PRESSURE WASHING THE TRIALS OF LIFE AWAY By Tony Wade, Daily Republic
FAIRFIELD – Overcoming obstacles to reach personal and professional success are recurring themes in the life of Fairfield resident Carlos Gonzales.
While the 44-year-old entrepreneur now has a comfortable living as the owner/operator of New Look Power Wash, growing up in Pennsylvania, things weren’t easy.
‘My mother was an alcoholic,’ Gonzales said. ‘My brothers and sisters and I would live with her when she was doing well but then she’d relapse and Child Protective Services would have to intervene. We probably lived in five or six different foster homes up until the time I graduated from high school.’
Soon after graduation, Gonzales joined the Navy where he worked for five years as a chaplain’s assistant. After leaving the service, his childhood experiences led him into the field of nonprofit social services.
Gonzales worked in homeless shelters, as a drug counselor, served on advisory boards and wrote community development grants for nonprofits all over the Bay Area. Around that time he met and married his wife of now 19 years, Bettye, who he describes as being ‘corporate America.’ Gonzales soon joined her in the rat race by applying skills he honed in the service sector.
‘Using skills learned through on-the-job training, my own business instincts and things I learned from bending the ears of superiors, I started working for a company in Walnut Creek called Direct Media,’ Gonzales said. ‘I discovered that whether you are in the social services or corporate world, if you treat people with dignity and respect and solve problems as a team you are going to be successful.’
In the late ’90s Gonzales was courted by a company that recognized his skills at management and offered him a position as director of sales in a Silicon Valley dot-com start-up. Gonzales was reluctant to leave Direct Media, but the six-figure salary, generous stock options and other inducements made by the company to sweeten the pot finally convinced him to make the change.
The job only lasted nine months.
‘The rate at which we burned through the start-up capital was way too high for investors and we lost our funding,’ Gonzales said. ‘That coupled with a lack of vision by the founders of the company resulted in me waking up one day without a job.’
Dot-com companies were folding left and right at that time. Gonzales interviewed and floated his resume without much luck. In a fit of boredom, he decided to clean the exterior of his house. It turned out to be a fateful decision.
‘I rented a pressure washer from a local rental company and as I was washing my house with it a neighbor happened by and asked if I did it professionally,’ Gonzales said. ‘I told them ‘no.’ Then like three more people came and asked me the same thing, and I replied ‘no’ each time.’
‘I then began to realize I may have stumbled onto something so when the fifth person asked me if I pressure washed professionally I said ‘yes, I did.’ ‘
Gonzales’ company, New Look Power Wash, was born.
Gonzales researched the pressure washing industry in the Bay Area and realized it was a much-needed service. Once established, he began to focus on trying to change the image of pressure washers.
There is a misconception that pressure washing is just a bunch of guys playing with water all day long,’ Gonzales said. ‘But you have to know the different kinds of chemicals for different surfaces, different pressures, different nozzles, and what temperature the water needs to be, among other things.’
According to Gonzales, the reasons for pressure washing go beyond mere aesthetics and cross over from being a luxury to a necessity.
‘For instance if the gutters aren’t cleaned before the rainy season it can cause significant damage because the water has to go somewhere,’ Gonzales said. ‘It can lead to wood rot and leaks or cause those nasty black streaks you see on the sides of houses, which then need to be painted. With pressure washing you can do preventative maintenance.’
‘With businesses, there are health considerations and we have a statewide contract with one to clean their Dumpsters. Obviously how clean a restaurant is on the outside plays a role in whether customers decide to patronize it. Also, any business has to consider liability issues such as algae growing on the sidewalk in front of their store where a customer can potentially slip and fall.’
Gonzales set his sights higher and envisioned a nationwide organization, which could help raise the level of professionalism in his chosen field as well as serve as a resource to contractors.
The United Association of Mobile Contract Cleaners (UAMCC) already existed, created by industry ‘godfather’ Robert Hinderliter of Texas, but was languishing.
With Hinderliter’s blessing, Gonzales was tapped to breathe new life and new energy into the organization. He jumped in with both feet.
‘I completely rebuilt it adding a new business plan, new board of directors, new goals, new benefits — everything,’ Gonzales said. ‘I took care of the legal work like incorporation, and started establishing relations all across the United States. It took two years and a $20,000 investment of my own money.’
The UAMCC is now up and running with a board of directors and members joining monthly. They have consulted with officials in South Carolina on the Clean Water Act and are teaming up this year with the Ronald McDonald House Charities in a nationwide program of giving back to communities called Wash with Us.
A promise that Gonzales made before starting his labor of love was that after he had established the UAMCC, he would step down as its acting executive director and allow the organization to be owned by its members.
This past January he kept that promise and walked away from heading the organization.
‘My purpose in getting it going was to give back to an industry that has opened up a lot of doors for me,’ he said.
Gonzales’ story of overcoming a rough childhood and becoming a successful business owner, sans any formal education, is even more remarkable as he had to overcome a physical obstacle as well.
In 2003, he was diagnosed with Menire’s disease, an incurable vertigo equilibrium malady of the inner ear. Gonzales’ vertigo got so bad he had to have brain surgery. After the operation, he experienced almost total hearing loss in his right ear.
A year later, he started to experience vertigo attacks again. Doctors discovered he had Menire’s in his other ear as well. He can still hear with the left ear but it is a struggle.
‘It’s difficult for me to communicate with people with my hearing loss and that’s another reason I wanted to go into business for myself,’ Gonzales said. ‘Could I file for disability? Probably, but I’m not the kind of person who will ride that ticket. I was raised to put in an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay and I work hard. I have not allowed my Menire’s disease to slow me down.’
Gonzales at one point had hired employees and the money was rolling in but the downturn in the economy, as well as his two-year mission to set up the UAMCC, took a bite out of his nest egg.
Both setbacks and successes have taught him the benefit of prioritizing his life.
‘God has shown me that the acquisition of wealth is not all that it’s cracked up to be,’ Gonzales said. ‘I learned a valuable lesson in that as fast as money can come, it can go away, but the one thing that will remain is God. I am managing the growth of my business versus allowing my business to manage me.’
Reach Fairfield freelance writer Tony Wade at firstname.lastname@example.org.