perez said. Hire an outside marketing firm or look for a marketing intern from a local
college, Harris said.
Landis said he learned a lot from the makeover process. “I needed the push,” he said. “They gave
me a lot of great ideas, and to see it down on paper is a big help. I’m going to go for it.”
The client: People’s Choice Pressure Cleaning & Painting, 4341 SW 73 Terr., Davie. The
company offers pressure cleaning, sealing and painting services to commercial and residential
clients. It has 13 employees.
The experts: David Harris, director of marketing, Greenway Golf Course Management;
Margarita ‘Maggie’ Morales-Perez, a certified public accountant with Gutierrez, Morales-Perez
and Associates; and Michael Schunk, president of Employee Benefit Advisors.
The challenge: To track costs and expand strategically.
The advice: Write a business plan. Track costs. Identify target market and most profitable clients.
Update website and increase online presence.
Based in Washington, D.C., SCORE is a nonprofit with more than 12,000 volunteers working
out of about 400 chapters around the country offering free counseling to small businesses. There
are seven chapters on Florida’s east coast, including Broward SCORE, which has more than 60
Counselors from Broward SCORE meet with small business owners and offer free one-on-one
counseling, as well as dozens of low-cost workshops, such as ‘Supercharge Your Website’ on
Tuesday and ‘Build Your Brand’ on Wednesday. See more under ‘Local Workshops’ at
broward.score.org. To volunteer or learn more about SCORE, visit score.org or
How to apply for a Small Business Makeover
Business Monday’s Miami Herald Small Business Makeovers focus on a particular aspect of a
business that needs help. Experts in the community will provide the advice. If you would like a
makeover, concentrate on one aspect of your business that needs help — corporate organization,
marketing, financing, for example — and tell us what your problems are.
The makeover is open to companies in Broward or Miami-Dade counties in business at least two
years. Email your request to rclarke@MiamiHerald.com and put “Makeover” in the subject line.