Over the years, I have seen quite a few companies try and get into the same line of work as Clean Crawls, and many of them end up failing. Some of the older companies figured out how to be successful the hard way like we did, (through trial and error), but a lot of the newer companies are accidentally setting themselves up for failure. I know this because I have had my own employees go and start their own businesses. I imagine when they were working in the field they probably thought, "It would be easy for me to go start my own company and do this all myself.” Then after a year they will come back and tell me, “I did not realize how much backend stuff happens, like the customer service part, and how difficult dealing with the homeowner is."
When they were in the field, these new business owners never had to deal with all the behind-the-scenes work, such as office support, and the phone calls coming in. Once they have to deal with the full responsibility of running a business in person, they have a whole different point of view. Typically, people who start businesses are only experienced in one part of the business environment. To be successful a business owner needs to be able to bring together a team that knows how to deal with customer service, the sales, the marketing, the product, and management functions of the company.
I am excited that you are reading this. I have realized that my passion lies in teaching and helping other people learn how to succeed. My experience as a successful business owner gives me the wonderful opportunity to be a teacher. Today I want to share with you the information that I have gathered over the years, through success, failure, and determination. Without further interruption, this is how I overcame hardship and became a better businessman.
Back in the 90s, I started my own animal exclusion company, BioBug. Around that time, I realized that we were running into a lot of damaged insulation. Homeowners, as a result of having problems with rat infestations, were also experiencing damage to their insulation, so I started doing removal work with Bio Bug. In all of my businesses, I have always tried to look at what the needs of the customer are, and what is going to be best for them. Each time an opportunity arose that would make my company better and improve the services I provided to my customers, I made the decision to move in that direction. That being said, when we started doing insulation removal, we did not really know what we were doing; we figured it out as we went along.
For two and a half years our mentality was, “Pull everything out, clean the space up, and get rid of the odors since we know how.” At that point, we did not do insulation installation, so after the removal was complete, we would tell our customers to call an insulation company. Eventually, my partner wanted to retire so I sold BioBug, and I started two companies; EcoTech and Clean Crawls. I had a non-compete clause, so I could not operate in the Seattle area with EcoTech Pest Control, but I could with Clean Crawls. At that point, Clean Crawls was purely a financial move. Clean Crawls was supposed to bring in a few extra jobs so I could sustain EcoTech and help it grow.
It was a learning lesson getting into the insulation industry. Within a couple of years, both of my companies were struggling. It was just too much to handle—one person trying to manage two companies, and run all over the place. The biggest opportunity, although I did not realize it at the time, came about when both of my companies were struggling the most. I was praying hard for help, "God, give me an answer on this." Then somebody showed up at my doorstep wanting to buy EcoTech Pest Control. That was not the opportunity that I wanted, but that was what I was given.
I told myself, I have been blessed with this chance so let's do something with it. The only way that I could stay successful was to make the best of the position I was in. Thankfully, when the gentleman came up to buy EcoTech it gave me enough breathing room for my team and me to actually get Clean Crawls rolling in the right direction.
About five years later we were growing at a rate of more than 25% per year. One year we grew over 47% and that was a lot to handle. Unfortunately, Clean Crawls grew to the point where I hit the wall and I did not know what direction to go. When companies grow to that size, a lot of CEOs and business owners, feel like they are not capable of running their companies anymore. When this happened to me, I brought in a lot of managers to help me expand the company. Regrettably, those managers actually created more stress for me; they were not following through on the core values that I believed in and had written in our Clean Crawls’ mission statement and vision.
If everybody is not focused on what the company's mission and the vision are, then we could not be successful. Clean Crawls went through some real heartache during that time, and this was our opportunity to get better. We made some changes and brought in some people that were more focused on our mission statement. It has been seven years now and because of everyone’s dedication to focus on our vision, Clean Crawls has steadily maintained and improved our good customer service.
I have had other companies (even competitors) come and ask me for help, and I have happily given them the help that they needed. The ones that took my advice and did something with it have been more successful. The ones that have not I have seen fail. Not that I am a know-it-all; because I am not. I continue to learn every day. The ones that failed, wanted to ask me a question but they did not go out and do the work. You have to be willing to sacrifice and put your heart into being successful because it takes a lot of effort and sacrifice to start and run a business.
The best advice I can offer anyone is to know what your goal is for your business. If it is just money, then you might not have the success that you had hoped for. Evaluate that carefully. Do not be afraid to lean on people for mentorship, and please listen to them. I know over the years I was a little hardheaded at times and did not seek out that advice and I wish I had. It would have made my life a lot easier.
The biggest lesson that I have learned in business is that you cannot do everything by yourself. You need a team who you can trust and rely on. When I was younger I tried to do everything myself, and that is just not possible. Lasting success is a team effort, and when success happens you will be rewarded. In the 18 years since I started Clean Crawls, we have received many accolades. What those awards mean is that the employees are actually working hard to try to accomplish our mission statement, and we have been acknowledged for our efforts. I say, “we” because it is my employees who are the ones out there doing the daily grind; whether it is getting rid of someone's rats, replacing their insulation, or answering the phones. It takes a team to accomplish those things.
That reward is there, but it's going to come in its own time. You have to look at that as a process to getting there. Success isn't something that's just given. You have to go out and earn it.