Hi Jeff, it’s honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
I was a city kid who grew up in the Bronx and didn’t leave until my 20s. Looking back, growing up in the Bronx helped prepare me for many of life’s challenges and was my first lesson in business. Learning how to see trouble before it reaches you and being a survivor. After graduating from Pace University, I started my career as an executive recruiter.
At the age of 25, I founded an executive search firm that is still in operation today. I continued to spend the better part of 20 years founding and building executive search firms that specialized in the information technology sector. I had the fortune of working directly with individuals that are now known as industry legends such as Steve Jobs of Apple and John Chambers of Cisco. Following the events of 9/11, I decided to leave the recruiting world and ventured into the world of franchising. I co-founded Sir Grout, a national hard surface restoration franchise that is recognized annually by Entrepreneur Magazine as a Franchise 500 company. In 2015, I founded Germinator Mobile Sanitizing & Disinfecting, which has grown to prominence as a national, broad-spectrum disinfection franchise. I currently hold the position of CEO for Germinator and Co-President for Sir Grout.
We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
If anyone says that building a business is a smooth road, they are not truthful. There are always hurdles along the way. Without hurdles, there are no learning opportunities and you cannot grow. When building my executive recruiting businesses, my age was one of my challenges. I lacked experience, and it was a struggle managing employees who were my age or older. I had to learn that your employees do not need to like you, they need to respect you. Sir Grout was started at the height of the great recession. We had to quickly learn where our niche was and to lean into the storm rather than run from it.
In other words, we needed to educate our customer base on why using our service was going to be a great alternative to replacing kitchens and bathrooms and that they would get results that actually made them feel that they were saving money as opposed to spending it. The best way to describe the struggles with Germinator would be playing a game where every time you get the answer, someone changes the question. Since we are dealing with a virus that the world is unfamiliar with, protocols and opinions are ever-changing. Since disinfection is a regulated business, our government agencies are challenged as well, which affects our direction as a company. It’s like driving a country road at high speed with many twists and turns. It can be a lot of fun. But, you do not know what is waiting for you around each turn.
Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know?
My companies Sir Grout and Germinator Mobile Sanitizing & Disinfecting, both offer a service that is unique to the industry with attention to customer service that would rival any company, from the most attentive owner-operator to a Fortune 500 corporation. I am best known for discovering unique solutions and being a disruptor. Show me something that everyone is using and I lose interest. It’s a big yawn for me. Show me something innovative that few people, if any, have ever seen and I will find a way to market it successfully and share my vision so that others see what I see. Tell me it cannot be done. I love that.
One thing that sets me apart from others is where most people might see a problem or a roadblock, I see an opportunity to do something great. I love solving problems. Most people avoid or despise them. I am patiently impatient. Most people either have the patience or they do not. I’m a hybrid. I hate waiting, but I recognize there is a process that you need to go through and I set my mind to the task without checking the clock. One thing that I am most proud of is that my franchise owners take great pride in the brand they bought into. They made the brand successful because they are the brand. Our brands are synonymous with uniqueness, quality and value. These brands strive to over-deliver on the promise of satisfaction. Many companies say they do but fail to deliver on the promise. The ability to consistently deliver on that promise sets us apart.
Can you tell us more about what you were like growing up?
That’s a funny question because I am pretty much the same now as I was as a kid. I was a pest that made people laugh. Not that pest that you avoided. The one you loved because they made you laugh and they knew you would do anything for them. I always liked pressing buttons on people as long as they knew I was doing it out of fun and they would also get a laugh. It’s an art I am proud of. I was persistent as a kid to get what I wanted, but always willing to work for it. I enjoyed helping people because it made me feel good. I still take great joy in seeing people succeed, especially people that have shown faith in my guidance. I didn’t get into a lot of trouble as a kid because the punishment didn’t always fit the crime. It was often harder staying out of trouble than getting into it. I loved sports and still do. It helped keep me out of trouble. I would stay out playing ball until dark and you couldn’t see the ball unless it hit you in the face. I think I would still do that if I could. Sports are life lessons. I am able to relate almost anything I do in business and life to sports. Most people can relate to it, and it makes lessons stick in people’s minds.
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Photos courtesy of Germinator Mobile Sanitizing & Disinfecting