Navy vet turned down high-paying job to pursue entrepreneurial dreams with Office Pride commercial cleaning franchise
There are a lot of stories in the news these days about the difficulties college graduates are having finding a job. That hasn’t been a problem for Mike Jackson Jr. of Richmond, Va. When he graduated from Regent University this May with a BS in business, he already had an Office Pride franchise of his own. The Navy veteran of 22 years started the business while he was still studying for his bachelor’s degree, largely because his three kids were either enrolled in or planning to attend college themselves. Sons Michael, 25, and Mario, 19, along with 22-year-old daughter Mycia, were grateful for the help. They even worked for their dad for the first couple of months when he was trying to get his new commercial cleaning venture off the ground. We spoke with Mike recently about his Office Pride experience.
What were you doing before you started your Office Pride franchise?
I was working for the Office Pride Area Developer in Virginia Beach, Todd Jones. I worked for him for 10 months as his operations manager. I was going to school full-time at Regent University, and I decided I needed to supplement my income. I had two kids in college and one more on the way to college. My younger son had gotten a full scholarship to Regent, but he wanted to go to the college his sister was going to. I decided to work part-time at night, and Todd talked me into going full-time as his operations manager. I had a background in logistics and operations, with 22 years in the military and three years working for a mega-church in the Norfolk area as operations director in charge of 300 people, including volunteers and a full-time staff of 25 people.
How did you decide you wanted to own your own franchise?
My two kids went to school at Randolph-Macon College in the Richmond area. Their mother and I are no longer together, so I decided to move to the Richmond area to be around them and to support them while they were in college. I was offered a pretty good job with Capital One, but I decided to not take it and start my own business instead. I knew a lot about business and operations, and I knew if I marketed it right and provided the services in an excellent manner, I would benefit. I think I’ve had the entrepreneurial bug since I was a teenager. When I was younger, I was always looking for things I could sell. Legal things, of course! When I got out of the military, I started a nonprofit badge-trading organization. I’ve always been trying to practice entrepreneurship. Owning my own business was a long-term goal, and I knew the type of income I wanted to bring in. Capital One was going to pay me pretty well, but in the end I wanted six figures, I didn’t want to be at the top of five figures. I have three kids going to college and I was going to college myself and taking care of my mom. Taking the Capital One job would have been a big cushion for me, but trying to do all the things I wanted to do, there were just too many people who needed my help.
How does your faith affect the way you run your business?
The reason I decided to even work for Office Pride is because of their vision and their goals and their core values. It was the first thing I saw … That’s what attracted me to ask Todd Jones about the business when I first met him. He was at a military job fair when I met him. Of course, working three years at a church, I have a strong background in faith. And the college I went to, Regent University, is a Christian school. Every class I went to employed Christian principles.
How have you used your business to support your faith?
One way is to support my kids and other family members. I look at it also as an outreach mission for me to provide jobs to people and mentor them on social issues. As long as their criminal record is clean, I can work with them, mentor them and provide them meaning in life. This job won’t provide them with everything, but it’s a gap-filler. My mission is to hire 300 people who are underemployed or don’t have a job at all in the Richmond area. I feel like you need to put a number on anything you try to do. If you don’t, you wander aimlessly around. It’s an extreme number, but it’s a reasonable number, and I believe God put that in my head when I was writing down the goals I wanted to achieve with this company. The timetable is very liquid. In 2011, when Todd approached me about doing a franchise, I told him no at first. Then I changed my mind. I told him I wanted to hire 300 people, I wanted to do $300,000 per month, I wanted to be cleaning 3 million square feet and I wanted to do it in three years. At the end of 2014, we’ll see where we are. I don’t know if I’ll make it, but I’m growing pretty fast compared to other franchises. Every nine months, I’ve grown another 100%.
Do you do any of the cleaning yourself?
When I’m training, I will get in there and clean, or if I have to send an employee home if they’re not performing or they’re not wearing a uniform or they’re talking on the phone, I’ll send them home and I’ll clean. It’s important for them to know that when I come in to check on them, I am prepared to clean.
How long have you been a franchisee?
Just a year and a half. I’ve got a lot more work to do.
How many contracts and employees do you have?
I have 25 employees now and 42 customers.
How important is it to have cleaning experience before joining Office Pride?
While Office Pride teaches you everything, it is helpful to have cleaning experience. But, more importantly to be open-minded because you’re learning so many different things. It’s important to have business acumen as well. To have a productive business, it helps to know how to market, how to sell, how to manage people. Understanding the financial end of it is really key. You need to understand how much of your time you will put into it and how much your time is worth. To grow and be happy with your business, you have to understand some of the business aspects of it. Office Pride has training and systems for all of this.
What do you like about being a franchise owner?
I like the impact that I have on the people that work for me. Being a Christian, this is a ministry. One of our ministries is to be Christ-like and bring others to Him, not so much by preaching but by your actions. That’s true not only with employees but with clients. Whenever there’s a chance to share my faith, I take the opportunity. I’m never overbearing about my faith, but there are times when people ask me about it. They might say, “You seem to be different; what’s going on with you?” I tell them I believe in something that’s above me. I try to portray that with the cleaning that we do and how I manage my employees.
What sets Office Pride apart?
The core values and the willingness to openly share faith-based core values with those who may interact with Office Pride. The overall operations that show a commitment to franchisees. I love the way they want to resolve issues. They don’t want to bring in lawyers, they’d rather bring in clergy to resolve issues. They say you bring in your clergy, we’ll bring in our clergy and we’ll discuss it and we’ll abide by their decisions.
How large is the opportunity to grow with Office Pride?
With any business, what you get out of it depends on how much effort you put into it. They allow you the flexibility to grow your business. There’s no limit on the number of employees you can have. Also, there is an opportunity to become an Area Developer and bring in other franchisees and mentor them. That can bring in an even larger chunk of the pie. And the royalties Office Pride asks for are reasonable. As you get bigger, there are possibilities for royalty discounts.
What kind of businesses do you service?
Law offices, dental offices, orthodontists, credit unions, architects, churches, day cares, real estate agents and home developers.
What attracts customers to Office Pride rather than its competitors?
Again, the core values. When potential clients go on our website, they see it’s professionally designed. They see the Scripture and they see our core values. It gives them a sense of security. They know someone from Office Pride will take care of their building, they know our employees won’t steal from them and they know we’ll resolve issues quickly. Those are some of the things I use as a selling point. There’s a reason why we’re growing so fast. We do things above and beyond what a lot of other companies would do. And we’re very competitive.
What does your typical day look like?
Usually, when I’m going away for a few days, I spend time prepping my employees and clients for my departure to make sure supplies are replenished and everything’s taken care of. When it was 10 or 20 locations, that was one thing. When it’s 45 locations, the task becomes a little more arduous. The day before I left I sat down with my assistant and signed whatever documents I needed; payroll was taken care of the week prior. I checked my storeroom and made sure everything was good. I visited three or four clients prior to leaving. It was a busy day. I work a lot of hours, even more when we have a new account … That’s the only down side until you reach a certain level. I did a lot of filling in during the month of August. At the end it was well worth it.
What kind of person do you think would enjoy owning an Office Pride franchise?
First of all, somebody who is strong in faith would appreciate Office Pride. Somebody who is patient would appreciate Office Pride. At the same time, it should be somebody looking to take complete ownership of a business, to have autonomy. A lot of other franchisors don’t give their franchisees autonomy. Office Pride gives you some guidelines, but this is your brand. And also, someone who enjoys seeing the fruits of their labor would appreciate Office Pride. It’s hard work, so they should not be afraid to work hard. You’ll have some heartache dealing with employees, but if you like working with people – both clients and employees – and you enjoy the successes of keeping a client satisfied and happy, you’ll enjoy Office Pride.
What does franchise ownership allow you to do in your personal life that you couldn’t before?
It allows me the flexibility to set my own priorities. If one of my grown children has an event at college or something they want me to do, I can adjust my schedule. It allows me flexibility and makes me more sensitive to scheduling. I do more scheduling now than ever in my life. That’s one thing owning a franchise has helped me to understand – that my time is important. How I schedule is even more important.
Would you recommend an Office Pride franchise to someone else?
Yes. Anyone who has a heart for entrepreneurship and a heart for helping others out should consider Office Pride.
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