Joe was interviewed in 2010 after several years of promoting his products (Cool cuffs, etc) on the various bulletin boards (pre FB) He describes his round the country road trip back in 2003 and his plans t expand his sales into what they are today, worldwide, direct to cleaners.
Are you still cleaning carpet every day and how long have you been at it?
No, not even close. I’m down to about 50 customers but I couldn’t shake them even if broccoli went extinct.
I do still love to clean. Me and my little HOST machine and encap will go anywhere.
-If I remember correctly you use to run a TM and now run a porty. Why the transgression?
Transgression? Come on. At least call it a transition.
Truth is, I don’t work enough to justify a tm.
Recall what happens after a vacation?
It can take 2-3 jobs, sometimes 2-3 days to get everything working right again. Right?
Now multiply that times every day. No fun.
So today I only do encap. I don’t even run the porty unless the encap won’t get it done.
I got two Cool Cuffs in my whole operation.
Takes a third longer but I do a good job. Once I’d made the transition, I’d get testimonials from existing custys who hadn’t gone out of there way to say I was doing a good job – you know how they get to where they just expect it – but now I’m getting little thank you notes. must be doing something right.
I love encap cleaning, residential too. Ironic huih, Cool Cuff guy following a twirling brush aroud.
I never had anything close to the power you guys have today. PC 100A, PC150 and a dinosaur PC200? before that. I ran little #3 blowers my whole career, and didn’t empty my waste tank bag til the water was running down my wand instead of up. I had a nail I’d found in an apartment complex parking lot lot holding on the leaky valve on my 14lb PC tri-jet but man I was gooood. 12-24 hrs dry times in Sacramento heat was not unusual. It’s been even worse up here in Seattle due the fact nobody has air. So I’m a Host machine guy with OP for looped carpets & I do encap and I’m very close to dry when done. And that’s HUGE, no matter who you are or how you do it. I’ve seen the light in their eyes when they touch it and come up dry. That’s why I try so hard to get guys to think dry, probly the best thing you can do for your business – get it dry.
Where and when did you come up with the Cool Cuff idea and what did it take to get it to market?
I was tired of my hoses coming apart just like every other cleaner. That’s all. I’m no inventor, engineer or scientist, rather just hack who hates problems. So I like to be thought of a problem solver. Thought it would be cool to have a locking connector. One morning just sat at the table and sketched out a few designs. Went to local machinist, then another, then another.. 3rd one was an old German engineer. He liked the interlocking thread & taper idea and said he’d make it if I got the material and cleaned his house.
I rustled up some 5/16” wall irrigation tubing and stacked it in his shop then went to clean fior his wife. Litlle did I know she’d be so picky. I spent 10 hours fighting filtration soil from candles but got fed fancy hot dogs and stinky cabbage. About time I finished in he walks with the first twist n seal. I spent the next two years doing all the stuff from idea to distribution. I did it all myself …from writing the patents, sourcing, prototyping, testing, driving the country showing off, dealing with USPTO, production, sales, distribution, even cashing the checks. I’ve helped a few guys with their own inventions too. It is what they say, 99% perspiration, but it’s been fun & rewarding.
Are Cuffs your highest profit item and best seller? If not, what is?
Like Gordon Hanks says, you’re not gonna get rich on one product so I’m always adding new things and in a daze as to what’s selling best. I don’t know anybody getting rich as supplier/manufacture. There’s too much of that “2 steps forward and 1 step back.”
You don’t do this stuff for money anyway, not long term. You do it to help & share.
Some of oldest suppliers I know are still suppliers. They do it cuz they love it, or at least like it.
All in all, I’ve made about the same money selling stuff as I woulda had I stayed in C&R.
You wanna make money? You go to where the money is – the markets. That’s where I’ve done best.
I’ve always worked 24-7. I tried retiring… took off 2 years in the mid 80’s and went fishin every day. About 1.5 years into it I swore I never wanted to see another fish, line or sinker. And that had been my love. I went back to working 24-7 but I’ve never cleaned, traded or sold stuff full time. It’s always been a bunch of part time jobs. What I’m trying to say is that I think Variety is the spice of life.
Why all the drama between you and your vendors?
You mean the people who sell my products? Cleaners call these people suppliers.
Simple. My products are my passion.
Would you want someone else selling your services or would you rather do it yourself?
Entrust a stranger to know what you know, and convey it? Are you kidding?
Well now I can honestly say I‘ve tried it from every angle.
In the beginning I was perfectly content to clean in the AM and sell in the PM. Then I was approached by one salesman after another promising I’d make way more money if I let him do it.
I’ve met some really passionate people in this business who sincerely wanted it to work and I’ve worked with some incredibly efficient organizations who knew how to make it work, and I’ve seen some mighty impressive sales. I even disappeared so I could see what the best in the business could do.
Bottomline, this ain’t a big trade like plumbing or electrical. They aren’t Home Depot and I ain’t some screw driver sitting next to a dozen other screw drivers. Every product I make, I made it for me to solve a problem I had as a cleaner. I’m trying to make stuff that works better and lasts longer. Unfortunately, sales is all about commissions and repeat sales, and expending the least amount of effort for the maximum amount of gain. I wanted training and supply and support. In some cases I got it; in most cases I didn’t. So I look at successful operations around me like Butler, Gelinas, Steve Smith, Hardball, Magic Wand, just to name a few. Even GG, although they use suppliers, there’s a lot of handholding going on behind the scenes. What’s their secret? Keep it internal. Keep it under your control.
Nobody has the knowledge or passion that I do about my products and I tried every way there is to convey it, but you know you’re only as strong as your weakest link. So what the heck if I get knocked off, the best products and people win in the end. Gordon taught me that one too. They’ll be competitive cuffs; that’s cool. There’s plenty of need. They’ll have more passion with theirs anyways. More power to them. There’s plenty of room. They did good, but it’s that weakest link in the chain that did it for me. I’m in no hurry to reappear with a site or a catalog. Everybody who wants my stuff knows my number.
Bottomline, is it’s my products and I want them sold the way I want them sold.
It’s no different than your own cleaning businesses.
What products have you sold that just never became worth the hassle of producing them?
One in particular, my OneTrip sprayer, hurts to think about all the effort I put into it. I’ve used it for years, still do. It evolved from a dye bath bucket/electric sprayer rig I made in the 80s. Only reason it failed is cuz most guys wanna go over 180-200F and it’s based on the siphoning injector which stops in there.
It’s still got market, I just don’t have time/energy to teach it.
Raf-L, Caesar, Dobbs… Once were big time shills. Raf’l hides on the Truth Modification Forum, Caesar vanished (thank you) and Dobbs.. well Dobbs is Dobbs. he told me a few days before Mikefest that he had his hotel reserved and would see me soon and then never showed… What the hell did you do to these goofs?
Shills? I resent that. I try not to give anything to anybody. My best customers won’t even allow it. They say “I can’t tell people what I think if you just give it to me.. So I rarely do. I’ve paid guys for testing and pictures and tried to reward them in other ways way, but only in my weakest moments have I ever asked for favors like that.
Rafael had been a good customer who didn’t ask for much other than good products at a fair price. But he crossed the line taking advantage of my generosity and good nature in not being responsible enough to keep his promise. That’s the thing I look at hardest in helping a guy – is he honest. Too many good guys appreciate my little bit of help. So see ya, Then when they turn on me with their viscous attacks, it just confirms I made the right decision.
Dobson is one of my best friends. You got a hang-up over a hotel room vacancy? Get real. I love the guy for his passion and work ethic. He could be a decent pro golfer and probly make more money but instead he practices the hard work ethic that his dad taught him. For that I respect him.
Why did Evan let you post under Rampage’s ID on ICS for so long? (nice work btw)
Evan never let me do anything. I wanted to pay the guy 10% of my profits for letting me sell on his board. He wouldn’t have it. He banned me, mainly cuz other suppliers wanted me kicked to the curb for trying to help guys save money and work more efficiently. I love ICS but I hate the politics of it all.
Best wand ever made is…?
for you Mike, the stock 66” Prochem Titanium.
But any wonder why Lisa is just a little bit concerned about the new PMF Ti?
Maybe cuz it’s just as long as Prochem’s.
For Lisa, the PC Ti would be OK, but only if it was 10” shorter.
Same with PMF Ti. Too long stock.
Every cleaner should get custom fit wands and hand tools just like we do clothes and golf clubs.
But what do you see in most supply hoses? One wand…
“Yup, that’s your wand there buddy”
“ but it’s too long,..”
“ Welp, that’s your wand buddy… and I want top dollar for it too. Now step right over here and take a look at the truck mount you need to get…”
“Yeah right. See ya.”
With your separation from Interlink/BP are you going to handle all calls, shipping and handling and R&D by yourself?
Nope. I’m gonna stay disappeared like they requested for the next 3 months then I’ll back – in force.
How close have you been to buying a train or plain ticket to Aptos to come slit my throat?
I never had a problem with you Mike as much as I did those you chose to hang with and let yourself be manipulated by. I’ll come see you and it will be friendly.
Have you yet to turn a profit with your 2.5 collection of goodies?
Yes. But I’ll be back in the hole with this latest change. I’m hoping that by calling them Mikey Cuffs people will buy them based on the fame and glamour you bring to the table. Lol
No seriously, I truly appreciate any little morsel of input I get from the real world since I got very little experience with 2.5 on my own.
Why have you not ever gone to a Connections?
I don’t gamble on losing odds or sleep in fancy hotels. I hate crowds, booz, and cigarette smoke. I despise politics, schmoozing, kissing ass, popularity contests, dancing, or watching Evan show me up, and the thought of reaching up to shake some guy’s wifes’ hand (almost everybody is taller than me). Besides that, I’m a loner.
How many gallons of bleach did it take to get the Ken Harris stink off you?
LOL. Honestly, I’ve tried everything I can think of to help the guy pull himself up by his own bootstraps cuz I do feel he got a bum rap from the beginning. But man can that guy lie. I’m not giving up on him though I’m secretly pulling for Lisa. If anybody deserves a break she does.
How much would having your Cuffs made here in the US add to the cost of a set?
It would’ve added about 8 bucks per set last time I checked my cost for the 2” cuffs – if I’da continued to have them machined, plus I’da never done 2.5”. Injection molding wouldn’t be too much more expensive here, but molds are damn heavy and expensive to move.
You guys got me all wrong on China if that’s what you’re getting at. I look way harder at integrity, honesty, and ‘desire’ in choosing who I work with than cost or where’s it’s made. I really do hate the ‘attitude’ I get from the many American manufacturers I’ve dealt with. The problems we all have here are our own, imo. I don’t care if a guy sleeps in a box or a mansion, attitude is everything. In trading, you learn real quick that every strategy must stand on its own and so it is in life. Every person must stand on his own, American or otherwise. Union mentality has ruined this country, imo. I’ve fired as many Chinamen as I have Americans. As far as me hurting America or taking American jobs, that’s stupid Nellos/RobAllen BS. Hell, I created a whole new market in Cool Cuffs. Just ask Jon Don. They didn’t even want me. Now I put new & better products on shelves and trucks. I work hard every day. It’s Sunday. I employ me, and I’m American. I’d have three more of me if I could find them. I’ve had employees but they can’t keep up. I was a geologist/geophysicist in an earlier life and my boss had been a very successful explorationist in his career. He’d have me train all the new guys then he’d fire damn near ever one. One day I’d had enuf …he said, “I look at their attitude and if I don’t like what I see, I let them go.” I think we need more guys like my old boss in this country cuz there’s way too many lazy Americans living off his hard work. Over there in China, I find hard workers, high integrity, people who keep their word. I hate to say it but we all better be looking for boxes cuz ‘the leader now will soon to follow.’
What are the chances we’ll get to meet you at the next Mikefest?
You wouldn’t like me anymore in person than on paper.
Do you currently or have you ever lived in a van down by the river?
Yes. You’re referring to my infamous US trek from Seattle to San Diego to Boston then back home again, over the course of a summer in 2003. I did it to meet guys and try to set up a referral service. I drove my old beat up work van so they could see that I was one of them. Most laughed. It was before today where you wouldn’t dare show up to do job in a beater. The whole way, I slept in the back, on a door covered with 6# rebond and a plastic tarp. I got stared at a lot but only got mugged once.
I’ve also lived in a van for several months at a time, mostly on fishing trips all over BC and Alaska.
I wouldn’t have any trouble doing it again although I’m not young and dumb like I was then.