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Billy Duncan is the islands answer to keeping your windows clean! We caught up with him to find out a bit more about him and what got him into cleaning windows!
Hi Billy, great to catch up with you, so let’s start with where you come from
I come from Epsom, Surry in the UK.
How long have you been here in Koh Samui?
I have been visiting the island for many years and made it my permanent home eight years ago.
Why did you choose to come and live in Koh Samui?
I spent some time in Thailand backpacking and loved it, so in 2004 I decided to come back. On that trip I met a guy who had just built a house built here. I got chatting to him and told me how much it cost, or rather did not cost, to build. At the time the exchange rate was really good and the thought of having a house here was really appealing so I went back to the UK, sold my house started my new life here.
Did you start your company Squeaky Clean Windows right away?
No I didn’t. In the beginning I was coming backwards and forwards between here and the UK where I worked as a carpet fitter. I would spend three months here and then go back for a few months and then return again. That worked out pretty well for me short term but as time went on I started to get fed up with all of the travelling. I decided it was time to come here on a full time basis. I rented my house out for a while in order to go and see what Phuket was like but it did not really appeal to me, it was far too developed for my liking and lacks the island feel it that Samui has got, so I came back. At that point I started thinking about what I could do on the island and a friend suggested window cleaning as there was a gap in the market here, so I thought why not and created the business.
Did you have any previous experience cleaning windows?
No not at all, and, in fact, it was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be. There is a knack to getting windows to be perfectly clean and you need a lot of equipment that you cannot get here in Thailand. I could not find the extension poles that I wanted here. There are a lot of properties with very hard to reach glass here on the island, so having the right equipment is essential. I had to go back to the UK to get everything I needed, including a ten meter pole!
What do you find to be the biggest challenge in your business?
Like most businesses here I would have to say the staff. I find it very hard to get staff who are dedicated and want to stick at the job. I find this very frustrating; especially when you consider that on most days we have finished by 1pm. I thought it would be easy to find somebody who wanted to do a job where you fundamentally have the afternoons off but it is not the case. I find that often once I have paid a member of staff they leave. The other challenge of course is the heat. When you work outdoors here, especially in the summer months, you need to remember to drink plenty of water.
What sort of properties do you handle?
Just about every kind of property there is, if it has windows we can take care of it. I do a lot of residential and rental villas. I do shop fronts and I also take care of big hotels like the Four Seasons and The Cove Condos. I specialize in hard to reach glass, the sort of thing that your average villa staff could not manage. I think people, especially those with rental properties, are staring to understand that first impressions count. When a guest arrives at a villa, clean windows can really make a difference to the overall look of the villa. This is also true when you come to sell a property. It is amazing the difference it makes.
How much do you charge to clean windows?
I have to be honest, there is no standard charge. There are so many variables on Koh Samui and no two properties are the same. The charge depends on how many windows there are to clean. How dirty they are, how hard they are to reach and where the property is located. If you are interested in having your windows cleaned then all you have to do is pick up the phone and we will come and give you a free quote.
And you now have your own office?
Yes we have just opened an office near to Big C on the opposite side of the road next to the French Butchery.
What do you love about Koh Samui?
I love weather and the lifestyle and the fact that, unlike living in London, I do not have to spend hours stuck in traffic on the M25. It is easy to park your car here! There are far fewer rules and regulations to back home and it is just so much more laid back. I can’t see myself leaving Koh Samui and going back the UK, it would be a nightmare, although it is great to go back for a visit. I normally go back to see my family in November during the rainy season here when people don’t really want their windows cleaned.
What do you do when you are not working?
Not a great deal. I have very early starts so I like to spend the evenings relaxing at home next to the pool with a beer. Although I would like to get back into motor cross, something I enjoyed in the UK. I am looking forward to getting a bike here and exploring the interior of the island.
What do you think could be improved in Koh Samui?
Only one thing really and that is the standard of driving on the roads. There is so much reckless driving going on here and nobody seems to want to do anything about it. It is not like that in Bangkok. If people drove in the capital the way they do here they would be in serious trouble, but there they don’t even stop people to see if they have a driving license. Having insurance on this island is essential if you want to use the roads and they are so bad here that these days I won’t even get on a bike, I would rather use the car.
So, do you have any ‘confessions of a window cleaner” for us?
Chuckles! No actually I don’t. Nothing untoward has ever happened here! My girlfriend comes to work with me most of the time, so thankfully it is unlikely to! The only thing I can confess to is enjoying my job. I love the early starts and early finishes and it’s great to be able to work outside.
How can people contact you for a quote?