One of the most influential Teachers I’ve ever had taught me that great leaders take every opportunity to help their team grow professionally and personally. I was blessed for having his example. He monitored (and mentored) me constantly, evaluating my performance and providing frequent direct feedback. In doing so, he helped develop the skills I needed to be successful, while instilling confidence and reminding me that in turn I had the same obligation to those who I led. I aspire to be as enthusiastic and affective as he was for me and so many others.
In any craft or trade, historically there has been a tradition of apprenticeship. A young worker (as young as 10yrs) would learn their craft by working (for 7yrs) as assistant to someone well experienced (a master) in the trade. This was a mutually beneficial relationship where the prentice provided inexpensive labor in exchange for training and sometimes even schooling. This notion has been lost largely to a modern drive toward greater and faster production and worker’s rights; industrial and societal revolution. The primary purpose of the increased production was the development of wealth and advancement of mankind’s comforts. An arguably advantageous trade off in my opinion. Today, (in developed nations), we live longer and more comfortably than royalty of the past. That being said, to all things there is a season. And I want to suggest that we have lost a bit of the art of life and joy of mentorship in the pursuit of MORE. I think we can recapture the best parts of apprenticeship without giving up our gains.
It is a true challenge. The tradition of apprenticeship wherever it was practiced, was generally done so in a homogenous society. The values of the community were largely the same. Which reduced the variables and made it easier for the forwarding of technique and values relevant to the craft. Here in the modern melting pot of the United States, there are so many competing values and agendas that this becomes more complicated. Much less, that we are a nation of innovators and individualists who have been brought up to believe in our innate value and equality. “Who are you to tell me?” is in the way of our next step. While it is accepted truth that our essence is equal, to compete as individuals we must accept that others have valuable skills and information for us. And the true teachers and leaders among us are generally quite willing to sacrifice their time and energy for those willing to listen and learn and do.
Last year I suggested why Vinegar and Windex aren’t the best options for window cleaning. I promised I’d post how to clean your own and never did. Oops. Thanks to readers this was pointed out and I’m here to make amends. This week I’d like to share a quick easy way to get darn clean windows on your own. Professional (thorough) cleaning should still be done once a year. But below is a good general window cleaning method, modified for a home-owner cleaner (without squeegees) to do more regular clean up. The windows will look great. If you want perfect, call us. If you want to have clean windows and still enjoy your weekend, then listen up.
Fill a tub or 5 gallon bucket 1/3 full with water and then add a very small amount of detergent. Mix it in evenly, but avoid making bubbles, soap bubbles on your sponges make them
hard to use effectively. Less is more. The water will do the cleaning, just a couple drops in two gallons will do it. Put your scrub pad and sponge in the bucket.
Screens should all be removed.
Outside cleaning can be done quite well using a very soft bristle brush (google “truck brush”) on a pole and a hose. You are going to wash them the way you do your car. And you are going to let them air dry (wait for a day when dust in the air is minimal). Hose the windows to get them wet and then lightly scrub them, rinse and leave them to dry. The vertical surface will shed most of the water immediately and dry back nicely.
When inside lay out tarp evenly below the whole window, and snug against the wall to catch water and dust that may fall during cleaning.
Set your bucket on the tarp to avoid soiling the floor.
Apply soapy water to the window, and let it start dissolving dirt and grime while you clean frames and tracks with your sponge. A sea sponge is the best tool for washing frames and tracks as it is durable, form fitting and won’t scratch paint and other finishes.
Scrub the glass using a scrub pad or soft towel. The best scrub pad for the task would be something like an acrylic Scotch-brite scrub pad sponge combo. NEVER the green scouring pad, always a plastic scrub pad. Additionally, test the scrub pad in an inconspicuous area just to be sure it won’t do any damage. If you are concerned that you might damage the glass use a terry cloth towel to do the scrubbing. Use a well wrung sea sponge or towel to remove the bulk of the water and any soap bubbles from the glass and frames in preparation for towel drying. Towel dry using a dry terry cloth towel or diaper. Voila! Sparkle.
We here at Mr. Sparkle are super proud to be a Bay Area Green certified Business. Our commitment may seem like a no-brainer, but it requires real time and energy (human powered) to behave environmentaly friendly.
The first question we are usually asked is if our detergents are “Green.” They are! But with 8 guys washing 1500 houses a year, we still only use a couple gallons of soap in that time. The larger impacts of what we do are less obvious. For example, every bid we do requires a formal bid describing the work to be done. That could be done on paper, even in triplicate. But, we do the bid, review and revisions all via email. Almost no paper passes between our office and our clients. Routing the work we do efficiently goes a long way toward reducing the miles we drive. We are very deliberate about keeping our jobs in tight groupings. This is a great savings for us and the environment in fuel burned. Virtually all of our paper is used on both sides. In this way we nearly half our potential usage. Yet another example of our commitment is that all of our staff are required as part of training to become certified in storm drain water management through BASMAA. Our water contains Chloromine. Chloromine is similar to chlorine, And is part of EBMUD’s process of purifying our drinking water. Unfortunately, unlike chlorine, it does not evaporate. before it enters our creeks and bay. It will stay in the water killing micro-organisms. Simply diverting water so that it soaks into the ground and therefore goes through the water-table instead of the gutter and into the bay goes a long way toward protecting our environment.
If you are a customer or small business that is interested in using or becoming a Green Business go to http://www.greenbiz.ca.gov/. You’ll find tons of waste free resources to draw on!
The Windex conspiracy. Every time we use windex we close our eyes to the reality that it doesn’t work that well. And on the rare occasions that it does, a day later the tell tale streaks of our towel appear. That is the conspiracy. We are asked to believe Windex works even in the face of the evidence that it doesn’t. Then we grab the bottle of Windex to clean up the streaks..? Would you clean a wine glass with windex? Probably not. The good news is you can easily clean a window the way you would wash a wine glass. Water, a soft scrubber or towel, and a very little soap. No suds (so add the soap to the water after you fill a bucket). Towel dry it. It will look great. Save your money on the Windex. Enough said.
“My mom used vinegar…What do you use to clean windows?” Elbow grease; that’s my cheeky answer. The real answer is we use a product called Dawn…dishsoap…and just a wee drab. That, and the proper technique and tools produce the professional result. A professional cleaner uses a strip washer to apply water, a 5″ razor, brushes, sea sponges and a squeegee in their craft. I can’t prove it, but I believe that vinegar and newspaper (or ammonia or TSP) hold their sacred place in window cleaning mythology because at one time they were the tools of choice. Everyone had vinegar on hand, and newspaper was plentiful and essentially free. Equally, there was once a time when the Sears catalog was the tool of choice in the bathroom. Yet today, most everyone would agree there are far superior products for the purpose.
Vinegar really is a good and versatile cleanser, which can be used in pickeling and other cooking. And, until the recent digital age of printing, newspapers were printed on a more absorbant, less slick paper and covered news. Nowadays, a wide range of detergents out-clean vinegar and are more common than vinegar in our homes. Plus, towels are inexpensive and easily available.
Given the times and circumstances, vinegar and newspaper once made sense. Today, a homeowner can use soap in moderation with a terry cloth towel and feel just as good about the job. Or even a little better.
Next week I’ll publish complete cleaning instructions right out of our beginning cleaner’s manual!
Tom Watson is a local realtor I’ve work with for years and he has become a friend as well. Recently I asked him what he does when he’s had “one of those days” and just wants to lose himself in an activity. Tom got super excited and offered to share his hobby with my son and I, so we joined him for some excellent fun flying remote control planes. My son was inspired and is now learning to fly. Below is a Tom’s own account of how he found RC planes.
“Some people work out, read a book or grab the remote to that evil machine called the TV. A couple years ago I found a new hobby and I’m hooked. I’ve been learning to fly electric, remote control airplanes and this hobby has become my way of finding peace and relaxation in an often times hurried and stressful world. At least twice per week I head to an unfinished subdivision in Brentwood, where there are no homes and plenty of streets to use as landing strips for my new toys.
Over the last couple years of flying, I’ve met a group of guys who come out to the empty lot to fly and forget about the world for a while. The best part of Remote Control (RC) hobbies is the people. Those that already know how to fly and fix their planes are more than happy to teach any newcomer. I’ve learned a lot about my new hobby, I’ve become a much better pilot and I know (for the most part) how to fix my planes when I crash. Truth time: I still haven’t perfected my landings and I took a nasty nose dive recently that completely took one of my new planes out of commission (can you say 80MPH straight into the ground?) It was painful, but I just laughed and said well, if you’re not crashing, you’re not trying hard enough!”
If you’d like to learn a bit about this hobby, Tom still has a trainer plane and would be happy to teach you how to fly. Give him a call and head to the field! Don’t worry about crashing the trainer; it survived my training flights, I’m sure it will survive yours.
You can contact Tom by phone at 415.794.1173 or check him out on Facebook
Thanks to a program sponsored by Chase and LivingSocial called “Mission: Small Business,” your support could translate into a $250,000 grant for Mr Sparkle. But we need at least 250 votes at missionsmallbusiness.com to qualify. We would be grateful for your support and forwarding that request to any friends you think would be willing to help!
If offered the opportunity of the “Mission: Small Business” grant we would use the funds to expand fully into two geographic territories we currently serve peripherally; the Hwy24 corridor, Moraga to Walnut Creek and secondly Hayward to Pleasanton. It would mean the chance to bring on a full time sales person to help develop those areas as well as focusing on the (small commercial) mid rise portion of our business.
Thanks for your support! Mr Sparkle
Normally it is the parent proud of the child. In this case Mr Sparkle is proud of a parent. My dad Richard rode over 500 miles over 7 days from San Francisco to LA. A real accomplishment and adventure in the name of something good. We were truly excited for Mr Sparkle to sponsor Richard and contribute to his raising over $3000.00 for Aids/Lifecycle. Supporting Aids/Lifecycle was a great fit for us and an opportunity we were excited to take. Like many business people when Mr Sparkle started we just want to make enough to put food on our tables. Thanks to hard work and some good fortune our community responded positively to our model and service. Now, the sweetest treat is we in turn are enabled to support our community and their causes.
Congratulations Richard! Well done.
It has been my pleasure and fortune to participate in a fair amount of training in my life. Both as trainee and trainer. Sometimes between all the blah-blah-blah that passes our ear lobes on a long day of learning a good quote will be the one thing that really resonates and is remembered. Below are some quotes and idioms I have picked up along the way that I reflect on regularly.
“Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.” — I’m told the Buddha said that.
**Reflects the truth that we don’t always get what we want but it still feels good to smile.
“Cry in the dojo, laugh on the battlefield.” — Old Samurai Maxim.
**Do the hard work at the front end and build a brick house.
“Luck is where preparation meets opportunity.” — Randy Pausch; The Last Lecture
**Possibly Puritanistic, yet an invaluable attitude. You’ll never be bored again.
“…and in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love, you make.” –The Beatles
Everybody loves a Mr Sparkle T-Shirt. Over the last 8 years we have sold and given away thousands of them. It is always great getting back pictures from folk who wear them in interesting places. Our “contact us” page features a dynamite picture of a friend in Time Square sporting one of our shirts. Once, a staff member at Arizmendi Bakery was featured on The News Hours, full frontal shot in one of our shirts.
Lucky Mule T shirts in Oakland prints our shirts. A great local screen print shop owned by Courtney Callahan. Courtney does all size jobs, working with smaller businesses like us, to events such as the Blue Grass Festival. For us, working with local vendors is an important part of our mission. It means the money we spend stays in our community. Plus, Courtney is a treat. Once the drummer for the Demonics, he now plays with a band called Los Shimmy Shakers. A group of veteran musicians who are accompanied by Burlesque. I’ve had a chance to see them a few times and have always had a blast.
Being an Oakland native, it feels good to support Oakland based business and to be creating a strong recognizable brand in my home town. T Shirts have been a huge part of the way we have gone about doing that.
Thanks Lucky Mule!
As with all businesses customer feedback is the primary and most significant source of information as to how we are performing. Whether window cleaning, gutter cleaning or scratch removal we have high standards for all of our services, and are always training to provide the best service and highest quality product possible.
No one can be one hundred percent all the time. And we are always grateful when our clients value their relationship with us enough to help us improve by letting us know when we fall short of their expectations. Negative feedback can be frustrating, but is of course normal. I once had a mentor tell me, “if you hear the same thing more than once, you need to address it in training immediately.” I try to follow that advice, and always view criticism as a courtesy.
On the other end one of the greatest feelings for us as service providers is to receive a compliment from a client. They take the form of verbal or written compliments, tips, referrals and on some occasions gifts. Yesterday we received two such gifts from separate clients. A couple jars of home made jam from one, and two bottles of Di’Aire wine from the makers themselves!
We are so grateful for our customers’ support and feedback. Good or bad it helps us to keep on track.