NIW Services Blog

Keep your business and windows clean to maintain a good first impression

BUDDYZ Pizza in McHenry knows the importance of the first impression and takes pains to present their restaurant in a positive light, including with clean windows.
As a business owner, you’ve probably read books about the importance of making a good impression. No doubt, you realize this is a concept that extends to the physical presence of your store or office. That’s why you take the time to clean and organize. This is why you spend time designing your signage and decorating the front window to give potential customers the right impression. Of course, while creating a storefront-window display, you also make a point of cleaning the windows.

An Sept. 5, 2014, article, in Forbes magazine, refers to one ‘expert’ who suggests that first impressions are often “highly accurate.” Though another expert refers to first impressions as “frustratingly arbitrary,” the question is really a matter of how people react to their first impressions.

If you own and operate a restaurant, cleanliness is more than ‘next to Godliness;’ it’s one of the business commandments for a place that serves food. Someone who is considering your restaurant as a place to dine wants to know that their food is properly prepared and, in fact, safe. One sign they’ll automatically look for is the general cleanliness of your establishment. But, this also applies to other businesses.

Ask yourself, why would a hiring official reject a resume with a few grammatical errors from someone seeking a position as a welder? The answer is that the quality of the resume is a demonstration of the prospective employee’s commitment to doing a thorough job. It doesn’t matter that the welder will, probably, never have to consider grammar while welding.

Still, if someone thought about it, they might say, ‘I don’t care that things are unorganized in this store or office; why does it matter to me that the windows aren’t clean?’ They might figure that, once they bring the products they buy home, or contract for your services, they may never return to your office. But, they might also say, how good are can their products or services be if this is how little they worry about creating a good impression.

Worse yet, many people don’t consciously think about first impressions at all. The first impression is made silently, without conscious thought, while coloring their decision-making processes. This is why it’s essential to maintain a clean and organized store, restaurant or office. You can save yourself from that bad first impression. Oh, and don’t forget the clean windows.

Office cleaning checklist – don’t forget the windows

office cleaning checklist do not forget windows
To do a thorough job of cleaning the office, it helps to
have a checklist.
Do you have someone come in to clean your office? Or, have you assigned that duty to one or more members of your office staff, in addition to their other duties? Maybe you do the office cleaning yourself.

When your office is cleaned, is it done right? How do you know if the office is cleaned properly? This is not as much of a subjective question – depending on your personal definition of ‘clean’ – as you might think. There are two primary factors to consider when you determine if your office is cleaned properly: thoroughness and effectiveness.

Thoroughness refers to whether the office was cleaned in its entirety. Effectiveness refers to whether the office is truly clean. The latter refers to how clean and includes whether your office is adequately sterilized. This is an important question when you look at your office as a potential incubator where germs, and other nasties, can grow, thrive and infect you and your workers resulting in sick days that cut into productivity.

Sterilization is achieved through the proper application of effective cleaning products (be wary of those that might leave foul chemicals in their wake – there are effective cleaning materials that are based on natural products that don’t leave chemical landmines on the surfaces, and in the air, of your office.

In terms of what you should clean, and this depends on whether you’re doing a deep cleaning or a maintenance cleaning, you should …

  • Remove waste, dump wastebaskets and clear clutter
  • Wipe surfaces with proper cleaning products (test in an obscure area first to make sure the cleaning solvent won’t damage the surface where you’re using it)
  • Sweep and mop the floor
  • Wipe around doorways and handrails and other areas where people frequently place their hands
  • Wipe and sanitize keyboards, computer mouses, printer keypads and other equipment that is used in the office
  • Do extra sanitary cleaning in bathrooms and eating areas
  • Clean vents, often found in the ceiling, as well as light fixtures
  • Clean the windows and other glass surfaces

This latter step, is an area where it often takes a trained expert to do a good job. Frequently, when someone is less familiar with proper cleaning methods, it is very difficult to do a good job of cleaning the windows. It may look good at first but, as the window dries completely, spots and streaks will appear. And, to make matters worse, for the amateur, cleaning windows poorly takes much more time than it takes a professional to clean the windows properly.

A clean office will give your employees a better feeling about their environment, even if it is subconscious. Clean windows to look through are a big part of this. And, if you have customers coming to your office, clean windows will give them a better impression of your business, too.

Windows contribute to workplace productivity, but keep ‘em clean

productive workplace with clean windows
A clean and productive work environment is essential to an efficient workplace. But, don't forget the windows.

Put an employee at a desk in a cubicle without any sunlight and, over time, you can almost watch them shrivel and wilt from the seclusion. To some degree, their motivation with atrophy. Like flowers, they need a sufficient quantity of the nourishing rays of sunlight. And, for sunlight, you need windows – clean windows that enhance productivity.

Once you let the sunlight in, keep in mind that it will shine on your employees, as well as their surroundings. Cluttered and dirty, their surroundings may do better in the dark. But, relatively neat, organized and with just the right sense of comfort (comfort that makes them feel at ease without putting them to sleep) the sunlight coming through the windows can produce an environment that is conducive to greater productivity. It can even help increase employee retention.

If the workplace is somewhere people enjoy coming to work, they’re more likely to want to keep coming. And, they’re also more likely to be productive.

This is not an abstract idea. A study in Psychology Today “links light exposure in the workplace to improved sleep and vitality.” The article also refers to a Northwestern University study that reported on “the detrimental impact of working in a windowless environment.”

Once you’ve accepted the idea that sunlight can improve the demeanor and productivity of your employees and, therefore, have also accepted the value of windows to let the sun shine in, it’s not much of a stretch to equally recognize the value of keeping those windows clean.

Dirt on the windows is not an appropriate filter for sunlight. The positive effects of windows on productivity are not enhanced when employees glance though dirty windows.

Don’t forget those dirty windows when preparing for a McHenry Christmas

You can clean the house for your Christmas guests but, if the
windows are dirty, they'll probably notice.
Vivian thought of everything. She had a carpet cleaning company come out and do the floors – hardwood and carpet. She had a cleaning service clean her McHenry house and paid extra so they would do a thorough job. She got busy with her husband and kids to rake and clean the yard outside. She gazed upon the results of her efforts with satisfaction and then her smile turned into as she glanced out the window.

Vivian had forgotten something; she had forgotten the windows. And now, looking out the windows, she realized how filthy they were. Her dirty windows stood out like sore thumbs now that the rest of the house was so clean.

The truth is that windows often go, well, unseen. And they don’t, generally, get dirty overnight. It happens slowly. The dirty window is a progressive feature. And, because it happens slowly, we don’t notice it so much.

If windows went from clean to really dirty in one day, the difference would be immediately apparent. Consider what will happen when Vivian’s guests arrive in McHenry from California on Christmas Day. She’ll see her nieces and nephews for the first time in a year. For Vivian, all the growing those children have done over the past year will be obvious. But, for her nieces and nephews’ parents, the growth came little by little each day; they haven’t noticed the way Vivian will.

In a way, it’s fortunate Vivian had the rest of the house cleaned so thoroughly. It was only because of this contrast the cleaning created that she noticed her dirty windows.

Actually, it’s not surprising that she forgot about the windows. After all, the holidays are so busy who has time to think about dirty windows? But, more than just a matter of what your guests will think about your dirty windows, cleaning the house, which includes the dirty windows, is a way of showing respect for your guests. It’s a way of saying you care enough about them to take the time and effort to make things as nice as possible for their visit.

Of course, another nice thing is that, after they leave, those dirty windows will still be clean. If we don’t have a white Christmas, little doubt, we’ll have some snow not too long afterwards. The view of a pristine carpet of snow in Vivian’s McHenry backyard is something not to be missed. And it’s something you don’t want diminished by looking at it through a dirty window.

Now that Vivian has noticed that her windows are dirty, the next problem is getting them clean. Most people don’t like doing windows. But, beyond that, it’s also rather cold outside. Vivian is wondering how to clean her dirty windows when the water for cleaning the windows wants to freeze. The trick, as Bill Thomas, of Northern Illinois Windows, explained, is to use some window-washing solvent. Another trick is to hire a professional window cleaning company.

With a clean house, Vivian is ready for Christmas and her guests. And she doesn’t have to worry about dirty windows. In fact, she discovered that she can set it up to have a window cleaning come out and clean her windows every month. That way, she won’t have to worry about her windows next year either.

Fabric awnings look great until the elements and birds attack; a professional cleaning service can revive them

Those fabric awnings out above the door and windows of your store really add to the curb-side appeal of your business. And, for the money that they cost, they darn-well ought to.

As is often the case, the awnings in your shopping district are uniform in style and color. Individually, or as a whole, they give a sense that forethought and care went into planning for the area. As a community, they say that city planners were quite intentional about the kind of ambiance that would give the area the best branding.

For an individual store, those fabric awnings show that a storeowner hasn’t approached a business lackadaisically. Shoppers can safely assume that the kind of attention given to the awnings carries through the rest of the business right down to the level of customer service they can expect. But, what if those awnings don’t look so good?

Are those fabric awnings beyond hope?

Inevitably, if left to the elements, and wishful thinking, those fabric awnings will turn on you and your business. They’ll turn from making a positive statement about your business to making quite the opposite kind of statement. How does that happen?

Smog, soot, auto exhaust, sap from trees, insects, and even acid rain: they all take their toll on those once-pristine fabric awnings. The fabric is dirtied. It’s stained. Mold begins to grow. And then you can add the bird droppings.

Often, the birds like to perch on the ledge of the building above the fabric awnings. Those poor fabric awnings become a favorite target.

What all those elements, and the birds, can do to a fabric awning is disgraceful and appalling. And when enough damage is done, there’s no coming back, right? Not so fast.

Yes, you can save those fabric awnings

Actually, there is hope for fabric awnings in even some of the worst instances. As long as the fabric isn’t too threadbare, a professional cleaning service can often revive a fabric awning and bring it back to its prior glory, or very close, anyhow.

Using special water-based and eco-friendly cleaners, a professional can delicately remove some of the worst that nature, man and our feathered friends can throw at an awning. Watching a professional cleaning service bring a fabric awning back to life is amazing. Though it may seem that droppings, mold and dirt cover every inch of fabric, properly done, and in a short time, the awnings come around. You may find yourself commenting, “So that’s what color they used to be.”

Once cleaned, you should also consider sealing the awnings to protect them from further assaults. In the process, you’ll extend the life of the awnings significantly. There are sealants professionals can apply that will even protect the fabric from fading from the sun’s UV rays.

Fabric manufacturers recommend that their materials are maintained in order to extend their useful lives. This applies to fabric awnings, too. A little maintenance can go a long way.

Northern Illinois Windows – cleaning area windows ‘one pane at a time’ for 25 years

They call it the Silver Anniversary. That’s what McHenry based Northern Illinois Windows is celebrating this summer – 25 years of cleaning Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin windows. How many window panes have they cleaned ‘one-at-a-time’ over the course of those years? That’s a number that’s almost too astronomical to consider. Suffice it to say that it’s a lot.

“I started the company with a bucket, a squeegee and a truck,” said owner Bill Thomas. “I would knock on the doors of businesses and ask them if they wanted their windows cleaned.”

Today, Thomas has crews of window washers who do the window washing as he runs the business. He coordinates the routes, schedules window washing, which also includes washing the windows in private residences, and he does continue to do sales. In those early years, he also did the bookkeeping, marketing and all the other chores that are necessary to a successful business.

“I still knock on doors,” he said. “And, I go out and do estimates. I like meeting with prospective clients so that they know who stands behind the quality and service we provide.”

Shortly after starting the business, Thomas was joined in the business by his sons Mike and Bill and his daughter Brigid. Today, Mike Thomas operates a window washing business in Longmont, Colorado. Father and son communicate often sharing ideas and suggestions. But, here in McHenry, Thomas has learned that he can’t, or shouldn’t do it all. He works with others to keep his business on track. This frees up his time to further develop the business.

Actually, window cleaning is only part of what Northern Illinois Windows offers, albeit a big part. They also provide home and office window tinting, gutter cleaning and power washing. They also install and take down Christmas lights during the holidays.

“We have several types of window film we install,” said Thomas. “But, our 3M window film is the industry standard.”

The window film comes with different levels of tinting. One thing that almost uniform about the film is that, whatever level of tint, most block 99.9 percent of ultraviolet rays. Over time, the UV rays can bleach furniture, flooring and stock that businesses keep in the windows. And after installing the window film, Northern Illinois Windows is available to wash the windows when they get dirty again.

PHOTO: Bill Thomas, the owner of Northern Illinois Windows, stands outside the Hidden Pearl Café in McHenry. Hidden Pearl is one of the customers that rely on NIW to keep their windows clean

Shop With A Cop McHenry party offers a great time for a great cause at VFW Saturday

There’s a party going on at 6 p.m. this Saturday, Nov. 21, at the McHenry VFW, 3002 Route 120, a quarter mile east of the Fox River. Party goers are guaranteed a good time that includes food, music, prizes and auctions. They’re also promised to come away with a warm sense of having done something for those less fortunate.

The event is the Shop With A Cop Party – an annual fundraiser hosted by MC3, a McHenry Area Chamber of Commerce business networking group. The networking group supports McHenry County Police Charities by raising funds so that police officers can take children from disadvantaged families shopping.

A police officer will arrive, in a squad car, to pick up a child, or siblings, for a one-on-one shopping experience. Each child receives $150, along with a winter coat, hat, boots and gloves. The officer will then take the child to Meijers, on Route 31 in McHenry, where the two of them will go down the aisles as the child picks out presents.

“I’ve heard that, often, the kids are picking out presents for their families – the parents, brothers and sisters,” said Bill Thomas, the owner of Northern Illinois Windows. “The police officer has to remind them to get something for themselves.”

Thomas, a long-time member of MC3, said he’s been involved with Shop With A Cop for several years. The party, he said, is a great time supporting a great cause.

In the past, the party ran from 5 to 8 p.m . on a Thursday night. This year, however, the group moved the event to a Saturday in the hopes of raising more than the approximately $14,000 they’ve raised the last several years. To increase the draw to the event, locally renowned band Hans and the Hormones will play at the event this year.

Musical entertainment will also include a performance by the Johnsburg High School Madrigal Choir singing Christmas and holiday songs while dressed in Victorian outfits.

Beyond the music, the event will offer table after table of raffle items, more tables with silent auction items and other live auction items. This year, the live auction items include an African safari.

There will be food and a cash bar.

Cleaning leaves from Northern Illinois gutters - how could something so incredibly beautiful be such a terrible pain in the neck?

Sure those leaves are beautiful in Northern Illinois, but that doesn't
make it any safer when someone has to climb a ladder
to clean the leaves out of the gutters.
For many Northern Illinois residents, autumn is their favorite season. The weather in Northern Illinois is generally cool but not too cold. The bugs are generally less prevalent and, above all, the leaves are incredible. People check for the optimal times to take trips where they can see the fall colors in their full splendor. The autumn colors are a wonder of the world. They are beautiful beyond words. And yet, those beautiful leaves are also a major pain in the neck.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the leaves were brightly colored with reds, yellows, oranges, browns and greens the year round – that they never fell from the trees? But, here in Northern Illinois, they do fall and when they fall they create a mess for homeowners and businesses. There’s all that raking. But the leaves don’t just fall on the ground.

When the autumn leaves fall, they don’t just land on the ground. Any obstacle between the branches and the ground is a potential resting place for falling leaves. That includes buildings – homes and businesses. With wind and rain, the leaves work their way down from the roof and into the gutters.

Think about it. If a modest home has a roof area of 2,000 square feet (50 X 40), that’s the equivalent of a small yard’s worth of leaves waiting to work their way into the gutters. Yes, some will blow over, particularly when the gutters and full and bulging with leaves. In no time at all, the gutters are busting at the seams with leaves.

A gutter full of leaves is a gutter that doesn’t work. Working, a gutter moves water from the roof through downspouts and away from the home or office. Full of leaves, a gutter is completely useless. If you’ve ever seen a home without gutters, you’ve seen how the water spills directly off the roof digging a small ditch line around the structure.

Without gutters, the water builds up in the wrong area and, once frozen later in the next season, presents a serious hazard with the potential to cause falls. The water also has the potential to work its way into the basement of the building.

More than just creating a situation where the gutters don’t work properly, when the gutters are full of leaves, ice and snow build up on top of the gutters. The weight can cause the gutters to break. This presents another hazard and an expense.

Without gutters, the roof will also create an army of icicles, all in a row. This is another falling hazard.

The solution is to clean the gutters every fall. It’s a good idea to wait until the leaves have fallen but, once they have, it’s time to make sure the gutters can do their intended job.

You can clean the gutters yourself but safety is a big factor. It requires working off a ladder and, to some degree, reaching out from the sides of the ladder into the gutter. It’s a messy and hazardous job. Better yet, why not just hire someone to clean the gutters for you?

If you do opt on having someone else clean your gutters, be sure to hire someone who knows what they’re doing – they’ve done it before. Also, and this is essential, make sure they’re insured. The risk of a fall is all the greater with some novices doing the work. But, either way, you want to make sure that, if someone does fall when cleaning your gutters, they don’t leave you holding the bag.

What’s all this mumbo-jumbo about the water to use for washing windows?

Have you ever heard someone say, “I sure get a charge out of washing windows?” Probably not. It’s more likely you’ve heard someone say, “… but I don’t do windows.”

Frankly, window washing is a pain. You can try to do everything right and still you have streaks, you miss spots and you leave lint on the glass. In a word, it’s ‘frustrating.’

This is one of the big reasons that many prefer hiring a professional to wash their windows. There’s no hassle; they come out and, in a relatively short amount of time, the windows are clean and they’re leaving. Of course, that assumes a true professional window-washing company was hired, not just someone with a bucket and a squeegee.

You find yourself wondering, how could they do such a good job in such a short amount of time? Well, they’re professionals. They’ve cleaned windows before. They know how to do the job and how to do it right. One reason they don’t struggle is they use the proper implements for cleaning windows.

One of their tricks, which you’ll like to know if you’re determined to wash your own windows, is the type of water they use. The water they use is de-ionized water.

De-ionized water has undergone a chemical process that replaces minerals that have partially dissolved in the water with hydrogen and hydroxide ions. Those ions combine and produce, well, water.

Why Is The Water So Important?

Water that isn’t de-ionized is apt to contain a number of elements – elements you’ve liable to find stuck to the windows when the water dries. This condition is most common with hard water.

Water hardness is determined by measuring the level of positively charged multivalent cations in the water. Yeah, that’s a bit technical. Suffice it to say that hard water can contain dissolved minerals, such as calcite and gypsum. It can also contain dolomite, a magnesium mineral that includes calcium.

There is more than one type of water hardness. One type is what the ambiguous ‘they’ call temporary hardness. This occurs when the water contains dissolved bicarbonate minerals – calcium bicarbonate and magnesium bicarbonate. Boiling water with temporary hardness can reduce the minerals in the water. Lime (calcium hydroxide) can also reduce temporary hardness.

Boling won’t help with water that ‘they’ say has ‘permanent hardness.’ I this case, the water usually contains calcium sulfates and/or magnesium sulfates.

What’s the lowdown on all this mumbo-jumbo?

What all this mumbo-jumbo means is that, if you wash your windows without the right water, it’s not surprising if you find the experience frustrating. With the wrong water, you’d have a better chance of getting your windows clean if you washed them with dirty engine oil.

Of course, you don’t have to worry about water hardness, calcium, magnesium, or whether you’ll need a sodium bicarbonate to relieve that pain washing the windows yourself; just call a professional and find something more relaxing to do while they make your windows shine.

Security in the shade with 3M window film in the Chicago area

3M+glass+security3M window film is a wonderful thing. It can cut the glare of the sun. It even blocks 99.9 percent of the sun’s ultra-violet rays. Those UV rays will bleach out your carpet, furnishings and, if you own a business, your display products before you know it. The damage the sun can do is far more significant than you might imagine. But, 3M window film will do more than that.

3M window film also offers significant benefits in terms of security

Take a hammer to a window and the outcome is quite predictable. One swing of the hammer and the glass will almost assuredly shatter into hundreds of pieces. But, with 3M window film, the glass may break but the pieces will hold together. The hammer-wielding assailant will have to really work at it to make their way through the glass.

In other words, glass won’t keep someone out indefinitely, but it will slow them down. This will give you time to react. You’ll almost assuredly hear them pounding on the window. Then, you can call the police or otherwise prepare yourself to respond to their intentions, whatever those intentions might be.

When the window fails to shatter easily into pieces, it generally comes as a surprise to the person with the hammer. It’s a little bit disconcerting.

On the one hand, their plan isn’t going according to hoyle. In the midst of that frustration, they suddenly realize that they’re no longer moving obscurely in the shadows. They’ve blown their cover. Now they have to work fast. But, that darn window continues to spoil their plans. Sure, they’ll work their way through but, by then, there is a good chance the police are on their way. And those inside have the necessary warning to prepare an appropriate reception.

The security benefits of 3M window film go beyond interfering with the plans of intruders; it also restrains the glass in the case of severe winds or explosions.

During WWII, shop owners in England put tape on their windows in an effort to hold the glass together if a German bomb fell nearby during the Battle of Britain. People in the path of hurricanes understand the same principle.

In Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin, the biggest risk of shattering glass is a tornado. The tornado might blow the glass out of the window frame but not the way it would without 3M window film. When glass is shattered by an explosion, hurricane or tornado, it shatters and flies through the air as though it were hundreds of razor blades. People nearby are cut to shreds.

While a tornado is not likely to come down your street and, hopefully, a bomb is far less likely, if any of these do occur, 3M window film can make a world of difference. Whether the glass shatters as a result of a natural occurrence, or a man-made assault, 3M window film can make a life-saving difference.

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