So, you want to know more about Vance… Hmm… I won’t bore you with excruciating details, but my life is like a poem, at least since I started my carpet cleaning business. I am sure you will find many similarities to your own business life. The following is part of the presentation I gave to a couple hundred marketers at a meeting this year.
“Quit, give up, you’re beaten” They shout at you and plead
“There’s just too much against you, This time you can’t succeed”.
And as I start to hang my head, In front of failures face
My downward fall is broken by the memory of a race
And hope refills my weakened will as I recall that scene
Or just the thought of that short race Rejuvenates my being
Childrens race, young boys Young men, how I remember well
Excitement sure, but also fear It wasn’t hard to tell
They all lined up so full of hope
Each thought to win that race
Or tie for first, or if not that At least take second place
The fathers watched from off the side
Each cheering for his son
And each boy hoped to show his dad
That he could be the one
The whistle blew and off they went. Young hearts and hopes afire
To win and be the hero there Was each young boys desire
And one boy in particular Whose dad was in the crowd
Was running near the lead and thought “My dad will be so proud”
But as they speeded down the field, Across a shallow dip
The little boy who thought to win, Lost his step and slipped
Trying hard to catch himself, With hands flew out to brace
And amid the laughter of the crowd, He fell flat on his face
We begin our story in the early Spring of 2007. I was just laid of as a Regional Director of a large foodservice company. I had the six figure salary, the company car, the expense account, a nice home in a small town; all the trappings of a modern day, mediocre, middle class life style.
But as he fell his dad stood up And showed his anxious face
Which to the boy so clearly said “Get up and win the race”
He quickly rose, no damage done Behind a bit that’s all
And ran with all his might and mind To make up for the fall
And I thought to my self again “Self, this is a good life style, go find yourself another job”. And I did. I found a great ‘job’ at a golf resort near the beach
So anxious to restore himself To catch up and to win
His mind went faster than his legs
He slipped and fell again
He wished then that he had quit before
With only one disgrace
“I’m hopeless as a runner now I shouldn’t try to race”
This time is was not me that had fallen. It was my pregnant wife. While at work she had a massive cerebral hemorrhage. Later, the neuro-surgeon would tell us that she a condition known as an Arterio-Veinous Malformation, an AVM for short. She was born with it. Essentially she came into this world with a time bomb in her head, waiting to go off.
Luckily, the ER doctor at this po-dunk hospital had the wits and smarts to know that something serious was going on. She was flown by a medi-vac helicopter from the small regional hospital to Georgetown University hospital in Washington, D.C. When I got the call, I drove like a madman, completing the 80 mile ride in just under an hour.
I found my wife hooked up to all sorts of machines and gizmos. And she was obviously in pain. My wife spent the next 11 days in the neuro intensive care unit. Now, you need to picture this place… This was where all the old people went when they had a stroke. My wife was easily the youngest person there as she was only 32 years old.
The growing baby inside her was safe at the moment. But the doctors at this very Catholic hospital were urging us to terminate the 3 month pregnancy (anyone see some irony here?). You see, the ruptured AVM was caused by a change in blood pressure. And if you know anything about being pregnant, there are many changes in blood pressure throughout the pregnancy. We decided that we would continue the pregnancy full term.
But in the laughing crowd he searched And found his fathers face
That steady look which said again “Get up and win the race”
So up he jumped to try again, Ten yards behind the last
If I’m going to gain those yards he thought, I’ve got to move real fast
Exerting everything he had He regained eight or ten
But trying hard to catch the lead He slipped and fell again
Defeat, he lay there silently A tear dropped from his eye
There’s no sense running anymore Three strikes, I’m out, why try?
By day nine or so in the hospital, my new employer was wondering when I was coming back. When I mentioned that it could be days or weeks, it was decided to terminate my employment. On day twelve, she was discharged. So there we were, I was unemployed and my wife was pregnant, disabled and out of work.
Oh, and by the way, did I mention that we also had three other children, a cat and a dog at home? Yeah, this is going to be a fun ride!
The will to rise had disappeared ,
All hope had fled away
So far behind so error prone, A loser all the way
“I’ve lost, so what”, i thought I’ll live with my disgrace
But then he thought about his dad ,
Whom soon he’d have to face
“Get up” the echo sounded low “Get up” and take your place
You were not meant for failure here
“Get up”, and win the race
With borrowed will “Get up” it said “You haven’t lost at all”
For winning is no more than this
To rise each time you fall
So up he rose to run once more And with a new commit
He resolved, that win or lose At least he shouldn’t quit
So far behind the others now The most he’d ever been
Still he’d give it all he had And run as though to win
It was at this point that I began looking for work. While scanning the job boards on line, I came across an interesting ad for a different kind of head hunter. This was a franchise headhunter. He would work on my behalf to find me the right business to OWN! Oh my GOD! The lights went off and the bells rang. This was it! My wife and I decided that we would not be held hostage by another employer again. We would have our own. And thus we started Chem-Dry On The Shore, financed only with the equity in our house and a ton-o-credit cards.
Three times they’d fallen, stumbling Three times they’d rose again
Too far behind to hope to win They still ran to the end
In September 2007, with only the marketing training I’d received from Chem-Dry, which wasn’t much, I opened the doors. I knew we would start slow, but we had an ominous beginning. My first job was…. Drum roll please… A can of Spot Remover. By the way, who knew the economy would be crashing in another couple months?
They cheered the winning runner As he crossed the line first place
Head high and proud and happy No falling, no disgrace
As December 2007 rolled around, we (actually my wife) gave birth to our gorgeous daughter, Emma Gabriella. It was also a great time for the business. Recovering from that disappointing first sale, I had used my connections to gain a large and prestigious account. The US House of Representatives. This was the mother load. A $40,000 contract coming in January, during the slowest time of the year. But alas, it was a short lived victory. While it paid off some debt, it was just a flash in the pan. It was just a one time clean.
Soon the realities of running the business set in. I had to come up with my own marketing. And what did I do??? You guessed it. I looked at all of my competitors ads and copied what they were doing. Price, Price, Price…
And we got what we marketed for… Price shoppers, cheapo’s and plain crappola.. some money was coming in. But it was not enough. We were way behind on the mortgage and the credit cards stopped working.
IN 2008 I added 2 vans to the business. We had gotten sporadically busy enough tosupport 3 routes. Me and 2 technicians. But also we had the first, of what would turn out to be four wrecks of our company vans. But that is a story for another time.
2008, I thought was an ok year for sales, eeking out about $210,000. But I was still doing crap jobs for crap money. Though we had a few high end clients through my contacts at the Chamber of Commerce. But by 2009, cash had run out and we had to short sell our home. We moved into a small rental home.
Another time they’d fallen, stumbling , another time they’d rose again
Too far behind to hope to win They still ran to the end
2009 was about the same as 2008 but we had increased our sales to about $220,000. But my marketing still attracted the wrong clients. I just didn’t know it at the time. 2009 was also the year that an employee stole one of my vans, drove it to Baltimore to buy drugs and wrecked it. Leaving a Big Chem-Dry van with the front end missing on the streets of Baltimore is not very subtle. But that is a story for another time
2010 was the about the same as 2009. Though we were attracting some better clients through referrals. It seemed like my advertising was still bringing in a huge mix of client, some desireable, most not. In the Fall of 2010 my truckmount engine exploded. With no money to fix it, it just became a giant weight in the van dragging down my gas mileage. At least I had portables to keep the van on the road. But that was short lived. In December, I fired both of my technicians for theft. It was just me, 3 vans, a dead truck-mount and a lot of debt.
Finally I had enough. “I needed to jump start my business and make a strong showing this year or I am packing it in.” So i attended the Platinum meeting in Pittsburgh “WOW! What an Experience! That meeting changed everything. I learned more in that 6 hours about marketing than I had in the last 4 years. I knew there was going to be a sales pitch at the end, but I had already made up my mind. Whatever they were selling I was buying”.
During that meeting i began the transformation of my business from commodity to exclusive.