By Brett Carter
Once in a blue moon something happens that completely blows your mind. Last Thursday night was one of those for our team at ServiceMaster by Cornerstone. But the reason for that goes far beyond what everyone saw that night. Here’s the story, and what almost nobody knew:
Although we were already honored to be among the finalists for the Memphis Business Journal’s Small Business of the Year Award (1-25 employee category), I honestly couldn’t imagine us actually winning. The other four finalists in our category were all so successful, unique, and well-liked, and there we were; a little restoration franchise that had worked hard and done well, and had somehow stumbled upon some people who thought we were special enough to be nominated for an award of this caliber.
To our dismay, the panel of judges agreed and actually awarded us the honor. We were blown away. Stunned would be the appropriate way to describe the way we all felt when we heard our company’s name announced as the winner.
It was a very emotional thing for us all, but especially for those of us who had been here during the hard times; the times of growing pains and big learning curves.
Here’s the most fascinating and inspiring part: That night, there were a few light-hearted chuckles over the moment during his acceptance speech when our vice president, Tyler Pattat, became emotional in front of the entire crowd. But understand this: Anyone who knew what went into advancing this company forward in the last few years, and the commitment our team has shown would understand his state of mind. When something like that happens, you can bet there’s more to it than meets the eye.
What most people didn’t know was that Tyler’s reaction that evening was the cumulative effect of everything we’d all been through together; the struggles that most small business owners (and often their employees) know and understand.
It was the memory of numerous days and nights spent agonizing over how we could affect the change needed in order to overcome the things that were holding us back only a few short years ago. It was also the culmination of many brain storming sessions; hours of self-examination and reflection; the hard work, time and risk that our franchise founders, Mark and Carol Jowers, invested in this company; the responsibility that every good business owner feels for making sure business is good enough for their employees to keep working and getting sufficient hours; the opposition we sometimes faced from those who didn’t share our purpose and values; the many heart-wrenching conversations with team members we care about who were dealing with difficult personal struggles, yet carrying on with our mission; the hours of prayer for each other and for our company; the loss of sleep and the time spent away from family, which is often required of our team during emergencies; and the love and respect each of us has for one another because of all those things mentioned.
Most of us were sitting there at our table on Thursday night with our eyes welling up as we watched Mark and Tyler accept the award. We weren’t ashamed of that because we really believe in our purpose of “impacting the lives of others at every opportunity so we can lift people up,” and it was nice to have that validated in such a big way.
We know the importance of affecting what we can in our own little part of the world, especially at a time when the rest of the world seems way out of control. We know it works because of what practicing that purpose has done to improve the culture of our company and our relationships with each other and our customers; not to mention the various other people who cross our paths every day.
That award means a lot to us because of all that, but what means more is that we have built something special here: An environment where going to work (even in a demanding and often exhausting business) is like going to see good friends, and we get to do it almost every day.