As part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Plan to Rebuild in The Post COVID-19 Economy,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Adam Povlitz.
Adam Povlitz is CEO & President of Anago Cleaning Systems, one of the world’s leading franchised commercial cleaning companies and a leader in technological advances relating to business operations and janitorial services. A previous IBM executive, Adam holds several business degrees and certifications, including an MBA in Marketing and Finance from the University of Miami. He is a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt, an IFA Certified Franchise Executive, and an ISSA Cleaning Industry Management Standards Expert.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take away’ you learned from that?
When I first started at Anago Cleaning Systems, my father wanted me to experience every aspect of the business, not just how to run it from the top down. He wanted me to understand not only the business of cleaning but the meticulous art form that comes with care and compassion for a hard day’s work. He wanted me out of the office and in the field, so he had me assigned to clean a local client that happened to run a daycare. We have methods at Anago called the 5-Step Office and 10-Step Restroom Cleaning Systems that each of our unit franchisees can utilize as part of the Anago recommended program. Thinking it wasn’t a big deal, I didn’t pay that much attention to it and just cleaned as I saw fit. Well, the next day, the client called and said whoever trained me did a terrible job. The restrooms were still dirty, and the play areas looked even worse. She also went so far to suggest the company send me back for re-training in proper cleaning (she thought I was a new cleaner and not the son of the founder). It was kind of funny but more humbling. I learned never to take any part of your business, no matter how simple or small you think it might be, for granted because it just might be the most crucial part to someone else.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
“Leaders Eat Last,” by Simon Sinek explains leadership and caring about the people at work. The book explains that authentic leadership is not about the management of numbers, margins, or even outcomes. It is about taking care of people first. If you accomplish this goal, the people you care for will, in turn, take care of the aspects of the business they are entrusted with overseeing. The author goes on to use examples from military and combat experiences to apply them to companies and organizations. The main summary points that I choose to implement in my everyday interactions with the company and our staff are about facing external threats together. If I can create a culture of safety and protection by looking after my employees first, then there will be no internal threats. The internal team then addresses the external threats we face as a company and as a brand, as one.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
My father built this company from the ground up. When I took over, my central vision and purpose were to continue his legacy of success, maintaining a people-first culture, and modernizing the company for success into the 21st century. The way Anago operated during the days of my father is very different now regarding the technologies we use to interact with our customers and conduct our businesses. Back then, it was a handshake and a paper invoice produced on an MS-DOS computer. Bringing in mobile technologies to increase our customer touchpoints through handheld, mobile devices, two-way real-time communications, and evaluation tools so that customers can customize their cleaning requirements directly with the janitorial staff was essential. Though we digitized more of our business, the core, people-first values my father introduced are still very much alive and well within our company.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
I think this goes back to the earlier question about a particular book that has influenced me. My number one principle is to believe in, and take care of, the people that take care of the business. Reliable, clear communications are also a principle we make a conscious effort to instill throughout the company. Anago has seven unifying principles that we practice, and the first one is to believe in people. These principles tie back to my personal belief in the importance of putting your staff first. Our practice of this ideology has led to an extremely low turnover and high job satisfaction ratings.
Thank you for all that. The COVID-19–19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share with our readers a few of the personal and family related challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
The COVID-19 pandemic has turned the entire world upside down. Like many I have spoken with, daily routines were shattered, and, overnight, we were forced to combine our personal and professional lives all under one roof. Some moments were more challenging than others. I was in the middle of a planned sale of my house and temporary move-in with my mother-in-law when the states and counties began mandatory closures. I had to adapt to a new normal of not only limited or no office time but trying to lead a business while having my wife, 18-month old, and mother-in-law in the same house. A lot of the lessons I learned were about integrating the various aspects of my life and making sure I met my family’s needs but also continued to meet my business’ needs. In the beginning, we knew a lot less about the virus and how it was spreading. There was fear of supply chains being affected. What if resources became scarce? Are we prepared to stay indoors for an undefined amount of time? The more we learned, the less challenging it became.
Can you share a few of the biggest work-related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
The biggest challenge was finding a new routine that helped separate personal from professional activities. That was an important step. Our team was fantastic. We made sure our staff were safe and ensured them we would get through this together. We were able to adapt to working from home quickly. We stayed connected, focused on the different aspects of work that we could, and addressed challenges together just as we would in the office. The pandemic introduced an entirely new set of professional challenges for our franchisees. Addressing these challenges kept us all very busy, but just as we would have done in the office, we confronted each problem together, despite being physically apart. We did this by instituting systemwide weekly calls with our Master Franchisees to discuss what was happening in the different parts of the country. These calls were a tremendous help because different states were experiencing different levels of stay-at-home orders, restrictions, etc. Hearing from our Master Franchisees in COVID-19 hotspots like Detroit, Atlanta, or Miami was helpful for franchisees in other parts of the country that feared a spike in the spread. What ties all this together goes back to that people-first mentality. When challenges arose, we came together to overcome them.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious? Can you explain?
My family is my support system, and I am theirs. We protect each other, we support each other, and like everything else in life, we faced this pandemic together. My family is strong, and we put faith before fear. It doesn’t mean we didn’t take precautions; we did. We wore masks in public, limited our trips outside the home, and implemented social distancing from people outside our immediate family circle. We did our part out of faith in others and faith in our belief that this pandemic will pass.
Obviously, we can’t know for certain what the Post-COVID-19 economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-COVID-19 economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-COVID-19 growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-COVID-19 economy?
I believe there are real opportunities on the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many new jobs are being created for businesses to safely open to the public and regain our nation’s robust, pre-coronavirus economy. The commercial cleaning industry will see an uptick not only from companies strengthening their cleaning regimen but in budding entrepreneurs who want to go into business for themselves. Becoming a commercial cleaning franchise owner is more in reach than people think. The attractive aspect, other than being your own boss and having more control over your financial stability, is that commercial cleaning has proven its resilience in uncertain times. We saw this resilience on display during the Great Recession of 2007/08, and we are seeing it now through COVID-19. The new normal will have a much deeper, more appreciative perspective on commercial cleaning, and businesses will have to maintain a much higher standard of cleaning to keep their employees and customers safe (and feeling safe). This new perspective on cleaning opens the door for many people to buy their commercial cleaning franchise (at a shallow threshold) and start making money, building a profitable business quickly.
How do you think the COVID-19 pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
I think we will be more conscious about the places we go and the people with whom we interact. I think many people will think twice about attending large events such as concerts or sporting events. I also believe we will look at those who emerged as essential workers a bit differently. Healthcare workers, supply chain employees, grocery store clerks, and janitorial staff have earned a brand-new badge of honor, and I hope that we never lose sight of those who kept the country going when many of us were forced into stay-at-home orders. I believe that we will find new ways to enjoy all the activities we did before this pandemic, but with a watchful eye. Further, I think that people will be much more health-conscious and better prepared if an event like this should arise again.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-COVID-19 economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the Post-COVID-19 Economy?
In 2007–08, we learned that commercial cleaning is recession-resistant. Today, we are learning that commercial cleaning is growing by demand, and all public spaces, whether a private business, school, religious center, or restaurant, are nearly required to put sanitation and disinfection at the very top of their operational plan and budget. That relative assurance of demand is attractive to those entering or already in franchising. This demand puts Anago in a position of growth, rather than rebuild. We expect fast growth in this industry and are prepared to meet that demand. We have written new processes and protocols to meet the growing demand for disinfection; we have also developed further training and certification programs so that each of our franchisees is fully prepared to enter the market on day one. We are launching more vigorous marketing efforts as well to educate people about the benefits and easy process of becoming a franchisee along with helping our Master Franchisees educate businesses in their territories on the upgrades in commercial cleaning post-COVID-19.
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
I encourage other businesses to make every effort to put people first when rebuilding and growing. Americans are known for a strong work ethic, and I hope that our economy rebounds strong and with returning and new opportunities for people to earn a comfortable living.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Oswald Chambers once said, “Beware of the tendency to ask the way when you know it perfectly well.” Many times, in our hearts and minds, we know what we need to do next. But we question ourselves and lose time in taking that leap of faith. We ask others their opinion, and we delay while debating decisions. Asking questions and making informed decisions is always good, but the quote demonstrates a belief in faith, in the will, and in the instinct that lives in all of us. Sometimes, you have to take that leap of faith when you know through and through in your heart and mind that it is the right move to make even if you don’t have all the information or asked every question.
How can our readers further follow your work?
I invite anybody interested to follow our blog page on the Anago website. We’re also on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter as @AnagoCleaning.