Richard Armijo was born and raised in the Los Angeles area, and cautiously bids on cleaning work within a ten mile radius while laughing about traffic. “I grew up here. I don’t know any better,” he said. Richard founded RPM ProClean in 2014 after helping a few other cleaning companies get off the ground and then finding himself out of a job.
“I’d been in sales all my life before I got into the cleaning side of things. I helped start the U.S. branch of a cleaning business based out of England, and learned how to hire employees and buy equipment. I got the ball rolling and was wearing many hats: accounting, payroll, tracking hours, managing operations, training employees on how to clean,” said Richard.
After that experience, he started his own company and now handles a mix of commercial business and residential accounts. One of the benefits of this combination is the immediate cash that residential work provides for work completed, while business accounts are invoiced on a monthly basis. “It’s good to keep residential type jobs because the cash is available on the spot, which helps when you’re waiting to the end of the month to get a check from the business jobs,” he said.
Currently Richard is handling everything on his own, from administrative work all the way down to cleaning. He has people on standby to help with his overflow work, but hasn’t reached the point yet where he can bring someone else on full time to do the cleaning. After many years in a cushy sales job, he found the transition to physical work to be the hardest part, but his sales training has stood him well. “I know how to write letters and put a detailed proposal together,” Richard said.
His secret weapon for helping to reduce the physical labor is a steam cleaner. “I invested in a VX5000 steamer made in Italy and it opened the door for me to clean tile and grout. It really helps clean hard water stains and it can clean a dirty oven in twelve minutes. The 280 degree steam just melts the grease off.” The steamer shortens the duration of the cleaning itself, requiring less strain by the person cleaning. The only downside? “It gets hot here in the summer and with the steam going it sometimes feels like a sauna. I have lost a lot of weight and I do get dehydrated. I need to make sure I drink enough water, but it keeps me in shape!” he said.
Another positive benefit of the steamer is the green cleaning boost it gives by allowing cleaning with just water and rags. This natural solution removes the need for toxic chemicals to eat away at the grime in clients’ homes and businesses. One customer had Travertine tile in their foyer that was tough to get clean, but Richard’s steamer blew steam into the porous rock and forced the dirt out, making his client ecstatic with the results.
The toughest job his steamer had to face was dealing with the aftermath of a nasty breakup. One of his clients called him in to help after her ex-boyfriend placed her purse on the stove and melted it. “The steamer got it off, but I had some trouble scraping it away,” Richard laughed.
Other tools in his eco-friendly cleaning toolbox include vinegar and baking soda with rock salt. “You can use that to clean your oven without any caustic chemicals— it just foams up. I try not to use any harsh chemicals in my clients’ homes,” he said.
Another difficult transition to owning his own business was that he used to get the weekends off but now his busiest days for cleaning are on the weekend. But he doesn’t mind too much. “I like being my own boss and controlling my own destiny. My success is based off my own efforts. I don’t turn down any work. I get the jobs I want, in the areas I want to go after, and work at my own pace,” said Richard.
When he needs to blow off steam (and ignore his steamer for awhile), he plays darts in his spare time. “I even incorporated darts into the slogan for my company— let RPM hit the mark for you,” he said. With his dart league, he manages to play darts once a week and heads to Vegas twice a year, even winning $500 one weekend. What’s the secret to success at darts? “Having as little movement as possible,” Richard instructed. Sounds like good advice for someone exhausted by the draining physical labor of cleaning all day.