Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Joel Craddock, CEO of Doc's Facilities Solutions, Inc., located in Rochester, NY, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Our core business is commercial janitorial services and related services. These services include porter services, maintenance cleaning (daily), a deep cleaning (including pre/post move), infection control disinfecting, hard floor maintenance, carpet care maintenance, consumable supplies (break room/cafe, and restroom supplies), in addition to certification/certifications. Clients include multi-use (Class A, Class B, and Class C) office space, educational, senior living facilities, manufacturing, industrial, aerospace, warehousing, apartment communities, some retail, financial institutions, construction companies, investors (turns and flips of rental properties), and not-for-profits.
Tell us about yourself
I first got started in this industry nearly 40 years ago and then took my first "real" job right out of college with one of the area's largest commercial cleaning contractors at that time. The inspiration to stay in this industry and make it my goal to change the way the World views cleaning and custodians is very personal. I had a child with my first wife, that was diagnosed with Autism over 22 years ago. Back then, not much was known about what caused it, and being in the cleaning industry, I knew I had been exposed to numerous chemicals over time. So I asked the doctors to test my blood to see if I passed anything on to my son.
The doctors said good news and bad news. The good news was I did not pass anything on to my son. The bad news was I had more chemicals in my body than an embalmed body. This created issues with the nerves in my hands/feet, lung damage, and liver damage. So I figured there had to be a better and safer way to control germs while protecting the front-line staff, their co-workers, in addition to the people that entered the space where they work, play, and live.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
My biggest accomplishments have been weathering the storms of life-changing events, such as my business partner leaving the company, lockdowns due to COVID, and the ever-changing landscape of commercial cleaning. By staying positive and offering a company with dynamic culture (which nurtures our staff for personal as well as professional development). Currently have over 30 employees, many of which are single parents.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Two of the hardest things to deal with as a business owner are many clients think of you as a bank. They sign contracts yet do not uphold the payment terms, thus creating a financial gap for the business owner. The other is during tough economic times, similar to the lockdowns during COVID and before the PPP loans, having to lay people off from work. I care about my staff, and in return, they have been very loyal. Yet, during the pandemic having to lay off single mothers who were not receiving child support would burst into tears begging for their jobs back (which our clients were mandated to close), and they needed to provide for their children.
Every day during those first few months, the mental pressure was placed on me to try and rebuild a company. I had owned from the beginning, and overnight, 97% of the business was gone. So I had to dig hard to maintain the bills of the business with no money coming in, plus wanting to bring back a staff that was so loyal to me. So within the first year, I had to rebuild the entire company, which had existed for nearly 8 years, from scratch again.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Hire a business coach, someone that works in your industry. Also, one that has had failure and success. You learn more from failure.
- Reinvest in the company. I did not take any pay for the first 3 years, so every dollar earned was put back into the company to allow it to grow.
- Always be a person of your work, and stand behind your goods or services. We are in a people industry, and we make mistakes, so it is all about how the situations are resolved with your clients and staff. It is more important to be a leader with morals, values, and integrity than to grow a company based on lies.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Entrepreneurship is a way of life. How far you want to take a business is up to you, yet understand as it grows, so make the demands on your time and finances. A true Entrepreneur has to be willing to give up so many families, relationships, money, and even fun times to do. Like after my second marriage failed and just before COVID hit, I was living in my office until I could save enough money to purchase a house. I even sold off personal belongings to keep afloat.
I am not sure how many people going into business may think "business owners are rich, they can do anything, and work almost no hours," when in reality, as you grow the business, it could not be further from the truth.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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