Are You A Fellow Pressure Washer, Soft Washer, Roof Cleaner or Window Cleaner?

Here are some magazine articles from Cleaner Times Magazine that the owners of Firehouse Pressure Washing have written to help others that are just starting out.

Giving Back – Firehouse Pressure Washing

While their business model in itself is a way of “giving back,” the Dinglers love being an active part of their community. 


A devastating fire that destroyed his family home in Brooks, GA, and resulted in the death of two of the family’s pets compelled then 16-yearold Mike Dingler to aspire to become a firefighter. He became a fire cadet at the age of 17 and entered firefighter school in 2004. A year later he met Monica, who was attending EMT training, and the two became fast friends and, eventually, married. She graduated in 2006, becoming the fourth paid female firefighter in Fayette County. As the saying goes, “First comes love, then comes marriage,” and by 2010 the Dinglers were putting out fires and pushing a baby carriage.

“We both loved being firefighters, but 20 years ago the pay wasn’t great, and it was challenging to make ends meet…with a mortgage to pay and two little boys to raise,” recalls Mike. “My father owns a house painting business, and since 1998 I have been pressure washing houses for him. So, essentially, I was a pressure washer before I was a firefighter. It wasn’t long before I was making more money on my days off by power washing homes than by fighting fires. I specialized in soft washing, pressure washing, and roof cleaning, providing services in Senoia, Peachtree City, and Fayetteville, GA. Ninety percent of the business is residential.”

“But it wasn’t just the pay that was challenging,” adds Monica. “We were dating the whole time we were training as firefighters, and when we got married, they put us on separate shifts. We only saw each other about 10 times a month. That was tough. Then I found out I was pregnant and was put on administrative duties. In 2011 I hung up all my firefighting gear and stayed at home to raise our boys. In 2014 I went to work in the ER so that we had a sense of security, since Mike had quit the fire department to start pressure washing full time. By 2017 he had scaled the business to where I had to quit working in the ER to help him full time in the business.”


In 2009 the Dinglers expanded their then home-based enterprise, buying their first trailer and full equipment. They came up with the name Firehouse Pressure Washing and developed a strategy to grow the business by helping others who were in the same situation as they were. They only employ working or retired firefighters and EMS personnel, who work with them on their days off. (Yes, it makes employee scheduling a challenge, but they make it work.)

“Both of us were still working full time for the fire department, and it was natural for us to hire our colleagues—not only because of the camaraderie and need for all of us to earn more money, but because they have such advanced safety training and teamwork skills,” states Mike. “I’ve ridden in an ambulance or fire truck with half the guys that have worked at Firehouse Pressure Washing, so I know who works hard, and we share the same values. Firefighters don’t typically stand around and talk about how to handle an incident in the heat of the moment, and that mentality and professionalism carries over to our pressure washing contracts.”

Firehouse Pressure Washing Team


“It’s a bonus when hiring that firefighters must also have clean driving records, no drug use, and some of the things you may have to worry about then hiring everyday lay people,” explains Monica. “It has actually worked out well because following systems and processes are a firefighter’s bible. On the admin side of our business, there is a way to do everything, and they don’t question that. On the job site already having ladder safety training, advanced first aid, OSHA certification, and more makes training for power washing so much easier. As a bonus I think our guys make people feel safe when they show up. It just makes people feel better as homeowners, … knowing that the individual coming to power wash their home might have saved a child the night before.”

Firehouse Pressure Washing Truck


From Home Based To Warehouse Space

As the business grew, both Monica and Mike grew weary of doing double duty. In 2014 Monica quit her job in the ER to support the admin side of the business full time, allowing her to work from home and be there for her boys when they needed her. At the same time Mike started to do some number crunching. “I had been a full-time firefighter for 10 years and decided that I could transition to being a volunteer firefighter and full-time business owner, also working from my home-based office. Back surgery necessitated retiring from firefighting altogether in 2022. While I miss hanging out with the guys and the camaraderie of station life, I love being home with my family.”

In December 2015 they bought their first F550 flatbed pressure washing rig and assembled it on their home driveway. Having the extra vehicle required the move to warehouse space. In 2016 they moved the business to rented space.

Today Firehouse Pressure Washing operates out of a 2,600-square-foot space and has three flatbeds and one trailer rig, two box trucks for Christmas lights, an F250 with custom pressure washing skid for their operations manager, and a Tesla for their sales manager. They have five fulltime and five part-time staff. At their peak in 2022 when they employed just off-duty firefighters, they had 16 men. (One full-timer is equivalent to four part-timers.)

“Success means that we are bursting at the seams!” says Mike with a laugh. “We are building racks to store Christmas lights in the bay, which is a service we began offering in 2022. Christmas light installation and takedown enable us to keep the team busy year-round. We did 39 houses the first year, 86 the second year, and are aiming for 150 houses annually in the next couple of years.”



Giving Back To The Community

While their business model in itself is a way of “giving back,” the Dinglers love being an active part of their community. They support events and fundraisers for local sports teams, schools, and the fire station costs and awards ceremonies by donating cash or “gifts in kind,” like house and roof washing. But they do much more than that. In 2020 when one of their parttime workers suffered third degree burns while on duty as an EMT—he saved someone from a burning car before the fire truck arrived—they staged a huge fundraiser for him. They sponsor a benefit race for special needs children and a Cares for Kids annual golf tournament, along with Keller Williams Real Estate.

“One of our biggest community contributions to date was in 2020, during the COVID pandemic,” reports Monica. “We washed over 40 public playgrounds for free. This was so important at a time when everyone was hyper aware of cleanliness and disinfecting.”

To the Dinglers, “giving back” not only means supporting the community but being active in the industry.

Mike still holds a National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedic License; is certified as a HAZMAT Technician and a SWAT tactical medic; is the president of the Peachtree City Firefighter Foundation; serves as the chair of marketing for the PWNA; and teaches PWNA safety classes at conventions, such as the IWCA.

As a working couple, they are also always eager to expand their knowledge, believing that “you have to meet people who are smarter than you, and make more money than you, to learn and grow your business.”

When asked if, given the opportunity, they would do it over again, the answer was a resounding “Yes!” “Being a husband-and-wife team is difficult; it can be hard to differentiate between being married and being business partners,” says Monica. “It’s been tough … but also very rewarding to look back and see how far we have come. Running your own business has risks, but it’s not as risky as being a firefighter! Besides being your own boss, having complete access to our children and all their activities makes all this worth it. I get to be at every event, party, field trip, and baseball game. We don’t get that time back, and I want to take advantage of this very special opportunity that we’ve sacrificed for.”

“I’m glad that I was a firefighter, but I’m also glad I am no longer a firefighter,” concludes Mike. “We are blessed to have the flexibility to be a part of our children’s lives.”

Learn more about Firehouse Pressure Washing at www.firehousepowerwash.com



Stepping Away from the Wand,” Part One

Why You Should Not Do All the Work

by Mike Dingler / Published December 2021

“Stepping Away from the Wand,” Part One: Why You Should Not Do All the Work

For those of us who have been to an industry convention, read a business book, or have heard any “gurus” present the idea that you, the business owner, should not do all the work, why? Why can’t exterior cleaning business owners do the physical work that makes us money? A lot of us really like doing all the work, and a lot of us (surprise, surprise) have a mental outlook that says, “No one can clean properties as good as I can,” and, “If you want something done right, you gotta do it yourself.” There is nothing wrong with this outlook; it is our “Type A” personality that got us where we are today, but if you want to scale your business and have multiple rigs on the road, “What got you here won’t get you there” is the mental outlook you as the business owner will need to adopt. If you are a successful business owner, what got us here is a lot of hard work, blood, sweat, and tears. We sacrificed parties for pressure washing patios, we sacrificed a social life for social media marketing, we washed in the middle of the night instead of sleeping, and so on. We paid a high price to get where we are, and we have correlated our success to our sacrifices and to our time doing the work. That must change if we want to grow, both in business and in life.

     The main issue about doing the work yourself or doing the work with a helper or two under your direct control is that it is really just you out there doing the work. You tell your helpers to help, and that’s what they do: help, not lead. They water down plants when you are on the roof. They pull hose line while you soft/pressure wash. They clean the lower windows while you clean the high ones. They pack up while you talk to the customer. They don’t know as much as you do about the industry, the tools, and the tactics, basically the “wash life” that we have all grown accustomed to, and that’s why they are helping you instead of running their own exterior cleaning business, right? Wrong. They are helping you because they are employees. A lot of us business owners need to realize that not everyone wants the life we want. Not everyone has a “Type A” personality. Not everyone knows how to run a pressure washer, much less a company that does it for other people. Simply put—some people would rather work 40 hours a week for someone else and not 60–80 hours for themselves, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. If everyone were like us, we might be working for them! With that clarification, we need to move on to training our helpers to be our lead technicians, and so begins the process of stepping away from the wand.

     Stepping away from the wand, getting off the truck, getting out of the field—call it what you want, the end result is the same. It’s the process where you trust someone else with everything you have worked to build, and it is not an easy process. The process of stepping away from doing the work is a different process for each exterior cleaning business owner because each of us is different and in a different location. Just like people asking for help with pricing on the online exterior cleaning forums, it is whatever your local market will tolerate. We all run our businesses differently and have different financial parameters to abide by, so we have to pay our technicians differently. If you are looking to step away from the wand, here are a few things to get you started:

  • Be completely insured.
  • Have a brand including logos and uniforms.
  • Have a dedicated business phone line.
  • Have at least one person in mind who can do the work in your absence (not your spouse).
  • Have an operation’s manual in progress.
  • Have a safety manual in progress.
  • Have all SDSs for chemicals you use on file in the trucks.
  • Be legit. No “under-the-table” operations (paying helpers cash, bartering, etc.).
  • Prepare all pertinent employee paperwork BEFORE you hire your first employee.
  • Whatever you think you will be able to pay, make it more.
  • Get a CRM (customer relationship management) system. No excuses.

     All of these are a very basic list of items you must have in place in order to successfully scale your business. Insurance is a must because you are a legitimate business that provides services at other people’s homes. You may be careful and know not to spray an electrical outlet with water, but your future employees may not be. Also, your employees will be driving your trucks, so make sure you have a commercial auto policy in place.

     It’s insurance that fixes your mistakes, but it’s the operations and safety manuals that train employees to not make them in the first place, so you MUST start on your SOPs (standard operating procedures), mission statement, and safety regulations now.

     When you have your first employee, he will want to see your vision of where the company is going as well as WIFM (what’s in it for me). WIFM is an attitude we have all had at one point in our life when we worked for someone else. Employees don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. They need to see that you care enough about your business and the future of the business by writing it down and formulating a plan. If your plan is to have 30 technicians, an operations manager, a sales manager, and an office manager, write it down and make an organizational chart. An organizational chart is paramount, and it is very easy to do! Form an introductory letter that tells your new hire what he signed up for and what he should expect from you and your company. End that letter with your mission statement and explain it. This creates a clear picture of what you expect from the employee going forward. All of these things plus many more will be addressed in next month’s article, “How to Train Others to Do the Work that You Do So Well.”

     Why you should not do all the work is a simple concept to grasp. If anything happens to you, it also happens to your business. If you get sick, your business suffers with you. If you get hurt, your business is hurt with you. Nothing on your work truck should be the only one you have on the work truck (one is none and two is one). This means you must have two or more of every-thing if you need one of them to be there and work properly when you need it. The same is true about per-sonnel. The problem with having you, the owner, in the field with helpers is that there is just one of you. If you go down, the whole business goes down.

     Scenario:  You are the owner-operator, and you hurt your back. You schedule a doctor’s appointment (one missed job), then the doctor sends you for an MRI (two missed jobs), then the doctor asks you to come in and review the results (one missed job). That simple scenario has cost you four missed jobs. Fill in your job average (total year’s income divided by the year’s job total) on the line, and you will calculate what the doctor’s visit cost you, besides your co-pay and fuel to get there.

________________ x 4 = $ missed out on due to doctor’s visit

     The number you just calculated is very minimal compared to what happens next. The doctor says you have herniated the L5 vertebrae in your lower back from when you tried to look cool in front of your helpers and move a 40-ft. ladder by yourself. It requires a very minimally invasive surgery to go in and cut the herniated tissue away from the nerves that it is currently compressing, the nerves that make you feel like your leg is on fire all the time. It is extremely painful, and surgery is the best option compared to constant pain and a year or more to recover from it if you go without the operation. The surgery requires a one-year full recovery time, and for the first three months you cannot pick up anything over 10 pounds; you cannot bend, lift, or twist; and you cannot bend down and pull anything across the ground. So, you schedule your surgery date (three to five jobs lost) and your recovery time (832 jobs lost). This is obviously a deal breaker, and if you don’t have anyone to take over, you may be going under. One is none and two is one.

________________ x 835 = $ missed from discectomy surgery and recovery time

     This scenario has happened to blue collar workers across America. It is not a hypothetical scenario; it has happened to at least one exterior cleaning business owner for certain. Luckily, that owner had systems in place for the team of technicians he had trained to take over, and that business is alive and thriving today. If that same company had not had an owner who had stepped away from the wand and stopped doing all the work years before his injury, the outcome would have most likely been a failed business. It was important for that owner to have done everything to get off the truck long before his injury occurred so that the mission statement, operations manual, safety manual, and weekly technician training meetings built a business where no one task was carried out by a single individual in the organization. One is none and two is one.

     So now that we have explored why you should get off the truck, use this month to start preparing your checklist above. You will need to have everything in order for when you begin training technicians to work in your absence, next month’s topic. Until then, start brainstorming and remember that one is none and two is one!

     Mike Dingler is owner of Firehouse Pressure Washing, Soft Washing, and Roof Cleaning Inc. He has been in the exterior cleaning industry since 1996. In addition, his book, Small Service Based Business Basics: How to Run Your Business and Not Let Your Business Run You, is available on Amazon. For more information, call (770) 468-0014 or visit www.firehousepowerwash.com


“Stepping Away from the Wand,” Part Two

How to Train Others to Do the Work That You Do So Well

by Mike Dingler / Published January 2022


Editor’s Note: Part one of this series was published in the December 2021 issue of Cleaner Times. If you don’t have that issue, the article can be read online at https://www.cleanertimes.com/magazine/cleaner-times-articles-2/stepping-away-from-the-wand-part-one-why-you-should-not-do-all-the-work. Part three, which will be the final installment in the series, will be published in the February 2022 issue of Cleaner Times.

In last month’s article we learned why we should not do all the work and why our business needs us to find employees to help us scale our business. This month we will get our game plan together on how to structure our business to employ technicians, office managers, salespeople, and more.

One of the main things we struggle with as entrepreneurs and business owners is ego. Ego can make or break us in business, and having an inflated ego with employees is a disaster. Speaking of employees, as Dave Ramsey says, “Employees come in late, leave early, and most likely steal while they are there.” Terminology such as “employees” is being replaced with more appealing words like “team members,” “technicians,” and “sales associates.” What’s the difference? How you treat the human beings who are working in your business. It is better to have two team members rather than four employees. Employees are someone you hire to do a task, and the relationship between employer and employee is very cold and impersonal. That may have worked in the past but not now. In the business world we live in, everything has changed since COVID-19. With all the government handouts, people now get to choose whether or not they will go to work, where they will work, who they will work for, and what they will do while at work. In some states, auto technicians have found better pay at McDonald’s. Speaking of McDonald’s, since raising the minimum wage some public safety departments have had to raise the starting pay of firefighters and police officers to compete with fast food and other industries.

To some employers in some states, the world seems to have turned inside out. The exterior cleaning industry is no different. To find good technicians we must make our business look very attractive or at least more attractive than McDonald’s. Think that’s easy? Think again. Ray Kroc isn’t well known for creating McDonald’s—the McDonald brothers, Richard and Maurice—did that, but Ray franchised what they couldn’t. How did he do that? He made SOPs (standard operating procedures) for everything. He assumed that his freshly-hired staff wouldn’t know anything about the fast-food industry because he was currently creating it. Fast food did not exist until McDonald’s made it so well known by its SOPs and processes. Proper paperwork gave everyone in the kitchen an assignment and a plan, and along with everyone at the counter who also had an assignment and a plan, a legacy was born. Your exterior cleaning business may never be nationwide (unless you want it to be), but it will be able to scale to whatever level you are comfortable at if you implement structure and order within your business with SOPs and systems.

So where do you start? It’s very simple really. Assume a person you hire has never done the job before (some employers prefer to have technicians who have never washed before as they don’t have to fix bad habits), and start a document that you will name “standard operating procedures.” If you are not computer savvy, you must be. It’s 2022 and you own a business, so get with the times. Start a document on your phone in notes; start one on your ipad, laptop, or whatever device you want; but the key is to start the document. (Just like going to the gym, nothing happens unless you show up. Most people will never start the document.) Now add how you do the things you do to the document every day you are out washing and every time you have a break. Remember, you are training someone with zero knowledge of the pressure washing industry besides “they washed their grandpa’s house one time with a Ryobi.” Make a process and a procedure for the following at a minimum:

  • Daily morning meeting: review the work before you do the work.
  • Daily truck check: make sure you have everything you need before you leave the shop.
  • How to set up the equipment
  • How to troubleshoot the equipment
  • How to operate the equipment

Anything else you need to document. Assume the lowest experience level possible and type away, as there is no going overboard. The more detail oriented you are, the more it will help in the future for insurance and workers’ comp. rates/claims. (bubbl.us is a great tool for making flowcharts, if you wish to incorporate them into the document)

The Job Sandwich

A sandwich has two pieces of bread and meat in the middle. A job has a beginning and an ending, and the meat is what you are washing. The bread never changes as it consists of a top and bottom piece.

If you complete the items above, you are well on your way to having an electronic file of your SOPs to email to your new hires (along with your welcome letter and safety manual) before their first day of work. This does wonders as they have already familiarized themselves with your processes and already know in their minds what they should be doing with their hands. The more detailed you were in your documentation, the better the technician will do on his first day and all subsequent days. Good habits are formed from knowing the correct way to wash something before the pressure washer is used, not just a spray and pray that some new hires will inevitably do. If you want someone to rinse and post treat the concrete after it is surface cleaned, and then find out the tech didn’t post treat, whose fault is that? If it wasn’t in the SOPs, it’s your fault. If it was, then he did not read the SOPs or did not retain the information because you did not enforce retention of information (think a once-a-year online test over the SOPs made in Google docs); it’s your fault. Anything that happens in your business is your fault, so document every process you want done in your SOPs. No detail is too detailed. If you do all this correctly, you will now have formed your businesses SOPs, but as always, everything changes. Update your SOPs so they stay up to date with the chemicals and processes your business is using.

SOPs and the safety manual go hand in hand so let’s review how to make a safety manual.

Safety Procedures—Take pictures of all personal protective equipment (PPE) you will provide, and describe what PPE you want your technicians to wear and when they should wear it (i.e., anytime chemicals are in use eye protection is mandatory).

Describe the proper way to don and doff any equipment and describe how to use and inspect harness systems and ladders. The greater the detail you provide as far as above ground operations go, the easier time you will have if someone gets hurt and workers’ comp gets involved.

Describe how you want the truck to be parked, road cone use, etc. Your safety manual should cover any situation your technician could find himself in while working for your company and what to do to stay safe at all times. (i.e., do your technicians know what to do in case their truck breaks down as far as roadside
safety is concerned?)

Last but not least you should type out a welcome letter, a short, normally one page document on how you got started, what you went through to make it to where you are now, and your vision for your company’s future. What do you see your business like in one year? Three years? And five years? Narrate all these scenarios for your new hire to know your plan and what’s in your head. Future technicians want to see where you want to be and how their work will help everyone get there. Make the one, three, and five-year scenarios seem very appealing to your new hire. Make the new hire feel like he is joining an up-and-coming business full of potential to advance both his position and pay. Also make an organization chart (see example below) and introduce your mission statement, which is a short (usually one to three sentence) declaration of your business and what it stands for (google “create a mission statement for my business” for more information).

If you document everything correctly and ensure your technicians have read the material, you are on your way to trusting others to do the work the way you do it and obtaining the same results as if you were there on the truck yourself. A lot of business owners simply adopt “the learn as you work” training method because that is what was done to them. We can do better as business owners today; we must if we want to be successful. We must teach our people not to just hold ladders and water down plants, and with a written plan that they read before their first day of work, we can achieve great results.

“But I can’t find good help.” Maybe good help can’t find you! If you were to go on a cruise, would you go on one that was just going to cruise around the ocean? Or would you go on one that had a destination? Your future technicians, office managers, operations managers, and so on need to see your destination, or they may not want to go with you. If your competition has a plan, a playbook, a route, and a process, then the good, detail-oriented, hard-working technicians go to them. If you want people to work for you with a detail-oriented, perfectionist-type mentality, then you must run your business the same way to attract those people. If you don’t have a mission statement, welcome letter, and safety and SOP manuals, you are simply floating around the ocean, and not that many awesome people will ever go with you.

With a typed-out document that contains an introduction letter, mission statement, SOPs, and safety manual in place, this document will set the standard and the tone for your technicians and other staff in the future. Update the document often and save the document as a PDF when you send it to your new hires. If your job sandwich and other technical operations are something you would like to protect, a nondisclosure/noncompete article may be in order, but remember this: most people can find out how to clean anything on the internet. YouTube videos and “gurus” can be found all day long on roof cleaning, etc. It is not the process of cleaning that is proprietary information but rather your process and procedures that may be. If you are worried about someone coming to work for you and then taking your processes and starting their own business, review the first of these series of articles in last month’s issue and remember that a lot of people simply want to be employed, not own the company that employs them. Your future team members need to see where you are going, where you have been, and how you will get to your destination. Just like McDonald’s, it is your job to put standard operating procedures in place to ensure the journey to your destination is a good one full of money-making opportunities and fun times for your team. Now that we have reviewed why you should step away from the wand and how to get others to do the work like you do, in next month’s article we will discuss how to further
systematize and automate your business so that it runs smoothly, without you on the truck!

Mike Dingler is owner of Firehouse Pressure Washing, Soft Washing, and Roof Cleaning Inc. He has been in the exterior cleaning industry since 1996. In addition, his book, Small Service Based Business Basics: How to Run Your Business and Not Let Your Business Run You, is available on Amazon. For more information, call (770) 468-0014 or visit www.firehousepowerwash.com.


“Stepping Away From The Wand,” Part Three: If You Build It, They Will Come

By Mike Dingler / Published February 2022


In the movie, Field of Dreams, a farmer had to take his crop field and turn it into a baseball diamond so that the ghosts of the greats would come and play baseball. The movie showed that the farmer had to go against the natural inclination to plant his crops and do something different to get what he wanted. This movie illustrates a great business idea as well; if you want the greats to come and play, you need to build a park for them to play in. You have to get your business ready before they step in the door, and that is a big task to take on! Luckily, we have the framework of every successful business to study and find out what works to implement in our own business.

     There are unlimited free resources to keep us occupied in learning about business ownership—YouTube videos, podcasts, books, etc., are all at our fingertips and ready to be used in our plan to grow our business and get off the truck. One problem however is information overload or listening to the wrong people. If you were getting ready for a race, would you want your trainer to be a 50-year-old overweight asthmatic man or a 23-year-old athlete who just set a record in the last race he ran? The choice here is obvious, but sometimes the asthmatic man can be very persistent that he knows what’s best, especially because he is at a keyboard. This best describes some of the exterior cleaning forums on social media. “The blind leading the blind” is a statement many have used to describe these forums. And if you are new to the industry, it’s often a very negative experience if you ask a question others may deem to be “dumb” or “easily googled.” The key is to find a person who owns a business and is further down the road of success than you are (mentor is the best term here) and also find sources of information that are credible; that is built by someone who knows what they are doing and the results of their business attests to their proficiency in the industry.

     The Home Service Expert podcast by Tommy Mello is very advantageous to listen and subscribe to as it has over 200 hours of business-related content by business owners, business coaches, business book authors, etc., and addresses up-to-date issues and resolutions we as business owners must face and learn from. Tommy is an entrepreneur who built his garage door business from one location to multiple locations in 13 states, and he did it all by constantly learning and evolving while his business was growing, and now he tells you how he did it and interviews other awesome business owners from around the world on his podcast. What more can you ask for? Many more podcasts, audiobooks, and videos can be found on the internet and consumed by us for free, so the next time you are driving or working, think about what you are listening to: does it help you in business? Or is it just noise?

     If we want star players to come play (work) with (for) us, we must tear down our field of crops, our field of what used to work, in order to pave the way for something better. This is hard for us because we planted those crops, nurtured them, and watched them grow. But what got you here won’t get you there. There is only one of you, and you have to run the business, not work in it every day. The business will not grow until you decide to grow. For your business to grow, you must devote all the time you have off the truck and on nights and weekends to learn how to take the next step in business to get to where you want to be, as illustrated below. This is not easily done, and most will fail because it takes adaptability to change and dedication and courage to be a business owner and scale a business.

 If you are a one-man band, you are one injury (see article in December) away from being out of a job. That is what your business is, a job, for you. If you stop, it stops. That is no place to be if you want longevity and consistency of income and business. To scale and get team members (not employees) on your field, you must get it ready. A welcome letter, SOPs, and the safety manual and organizational chart are just the beginning. Remember that you must constantly look for ways to take care of your team for they are the ones who will become the face of your business. Richard Branson has said the following: “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough, so they don’t want to,” and, “Take care of your employees and they will take care of your business.” Whatever you think you want to pay technicians, make it more. Whatever you think is good enough for your employee handbook, make it better. Whatever equipment you are thinking about buying, make it the best. All these things will signal to your team that you care about them and the job that they do. Make it a habit to ask your team, “How can I make your job easier today?” and listen to their feedback. If you don’t have a CRM, get one. Even if it’s you and a helper right now, get the CRM (build the field so that they will come, nothing makes a playing field look better than a great CRM like Jobber or Service Titan). A CRM is paramount because it constantly conveys professionalism and proficiency of your company to your clients and prospect through reminder texts and emails, quote follow ups, etc.

     Your external customers are the people with dirty houses that you make look brand new again and get paid from. Your internal customers are your technicians, office staff, sales staff, and any other people whom you pay. Internal customers are often very neglected and that is why they leave. It has been speculated that people leave their boss, not their job, and that is scary to think about as it places the responsibility of employee retention all on our shoulders (it is). As small business owners we must take care of our staff and make them feel appreciated, but how do we make them work to the best of their ability? We shouldn’t have to make them do anything, they should be motivated to work, and nothing motivates quite like more money. However, some technicians are motivated by other things, like respect and a rewarding job, but money usually comes first. (Money is not usually what motivates an employee to take a job, company culture, reputation, and a pathway for career advancement are usually the deciding factors, but money is the main motivating factor you can use for performance pay after they are hired) Make your technician able to earn more if he or she does more. Have contests for who can get the most 5-star reviews in a month and give away a television, an AR-15, or simply a wad of cash. Make an upsell program where technicians get a percentage of whatever they add on to the job while meeting with the customer (top piece of bread in the job sandwich). Give raises based on performance, not tenure. Put your technicians on your website with a bio of who they are and what they like to do. Whatever you do, do it with your internal customers’ best interests always, and your internal customers will not only stick around, but they will ride with you wherever you take them because they trust you, usually because you first trusted them and never mistreated them. Make your field as attractive as possible to attract the technician greats. This is what we must do as business owners for customer acquisition and retention, both internally and externally. Said another way, all this we must do to hire technicians and get off the truck.

     In review, it takes a lot to step away from the wand. It takes sweat equity, which means nothing works unless you work hard. It also takes a closed mouth and open ears, for both the technicians and the owner, which is hard to find in anyone these days as it is usually the other way around. You must make your new hires feel like you can’t live without them while exercising extreme patience to train them up to where you need them to be (a tip here is train the first hire very well, so they can train your next hire and you continue to stay off the truck) The key is to have a plan like a mission statement, SOPs, safety manual, etc., and show it to your potential hires. Make them think that they would be very foolish to not come with you on your cruise ship in the ocean, because you have a destination (your future company vision) and a lot of cool stops (more trucks, better equipment, more money) along the way. One of the greatest rules to live by is that small things consistently done, produce extraordinary results. This is the greatest habit to form, the habit of doing the same things for your business day in and day out. Get a work journal and write a list of what you want to accomplish for the week and get it done. At the end of the week if it is still not done, then push it to next week or deem it unimportant. The key is to get organized so that you appear to be an attractive business for your new hires to work in. You need the most employee buy-in that you can get. Google “employee buy-in” for a lot of great information.

     Stepping away from the wand is very different than stepping away from your business. Very few exterior cleaning businesses out there could withstand their owners to be gone for an extended period of time (two to three months or more) with no hiccups, so don’t think of that as your goal. Being “off the truck” means that you are in the office finding every way to make your internal and external customers 100 percent satisfied with your business. Let the internal customers down, and you are back on the truck. Let the external customers down, and you are out of a job. No pressure! So what’s the one take away from this series of articles? What part do you need to read to get to the point and learn how to get off the truck? All the parts. Parts of leadership books, parts of audiobooks on company culture, parts of a magazine article on how to keep your technicians happy and how to make your customers raving fans of your business, parts of classes at conventions, parts of texts with your mentor, all the parts make a whole. To step away from the wand means you are stepping into the shoes of a business owner, not a self-employed person, and that means you have to learn everything about that job, the job of an owner, which is very different than the job of a technician. It is one thing to wash houses for a living and one very different thing to own a company that does. You must become a student to get this right, and these articles are just the beginning. Find a mentor, find a podcast, find a coach who has built an exterior cleaning business and soak up all the information you can. Read or listen to books on business and most of all never develop an overinflated ego that is so big it prevents you from learning (big egos have small ears), and it prevents you from acquiring great technicians. In closing, make your ballpark awesome, make your cruise ship have a destination, two is one and one is none, and always remember, “if you build it, they will come”!

For more information, call (770) 468-0014 or visit www.firehousepowerwash.com.


What You Need to Do to Get a Jump on Spring Cleaning

By Mike Dingler – Firehouse Pressure Washing/ Published April 2021


     “Springtime, springtime is just around the bend, springtime, springtime where the job requests never end,” is a song I like to sing to in the middle of February to remind myself that it will get better and business will pick up. We all take a hit in the winter as pressure washing is a seasonal business; some of us are hit more than others, and it all depends on location and the socioeconomic status of the communities in which we live. In Georgia and Florida, work will pick up sooner, and we typically have a mild fall/winter with not much slowdown in work until December; then we typically pick back up in mid-February to early March. This is a dream scenario for exterior cleaning companies in the North, as they experience many months of wintertime temperatures coupled with snow and ice, making their spring delayed as compared to the South. We all have a spring cleaning rush in some form, but some may be sooner or later or longer than others. What we do to prepare for this rush is paramount to our success and the most income in the busiest time of our season.

     A few things you should be doing every winter include changing machine oil, pump oil, etc., and everyone is familiar with these procedures, but there is so much more you can be doing in your downtime to make the upcoming spring the best income-generating time of the year. Take a day or two to inspect your rig(s) front to back and find any problems (or potential problems). Then use this time to repair and replace any issues you find. Fuel hoses dry rot, water hoses leak, pumps lose their oil fill caps, etc., and all this can lead to premature failure of equipment at the time we need it most. A previous article in Cleaner Times addressed what a solid repair shop/distributor should look like, and guess what they look like in the springtime? Full of rigs waiting for repairs, and while rigs are in queue to be repaired, they are not producing income; they are consuming it. This is why it is so important to do what we can in the off season to combat this issue.

    “Preventive maintenance” is defined as “maintenance that is regularly performed on a piece of equipment to lessen the likelihood of it failing.” It is performed while the equipment is still working so that it does not break down unexpectedly. So, anything you do in the off season to circumvent equipment failure in the field is known as preventive maintenance. This is where most exterior cleaning contractors fail to do what is necessary because it isn’t technically broken yet, and as the old adage goes, “If it isn’t broken, then don’t fix it.” However, we must do our best while inspecting our rigs to ensure it doesn’t break, so that includes taking steps to ensure the equipment has longevity and durability in the field. Greasing all 3/8-in and ¼-in. fittings is a great place to start as it gets your hands on every fitting and associated lengthof hose on your rig. Greasing the bearings on your reels is another great thing to do, as is greasing and oiling all moving parts on your surface cleaners. Trigger guns or any pressure hose connections that leak put an unnecessary workload on the unloaders, which leads to premature unloader failure, and that means premature expenses on replacing unloaders. Burner systems should be dissembled and properly cleaned, removing all soot from the electrodes. Burners should then be operated to ensure proper flow of fuel through the nozzles within the burner, and changing of the nozzles may be necessary. Every fuel filter on your rig should be inspected and changed if any residue or cloudiness is noted in the reservoir prior to the fuel passing through it. Inline water filters coming off of the supply tank to the pump should be inspected and flushed as well. You should know where every filter is on your rig and make sure they are all inspected and/or replaced prior to the springtime rush to ensure your day doesn’t come to an abrupt stop due to a five-dollar filter. Also, if you are storing your machines for a long winter, it is best to run ethanol free fuel and/or a fuel stabilizer so your carburetor doesn’t have problems when you first go back to work.

     One of the best things to do in the off season is compose a list of all moving parts on your rig and assure you can locate that part quickly. A part that comes to mind is Honda GX690 ignition coils. Sometimes these can be very difficult to find, and a long wait for shipping may present itself. Remember that each day your rig needs an ignition coil is a day that rig isn’t working, and that depletes your income each and every hour it sits idle. A great way to combat this is to make a parts locker. A parts locker should contain everything you need to keep your business operating at peak performance. Here is a list of what I keep in my parts locker:

  • (1) 8 gpm pump
  • (4) Pressure guns
  • (2) Honda GX690 ignition coils
  • (10) Chemical injectors
  • (4) Jrod assemblies with nozzles
  • (4) Brush heads
  • (5) 50-ft. length of dual braid pressure hose
  • Tackle Box with all 3/8-in. and ¼-in. fittings we use on the rigs in quantities of 5–10
  • 1 extra tank cap for all tank sizes on our rigs
  • Large quantity of 3/8-in and ¼-in. O-Rings
  • A roll of hose for every diameter on our rigs (fuel, bypass, water, chemical, and air hose)
  • Whip hose—various lengths
  • Spark Plugs
  • Oil Filters
  • Fuel Filters
  • Motor Oil
  • Pump Oil

     You can stock your parts locker a little at a time until you have a large collection of parts by simply ordering one additional quantity of the part(s) you order throughout the year (as wintertime isn’t typically the time we want to spend a lot of money on spare parts). This spreads out the expense over the entire year, and in turn, you stock a locker that may save you a week or two of downtime.

     When it comes to preventive maintenance, our bodies and minds should not be omitted. Use your downtime to read up on the latest exterior cleaning tools and techniques, or read a business book on marketing, growth, sales, etc. to better yourself before the work starts to flow. Go to the gym, exercise, and feed your body and mind right so it operates at peak performance when you need it the most.

     Remember that preventive maintenance and repair are two very different things, and you do not want the latter. The goal is to regularly inspect everything we use to make our business run smoothly and efficiently and get in front of any problems before they are in need of repair. Studies of what would happen if all humans were to disappear from the earth are very conclusive when it comes to one thing; without preventive maintenance almost every single thing we humans have made will eventually fail and break and return to the earth, from the Hoover Dam to a pressure washer and everything in between, so make sure you use the off season to your fullest advantage by scrutinizing every piece of equipment before repair or replacement is necessary!

     Mike Dingler is owner of Firehouse Pressure Washing, Soft Washing, and Roof Cleaning Inc. He has been in the exterior cleaning industry since 1996. In addition, his book, Small Service Based Business Basics: How to Run Your Business and Not Let Your Business Run You, is available on Amazon. For more information, call (770) 468-0014 or visit www.firehousepowerwash.com.


What a Local Supplier Should Look Like

By Mike Dingler – Firehouse Pressure Washing/ Published January 2021


As any exterior cleaning owner knows, equipment can make or break your day, week, month, or year. As the old saying goes: “If you don’t schedule maintenance on your equipment, it will schedule it for you.” This is a rule to live by in the exterior cleaning world. Pumps need repacking, belts need replacing, hot water systems always need attention, chemicals need refilling, and the list goes on. So where do business owners go to find the supplies and equipment we need? The best answer is everywhere. In a pinch, we can visit a big-box store and find what we need, but it is usually subpar and overpriced and targeted more toward the residential homeowner, not the business owner who cleans properties professionally day in and day out. The internet is a great place to find equipment and tools, but not so much everyday chemicals, like sodium hypochlorite (SH), as shipping bulk liquids is not cost effective. Also, no website can speak with you about a problem, diagnose the problem, and repair it for you in a timely fashion. So, a specialized shop is what we need to find for all the cleaning solutions and tools of the trade, and we need to find one convenient to our business location and service area.

     What a local supplier should look like is relatively simple. The local supplier should have what is needed when it is needed and should be competitively priced with what we could get it for from the internet sites we all know and love. However, most of these locations are run locally (i.e., not cleaning equipment and chemical franchises) by mom-and-pop outfits, and they have bills to pay just like us, so they can’t offer the same prices that we would find on the internet. What they can offer, however, that no website can offer are service and repair.

     Service and repair are paramount, and without these two supports, we as business owners would fail. Contractors should know how to fix and maintain our own equipment, but some of us know more and are more technically inclined than others. Basic maintenance, such as oil changes, fitting replacements, surface cleaner maintenance, etc., should be no problem for us to do at our shops, but what happens if a governor goes out on a Honda GX690? Or a pump’s valve seal becomes damaged and our machine loses pressure? These challenging tasks are best left to the professionals, and we need to know exactly where to take our equipment should such problems arise.

     The standard, in my opinion, of what a local supplier should look like is L&H Industrial Services out of Savannah, GA. I attended an industry event at L&H in 2019, and I was blown away by what I found. I am from Atlanta, GA, and I would never have known about L&H if not for the free event they held for exterior cleaners. As I attended two days of class and hands-on training, I got to observe first-hand what they do at L&H, and they do it all! They build and sell pressure washing rigs in house. They offer SH in bulk. They have a full showroom of parts and equipment that is clean and organized, and they have some of the most knowledgeable employees I have ever met.

     I found the key ingredient to what makes L&H work, and it is sodium hypochlorite. Every morning at L&H, coffee is ready and so is the SH for all companies that arrive as early as 7:00 a.m. I observed rig after rig pull up, fill up on SH, and go about their day. They have a massive container of SH inside their warehouse (out of the sun), which adheres with all OSHA guidelines as far as spill protection, PPE, etc., and they would simply pull a hose to the rig they were servicing and fill up the contractor’s chemical tanks. They did this every day, all day long, for contractor after contractor. What did the contractors do while their rigs were being filled? Went inside the showroom to browse while drinking free coffee, of course. The contractor could then talk to a sales rep about anything else needed, and voilà, it was available for purchase right then and there.

     L&H also offered equipment repair and had a few rigs located in the parking lot that were in queue to be serviced or repaired. What I did not notice in this parking lot is a rig that looked like it had been sitting for an extended period of time, which let me know L&H was on top of their game. A broken rig is a broken bank account, and it appeared that L&H had quite the system to expedite the repair and service process to minimize interruption in normal workflow for their clients. This is an example that should be followed by all local exterior cleaning suppliers. I would add that I have no ties to L&H, I just know a solid and efficient operation when I see one.

      What not to do as a contractor when visiting your local supplier is take up their time, resources, and expertise and then go buy the equipment and supplies off the internet. These locations are in business just like us to make a profit, and exploitation of their knowledge without any form of transaction is just bad business on the contractor’s part. If they are courteous to you, help you diagnose a problem, and suggest a solution, do business with them and help support their efforts. These specialized shops only work if they turn a profit, just like us, and using them for knowledge and then buying everything on the internet is like a homeowner asking us to come out and meet with him, provide an estimate, and explain our process only to have him go out and rent a pressure washer and do it himself. It happens, sure, and it hurts us as exterior cleaning business owners.

     Forming a relationship with your local provider is easy enough to do. Walk into their establishment, meet the staff, and make a purchase. It is keeping that relationship that can sometimes be a challenge, both on the contractor’s part and the provider’s part. Situations happen and machinery can fail unexpectedly, and if we as exterior cleaning companies have a professional and knowledgeable shop staff to help us, we can have a lot of problems remedied in a short time frame. However, if we are known as the information exploiters and internet attainers, no shop staff in their right mind would bend over backwards to help us if they have never made a sale from us in the past. Trust me, they know where you get your products from, so help them to help you in an emergency situation by regularly doing business with them. Yes, you may have saved money in the past by ordering off the internet, but all that money you saved will then be lost by having your equipment sitting broken in queue to be fixed by a shop that you have shown no loyalty to in the past.

     In closing, find a shop that specializes in exterior cleaning equipment sales and repair, and stick with them, as the relationship can be quite symbiotic in nature. If you help support their family and business, they will most likely help support yours. Having good people in the industry in your corner is priceless when things go wrong, and a good shop location and staff can turn a 10 out of 10 emergency into a small speedbump if the relationship is solid, time tested, and trustworthy.

     Mike Dingler is owner of Firehouse Pressure Washing, Soft Washing, and Roof Cleaning Inc. He has been in the exterior cleaning industry since 1996. In addition, his book Small Service Based Business Basics: How to Run Your Business and Not Let Your Business Run You is available on Amazon. For more information, call (770) 468-0014 or visit www.firehousepowerwash.com.


What Is An “A” Player And How Can I Attract And Employ Them?

What is an “A” player? Are there “B” and “C” players? Where can I find A players? Do I need A players in my company? A quick google search defines an A player as the following:

An “A” player is one who excels at his or her current job and is always hungry to learn and do more. They are highly intelligent self-starters, never make excuses, and always find a way to get the job done. They never quit.

Steve Jobs once said, “A players attract A players. B players attract C players.” And no, we don’t want B or C players in our small cleaning businesses. Every hire matters, and this message from Mr. Jobs resonates well with anyone who has ever hired a B player and then subsequently hired that B player’s friends or family, which sometimes turn out to be C players. B and C players already know everything about everything, have “been there done that,” and must be prodded to move, like cattle. These are drains on our businesses as usually we have under 20 employees in the small business of residential window cleaning and pressure washing. This leads to what I like to call “aquarium syndrome,” in which the smaller the work team, the harder it is to keep all the levels right. This is very similar to the aquarium size, where the smaller the aquarium is, the less time it takes for all the fish to die if something goes wrong. In this scenario aquariums rely on pH, salinity, water temperature, alkalinity, and ammonia levels to all be in check to keep the entire population of fish and other creatures happy and healthy inside the tank.

Our businesses are no different. Replace pH, alkalinity, water temperature, etc. with cash flow, company culture, employee retention, proper training, etc. The fewer employees we have, the faster things can go wrong, often even to disastrous levels (consider if all employees quit at the same time due to bad company culture). This is why it is paramount to evaluate every hire as closely as possible and use tools like interviews and DISC assessments to know if you have an A player applicant.

My name is Mike Dingler and I own Firehouse Pressure Washing. I noticed you working hard, and you may be the perfect fit for what we are looking for at our exterior cleaning company. Feel free to scan this QR code and find out more about us and give us more information about yourself—we would love to have you apply to join our up-and-growing team. The money is great, and the company culture is even greater. Look forward to hearing from you soon!

— Mike

The first step in how to employ an A player begins with where to find A players. Though there can be exceptions, the unemployment office is probably not the place to start. If you have found someone who is currently unemployed and has been for over a month, keep looking; they are most likely not an A player. A players already have jobs, but they may be looking for a change. They may not think they are looking for a change until you introduce yourself and ask them if they are looking for a change. This is why most A players can be found at their job. There are companies that have business cards made for A players at work; they slide them the card, and it says something like the following:

Link that QR code to a landing page on your website that collects the applicant’s email address and tells them more about working for your company. Even better, link that QR code to a simple form that asks them key questions to see if they are a good fit. A players are already at work every day, but often they outgrow the parameters and pay scale of their current place of employment. Just like finding a date for the prom, all you have to do is ask, since the worst they could say is “no.” A players are often recruited from other A players who already work for you as well. Simply asking your favorite A player employee if they have any friends looking for work will often yield excellent results as A players normally socialize with other A players while off the clock. Wherever you may find an A player, your next goal is to hire them; and if you want A players to work for you, your company needs to scream excellence. No A player will go to work for a B player for long, and no B or C player will own a company for long, so time has its way of working these things out.

Employing an A player takes the right culture, pay, workload, and life balance. The company has to be organized. If you were going to take a cruise, here are two choices that you may have. Each captain tells you the following: each cruise costs the same, will be gone the same amount of time, and leaves from the same place.

Cruise Boat A: Here is your itinerary, here is where we will be going, here is how long we will dock at each port, here are fun excursions for you to do while in port, and here is what we will do on the ship between ports, including what we will wear each night for dinner, what we will eat for dinner, and what we will have for dessert. Come on, let’s go have fun.

Cruise Boat B: We will leave, we will float around for a while, we may stop by this one place that was nice last time, and I’m not sure what the cook has in store for dinner, but it will be good. Come on, let’s go have fun.

Which boat do you choose? If you choose A, you’re an A player, and you need other A players to work with you. They will be attracted to your business for its organization, processes, and procedures. You will need to have an employee handbook, safety manual, and operations manual in place to give your new A-player employee all the tools he or she needs to succeed. Training videos are also great tools to keep in a folder on a drive that is easily accessible for your A player to learn. A promotional pathway is also a good thing to lay out for your A players; this gives them a clear vision of what is expected of them in their role and how to advance through roles (and pay) throughout the company.

If you choose B, sorry; you aren’t an A player, and no A players will want to come work for you. “We can’t find good help” may be a phrase you use, or, “No one wants to work.” These phrases are usually stated about B or C players, and if you have no structure or pathway to advancement in your company, no A players will be attracted to you; they will keep working where they are currently employed, all the while keeping you dissatisfied about your current workforce. Leadership starts at the bottom, not the top. Imagine the triangle image with a CEO at the top and all other employees below. That worked great in the 1980s and 1990s, but today it doesn’t work all that well. Flip the triangle (see two triangle images below), have the CEO support all its staff, not trickle-down SOP’s, etc., and you’ve got a great company culture in the making. To be a great leader you must be an A player and attract other A players. The reason that prom date may say, “No,” is you just don’t look, speak, act, or do things an A player would. Take a look at yourself (and your company) in the mirror, and make sure you look your best before asking someone else to give you their best.

In closing, A players are self-motivated, highly intelligent, and successful people, and they may just be looking for a better place of employment. If you are unsure you can give them that, keep building systems and processes until you know you’ve got an A-player attractive company, and just like in the movie Field of Dreams, “If you build it, they will come.”

Mike Dingler is owner of Firehouse Pressure Washing, Soft Washing, and Roof Cleaning Inc. He has been in the exterior cleaning industry since 1996. In addition, his book, Small Service Based Business Basics: How to Run Your Business and Not Let Your Business Run You, is available on Amazon. For more information, call 770-468-0014 or visit www.firehousepowerwash.com.

PWNA Plans For 2024

By Diane M. Calabrese / Published January 2024


PWNA Board Members cutting ribbon to start 2023 PowerClean convention in Glendale, AZ

Mike Dingler, owner of Firehouse Pressure Washing LLC in Peachtree City, GA, gives us some highlights of the plans PWNA (Power Washers of North America) has for the next year. He is a member of the organization’s board of directors.

“Education is a defining role for PWNA that will not change except to become stronger in the future,” says Dingler. “Our Enterprise members have the ability to enroll all of their employees in unlimited safety, compliance, and technical training classes.”

Dingler also emphasizes the dynamic nature of the classes. The instructional offerings are improving and expanding over time thanks to the addition of relevant content as it emerges. All efforts of the board of directors are aligned to help move the exterior cleaning industry forward. PWNA has more than 30 online classes.

Photos of product demos, exhibitor booth, and training class at 2023 PowerClean convention in Glendale, AZ

With an enduring commitment to education, the association continues to bolster initiatives that strengthen outcomes for its members and the customers they serve. For example, solar safety is one focus, and PWNA recently released Solar Cleaning Safe Practices. The mechanics of business itself are also in view.

“The PWNA will begin to offer more education on administrative business operations such as business finance, KPIs [key performance indicators], etc.,” says Dingler. “Through these classes we can help our members scale their businesses to attract more clients and more A players as employees.”

PWNA is in the process of translating all courses into Spanish. The OSHA 1910 and flatwork courses are already available in Spanish, with plans for DOT, respirator, and environmental courses following fast.

“My company used to only employ off-duty firefighters because I trusted them due to the certifications they received in rookie school for ladder safety, chemical safety, OSHA requirements, DOT, etc.,” says Dingler. That has changed.

PWNA product demonstration at 2023 PowerClean convention in Glendale, AZ

“The Enterprise package offered by the PWNA lets me enroll my new full-time non-firefighters in the LMS [learning management system] so that they can be certified and tested on 10 different classes for technical proficiency when preforming exterior cleaning, including OSHA, DOT, respirator safety, and more,” says Dingler. “It’s an awesome program,” he enthuses.

Assistance to members will continue to take many forms. The PWNA education platform is just one example. The platform tracks certifications and training for a company. It also sends notifications when a certification is near expiration.

PWNA will be co-locating with CETA again at the Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando, FL, from October 31–November 3, 2024, for its own annual convention. The trade show floor and pressure washing education will be designed to be the best available.

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