Can you talk about the most exciting thing you are working on right now?
Right now it’s our new company structure. We’ve spent the last four years innovating and implementing, as well as assembling the right team to carry it all forward. It was a time of trying new things and learning as we went. A lot of great things came from that “shoot from the hip” approach, but we were a smaller company then. I was also “playing with house money,” so to speak, so I had the freedom to experiment, but that approach couldn’t continue as we grew into a larger company.
Now that my wife, Caroline, and I are owners, we’ve developed a structure that can sustain our recent advances by focusing responsibility and accountability in the right places. The idea is to have the efficient organizational structure of a larger company while maintaining the small company atmosphere that fosters collaboration, creativity, and innovation.
Who or what is disrupting your business right now?
These days, you have to do more than typical emergency services to stand out in our industry. We’ve found that people are too busy to deal with several companies. They want the fastest, most streamlined process they can find.
We have disrupted our industry by reinvesting profits into the equipment and training necessary to add services that our competitors have to outsource. Performing those services ourselves results in a faster, more efficient process.
To achieve that streamlined process, we first invested in textile cleaning equipment, which quickly became very profitable. Then we bought a bigger facility with twice the warehouse space and added construction repairs, electronics cleaning, and an ultrasonic cleaner that cleans hard contents three times faster than before.
We also added a showroom to our facility, containing a large variety of locally stocked flooring, countertops, and cabinets that can be delivered and installed more quickly than when we outsourced the work to contractors who ordered from various dealers. No other restoration company in our market offers more services in one place.
How do you stay ahead of industry trends?
I collaborate often with other franchise owners in other markets. That’s usually done around a dinner table at the annual ServiceMaster convention; sometimes it’s a visit to a franchise in another town or a phone call. One of my philosophies is to always ask questions more than you give answers. There’s almost always someone else who has already “been there and done that.”
I’d also say that long-term thinking keeps us ahead. Some business owners are afraid to spend the money to invest in equipment that, over time, will make their business more efficient and profitable. Three years ago, we wanted to grow the commercial restoration side of our business, but we found out that the only way to do that was to add construction to our business. We made the investment, and it has been well worth the initial cost.
How do you hire the right people?
When spending time with potential employees, I like to let them interview me. The questions they ask can quickly help me understand their mindset and values. It also gives me the opportunity to explain to them our culture, values, goals, and vision as a company.
We also ask our current employees to help us recruit friends of theirs who they know to share our values and will fit into our company culture. Some of our best people have come to us that way.
What are your expectations for the industry going forward?
Over the next ten years, other restoration companies will also be handing over ownership to a new generation. Those younger owners will likely be less conservative in their approach than their predecessors; many of whom are understandably more careful about changing things because they’re so close to retirement. The new people will be looking to new innovations to move their companies into the future and stay competitive. You’ll see more restoration companies doing what we’ve been doing – including our local competitors.
I talk to other ServiceMaster Restore franchise owners every week who are in my age group, and we try to troubleshoot and share innovative ideas in our businesses. We talk about the challenges that come from the constant changes within the insurance industry and how that affects our businesses. We have to figure out how to comply with their demands, while still doing the right thing for their customers and remaining profitable. It can be hard sometimes.
I’m sure there will be other challenges to overcome, but we’ll do fine. My wife and I have the honor of being the second generation of our family to own this business. Caroline’s parents, Mark and Carol Jowers, gave us a solid foundation to build on, and it’s nice to have their experience and wisdom to draw on. Their legacy in this company is a reputation for honesty and dependability. They also built a legacy of faith and they have prayed a lot for this company over the years. We feel good about Cornerstone’s future.