Behind the business: Mike King's hard work story

Having run a window cleaning company for the past 40 years, Mike knows what it takes to make your business successful. He shares his business tips here.

Starting up

5 February 2019

Running a business is tough. From long working days to managing your finances, it takes a lot of hard work and determination to make your business dreams a reality.

But hard work pays off, and life as a business owner comes with plenty of rewards too. From choosing who you work with to creating a work schedule that fits around your home life, being your own boss means you call the shots on what your business will shape up to be.

For Mike King, owner of Mike King Windows and an AXA business insurance customer since 2005, the flexibility that running his window cleaning business is one of his favourite aspects of being self-employed. Here, Mike reveals why he decided to start up, chats the challenges and highlights he’s faced over the past 40 years running his business, and shares some easy steps you can take to help make your business work that little bit harder.

What inspired you to launch Mike King Windows?

I started out working as a butcher for my dad. He owned two shops, so butchery was my first trade. Unfortunately, we never saw eye to eye, so it was a big thing for me to leave the family business behind to do my own thing. But you can’t go through life worrying about what other people think – you’ve got to look after number one.

Shortly after, a friend told me that there was a window cleaning job going at British Rail’s head office. After I’d finished my shifts there, I’d go around the neighbourhood to see if people needed any work doing and focused on getting my business cards out there.

The business grew arms and legs from there, really, and I set off to build up my business in the early 1970s. Word of mouth really helped spread awareness of the business, so I always carried out jobs to the highest standard to continue to build my reputation. Plus, once I’d finished jobs in areas like Notting Hill and Holland Park, these clients became my calling cards in a way because they’d recommend me to their friends and family.

What are your goals with your business?

Providing a service that’s a cut above what my rivals offer. That’s my main goal.

When you go into someone’s home, you’ve got to have a lot of respect. I always take my own towels in to prevent homes from getting dirty and to show my customers that I’m respecting their property. Once people know you’re going to be totally respectful and professional while working in their properties, you’re on to a winner. Plus, offering this high-quality service is another way for me to help my business stand out against the crowd.

What does an average working day look like?

My working day starts at 2.30am – although if I decide to work a Saturday I have a lie in till 3.30am. The reason I get up so early is because if I left at 6am, it would take me two hours to drive to London due to traffic. Plus, I’ve often got customers’ keys so that I can let myself in and get the job done before their working day begins. So, the earlier I can get there in the morning, the better.

Usually I get most of my work done before 9am but tend to work on till 12pm. It’s a long day but when I’m driving about between jobs and working, every day goes in quickly.

Why is hard work such an important value for you?

I believe that if you want nice things in life, you have to work hard. I bought my first flat in Greenwich when I was 25 thanks to my hard graft. It really cemented the importance of what you can achieve by being dedicated.

I think that’s a value that’s drove the business since the early days and it’s what keeps me going today too. So, whether your goal is to buy a second car, get a new home, or land more clients, I believe that if you keep putting the hard work in, you’ll reap the rewards.

Don’t get me wrong, working unsociable hours can be tough. But for me, the big thing about working hard early on – both in the sense of your career and the working day – is being able to reap the benefit of getting to do what you want earlier on too. You’ve got to put the hard work in as early as you can so that you’re rewarded later in life.  

What have been the benefits and challenges of being your own boss for the past 40 years?

In terms of benefits, I get to pick and choose when I go on holiday. My work doesn’t dictate my life. Instead, I make my working life fit around the priorities that are important to me in my personal life.

But running a business comes with its own set of challenges too. When I jet off on holiday, nobody pays me holiday money. And if I’m ill, I don’t get sick pay, so I have to be really ill before I take some time off to recover – a runny nose just doesn’t cut it! I’ve also got to put in the extra time to manage my tax, insurance and other finances, which can be tricky.

Despite this, I’ve never looked back since deciding to be self-employed. Being your own boss can be hard work, yes, but the freedom it gives you makes every stress completely worth it.

What’s been your proudest achievement while running your business?

I used to clean the windows of a shop that was owned by a lady who was very well known in the photography world. Back in the early 2000s, the makers of a TV programme called The Photo Show approached her for the show and she ended up putting my name forward too. I was interviewed about my collection of 35mm lenses at home and the show featured shots of me at work window cleaning.

It doesn’t sound like a huge achievement, but it was a bit of fun. And that’s what I love about this job: you get to meet loads of interesting people. You’re constantly out and about seeing what’s happening. Sure, it’s hard graft and physically demanding – but no day is ever the same.

What advice would you give to people thinking of starting their own business?

I’d say you’ve got to be strict with yourself. Be regimental. Always get up early and don’t be tempted to hit the snooze button for another ten minutes in bed. Get up, out the door and start your day on your best foot. If getting up early is a struggle, bite the bullet and get to bed early. You’ll feel better for it.

I’d also say that you need to be willing to work hard and talk to everyone you meet. You’ve got to have the gift of the gab, a bit of a way with people, to help get them on your side. Once you’ve won them over, you can work on establishing trust with your customers – which is a skill that any good business must have in spades at the end of the day.

I can’t underestimate the importance of being well turned-out too. Presentation is everything and you only get one shot at making a good first impression, so make it count. Keep your van looking spic and span and make sure that you look clean and tidy whenever you’re going to visit clients.

In a nutshell? The best advice I can give to help make your business a success is: have a strict routine, be trustworthy, get up early, keep you and your van looking good and focus on giving your customers the old charm offensive to win them over.

Work hard, insure simple

Running a business is hard work. That’s why we’re doing all we can to make your insurance a bit simpler. From working to pay claims more quickly to taking the guesswork out of getting business insurance, find out what we’re doing to help.