This Entrepreneur is Celebrating 20 Years in the Franchise Business—Here’s How He Became the Top Performer of His Brand

Welcome to another episode of Atlanta Franchise Today with host Leslie Kuban, expert franchise consultant and owner of FranNet Atlanta. Atlanta Franchise Today is dedicated to bringing entrepreneurs and business owners the best practices and tips for their franchise goals. On today’s show, Leslie is joined by entrepreneur Brad Rush, who is the owner of Jan-Pro of Atlanta and Jan-Pro of Oklahoma City, one of the nation’s leading commercial cleaning franchises. Rush has been in the franchise game for 20 years now and is the top-performing franchisee for the brand.

Transcription: 

Leslie Kuban:
Welcome to the show, Brad.

Brad Rush:
Thanks, Leslie. Pleasure and honor to be here, so I appreciate the invite.

Leslie Kuban:
We met 20 years ago.

Brad Rush:
It’s hard to because.

Leslie Kuban:
It’s hard to believe and here we still are, and really look forward to hearing about how this journey has been for you over the last 20 years.

Brad Rush:
Well, I’m excited about sharing some of that. It’s not without your help that we wouldn’t be here, and your dad, as well, so very, very thankful and very appreciative.

Leslie Kuban:
It’s great for me to see the fruit of my labor in this way. I’m going to brag on you a little bit. For our viewers who don’t know you, Brad is the top franchisee in the Jan-Pro system, which is a very well-respected entity and the contract commercial cleaning and disinfecting business, very successful organization. But a lot of our viewers may not have heard of Jan-Pro before, so can I ask you to share a little bit about the organization and your business specifically?

Brad Rush:
Totally it’s Jan-Pro is a commercial cleaning franchise, and per Entrepreneur Magazine the number one ranked commercial cleaning franchise for 13 years in a row. The genesis started in 1991 in Providence, Rhode Island through our founder, Jack Lapointe. Jack decided that this was a concept that would work well with franchising and grew it historically up and down. It started in the Northeast up and down the Eastern seaboard, eventually west of the Mississippi, to the point where today, I think there are approximately 140 Jan-Pro offices across 14 different countries. It’s a global brand, it’s a global entity.

Brad Rush:
We bought the rights to the Atlanta market from Jack in August of 2001, so opened September 4th, 2001, so thus our 20 years. Hard to believe. Started as a family business. Was in it three or four years and expanded, or I purchased the rights to the Oklahoma City market with a gentleman that worked with me in Tulsa while I lived in Tulsa. My footprint in Jan-Pro is Atlanta and then Oklahoma City. I never imagined 20 years ago, but it has been a true blessing, and consider myself very fortunate to wake up doing something every day that we’re passionate about.

Leslie Kuban:
That’s so important, then 20 years later that you have sustained that level of energy and excitement in your business.

Brad Rush:
Well, sure. Every day is different and every day is a challenge and we have the opportunity every day to positively impact the lives of other people. That’s the greatest blessing about what this business provides us. It’s not cleaning for us. As a regional developer, we don’t clean any businesses ourselves. Our job is to help other people realize the dream of owning their own business. So, to wake up every day and know based on how effective we are at what we’re tasked with doing, the impact that it can have on our cleaning and disinfecting professionals, their careers, their livelihoods, their idea of exceeding what they thought was even possible, is one of the best and greatest blessings that I’ve ever had.

Leslie Kuban:
We’re talking about the structure of the opportunity inside of Jan-Pro. Let’s dig into this a little bit.

Brad Rush:
Sure.

Leslie Kuban:
It’s called master franchising or regional development, where you are a franchisee of Jan-Pro, but you also have franchisor-level responsibilities and you’re compensated for that. So you’re a franchisor, you’re a franchisee, and that can be a very attractive model for people who want to really own and grow a region. Could you just talk a little bit more? How does that model work? What’s the structure in depth.

Brad Rush:
Sure. Well, it’s a three-tiered model, and for us, being a franchisee is attractive because part of what you’re buying into is a tried and proven model, that time and again, has demonstrated a followed and adhered to can lead you down the path to success that you’re looking for. We didn’t have to create everything from ground zero or from scratch. And then we had the infrastructure from corporate and the support to put us in a position where we could optimize our success.

Brad Rush:
Now, our role, we’re also selling franchises. That’s what we do. Someone will come in and make a monetary investment with our company, and based on that monetary investment, we in turn provide certain things. We provide them with training, which is ongoing, it’s continuous, it’s never ending. We want to make sure our cleaning and disinfecting professionals remain at the cutting edge of what they’re doing. We’re not teaching them how to be great cleaners. We’re trying to cultivate them and teach them how to be great business owners, so it’s a very distinct difference, which is why we have our Jan-Pro University for ongoing and continuous training.

Brad Rush:
We guarantee and provide them with customers. That’s something that’s written into their agreement. We have a certain allotted timeframe in which we’re obligated to do that. We help with much of their back office support, invoicing their customers, accounts receivables, making sure they get paid. We take a lot of that administrative burden off of their shoulders, so Leslie, they can focus on making sure their customers and their staff are taken care of. We provide multiple avenues or ways to help them grow their business once they’ve started. And within our system, they can do so without spending more out of pocket money or without incurring any interest on that growth, which is extremely unique.

Brad Rush:
And then we also work closely with them on account retention to try to make sure once they do receive accounts, they’re able to retain those accounts longterm. I pay a royalty every month to Jan-Pro International, and my cleaning and disinfecting professionals pay a royalty to me. I think the beauty about this system is everybody is vested in one another. The only way my business is successful is if my cleaning and disinfecting professionals are successful. And you know, we talk about the gift of giving all the time and I talk about it with my kids. I think this is true professionally, I think it’s true personally. The more we selflessly give of ourselves without the anticipation of any reciprocation, the more successful we are. It’s true with my wife, it’s true with my kids, personal friendships, and it’s certainly true with our cleaning and disinfecting professionals.,And it’s true for them when they do the same thing with their staff and their customers.

Leslie Kuban:
The fact that you’re handling all these other parts of business ownership, I would think allows franchisees to scale and scale more efficiently. How many franchisees do you have in your Atlanta and Oklahoma City operations now?

Brad Rush:
Sure. In Atlanta, we have today about 370 active cleaning and disinfecting professionals. In Oklahoma City, it’s about 170. So Atlanta, we service approximately 1800 businesses on a weekly basis, Oklahoma City closer to a 1000. The neat thing is for us, we’ve yet to scratch the surface in terms of what the true potential is. It was never our goal starting this business to be the biggest at what we do. We do work strongly and very hard at trying to be the best at what we can be. And we have lots of room for improvement. But I do think that support does enable franchise owners to be able to scale their business, because a cleaning and disinfecting professional in our model can do this themselves. And everybody’s different. You have some, all they ever want to do is augment their existing income.

Brad Rush:
Maybe they want to save money for their children’s college or extra money for Christmas gifts, and that’s fine. They can allocate 10 hours a week, 15 hours a week. And then you have some that come in and they’re wanting to build something substantial. They want to create a legacy that they can literally pass down from one generation to the next. Part of what I love about our system is we can cater to both of those different preferences. The only way to create wealth for a cleaning and disinfecting professional in our industry is by having people work for them and then making money on top of what they’re paying their staff. So, anything that we can do that enables them or puts them in a position where they can successfully and effectively do that makes it easier for them to get to that ultimate goal.

Leslie Kuban:
Yeah, and that servant leadership, that’s translated through your unit franchise. I’m sure that’s been a big part of what has made you so successful.

Brad Rush:
Well, it’s the sole reason why we’re successful. I mean, the customers don’t see us every day. You know, they see our cleaning and disinfecting professionals. I mean, they are Jan-Pro. I mean, and that’s why 20 years into it, you’re still excited to come to work, because I have the privilege and opportunity to work for a group of people that I have such tremendous admiration and respect for.

Leslie Kuban:
Yeah. Well, 20 years ago, when you got started, it was you, your wife, your mother, and your father.

Brad Rush:
Right.

Leslie Kuban:
All of you all in. Remind me, what were you doing before and what was your dad doing before, and would love to hear some lessons about family business. Two families working together all in.

Brad Rush:
Sure. It was quite a ride. I was working in the staffing, IT consulting industry and helping to run an office in Houston, Texas. My dad had been retired and had been retired for a couple of years, and I think he decided he wasn’t quite ready to be retired yet, so he started exploring businesses to purchase. What he would tell you is most of the businesses that were for sale were for sale for a reason, and typically not a good one. But in his due diligence, he was introduced to you and your dad, and was presented with several businesses, which I think is a prudent way to go about exploring options. One was a signed company, I remember. I know one was an orthotics business, and Jan-Pro happened to be one of the models presented. It piqued his interest enough that he was thinking about doing this in Greenville, South Carolina, which is where I grew up.

Brad Rush:
But he sent me the disclosure document. At the time it’s called a UFOC. He said, “Listen, if you’re interested, maybe we could pool our resources. Maybe we could do it together in the larger market. We could do it in Atlanta.” Well, the thought of being in the cleaning business from the consulting industry was not really attractive to me. I thought he had lost his mind, but I promised him I would look at it. And then I pulled the layers back and I realized, as I referenced earlier, we’re not in the cleaning business. You know, our job is to help people realize the dream of owning their own business. I started to understand the competition. I felt like there were opportunities there where we could differentiate ourselves from what was going on in the marketplace.

Brad Rush:
My wife is my best friend in the whole world. Outside of my wife, my dad is my best friend. I don’t know that I would have worked for him had he asked, but to have the opportunity to do something together from the inception and build something from ground zero in an industry and in a business where we could make a difference for other people, that really was the impetus that compelled Kate, myself, Jordan, my daughter, was four months old at the time. We moved here in August of 2001 and started the business September 4th. One week before 9/11. So, scary time. We invested everything we had in the business and we weren’t sure exactly what was going to happen, but we’ve made it.

Leslie Kuban:
So, COVID is not your first rodeo with major global traumas in business. Just, what would you say to people how to kind of think about that who are maybe thinking about going into the business. You started during 9/11, that whole era, we’re in the midst of COVID and we’re certainly not out of the woods of it yet. Just, how would you encourage people to consider that or think about that?

Brad Rush:
You know, I think there’s some danger in over analysis, and I think it can create some paralysis and prevent you from doing something that you might need to move forward with. I mean, when is it the right time to get married, or to have children, or to get started in business? Sometimes we get so caught up in things that are outside of our control that it prevents us from doing the things that we can impact. I would encourage people if you’re passionate about something. And if you feel something really internally that this is the right thing for you, try. I mean, it’s better than looking back later and having regrets that you didn’t put your best foot forward. And You may fail, but there’s nothing at all wrong with failing, either. You know, if we don’t fail at something every day, we’re not trying enough. I would tell people just to go for it.

Brad Rush:
You know, put in the work upfront so that you put yourself in a position where you can be successful, don’t be irresponsible about it, but go for it.

Leslie Kuban:
Yeah. Yep. I couldn’t agree more. I mean, entrepreneurship is what has come out of these major traumas and provided new innovation and new technologies that we all now enjoy and take advantage of.

Brad Rush:
Sure. COVID is no fun, but and the economic impact of the pandemic was devastating to many industries and we’re still seeing it today, but there are many businesses, there are many companies, industries as a whole, that have created efficiencies that have gotten much better and much stronger because the challenges of the time have forced them to do so. It’s taking what are obstacles and turning obstacles or challenges into opportunities. So, yeah. Luckily, we’ve been blessed with a group of people and a team internally that that helps make it easier for us to be able to do that on a consistent basis.

Leslie Kuban:
We talked a little bit in preparation for the show that the door that may have opened for you and your business is the disinfecting side of things. We’d love to hear how did that quick pivot, what did that look like in your business?

Brad Rush:
We were very fortunate, we were a little ahead of the game there. You know, I think it was March 16th, 2020, I might be off on the date a day or two, Governor Kemp shut everything down, all non-essential businesses closed, and stay at home orders. Well, for us, going in every night and cleaning businesses, that was not good. And then within about four weeks of that edict, we had approximately 530 customers that suspended service. Well, that’s devastating for our cleaning and disinfecting professionals. We try to be partners with those customers, and not enforce contracts, being empathetic to the time that we’re going through. So our business took a nose dive, but simultaneously, literally at the same time, the demand for disinfecting services increased exponentially to levels that we had never seen. I mean, truly unprecedented.

Brad Rush:
We were very fortunate in 2010, I believe it was. We implemented what we call our Enviroshield Disinfecting System. It’s a means of disinfecting through an electrostatic sprayer. I don’t want to get too granular, but the technology is pretty neat, because through an electrostatic sprayer, we can spray a EPA List N recommended disinfected to combat COVID. It comes out about .30 microns, it’s evenly dispersed space, 75 times stronger than the pull of gravity, and what that does, Leslie, is it gives it a wraparound effect.

Brad Rush:
It gives us the ability very efficiently to touch and disinfect surfaces that have never been touched before. And people, our business historically, has been a nicety. It’d be nice to have a cleaning company. Now it’s a necessity, because people are not just cleaning for aesthetics, but they’re also cleaning for health. I mean, you have a responsibility as an employer to make sure anybody coming in and out of your facility, be it an employee, a team member, or maybe a guest coming in out of your office, to make sure they’re walking in a safe environment. So, the disinfecting services increased off the board. From a business standpoint, the net was actually positive for us. I just hate it was the result of having to go through a pandemic.

Leslie Kuban:
How do you see that translating for the rest of this year, next year, status quo, new opportunities? Kind of what’s your prediction in your business?

Brad Rush:
Sure. We look at our activity levels. We look at closing percentages for new customers that have increased significantly. I think that there’s been somewhat of a paradigm shift where cleaning companies have been viewed historically as commoditized. I think their realization now is that we’re not, and that there are some different players in the marketplace that can add greater value. I don’t see that shifting because I don’t necessarily see COVID going away. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I can’t predict the future. We’re dealing with the Delta variant now. I’ve read there’s a variant behind this. You know, I think it might be to some extent the new norm, and we have to learn how to deal with it and best cope with it. And so, to be in a business where we can make a difference and where we can keep people safe is something I go to bed at night, feeling really, really good about.

Leslie Kuban:
And we’d love to share about success stories. Is there a franchisee that comes to mind in the organization that would be a great example of a story of inspiration for our viewers?

Brad Rush:
A lot. There’s so many I hold near and dear to my heart. I hate to single out a single individual. I will tell you, talking the pandemic and COVID, there has never been a time in our 20 years of business where I’ve been more proud of our franchise owners. I mean, they’re essential workers, business owners. They were doing yeoman’s work. They were walking into facilities that other people were fearful to walk into. I mean, they were going in after COVID outbreaks and making sure that the next person to walk through those doors could have some peace of mind that they’re walking into a safe environment. And Leslie, that was not one or two, that was 370 business owners that were doing that. I think they were heroic, I think they showed tremendous bravery, and I think they were very selfless and understanding that what they did was important for the benefit and lives of other people.

Brad Rush:
An example with a customer, this was on a weekend, it was on a Saturday. Our office is Monday through Friday, our operation staff is available obviously 24/7, and my vice president of business operations gets a phone call on Saturday morning from a large distributor here in town. His lines were shut down because they had a COVID outbreak. He told my vice president of business operations it costs them $75,000 an hour for every hour that that line is shut down. We were out there within an hour with multiple owners providing electrostatic, disinfecting spraying, disinfecting the entire facility, the lines, et cetera. They were able to open about three or four hours later. The email and the correspondence in the things that he gave us, I mean, he could not have been more effusive with his gratitude. That’s not us, that’s our cleaning and disinfecting professionals.

Brad Rush:
I have franchise owners, you know, our minimum buy-in to buy into our franchise out of pocket is $950. Charity Stevens is a very tenured franchise owner of ours who’s contributed a lot to our system. She’s been part of our advisory council. She’s been part of our mentor program. She invested $950. She moved here from New Jersey and moved down here with a full-time job. She started this on a part-time basis, grew her franchise to the point where she started making more money here than she was at work. Once that happened, she quit her job. She focused entirely on Jan-Pro. She ended up grossing over $400,000 in annual revenue. And we’ve got so many of those stories, but yeah, that’s the exciting part about what we have the opportunity to be able to witness every day.

Leslie Kuban:
Now, that is an inspiring success story. Thank you for sharing that.

Brad Rush:
Absolutely. Thank you.

Leslie Kuban:
Brad, how would folks get in touch with you? How can they learn about the Jan-Pro franchise opportunity or the cleaning and disinfecting services that you provide?

Brad Rush:
Sure. Well, we’re here in Atlanta. Our phone number is (770) 955-9822. Our website is extremely informative, www.jan-proatlanta.com. So, yeah. Please reach out, be it a customer perspective business owner, we’d and love to have help each or both to the best of our ability.

Leslie Kuban:
Well, when I have you in again for your 25 year anniversary, I look forward to learning about your even greater success at that time.

Brad Rush:
Well, I appreciate that. And again, I can’t thank you enough for your involvement in our success and the genesis of our business. It’s so great to see you succeed in what you’ve done with your career, so you’re an inspiration to us, as well.

Leslie Kuban:
Well, thank you.

Brad Rush:
You bet.

Leslie Kuban:
That means a lot.

Brad Rush:
Thank you.

Leslie Kuban:
Well, thank you so much for being here today, Brad.

Leslie Kuban:
And folks, I hope this has been an inspiring and informative episode. Really appreciate you joining and I look forward to seeing you next week on Atlanta Franchise Today.


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