Crime Scene Cleanup as a business

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I was nervous to do today’s interview because my guest today has built an amazing business but it’s the kind of business that typically stays hidden.

Laura Spaulding is the founder of Spaulding Decon, a franchised decontamination service to offer crime scene, hoarding and meth-lab cleanup.

One of the things I find amazing about her story is how she turned this business into a media machine by leveraging social media.

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Laura Spaulding

Laura Spaulding

Spaulding Decon

Laura Spaulding is the founder of Spaulding Decon, a franchised decontamination service to offer crime scene, hoarding and meth-lab cleanup.

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Full Interview Transcript

Laura: Hey, they’re freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner, where, uh, I’m the founder of Mixergy, where I do interviews with entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses for an audience of entrepreneurs who are building their businesses. And I, I wasn’t sure about today’s guest. Not that she, she definitely has a great business.

Um, Laura Spalding created Spalding decon, which what they do is. They clean up crime scenes, they clean up homes of hoarders, that kind of a thing. I saw your videos. You’re showing hoarders like, and the disgusting lives that they have in crime scenes on YouTube. And it’s so painful and you’re describing it the way that, you know, some of the cooking channels, just describe what they’re making for dinner.

And I’m a squeamish person and I really struggled to watch it, but here’s the thing that made me want to have you on you are in an industry that’s kind of a hidden thing. People are almost too embarrassed to be alive, let alone to be in this. Publicly in this business and you instead have created it into a show.

I mean, with production values that feel like they belong on a and E or, or I don’t know, HBO. And as a result, you’ve turned your business into this media empire. That is how big, how many subscribers do you have on YouTube?

Andrew: Uh, we’re approaching 1 million here, hopefully by the end of the year. Yeah.

Laura: With multiple videos that have in the millions views and then on TikTok, you’re huge, even bigger. How many subscribers, how many followers on TikTok,

Andrew: there’s right under 4.4 million there in.

Laura: all watching the disgusting things that I cannot believe these platforms allow except, you know, what. This is life. This is what’s going on. And I wanted to have you on here because I wanted to find out how you got into this industry. I know that’s an interesting story, but also how you figured out social media, how you made this work for you.

It’s not an obvious thing. And then you’ve got some interesting aspects of your business, like the way that you will take over some of these properties that look absolutely disgusting and you’ll turn them, you’ll buy them and then you’ll turn them into Airbnbs that people are happy to spend their vacation time in.

Andrew: Exactly.

Laura: then there’s a software component. Anyway, there’s a lot here to cover and I could do it. Thanks to two phenomenal sponsors. If you’re like Laura and you want to build your software company and she’s building software right now, too, you should go to lemon.io/mixergy. They will connect you with phenomenal developers who will take your project to the next level at a great price.

And number two, if you’re not doing marketing right online marketing depends on email marketing as a key component. If you’re not doing it right, you should be. Going over to send in blue.com/mixer D to get your email marketing software. First, Laura, I’m gonna talk to you about numbers, cuz I’m too squeamish to talk.

Talk to you about some of the visuals. Where’s the revenue annual revenue is how much.

Andrew: uh, system wide revenue is about $12 million, uh, for 2022.

Laura: Okay. And we’re saying system wide because you own the location in Tampa. And then there are other people who watch what you’ve, what you’ve done, and they pay you a franchise for you to get to do it in their cities. How much of how much money comes to you? Not how much do they earn, but how much of all that franchise money and your own money and everything comes directly to you.

Andrew: Well, we have multiple, uh, streams of revenue. Uh, so royalties kind of like the McDonald’s model is just one of them. Um, we also make money on, um, our chemicals. We make money on merchandise. We’re bringing in a call center into the, the, the company for all of our franchisees to benefit from. So it really comes from all avenues, but, you know, I would say we’re probably, uh, 50% of that 6 million is coming into, uh, to the corporate office for this year.

Laura: and then the other 12, the other 6 million is franchisees share of the money that they earn. Am I right?

Andrew: Correct? Yeah.

Laura: Wow. You’re a millionaire.

Andrew: Yeah. who would’ve

Laura: several times over, like, do you take more than a million outta the business a year?

Andrew: Oh, no. Um, no, I don’t. Uh, so we’re still in, in big time growth mode. Uh, we’ve got about 50 locations right now and I’m putting my profits back into the business to grow it. We’ve taken no external money. So we’ve bootstrapped everything, uh, putting it back into the business for growth and hiring fantastic talent.

Laura: Where’s the biggest beyond, uh, people. Where’s the biggest expense right now.

Andrew: Oh, definitely. Labor’s number one. Um, number two, I would probably say it’s software.

Laura: Hmm. You did tell me, look, this is a software company. You might be seeing us do cleanup wearing gloves and hazmat suits, but this is a software company.

Andrew: It is

Laura: What makes it a software company?

Andrew: Well, so. Initially when I started out, you know, we were just, you know, a one store show and, uh, you know, you’re using maybe QuickBooks for your accounting, and you’re trying to find a CRM that, uh, that could work with a service based business, but there was always really large deficiencies. And we were having to pull in 3, 4, 5 different softwares to do one thing or, or to make our business, you know, complete.

Well, when I started franchising that really. Blew up, even worse because now we, we have a different CRM for franchise development. We have a different one for franchisees to use for their documents and contracts. And then we have a separate accounting system and a separate dispatch system. So it it’s honestly chaotic.

Uh, so we decided like, Hey, let’s find a software where it’s an all in one for us. And it literally does not exist. so, uh, we are in the beginning stages of, of really trying to find a perfect developer here to create what we need. And then essentially, you know, it, we’re, we’re a software company at that point that, uh, that we could, uh, sell or license to other franchise systems, because this is a huge problem in the franchising space.

Laura: I hadn’t realized. And so now, in addition to flipping homes and cleaning homes and everything else you’re doing, and being a media star online on social media, you’re also gonna get into software. I wanna understand how you got here. And I’m also curious about this whole, like buying the properties and, and turning them over.

I looked at your like LinkedIn profile. You’re a police. You were a police officer at one point. Am I right?

Andrew: Yeah, correct. Seven.

Laura: And so then how did that lead you to cleaning, cleaning up crime scenes?

Andrew: You know what happened was I, I did that for seven years and you know, my final two, three years, I just really became disenchanted with the low pay. And, uh, I started. To, uh, seek out other ventures, businesses that I could start initially, probably as a side gig. And, uh, I was kind of just racking my brain.

And just one night I was working a homicide and this literally was a light bulb moment. Uh, there was a homicide and the victim’s mother asked me when the police were coming back to clean it up. and it was like, we were just staring at each other and I was like, oh my God, I don’t know the answer to this question.

And she’s looking at me for answers. And I’m like, I don’t know who does it, but I know we don’t. Uh, so I just started on this fact finding mission, asking homicide detectives and CSI, and basically anyone that I could ask, Hey, who does this clean up? Is this, does this exist? And resoundingly, everybody said, not only do we not know, we don’t care.

And I was like, wow, there’s, there’s a niche.

Laura: Wait, wait. So if there was a crime in somebody’s house and I’ve seen some of these on your YouTube channel, they’re pretty, pretty disgusting, and also emotionally painful for me. And I’m not connected to the victim, but when that happens, it’s up to the family to personally go in and clean the police department.

Doesn’t clean. They don’t partner with anyone.

Andrew: isn’t that horrible? Yes.

Laura: It is absolutely horrible. And then beyond that, even if you, you want to do it, some of these cleanups, you, you don’t know how to do. I think you were talking about in one of your earlier videos about how, uh, you said to the audience, don’t worry about it. We can get this water down the drain because the chemicals that we use will help.

Anyway, I don’t wanna get to the details of it. I’m really squeamish about this stuff, but, um, most people don’t know how to do that. Okay. So you. There isn’t a service I’m going to do it. And my understanding then is that at that point you had the police department start to send you clients.

Andrew: Uh, yeah, give or take, they were, I was, you know, Hey, I’m willing to do this. Um, you know, the police department doesn’t pay for this and I was originally gonna do it almost as a side hustle and homeowner’s insurance pays the cost. So most times it’s zero out of pocket for the homeowner.

Laura: And so there were services like this before. It’s just that your department didn’t know about, about which ones to refer. And I guess people used to go online and find one. Right.

Andrew: find that most departments either don’t know, or they’re prohibited from recommending a particular company, because it’s a conflict of interest. So they’re the family members literally on their own. So I’ve, I’ve even had family members tell me the, I asked the cops and they told me to Google it.

I’m like, wow. Wow.

Laura: Okay. So then where do you get your first clients? If they’re not allowed to refer you?

Andrew: I did a lot of gorilla market. Uh, door to door, apartment complexes, hotels. Um, that’s the biggest bang for your buck right there.

Laura: hotels.

Andrew: But yeah, I mean, if you think about it, they have what, 300 to a thousand rooms under essentially one roof there’s stuff that’s gonna happen there.

Laura: But then if they do have a lot of stuff, wouldn’t they have had a company by the time you came to them.

Andrew: Uh, sometimes. So a lot of times what they’re doing is they’re calling their janitorial companies who don’t specialize in this. And they’re saying, we don’t know who to call. Can you do this? And the company either reluctantly does it, or they turn it away. So it was, it, it was, uh, I think the biggest challenge of the business was awareness.

Cuz like you said, you had no.

Laura: Okay. And so you’re going out there, you’re just talking to people and letting them know what you do. And I’m guessing by then, were you still a police officer? It seems to me like you left the Kansas city police department in 2001.

Andrew: mm-hmm . And then I went to another smaller department on the Kansas side and I stayed there till 2005.

Laura: Okay. Got it. So in the early days of Spalding, you were actually still a police officer going door to door, offering your services and getting clients one at a time. It seems like. And then

Andrew: Yeah, very early

cuz

Laura: issues.

Andrew: yeah, the department was, was okay with it initially. And then they gave me an ultimatum and said, Hey, we changed our mind. Uh, either pick your business or pick us. So I said, I quit it was, it was pretty easy.

Laura: Would you gimme like a couple of tips for how to get their attention, how to get to the right person. At some point, I, I could see that you’re a methodical thinker. At some point you came up with a few techniques. What are some of the ones that worked for you that maybe the rest of us could use when we’re using, when we’re doing sales?

Andrew: Yeah. So, uh, it was a learning experience. I’ll be honest upfront, you know, that obviously wasn’t my background. Um, what I did initially, I was set out to kind of, it’s all about relationships, make relationships, how can I help these people and make their lives easier? So these property managers, for example, you have to put yourself in their shoes.

They’re freaking out. You know, there was either a suicide or a shooting or something in, in one of their apartments or hotel rooms. They want fast, they want discreet and, uh, they want it done, uh, a good job, obviously. So by providing those and actually talking and about those terms, this is what we can provide to you.

Um, I, you know, kind of earned my way into becoming a vendor. And, uh, at the very beginning I had to make, you know, some concessions like, Hey, we use this XYZ company. And it was typically, you know, some large disaster restoration company that didn’t specialize in this. They were just kind of doing it to appease the client.

Um, Hey, try me out. Um, if, if you know, I don’t do a good job for you, then you owe me nothing. But if I do a great job for you, you allow me to become a vendor. And it was one of those things. Uh, I have to give in order to get.

Laura: And it was crime scenes. First, did you start to pick up on the fact that there are these hoarders who also have a, a real need

Andrew: That was actually by accident. Believe it or not. Um, I had a large client that was a national property preservation company and, uh, she called me one day and she’s like, uh, I know we use you for crime scenes. She goes, but I have a gigantic hoard house. Uh, that’s been foreclosed on and if you could do crime scenes, you can do.

and of course I never say no to anything. I had zero idea what I was getting into. I showed up at this house and I was like, holy shit, this is crazy. How am

Laura: What did you

Andrew: this? And that, I mean, it was tunnels. You could, I, you could squeeze through a window to get in. And it was tunnels all the way to the ceiling.

Like it, it was from a horror movie. You didn’t know what was in there. Uh, it was terrifying. You could hear things running around like rats,

uh, but you couldn’t actually see anything.

Laura: Some of the videos that you’ve shown actually will, um, will include bugs. There will be, you know, pet feces. Sometimes the, the dirt is knee deep. Sometimes it’s higher. And that’s what you’re looking at over there as you’re going around and you’re saying, okay, I’m gonna do this. How’s the money on that?

How much money do you charge for something like that?

Andrew: Um, at the onset, not enough , now that we’ve got it down to a science, um, you know, I’d say the average hoarder job, uh, is between four and $8,000.

Laura: Okay.

Andrew: Takes takes a couple days. Um, but the way we that we do it is we customize it. So not everybody wants a complete trash out. Some people say, you know, I wanna keep 90% of this stuff, but I need you to sort through it and find the 10% that I don’t want and then organize the other 90.

And that is very time consuming. We’ve had hoarding jobs that are all the way up to a hundred thousand dollars.

Laura: Because the person wants to be there with you and says, I need to get rid of things. You help me clear things out and I will be the person making the, the yes or no decision on different

Andrew: You got it. And that’s the challenging part, because this is not just, you know, a janitorial job. You have a mental health component here that you’re dealing with that, uh, literally is mentally draining to our staff.

Laura: Because this is a mentally draining environment to be in. And the person who got themselves into this space is also not fully mentally sound.

Andrew: No,

Laura: Yeah.

Andrew: two weeks before in a woman’s bedroom while she sat in bed and asked me to pull out every piece of clothing that I found, and she made the decision whether to keep or get rid of it two weeks, it took.

Laura: These people will have tens of thousands of dollars to spend to do this.

Andrew: I mean, a lot

Laura: the reason

I’m sorry. A lot of them are

what.

Andrew: yeah, they’ve, they’ve experienced a traumatic event in their life. Uh, whether it’s, you know, a death of a child, a parent, a divorce, it can be anything. And it triggers that onset of collection of useless items to the point where it impedes the functionality of the home.

and, uh, they may call it clutter, but it’s hoarding. If it impedes the functionality of the home, it’s dangerous too.

Laura: Meaning like maybe a child dies. They wanna hold onto anything related to the child. Then maybe they wanna hold onto other things that are tangentially related. And then suddenly you’ve got this slippery slope where you’re not throwing things out and you’re already, uh, deep in holding on mode. And so you just don’t start to clean

Andrew: Yeah. I mean, think about it. We all know that person that says, um, you know, I’m gonna go to the thrift store, I’m gonna go to a garage sale and they, they buy stuff just to buy it and that, but they come up with it with an excuse on the reason to buy it. That is typically the onset of, of when it starts.

Laura: Okay. What was the next step? The next step was creating franchises or was it just, uh,

Andrew: next step was meth labs.

Laura: was

Andrew: Meth labs. The next step was meth labs. So, uh, we started decontaminated meth labs. This was during the 2007, 2008 financial crisis, you know, um, there was no jobs to be had foreclosures were on the rise and people turned to cooking meth in their house and selling meth. So we, we started decontaminated.

Um, and then in 2016 we started franchising and that’s when we added the real estate component because these people could not get out of their homes. Uh, it wouldn’t pass an inspection, a, a typical buyer, you know, won’t buy that. So we started buying them as is, and just essentially giving them a check and they walked away.

Start would start fresh.

Laura: so somebody had a house completely full of clutter and disgust. When I say clutter, it’s just me softening it. The stuff on your YouTube channel is what people should go see it. Um, and I promise I’m not, I’m not exaggerating it like poor Andrews trying to hype this up so that people feel like it’s, it’s really disgusting.

So you’re saying somebody will have a house like that. They can’t sell it. They would maybe pay you to clean it up and then go sell it on their own. And you. Don’t pay us. We’ll pay you, give us the whole house. We’ll figure out what to do with it. That was the discovery.

Andrew: that was a discovery and, and it works for both biohazard and it works for hoarding, uh, because the biohazard is typically, you know, Hey, grandma died in Miami and the rest of the family lives in Texas. We don’t wanna move to Florida. Um, can you give us a quote to clean it up? Well, I’ll do better.

I’ll give you a quote to clean it up and I also make you a cash offer to buy the property.

Laura: And, you know what, when you think about somebody who is in a motivated to sell moment, that is it. And when you think about someone who is not super price sensitive, they’re not going to go and compare what it would cost them to have an alternative service, clean it up, and then put it on the market.

They’re just at a place where they’re in pain. It’s worth losing a little bit of money or not trying to maximize their profit by, by passing this on to you. Wow. Alright. Right. These, I guess I always assumed that these places were in really bad neighborhoods, but you’re of helping me realize that it’s just regular people sometimes very well off.

Tell me about the neighborhoods that these places are in.

Andrew: you know, we’ve done everything from, uh, I think a 2 million home was what, 2.5 maybe, um, all the way down to a mobile home. Um, this affects all people of all walks of life, uh, whether it’s hoarding or whether it’s a biohazard incident. Um, as, you know, a lot of elderly people live alone and unfortunately not a lot of people check.

So if they pass away, oftentimes they’ll go undiscovered for a week, maybe even two. So it creates the need for our services.

Laura: You know, as a kid, I remember saving things like baseball cards, hoping they’d be valuable. And then there’d be some kind of giveaway somewhere where there’s an, there was an article about how this might be worth a lot of money at some point in the future. And I started saving this stuff and before long I could, I, I wouldn’t say that I was.

Hoarding, but I was on the path to, and I really decided that I, if I allow myself to go down that path, I’m not going to be able to move in my, in my own bedroom, my parents’ house. And I said, from now on, I’m gonna go the opposite. I have to go to extremes and my extreme will be no emotional connection to things I have to just let it go.

And force myself, even if it feels ridiculous to the rest of the world, because it is a slippery slope. Cuz if you save this one thing, it’s kind of like an, a venture capitalist, making an investment in a company. If you make an investment in one company is a good chance it’s going under, you have to make an investment in 10 20 companies.

And so if I’m saving one thing, there’s a good thing. It’s a stupid thing to have saved. I have to save 10 20 things to see if one of them will end up being the thing worthwhile or the thing that I need anyway, what a slippery. Anyway, let’s talk about how you moved into, into technology. Then at what point did you say I’m going to do some marketing?

That is not me going door to door, to hotels and buildings and seeing if they could use my services.

Andrew: Well, um, in terms of marketing like that, that was relatively quick, you know, um, kind of, it starts with kind of the Google AdWords, then the nurture campaigns and. You know, coming up with, we have to come up with creative ideas for what we do, as you can imagine, you know, we, we can’t run a, uh, magazine ad, a buy one, get one free, you know, it just doesn’t work for our type of business.

So, um, we typically spend our marketing dollars on B2B and then, uh, the B2C is typically we get those by like a Google AdWords or an online type ad.

Laura: you know, speaking of marketing, I should say that my first sponsor is a company called. Send in blue, it is email marketing. And here’s the thing about email marketing.

There are tons of companies that say that they do it. They will take your email list. They’ll help you grow your email list. Of course, because they get paid per email address in your list. They’ll help you send your email out. , but what they don’t have is all the smart features that you need. If you’re gonna do email marketing, right.

Things like how do you do smart segmentation based on what people are really interested in? I always say the natural one is if somebody bought don’t send them an email, offering them a discount on the thing they just bought. Like you send to people who never bought. Right. You wanna. Segment them out and start talking to them like customers, instead of trying to persuade them to buy with big discounts.

But there are others, like what are their interests? Some people are, are interested in one thing, others in another, and you need to find a way to, to customize your email to them. And it’s not hard. If you have the right tool, neither is chat. We’re finding that chat is actually becoming bigger and bigger.

All that stuff is really important in your email marketing software. And when companies try to get you in the door, they don’t talk about that. They just talk about how they’ll give you free email marketing in the beginning. And then you realize, well, I don’t have this feature and I don’t have that feature, but it’s too hard to move email providers.

So I’ll stick with them. Well, it’s too hard to move email providers and the price is now going up significantly much more than the free that was there before much more than the cheap prices that were there in the beginning. Now it’s getting really, and really expensive because they’d locked me in. And I’m stuck, but okay.

I’ll pay it. And so that’s the path that most people take. Don’t be most people. If you go to send in blue.com/mixergy, that’s send in blue.com/mixergy. You’ll get email marketing with all the automation tools that you need. And yes, it’ll go beyond email to chat and other marketing solutions. But it’ll start out inexpensive and it’ll stay inexpensive and you should, when you go there, see the pricing.

In fact, I’m actually gonna give you 50% off your first three months. If you either use my URL or enter the discount code Mixergy, it’s send in blue.com/mixergy and compare their prices and, and features to anybody else. And you’ll see why send in blue is what so many people in my audience, uh, use, which is why they keep, uh, coming back for more ads, go to send in blue.com/mixer.

all right. I’m really excited. Laura, about the, the size of your, uh, social media presence. At what point did you start getting into that?

Andrew: You know, that was, um, almost out of aggravation that we, that we created that. So back in like 2012, I think, uh, we started getting contacted by a lot of reality TV show producers. And they wanted to come film us and create some reality sizzle and then sell it off to hopefully become a show. Well, we went through this for like six, seven years and it just kept going to dead ends.

So I thought, you know what? We have a platform here, YouTube, why don’t we create our own show? and see if there’s a market for this because they kept telling us, listen, this is pretty gruesome. We don’t think that sponsors will wanna, will wanna post their ads on this. And I, and I always said, no, this is not for cable.

This is for, you know, this is for paid sites like HBO and Netflix and, you know, Amazon prime. So in 2019 I hired a videographer and an editor. And I said, basically just follow us around to all of our jobs and film what we. I was shocked. We had like a hundred thousand subscribers within the first few months.

So I knew that we had something there and we’ve continued it from that point.

Laura: But it was full time. Two people, a videographer and an editor.

Andrew: Uh, our editor is outsourced. We actually still use the same editor that we started with. And, uh, we, we got him on Upwork. We’ve we’ve been using ’em for years.

Laura: Wow. Okay. So it was just one full-time person who comes and videotapes as you’re doing things. Does these on the scene interviews with your people close up shots, far off shots. The whole thing sends it over to the editor and it’s up.

Andrew: Yeah. Initially that’s how we started because it was almost like a beta test. I wanted to see if it was, if it, if we had an audience.

Laura: And this was roughly at the time, when I think like Gary Vaynerchuk at the time was talking about how people should hire a videographer to go shoot that, uh, what they do on their job. And I think wasn’t Casey NISTA big at the time.

Andrew: You know, I don’t remember. Um, I, all I remember was that when I made this decision, all of my staff was very hesitant to do this. Um, they thought that it could backfire that it could, you know, appear to be, um, insensitive. And I, from the very get go, I knew that if we took an educational approach to it and maintained the privacy of the client that we could accomplish.

Our goals?

Laura: And so I see it. Wasn’t like you saying, look at how popular Casey and iStat is. Gary Vaynerchuk is telling us we should do more. No, it was you. These TV production companies keep talking to us and it goes nowhere and they talk to us and it goes nowhere. And they think this is maybe they thought it was something like hoarders, the a and E TV show.

But your job, what you’re doing in real life is way more disgusting than what they show on a and E and for that. And I’m guessing that was one of the reasons why they didn’t turn it into a show. What else would you think kept them from turning it into a show?

Andrew: Well, I think it was, um, you, you never really know who the contacts are. So, you know, we’re getting contact by, you know, uh, wannabe producers, people that maybe just didn’t have a big Rolodex, so to speak. So, you know, after kind of, they wanna lock you in this contract and. And shop it around and, you know, all, we, I just got fed up with it because, you know, you’re, you’re under contract with them.

So you literally have to pass on anything else that comes to you. So I thought, I just wanna try this myself and see if there’s any accuracy to what they’re saying and, uh, you know, thank God I was right. Uh, because we would’ve missed out on a lot of opportunities and it’s, and it’s really been great for not only the business, but for brand awareness.

Laura: You know, Laura. Um, I lived in Los Angeles for a long time, and I remember seeing these people who would try to be producers and some of them were well intentioned, just like, there are a lot of people who wanna be startup entrepreneurs and sometimes they hit, sometimes they don’t, some of these producers, they just felt like it made sense if they could create, find people to.

To, um, shoot video of if they can create a story and then go sell it. The like the whole thing when they talk about it makes sense is I’m trying to explain it right now. It just sounds dopey, but it makes sense. I could see what they’re trying to do and I could also see why they fail. It’s just not a business where there are a lot of winners.

Meanwhile, on social media, frankly, there are a lot of winners. And so how soon after you published, did you get a response that made you say this is gonna.

Andrew: It was shocking. So, I mean, you know, to start from zero, we got like a hundred thousand subscribers within just a few months. And you know, all of a sudden YouTube is sending us this award. Um, and I’m like, whoa. So there’s clearly an audience here. Um, what I was surprised about is the demographics on it.

We’re 75% female viewership, um, which I was a little bit surprised.

Laura: You know what I’m surprised too, but not too. I can’t figure out who would watch this stuff. Who is it? Who’s who’s doing this,

Andrew: Well, it’s the true crime

Laura: Uhhuh.

Andrew: They love it. And that’s, we match the demographics with them, knowing that now I didn’t know that back then, but true crime is also a 75, 25.

Laura: So then how does this work back to your business? Is it that somebody watches and then they say, well, there’s my aunt. She’s got too much stuff. I know who I can trust who I should call or like, how does it go from viewer to customer?

Andrew: Yeah. So essentially we were trying to figure that out and we’ve been able to correlate just last year, we had $2.4 million of revenue that just came from social media and I’m not talking about like, you know, courses or merchandise. It’s just from people knowing us the brand awareness and, and saying, Hey, I know somebody that this happened to, I’m gonna refer that refer you out.

So that has created. A huge amount of revenue for our franchise partners because they don’t pay anything for our channel. You know, corporate pays for all of it. Um, the production of it, the editing, the posting, the whole thing. So we are leveraging that to also show people kind of the educational behind it.

And remember when I said my biggest hurdle initially was the awareness. We, we were able to overcome that with social.

Laura: And so is your team still one videographer and one.

Andrew: no. So we’ve, we’ve grown substantially since then. So now we have a media producer, a videographer, a couple editors and a whole social media staff.

Laura: okay. And that, how much does it cost to produce all this stuff?

Andrew: Oh man. You know, I, I haven’t run the numbers recently on it, um, to kind of divide it out, but we also get paid by YouTube, uh, for our ad, you know, the ads on there and YouTube has cut our. Um, revenue substantially because they can, they limit our ads because of the work that we do. It’s not, you know, PG 13.

Laura: Right. Right. How’d you know what you should include and whatnot, like you’re including human body parts, you showed that you showed poop. As I said earlier and bugs, how do you know what, where do you draw the line?

Andrew: Uh, they actually do it so we don’t have to, uh, come up with, Hey, what will they PO, what will they allow? What will they won’t? But we just, we post it. And then we wait to see if they’re going to monetize it or limit the ads. But, uh, we’ve noticed a, a recent. Pivot, so to speak with YouTube and their algorithm.

And what we’re doing now is we’re creating our own version of say Patreon, uh, where we will host a paid wall and, and kind of migrate over there and start putting our videos over there. So that way we have no limitations.

Laura: It’s it’s not so much like Patreon is like the, the HBO max or something, or your own private Netflix that you’re creating.

Andrew: yeah. Essent.

Laura: You know, I’m curious about what the revenue streams are. Um, why don’t we start with you and then maybe we can talk about your franchisees, because I think I saw on your LinkedIn that you said anyone who has a franchise with you has 16 streams of potential revenue, but for you, the parent company, there is, you still do work.

That’s one. You flip houses like by work. I mean, you still do cleanup. You flip houses. That’s two, you have YouTube revenue coming in from advertising. That’s three. What else do you have?

Andrew: We have merchandise that’s four. Uh, we ALS we have courses

Laura: Okay.

Andrew: that’s five. Uh, we make money from chemicals, from selling equipment. Uh, you mentioned the royalties, um, we’ll start monetizing the call center. Um, and then we also make, uh, revenue. We sometimes some of us keep the houses and put a tenant in there.

So you’re making money in perpetuity

Laura: okay.

Andrew: um, so we can flip it, we can wholesale it or, you know, uh, we can keep the property. Um, we also can sell the items that we’re pulling out of hoarder homes that they no longer want. So that’s another stream of revenue. Um, and then we, we subcontract a lot of the construction. So we make revenue off of that as well.

Laura: Okay.

And

Andrew: And then the service verticals. There’s multiple verticals.

Laura: Okay. And so courses I’m assuming are for people who wanna create a business like yours without being a franchisee.

Andrew: You got it.

Laura: Okay. How many properties do you have? Um, at the parent company that you’re renting out?

Andrew: I have, uh, 13 myself.

Laura: How do, and, and then you and I, before we got started, we’re talking about how you’re gonna hire somebody to create new franchise software. I’m wondering, like, what’s your process for managing all these different companies without having it become a distraction. I thought that business people should focus on the one thing they’re doing well and then outsource everything else.

Andrew: Well, that’s what I’m doing by, by having great staff, um, that manage stuff for. So, uh, you know, we have a, a director of operations who handles all of the franchisee training, um, and, you know, coaching sales, all that kind of stuff. And then we have somebody that handles the national accounts, obtaining them and ensuring that our franchisees are performing on them.

Uh, we have somebody in charge of franchise development, which is, you know, adding new franchisees. So it just keeps going and going, which frees me up to do more things that I love.

Laura: What do you love doing? And then what’s your process for outsourcing this right. Let’s start with, what do you love doing? What’s your thing?

Andrew: I really enjoy the real estate side of things. I enjoy taking, you know, um, a lemon, so to speak and making lemonade, and that has been super rewarding for me. And it’s also a, you know, kind of allowing me to build my rental portfolio.

Laura: What have you done? Can you gimme an example of a pro of a project that you worked on that you’re really proud to own? Now I should

Andrew: Yeah,

Laura: I should move the mic closer to me.

Andrew: Yeah. So if you, if you go on our YouTube crime scene cleaning and you type in pet cemetery, um, that’s a three part series of a property that I purchased for $30,000. Um, I put a hundred thousand dollars into the rehab and so 130 all in it’s worth two 80 now. And I’ve got tenants in there for 1700 a month.

Laura: Oh, because they pay monthly for the cemetery services.

Andrew: No, we called the sh we called the house pet cemetery for obvious reasons. You’ll you’ll see when you watch the show

Laura: okay.

Andrew: And then now it’s a

Laura: Googling and.

Andrew: Yeah. So I remodeled it.

Laura: All right. Um, I should say this interview is sponsored by lemon.io. If you are like Laura, like me, like so many other people who need to hire developers for a project where you just don’t have enough people on staff, the beauty of lemon is it doesn’t take a long time.

They have a network of developers, as you probably know, it started out with Ukrainian developers because the founder was Ukrainian and new developers there. But since the war they’ve expanded beyond, and the goal is to find people who are really good. But undervalued and underappreciated because they are in parts of the world that people just don’t realize have phenomenal developers.

And because they work remotely today, doesn’t matter where people are. And if you’re looking for great developers, they will match you with phenomenal developers and. They stand behind their work, which means you should challenge them. Say, this is what I’m looking for. Wow. Me, give me the best possible developer and then see what they’ve got.

Challenge them. They stand by their work. And in fact, if use my URL, they’ll not only match you with phenomenal developers at great price. They’ll also give you a discount on that already. Low price. All you have to do is go to lemon.io/mixergy that’s lemon.io/mixer. You know, Laura, I’ve known the guy forever.

I’m actually gonna go meet him here. He’s come to Austin. I’ve never gotten asked Alex the founder of lemon. Why is companies called lemon? Like, what is lemon? Like? The only thing I can think of is it just kind of sticks in your head cuz you don’t expect lemon to be

Andrew: Or maybe they’re making lemonade out of lemons.

Laura: Maybe that’s what it

is.

Andrew: the analogy I just use. So I don’t know.

Laura: I think they used to be called like developer ninja or some kind of ninja. And that just became such generic name that you gotta get rid of the ninja.

And they moved on to lemon, but I, I never asked him why lemon I’ll ask him that today we’re getting together for drinks, but I have a sense that he’s not a drinker. um, all right. Uh, how do you. Get other people in and delegate this work to them in a way that allows you to focus on the stuff that you’re good at being on camera, vision of the business and, um, and investing.

Andrew: there’s plenty of people that are much better than me at doing, uh, a variety of things from accounting to training sales training, you know, to the it side of things. We have a marketing team as well that, you know, handles the website, the SEO and all the GMB stuff. And it’s really just finding those people that have a passion for that particular service.

And then what I like to do is kind of. Tell them, I always wanna share my vision of the company with them and to make sure that we have some synergy there, uh, because we’re, we’re gonna be on a path together. And it’s, I look at these people as teammates.

Laura: So, how do you do that? First of all, how do you find them? Do you get better access because of your social media presence?

Andrew: So, uh, like everyone, you know, we struggle too getting good talent, you know, it. Been the case for the last couple years, but, um, we occasionally very rarely will use staffing companies if we have to, uh, if we’re just having a really difficult time, um, if we will we’ll, uh, you know, just use all the same indeed ZipRecruiter, that type of stuff.

And then we just put ’em through. Kind of a multi-pronged process to find out, you know, we use predictive index. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that, but it’s essentially a software kind of like a Myers Briggs. You’re you’re taking the, the test and we’re seeing if they fit into our brand and if they’re good with the particular team.

So, uh, if I’m hiring like an SEO person, I would, uh, make sure that that individual scores. Match with the current team so that they have, you know, um, some continuity there.

Laura: I see it. I didn’t know a predictive index when I’m on their site right now. And then

Andrew: It’s, it’s a powerful tool.

Laura: It is.

Andrew: Yeah. Very powerful. Um, it’s amazing what you can find. What makes the person tick? What motivates them, you know, everyone, a lot of business owners assume it’s money, money, money, but that’s not really the case. A lot of time, it’s more freedom, more vacation, better health benefits.

Um, and, and that will kind of, uh, show you what makes them tick and what, what their motivation is.

Laura: Do you have an example of someone who you were able to connect with because of this or someone who was not a good fit that you still worked with and discovered it and discovered afterwards that you should have used predictive index?

Yeah, Tell me.

Andrew: not, it’s not full proof for sure. Um, you know, we hired an HR person that was, uh, essentially right outta college scored pretty well on the predictive index, but wasn’t, um, completely honest with his experience. So, and then, you know, when we put them, we put him in this position, it was the sole HR person.

So there was nobody to kind of rely on lean against anything like that. So it. Blatantly obvious that he was kind of in over his head, um, a good brand fit, but not necessarily a good, um, a good fit in terms of experience.

Laura: then you said that you do something to make sure that they are a good connection with you. Is it well, what is it that you do to make sure that there is chemistry there too?

Andrew: Yeah. So what we do is, um, depending on the, the position, um, they, they have a zoom interview first to kind of go over the position, the requirements, their experience. Then secondly, they’ll interview with the manager of that particular department. Um, you know, whether it’s accounting or marketing or whatever, and then if they make it past that, and that person feels like that they’re a good, um, a good fit, then I’ll interview them.

And that’s kind of when I share my vision of where, where I see the company going, and to make sure that, like I said, that there’s, you know, kind of comradery there, what type of work environment are they looking for? Because we’re, we’re pretty hybrid. We have several folks that don’t even live in Florida.

Uh, and then we have several folks that are, that are live in Florida and they’re remote. So we’re very hybrid when it comes to, uh, work life balance.

Laura: What’s worked for you on the social media side. Any tips?

Andrew: Yes. So my biggest tip that I can give anyone that’s looking to grow their social media is to honestly stop. No one wants to go on social media to be sold. Uh, they go there for entertainment and you need to think of your viewers as entertainment. Um, I get asked a lot by, um, other big franchise companies to help them build and grow their social media.

And they’ve all taken the wrong approach and it’s, you know, sell, sell, sell, and it’s like, nobody wants that. They’re just gonna, they’re just gonna, you know, delete the video or keep going or, or whatever they want entertainment. So no matter what you do, what type of business you do, you can create entertainment and value for.

Um, without selling to them and that’s what we’ve done. We’ve if you notice, we never say, Hey, call us or, you know, anything like that, we’ll have a, maybe a popup. Do you want some courses? Do you wanna learn how to do this? But everything we do is an educational approach.

Laura: I thought what you were doing was just kind of letting the camera roll and capture what came up and then maybe having some interviews with people who are on the job, but how do you intentionally create an entertaining show when you’re working? What are you thinking about? As far as entertainment?

Andrew: So, what we think about is what is a novice viewer wondering? So if you notice, if you watch our videos, you’ll have the text say I’m doing this because. Or I’m, I’m using this particular chemical to get this stain out.

Laura: Uh, it’s constantly like showing the person, like they’re an apprentice on the job what’s

Andrew: exactly. It’s very demonstrative. Like we’re we don’t hold anything back. And we got a lot of flack at the beginning. You know, people were like, oh my God, you’re giving away all your secret sauce. You’re telling everybody. And it’s, I don’t believe that, you know, I take the Gary Vaynerchuk kind of approach and it’s like, you know, the values in is in the content.

I’m not worried about somebody ripping us off. We’re not, you know, creating rocket scientists, you know, this is just cleaning crime scenes and people wanna know the personalities behind who does this work and why do they do it? And sometimes that’s difficult for us because not everyone that that does this job is very, um, verbal.

I’ll say a lot of them are very introverted and.

Laura: So it’s showing what you do and then explaining why you’re doing it and what’s going on. And that actually is a really good insight that I’m not into woodworking at all, but you know, we got some place, some space here in Austin and I figure I should be making some things for it, like a compost box because they don’t do compost collection here, unlike San Francisco.

Anyway, I started watching these YouTube videos and some of them just assume I know, or they go over my head. And what I want is for them to show me and then tell me, this is why we’re using this screw. This is why we’re doing this thing here. And then sometimes I’ll even turn to it for now entertainment, even though I don’t think I ever wanna do what some of these people do and you’re right.

If they explain it, it does make yeah. Makes the whole thing feel less confusing and less like watching somebody like a child who who’s not sure what’s going on in the world, but like a child who’s learning about the world. Okay. So that’s one and. How do you get people to tell you more about themselves beyond what’s going on their stories, as you said?

Andrew: Like the technicians you’re referring to.

Laura: Yeah.

Andrew: Yeah. So a lot of that is sometimes it’s pulling teeth to be honest and other times it’s, um, the videographer engaging the tech, Hey, um, you know, how is your weekend? What’s your, what’s your hobbies? You know? And we will obviously edit that part out and they’ll just start talking.

You just want them to be themselves. This is not, you know, days of our lives. We want them to be themselves. We don’t want them to be anybody else. Um, talk about, you know, your likes, your dislikes, why you got into the job. What’s the most difficult thing about this job. And if the best resource that we have for content is honestly our viewers questions.

We pay attention to every question that goes down below the video, and then we, we answer it in the next video.

Laura: Okay, that makes sense. All right. I think I’m seeing where you’re going with it. The thing that I’m surprised by is you do edit out though. What did you do this weekend? I’m noticing that there are. Podcasters who, before an interview or before their show starts, they will spend some time saying here’s what I did this weekend.

I’m really into brunch. And I have to say as a listener, I didn’t think I would like it, but I do kinda like it.

Andrew: Oh,

Laura: I I’m, yeah. I don’t know what it is. I guess it feels like. I wanna get a sense of the person who I’m listening to, and it may not work on a YouTube short where I just don’t want them to even waste a second.

But if it goes on a little bit longer, I wanna get to know who the person is and feel almost like they’re part of my, my life. And I know that sounds lame, but

Andrew: no, not

Laura: not looking to just get bullet points from a person.

Andrew: And I think it, it varies, you know, some of, some of our viewers are super interested in what I’m doing. I try to be an open book with that, but yet maintain some of my privacy. Other times, I’ll see comments on there. Like yeah, quit the talking. Let’s let’s get to the gore. Like they’ll literally type that.

So it’s, it’s kind of a hybrid of, of making everybody happy.

Laura: You know, what was my favorite of all your videos that I’ve seen? And I, I definitely haven’t seen them all. Um, it’s the one where you sat on a chair, I think. And you said, I hear what you’re saying. Our video quality is not the way it was. We lost one of the people on our team. And now we’re trying to figure out how to do this.

Using some temp markers. We’ll eventually get this right. But we hear you. And that little behind the scenes thing just, oh, here it is. It’s from nine months ago, an update from CEO, Laura Spalding.

Andrew: mm-hmm

Laura: Yeah. That’s the stuff that do you ever like have, did mm-hmm

Andrew: I was just gonna say, it’s just kind of, you know, open communication. Um, um, you know, they, they also understand you’ll see the comments below that, that probably say, listen, we know you guys, aren’t filming an HBO series here. This is something that you’re doing while you’re working. So they’re, they’re not expecting, you know, academy award-winning film here.

Um, but I also wanna say, listen, you know, Candidly, our, our editor is Ukrainian. So we went through this period of migration with him and we lost him for a little bit and we had to use, um, temps and they just were not the same quality. So, you know, I felt the need to kind of get on there and say, listen, I, I realize it.

I agree with you. Um, we’re, we’re fixing it and thank God he’s back with us. I think he’s he had to go to Turkey. He’s in Turkey now. I think.

Laura: Okay. By the way, who knew that so much of our lives interacted with Ukraine? I thought Ukraine was a little country that didn’t really matter to us that mattered more to Putin than to the rest of us. It turns out a lot of us were quietly working with Ukrainians without realizing it or dependent on the Ukrainian country for one thing or another.

Andrew: There’s so much tech talent there that I, I find that whenever we’re outsourcing any tech related stuff, the moral majority come from Ukraine.

Laura: Yeah. They, they there’s that there’s food. There’s just in this, in this case, you’re talking about not so much tech talent though. Tech is clearly involved, but there’s an artistic component to this.

Andrew: Yeah.

Laura: in this. Um, alright. What about for TikTok? What are you learning on about publishing there?

Andrew: Oh boy. TikTok is, um, I’ll tell you what it’s like. Uh, the girlfriend that keeps changing her mind every day, um, on what she wants for dinner be because TikTok. Literally modified their algorithm almost on a daily basis. And this is why we have, you know, uh, people on our social media team that literally all they do is try to keep up with the current algorithm.

And, uh, we’ll find some of our videos get, um, it’s not monetized it’s, um, where they don’t show it. Uh, I can’t remember the term that they use, but. And then what we’ve, we’ve gotta figure out why. And then we have to pivot for the next few videos. And so we know that TikTok doesn’t like blood, um, TikTok doesn’t like anything drug related, uh, whether you’re cleaning it up or not.

Um, and like even on our hoarder stuff, if there is, um, a lot of bugs or rats or anything like that, even some of those will get, um, Deleted from viewership. So it we’re constantly trying to figure out what that is. So what we’re doing now with our media producer is we are literally going to, uh, in my opinion, a little more boring, but it’s more, uh, cleaning techniques that we’re doing.

Many of them are staged.

Laura: Meaning you’re saying, look, there’s a lot of disgusting stuff around here. Let’s just find one thing that’s not so disgusting that we can show and maybe get the disgusting stuff outta the way and show that video.

Andrew: Yeah, like a refrigerator, for example, uh, we’ll open it up. That’ll be full of spoiled food and we’ll show them, listen, this is how you clean and disinfect a refrigerator. That’s this filthy at this magnitude. And that seems to be okay. But if we show, you know, um, a blood spot on the floor and how we get blood out of say concrete, it gets, it gets blocked.

Laura: And the only way for you to know it is you don’t have a contact there. It’s just let’s publish. And then if we see that a couple of things are, are not, are not getting any viewers, we’ll look for the commonality and then we’ll make an assumption based on

Andrew: Absolutely. And, you know, I saw that YouTube did the same thing with, um, oh, I can’t remember the guy’s name. He went over to Patreon because I guess he, he does political talks. And, uh, just BA almost like a news guy. And I can’t remember his name off the top of my head, but they totally like demonetized all his videos because he was talking about politics on YouTube.

So it’s not necessarily gore or nasty stuff. I mean, even something opinion wise, um, they blocked him. So

Laura: Bonano Bonino. Okay.

Andrew: he’s a young guy and, uh, he’s got,

Laura: something, I think I’ve seen what’s the

guy’s name?

Andrew: that sounds more like it. Um,

Laura: Andrew Tate.

Andrew: Yeah, maybe that’s it. Andrew Tay. And he he’ll talk on YouTube about, Hey, I, I can’t talk about this or say this. So if you wanna hear it go over to Patreon.

So he had to essentially create, uh, two different platforms for his content.

Laura: How diversified are you with social media? It seems like YouTube is by far number one, maybe more than 50%, even though TikTok gets you more viewers, YouTube sends you more business, right?

Andrew: Well, here’s the crazy thing. So in terms of monetization, there’s no, there’s no, uh, comparison with YouTube. Um, Instagram, we, we’re not, you can’t monetize it unless you’re selling something. Uh, so we, we don’t make a dollar off Instagram. Uh, same with. We don’t make a dollar off of that. And TikTok once again, uh, the obscure rules that they have, all of a sudden we’ll see like $200 in our account or something.

We have no idea why we have no idea how the revenue is calculated. Uh, there’s no ads to it. So we, we really have no idea how they’re quantifying this stuff, but it’s nominal. It’s not a lot of money.

Laura: So it’s all about YouTube. Arrest is just playing in that space because you feel you have to be there and then maybe eventually something good will come out of it.

Andrew: Yes. And right now what we’re seeing is YouTube is starting to change their algorithm on what they will promote and what they won’t or what they’ll allow. There is going to be a big time advantage for whoever is creating the next video platform that doesn’t. Doesn’t basically put handcuffs on your, on your creators, uh, and whoever that is, is really going to explode.

Laura: And you know what, and you’re not even doing like email marketing much, right? It’s there’s no direct relationship. As far as I can see, I’m going onto your, whatever. The equivalent of link tree is that you use to show links. It’s not there’s, you’re not trying to get people to give you their email address.

Andrew: So that’s a, a, a bad thing in my opinion. So that’s something that we’re trying to figure out. How to get that on a platform like YouTube, because in order to be able to capture that you’re, you’ve gotta provide something. So we have the courses, we have the, obviously the merchandise we do remarket to those people.

But in terms of just viewers, it’s, it’s maybe a little over, I don’t know if it’s possible or not. If it is it’s, it’s unknown to me at this point.

Laura: You know, who’s doing that really well is, um, charisma on command. They would do these great videos about what makes someone’s talk or their personality charismatic. And then at the end they would say, if you’d like to know more, they’d give this link to a guide. But, um, I don’t see a lot of people go from YouTube to email.

It just doesn’t

Andrew: It’s difficult. Yeah, it’s difficult. So we try to, you know, nurture campaigns for everyone in our database. That’s either been a client or inquired or purchased something. But in terms of getting that access from the social media companies, it’s difficult.

Laura: I I’m I’m on your site. Now that I went over to your list of links, I ended up on your merch page and well, you’re basically selling like shirts with your ads on them for 29 99 with like, it, it, it makes it more credible, you know, homicide, suicide, uh, hoard errors, decomposition, whatever it is, our phone numbers here, we do the work, not all heroes wear capes anyway.

This has been phenomenal. I think if anyone’s really curious about what I didn’t want to talk about and to see as Andrew really just like is exaggerating or what their YouTube channel is, crime scene cleaning. And if you go to, what is it, youtube.com/crime scene cleaning people could see it. Am I right about that?

Andrew: Yes, sir. You.

Laura: All right. And I wanna thank two sponsors who made this interview happen. The first is, uh, if you’re hiring developers, go to lemon.io/mixergy. And when you’re looking to do email marketing, go to send in blue.com/mixergy. Laura. Thanks and congratulations.

Andrew: Thank you for having me, Andrew.

Who should we feature on Mixergy? Let us know who you think would make a great interviewee.

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