As part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Plan To Rebuild In The Post COVID Economy,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Jonathan Barnett, Founder & CEO of Oxi Fresh Carpet Cleaning.
Jonathan Barnett started his college career in 1999 at Oral Roberts University. Already knowing that business was his forte, he began working on his BS in Business Administration. Most students his age would have been content to merely study this field for a few years before entering the business world. Not Jonathan. In 2000, using money he inherited from his grandfather, he created Johnny B’s Fireworks. This summer business — which he eventually grew to four locations — paid his way through school. While attending Oral Roberts, he also played as a walk-on for the men’s basketball team. He even served as team chaplain for two years. His experience with the team and his faith led him, in 2001, to create Crossover International, a non-profit basketball outreach that uses basketball as a platform to make a positive impact in youth around the world. Jonathan graduated in 2002 (a full year early). He returned to school in 2003 and received his MBA from Colorado Christian University in 2005. In 2006, merely 26-years-old at the time, Jonathan began researching carpet cleaning and immediately saw an opportunity to handle jobs more efficiently and sustainably than in the past. Working with a team of chemists, he created an innovative and environmentally-friendly carpet cleaning method that only requires two gallons of water per home — as opposed to the 40–50 gallons that other carpet cleaners use — and enables carpets to dry in about one hour, far less than the standard 24 or more hours that other methods require. He started Oxi Fresh with just one location in Denver, but in less than six months the company had expanded to 17 locations in five states. He gave the first five franchises away for free, including one to his mother. Today, Oxi Fresh has more than 400 locations operating throughout the United States and Canada.
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 tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Well, I always had an entrepreneurial drive. Back in college, I had inherited a bit of money, but rather than using it to help pay tuition, I went and bought a bunch of fireworks and opened a stall. Ran it all summer.
The following year, I hired it out and opened more stalls. By the time I graduated, I was able to sell the business. I turned that small inheritance that could have covered part of one year’s tuition into a business that helped pay for most of it.
I’ve been running businesses ever since. I got into the world of franchising when I was earning my graduate degree, saw an opportunity, and opened Oxi Fresh in 2006. Now, it has over 400 locations across the US and Canada and is continuing to grow.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
Back when I first launched Oxi Fresh, I had quite a bit of success handing out flyers. It was a lot of work, though, so I hired a couple of guys with nothing else to help hand them out. All of sudden, the jobs from the flyers dried up, as some of the guys were just tossing them out once I left. I probably should have seen that coming. What I learned, however, was that you get the best results from people who are invested in your business. You find these people by carefully building your team and using compensation incentives based on your company’s success.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
I’m a big fan of Traction by Gino Wickman, specifically the Level 10 Meeting format that he espouses. I’ve found that it’s been a great way to manage my growing team over the years. It lets me keep my finger on the pulse of what everyone’s doing, makes it easier to stay aware of issues, and turns solution finding into a collaborative effort. It’s a great read.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
Oxi Fresh actually started as a way to support a ministry I was helping run during the time. We’d travel abroad, share the Gospel, run basketball camps for kids, play games against local teams — things like that. It was called Crossover International.
Recently, we donated nearly 600 meals to a local Denver hospital during the current pandemic, and we’re planning on giving more.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
Act like you’ve got the green light. A lot of folks live their lives waiting for some perfect opportunity, some ideal situation. It’s like they’re sitting at a red light, except there really is no red light. That red they’re seeing is their own fears, hesitation, or the unfounded belief that there’s a perfect scenario that will show up if they just wait. That’s now how it works. You’ve got to act like you have the green light in life. Move ahead and take action. Don’t wait for things to be perfect because they never will be.
The Covid-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?
Well, I’ve been working from home and have five young kids — so it can get loud and more than a little distracting. That said, besides having rules about office hours, what has really helped me during this time is having that daily reminder of who I’m doing this all for. They’re why I want to work hard.
What’s more, that experience has also served to remind me how Oxi Fresh is a vehicle for our franchisees dreams and goals. It exists to serve their passions, whether that’s owning their own business, having unlimited income potential, or providing their families with the best lives they can have. I hope that by working hard on my end, I can also help our franchisees achieve those goals.
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?
In terms of our Home Office, a big challenge has been adjusting to a work-at-home environment. At the office, we’re a very collaborative crew, and we enjoy working together to ensure the needs of our franchisees are being met. Being isolated makes that more difficult.
Thankfully, we already had tools in place to help address that issue. We already used Slack, so we just added Google Hangouts and just good old-fashioned conference calls to that. Through these tools, we can all stay in touch and stay informed. It’s not the same as being together, but we’re making it work.
As for our franchisees, they’ve been facing a tough time with decreased sales. To help them out, we’ve deferred various fees for the last few months, introduced a new product that meets the EPA’s criteria for use against SARS-CoV-2 (the cause of COVID-19), and have updated a lot of our marketing to reflect both this new product and our safety standards. We’ve also been hosting regular webinars, sending out informative alerts, and encouraging franchisees to pursue commercial work, which has seen far less of a downturn.
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?
This too will pass. One day — maybe soon or maybe a year from now — we’ll have better ways to manage this virus. There are so many hardworking scientists and doctors working on treatment methods and a vaccine. That’s a comforting thought.
But that is in the future, for now the advice I’d give is what the CDC recommends regarding mental health. Make yourself take breaks from social media and the news when it becomes overwhelming or an obsession. Break the habit of constantly checking your phone.
Eat healthier meals that are well balanced. Take time to exercise. Don’t rely on substances like alcohol to deal with the stress, because in truth that really isn’t helping you in the long run.
Most importantly, talk to each other honestly. It’s okay to say you’re scared or sad. Seeking help is perfectly natural. And if you’re in a good place, ask others how they’re doing. Some people want to talk to others, but don’t know how to approach them.
Obviously we can’t know for certain what the Post-Covid economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-Covid economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-Covid growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-Covid economy?
Some people stockpiled toilet paper, some didn’t. There’s something, though, that everyone has been stockpiling — needs and wants. Being isolated means putting things off that you’d normally buy or have done for yourself. As things reopen, I expect that pent-up demand is going to reveal itself.
For example, in carpet cleaning, the spring cleaning season is huge for us. That didn’t happen this year, which means there’s a whole lot of people out there who want a cleaning but didn’t book one. Now, after a few months of being stuck with dirty floors and furniture, they’re really going to want a cleaning.
That’s why Oxi Fresh has been staying visible throughout the pandemic. We want customers to know we’re still here and offering the same great services backed up by our safety protocols. By staying out there, we’ll be able to better capitalize on the upcoming demand for cleanings.
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
It’s hard to say, because we still don’t know what everything will look like when things settle down. I wouldn’t be surprised if wearing masks during flu seasons becomes more common. I hope that more people take handwashing seriously. I also hope that thorough government emergency plans are created for these pandemic situations and that they give more attention to smaller businesses — a lot of franchise businesses got left out of the Paycheck Protection Program.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-Covid economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the Post-Covid Economy?
We’ve been planting the seeds of our recovery and future growth through our current marketing efforts. Our plan is to continue to ramp up this marketing as things stabilize. People will have put off their spring cleanings for a few months now, and we’re going to capitalize on the pent-up desire for fresh floors and furniture.
Additionally, we’ll be making a strong push to better capitalize on the commercial market. It’s always been a part of Oxi Fresh, but we’ll be working to make it a more significant portion of our business in the future.
Last but certainly not least, we’ll be working with our franchisees as they come out of this downtime. I’m hoping to have some “relaunch” programs and plans ready that will help them gear up and be ready for what comes next.
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
Try to think of the best case and worst case scenarios for your business and build action plans accordingly.
If you’re expecting a rush for your services, have a plan ready to rapidly bring on more workers. If you worry that customers are still going to be hesitant to come into your store, market the heck out of your delivery and curbside pickup options.
Because things are still in flux, you have to be flexible and ready for anything, good or bad.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Every problem creates an opportunity.” Oxi Fresh has been through hard times in the past, like the Great Recession, and it would have been so easy to just focus on our problems and pains.
As an entrepreneur, though, I know that challenges hide a chance for growth. In the past, Oxi Fresh has risen above those dark times by relying on innovation, hard work, and our commitment to our franchisees.
And we’re doing the same now. This crisis hurts, but it is and will continue to make us stronger as a brand. We will find new ways to grow our business and help our franchisees. We will come out of this stronger because we did not give up. We looked for that hidden opportunity and we found it.
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