Local Service Business Podcast – Episode 1 Summary
In this week’s episode of the Local Service Business Podcast, we chatted with Rohan Gilkes founder of Launch27 and MaidsInBlack about how he started MaidsInBlack. In this podcast he gives us some great tips for those struggling, those just starting and those looking to scale.
Listen to the full episode here.
Rohan Gilkes 00:42 Hi, Rohan here. Thanks very much for being here. I’m the founder, one of the founders of Launch27, and the founder of Maids in Black. And over the last few years, we’ve been, you know, building companies and entering a lot of folks along the way. So, I’m very, very happy to be here.
Dara King 01:06 Okay, very cool. Very cool. So, for those that don’t know your story. Tell us why you started Maids in Black. You can give us a long version or the abbreviated version, whichever you think is the best.
Rohan Gilkes 01:19 Okay, so I guess my real, why I started raising black was to rescue myself from a corporate job. I wanted to become an entrepreneur. I wanted to be able to control my time, and figure out how to build a business. And I built several different types of businesses, but really found success when I started to build local service businesses.
Rohan Gilkes 01:49 And Maids in Black was the first one. And yeah, I guess this is why, we’re here right now.
Dara King 01:58 So, were you trying to be an entrepreneur before? Like, how did a cleaning service come about?
Rohan Gilkes 02:05 Yeah, I was ready to be an entrepreneur, before I had built a dating site. I had built like a web agency, an SEO company, all types of businesses that I tried to get off the ground. And during that time, I learned a lot about branding and you know, website development and how to attract customers.
Rohan Gilkes 02:30 I had never really figured out the right nail to apply this hammer to that I had developed.
Dara King 02:39 The right product?
Rohan Gilkes 02:39 Right. Basically, the right product or service that worked. And my home cleaner at the time, wanted someone to build her a website. And I told her, you know, I could build you a website but it’s just going to sit there. Unless you have the knowledge to figure out how to get clients and branding and you know, advertising and so on.
Rohan Gilkes 03:00 So, I made up a deal with her where I would build the company, and she would do the jobs, and we would split the profits. And that’s really how amazing that came along. And it really was supposed to be just a small thing that would, you know, maybe make us an extra $5,000 a month or something.
Rohan Gilkes 03:20 But we were able to build that company to, you know, well over $2 million a year.
Dara King 03:25 Okay, so I was going to ask you, who your first employee was or person you worked with, cleaner. Because I think at the time, she was a contractor, correct?
Rohan Gilkes 03:36 Yes, at the time, she was a contractor. Yes, that’s correct.
Dara King 03:40 And so you guys just kind of organically formed this partnership. Where you would drive the bookings, and she would do the work. And so, how did that work out when you first started?
Rohan Gilkes 03:51 Yeah, so this is exactly it was an organic thing. And I launched the site on a Friday, I remember it was a November. And on that same day, I put the site online. Someone came from Craigslist, pull out their credit card and put it into our booking form and book service.
Dara King 04:14 That is incredible. I didn’t know that actually. So, this same day somebody came and booked?
Rohan Gilkes 04:19 The same day. Yeah, I posted the link on Craigslist in the same day somebody booked.
Dara King 04:25 And so how did you figure out pricing and all that. Was that really just kind of feeling your way around?
Rohan Gilkes 04:31 Well at the time since you know, I only had that one cleaner. All I did was to say, okay, tell me how much you need to make for a one bedroom. Tell me how much you need to make for a two bedroom and so on. And I took the prices she gave me and they added an extra 30 or 35% for myself. And that total was what our prices started out as.
Dara King 05:01 Okay. And so, I mean, just as in aside, how many times have you raise prices since then, would you say?
Rohan Gilkes 05:07 Probably, at least five times maybe more.
Dara King 05:13 Okay. So, at what point did you think, Okay, this is going to work. I should quit my job and focus on this full time?
Rohan Gilkes 05:22 Oh, yeah. So, at about month number three. We had gotten up to maybe close to $4,000 a month, maybe $5,000 a month. And I was like, okay, like, this may actually be something. Because if you can get here so quickly, I bet we could double or triple in the next three months as we pick up steam.
Rohan Gilkes 05:48 And this is exactly what happened. So, by month eight, I knew that, you know, this was something that could, you know, extricate me from a corporate job. And I wrote my resignation letter, it sat on my desk for one month, because I was so nervous. I still had, you know, fear.
Rohan Gilkes 06:09 But I handed it in and quit my job and worked full time on Maids in Black.
Dara King 06:16 And did you see a significant range in the business when you quit your job?
Rohan Gilkes 06:20 Yeah, absolutely. Like, we doubled again, in about, I want to say six months. We doubled again. So, after I quit my job, like, in the six months, I think we got up to like, maybe $60,000 a month or something like that. And so, it was a real significant movement, because I was working on the business 12 hours a day.
Dara King 06:44 And what were you doing during these 12 hours?
Rohan Gilkes 06:47 So, I did everything. So, customer service, of course, I would take calls or the close sales on the telephone, you know, people looking for booking. Upselling people, you know, basically all the things that would, that drove customers. Worked on the website and then started working on the back end, like trying to streamline the processes.
Rohan Gilkes 07:08 Because as we were getting up to $60,000 a month, then it became important to be able to, you know, really have a process in place. For like when a client books, having reminder emails, taking the credit card and storing that effectively and securely. And all of the things that what makes it possible to deal with volume.
Rohan Gilkes 07:36 While not you know, without going crazy. So, I started to work on improving the processes and so on. But most of my work still was on how to get clients. So, improving our AdWords campaigns and coming up with social media strategies and blogging outreach.
Rohan Gilkes 07:55 And running contests, and reaching out to apartment complexes for, you know, kind of like corporate relationships. So, basically everything possible to drive business while spending some time on improving the processes as well.
Dara King 08:11 And what, … So, what … How are you like, at what point did you say, okay, I’m going to build Launch27. I know that, that’s like kind of an integral part of your story. At what revenue were you like, oh, I need to do this more strategically, I need to have systems in place. So, I can grow.
Rohan Gilkes 08:29 Yeah, so. So, I think it was around that $60,000 mark point. Because at that point, I was still using, like Google Calendar, Google spreadsheets, Gmail, and then this platform called Zoho. And that was my combination. So, it’s kind of like a hodgepodge of online services to keep everything in order. And it was becoming very, very difficult.
Rohan Gilkes 09:00 So I decided to, you know, create what became Launch27. But at the time, it was just a platform that was being built to manage my business and just, you know, to have something that was real and efficient to take the business to the next level.
Rohan Gilkes 09:19 And after I did that, you know, that then became a Launch27, as people saw it, and liked it and wanted something like that for their own businesses.
Dara King 09:29 And we also … We’d know, that we should have you know, like systems in place from day one. There are a lot of people who, you know, kind of wing it until they get to a certain number. What was that number for you?
Dara King 09:45 That you were just like, okay, like, what number of appointments where you like this is impossible to really grow and also streamline you know, and manage my growth. What was that number if you can remember?
Rohan Gilkes 09:59 I cannot remember exactly what that number was. But I would say that yes, it is important to streamline things but it’s kind of like, I’m was sort of thinking of a bad analogy. But for me, I want to get clients first. Because there’s nothing to streamline if you have no clients like –
Dara King 10:22 … It most definitely. And then the struggle that like a lot of people have, that’s like, I want to build all these things. And then you have no clients once you build everything, and it’s like, Okay, come on –
Rohan Gilkes 10:33 Exactly.
Dara King 10:34 So, but it’s interesting, too, it’s like you want to have your systems in place. It’s definitely a fine balance, I would say, it’s definitely a fine balance.
Rohan Gilkes 10:42 Yes.
Dara King 10:44 And I’ve talked to a number of people who have had established, you know, like existing businesses who have found Launch27. Or even like, I’ve talked to people who have gotten virtual assistants, and they’re like, okay, first year, initially afraid to put that money out there.
Dara King 11:00 But the second you, do you see, like, double, triple your return. So, that’s something I always make sure to mention to people when they are questioning whether systems are worth spending money for.
Rohan Gilkes 11:12 Right? Mm hmm.
Dara King 11:14 So, when did you hire your first person to help you manage the company?
Rohan Gilkes 11:20 So, actually, right after I got to that … Like, where as I quit, maybe another month or so. So, we were, you know, coming about, like maybe 30, or 30, maybe 40,000. And I felt like, you know, I could find some person that can help with at least answering the telephones. And that’s what I did.
Rohan Gilkes 11:48 And so, for the longest while, it really was just me and one other person. And then we got to the next point where, you know, I needed someone to help on the weekends and so on. and end up with a second person.
Dara King 12:04 And so, then when like … At what point were you like, okay, now I can step back. I’ve got like, my systems in place, we’re making enough money. At what point where you like, okay, let’s automate this, let me step back and kind of focus on you know, other things being Launch27 and the other things that you’ve created.
Rohan Gilkes 12:21 Say that again, I’m sorry.
Dara King 12:23 So, when were you able to fully kind of automate Maids in Black and say, Okay, I can step back and, you know, rely on the people who I’ve hired to kind of take, you know, some of the day to day operations off my shoulders and focus on other things.
Rohan Gilkes 12:37 Oh, gotcha. Yeah. So, that really took … that did take some time, because, you know, it already was my first big company. And I was still figuring everything out as I went. I don’t really think there are any … It’s very difficult to like, be totally prepared to build a multimillion-dollar company, if you’ve never even built, like your first, you know, had your first big win.
Rohan Gilkes 13:08 Well, I was just like, feeling around in the dark a lot. And after my third employee that worked in the office and helped me manage everything. And they had been working with me for about almost a year. And, you know, like, they had to build up all this institutional knowledge, I really trusted their decision making.
Rohan Gilkes 13:32 And, you know, I knew that they would be on time and working aggressively to help grow the business. At that point was when I, you know, I kind of felt comfortable enough to step away from the day to day. And mostly work on the overall vision and direction of the business versus having to worry about the smallest day to day activities.
Dara King 13:58 And so, you could change anything you’ve said in the past, what four or five years that you’ve had Maids in Black, what would it be?
Rohan Gilkes 14:05 If I could change anything? Hmm, that’s a good question.
Dara King 14:13 Are you may not want to change anything?
Rohan Gilkes 14:16 Well, I’ll say this, the one thing like … that question makes me think of one mistake that we made. So, in the beginning, when I started to get some traction, when I was like, Okay, this thing is going to work. The first thing that came to mind is like, well, if this could work in one city, let me go add 15 more cities. Right.
Rohan Gilkes 14:38 So, this is what we tried to do. And, really and truly every individual metropolitan area for local service businesses is a new business that you’re starting, it’s a new business. And it requires the same initial effort and push and attention and energy as it does start the original business.
Rohan Gilkes 15:06 So, this is something that I learned along the way, is not as easy as like, you know, well. It works here, let me just add 15 more cities, or this service works, let me just add 15 more services, that becomes … that can become problematic. I think it’s best to kind of like, you know, push that first boulder up the hill and get moving until you build something that’s sustainable.
Rohan Gilkes 15:31 And then you can move on to the second one.
Dara King 15:33 So, what challenges do you think faces people that are starting right now today that are different than the challenges you faced.
Rohan Gilkes 15:46 So and maybe I’ll sound like you know, how our parents are like, man, back in the day, I used to walk the school, five hours in the snow, uphill both ways. I mean, it’s not like that but I’ll say that right now, the people are starting now. A lot of things are solved for them. A lot of things that I had to solve, like four years ago, they’re currently solved with Launch27.
Rohan Gilkes 16:18 Because back then I had no idea, okay, how I’m going to collect payments, okay, PayPal. But then I want the payments to be recurring. You know, I want to be able to charge them on a recurring basis, and have things as streamlined as possible. Then I had to figure out how to send reminder text messages, and find a solution that would do that, and maybe tie it together in some weird way. It ended up being manual, of course.
Rohan Gilkes 16:42 Then I had to figure out how to manage your bookings using a Google Calendar, and have things you know, and change things around and not have problems. And so, there’s all these things, all these administrational and operational problems that were huge back then.
Rohan Gilkes 17:00 And now with like, Launch27, like everything is like those things are solved. And you just have to plug it in, and just spend your time driving traffic to your website. So, I’ll just say that things … The challenges are different, because a lot of those things that would have been huge problems, and were huge problems for me, are now solved in some way.
Dara King 17:29 So, what challenges does your business have now even though it’s wildly successful. So, those people that are getting up to the what, $833,333 a month, which equals a million. Like, what challenges do you think that they face? Even though obviously, you know, customers, and money seems to be good. Like, what’s the next step?
Rohan Gilkes 17:53 Yeah. So, I mean, one challenge that omnipresent, regardless of where you are, in your revenue cycle, is the problem of finding and hiring strong workers. Like people to actually go out and perform the work, whatever your service is. That’s like the weak point that I think remains the weak point.
Rohan Gilkes 18:23 So, as you’re building your business, and as we’re building our business, we have to keep coming up with multiple different ways of. Where to find people, how to train them, how to keep them engaged, and motivated. How to come up with, you know, like bonus schemes and contests and promotions, and all these things to keep that side of the business in place.
Rohan Gilkes 18:47 So, that your folks are energized, and feel ready to go out and perform at a very, very high level. That part of the business is difficult. But I think regardless of what business you’re building, that part of the business is always going to be difficult, like dealing with the human component, having employees or partners or contractors or whatever else.
Dara King 19:13 So, what I’ve been asking everyone kind of to finish this off is one tip for each of these different categories. So, what’s your one tip for someone who’s just starting?
Rohan Gilkes 19:25 If you’re just starting, spend some time making sure that your homepage is on point. So, you cannot skimp on what your thing looks like. because what your thing looks like is it going to make up about 90% of the decision that a visitor to your website undertakes, as they choose if to do business with you or not.
Rohan Gilkes 19:51 So, I was ready to spend some time on your homepage because your homepage is where that decision primarily happens.
Dara King 20:00 Okay, and so what’s one tip for someone who’s trying to scale right now?
Rohan Gilkes 20:06 So yeah, if you’re trying to scale … So, if, this actually is one I like because if you’ve had some traction so far, you know where your customers are coming from. So, if it’s AdWords, or if it’s Facebook, if it’s social media, if it’s your blog, you know, if it’s Thumbtack, Craigslist, whatever, like, you know, where the majority of your customers come from.
Rohan Gilkes 20:31 And very often people’s, they have these, like 10, places where customers come from. And they’re ranked number 1 through 10, like, number 1 being the most successful and number 10, being the one that is least successful. And they spend time working on number 10, trying to improve their number 10.
Rohan Gilkes 20:52 But for me, I completely ignore number 10, 9, ignore all of those, and spend as much time as possible to improving number 1. So, if number 1 works, make it work twice as much, or three times as much or four times as much. Put all your efforts, like read all you can on improving number 1.
Rohan Gilkes 21:11 Take courses if you have to, like hire professionals that are experts that number 1, just double down and triple down on your number 1 source of leads.
Dara King 21:22 Okay, cool. And so, what are your one tip, and I know you’ve done this with me a million times. So, what’s your one tip for someone who’s ready to give up? We’ve gone through this in my last year and a half almost now.
Rohan Gilkes 21:40 Yes, you have been through this several times. So, I mean, there’s, there’s Yeah … so there’s also those two choices, you give up and start over. Or you commit to go through this thing and solve the problems that are in the business. And for me, if you can find some way to get to traction, because you don’t really see these huge problems until you are getting revenue.
Rohan Gilkes 22:13 Lately, like one of the side effects of making money is you’re introduced to the whole host of problems around the process of making that money.
Rohan Gilkes 22:24 And more money, more problems-
Rohan Gilkes 22:25 More money, more problems. Exactly. So, at that point, like, for me, I want to think, okay, I am being compensated for these probably, these things come together. And it’s very, very unlikely that you’re going to find a business, that where you’re going to be making money.
Rohan Gilkes 22:43 And you’re not having to deal with like a whole host of issues like they come together. So, all I can say is like, you know, just buckle down and recognize that this is part of the process. And this is not an anomaly. Every other person that you see that has been successful, they have gone through the same exact thing. And –
Dara King 23:03 Just before you say that, because that is exactly what has kept me going. And that’s like, the big reason why I want to do the podcast because you see the success stories, and you start to feel like you are kind of alone in the story.
Rohan Gilkes 23:14 Yeah.
Dara King 23:15 So, I love that you said that. I love that you said like every single person, like it’s just a part of business. Problems are a part of business and making money isn’t just going to be, you know, one sided. You’re not just going to make money. You also have to do those things that make that money. So –
Rohan Gilkes 23:29 Yeah, absolutely.
Dara King 23:31 Well, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me. Do you have any last things or anything you …? Like, how do … if people want to reach out to you and maybe do a one-on- one or join any of your groups? How do they do that?
Rohan Gilkes 23:45 Oh, yeah, sure. So, right now we have the OverThink Academy Facebook group. And the we also have pverthinkacademy.com. And that’s where people can sign up and follow along as we build a local business from scratch. And really, you know, kind of see us come, like face those challenges that we’ve been talking about in this podcast and solve them in real time.
Rohan Gilkes 24:14 So, I think that something’s very, very useful. And people can find me on Facebook, rohangilkes, twitter.com/rohangilkes. And I can’t think of any last words just … I think in general; they were living in the best possible time to be alive as far as the opportunities that are before us with the internet.
Rohan Gilkes 24:35 And being able to start a business without being rich without having to be rich, or having to, you know, get funding or take out a loan. Like we have so many opportunities right now. And I just hope people that are listening to this podcast will take those opportunities and connect with people that are going through it as well so they don’t feel alone.
Rohan Gilkes 25:00 And yeah, I think this is the best time to get going.
Dara King 25:05 Thanks for listening to another episode of the local service business podcast brought to you by Launch27 Are you ready to build a bigger local service business? Check out how Launch27 can take your business to the next level.