Treat people right, and profit will follow

By on February 12, 2009

Area business owner takes people-centric approach

by Susan O’Neill
For Montgomery business owner Karl Stanton, it’s all about the people.

Stanton, owner of a ServiceMaster and MerryMaids franchise in Montgomery, said he started out with the company cleaning toilets while he was still in high school. From his job with the janitorial services franchise to the corporate offices to his own franchise ownership, he said the people he encountered along the way gave him many opportunities and encouraged him in many ways.

Now, years later, he tries to provide the same encouragement and opportunities to his employees that helped him on his path of success.

One of his first supervisors involved him in the operations of the business, teaching him about sales and giving him opportunities to supervise others and obtain additional experience. She sent him to classes where he gained not only knowledge but exposure to other people in the business.

These experiences eventually led him to a job at the company’s corporate headquarters, then in Downer’s Grove. She supported his move, taking him shopping and helping him pick out professional clothes for his new role.

While at the corporate office, he had the opportunity to develop a system of operations that is currently used company-wide. When the corporate offices were relocated to Memphis, he moved there, and began training franchisees around the country.

His manager there pushed him into the spotlight and made sure he was given credit for his ideas. Not only did he help to nurture Stanton’s career, he befriended him and his family. Stanton said his children call him Grandpa Jack.

When Stanton found he was traveling with his job more than he liked with a family at home, he decided to move back to Illinois and worked at the regional office supporting area franchises. When several franchisees retired, they sold their businesses to him.

Again, the people he worked with supported him in his decisions, and helped make the transition go smoothly. They gave him the flexibility he needed to start the business and contributed half the cost of his financial plan.

Stanton said the care with which his managers and colleagues have treated him has not been by chance. ServiceMaster founder Marion E. Wade had a strong personal faith that he translated into a set of company values.

Wade saw every individual employee and customer as being made in God’s image and worthy of dignity and respect. Helping each employee reach his or her own potential through training and development became a cornerstone of the company’s mission. His idea for the business was that, if you do these things, the profitability will follow.

Stanton said he follows these same principles in dealing with his own employees. Michelle Pierson is currently the operations manager for the MerryMaids side of his business. Pierson was working at his wife’s health club when Stanton first met her. His wife had noticed her there, and saw that she had potential.

Stanton offered Pierson a job, and she started out with the company in a clerical position. Pierson said Stanton gave her the opportunity to learn new things and take on more and more responsibility. She said that through his coaching and belief in her, Stanton has helped her gain the confidence to do things she never thought she could do.

“I don’t ever want to let him down because of how he has treated me,” she said. “I treat his business as if it’s my own.”

Pierson said that when she began working for Stanton, she had one child entering school and a new baby at home. In addition to helping her grow and develop professionally, Stanton gave Pierson the flexibility in her job that she needed to care for her family as well.

“He’s a family man and understands that family comes first,” she said.

She recalled being in the middle of a large project at work when her daughter’s school called to say her little girl was sick. She said Stanton went to pick up her daughter from school.

“I’ve never met anyone like him,” she said. “I plan on working for him as long as he’ll have me.”

She described Stanton as an honest person who always does the right thing, and wants his employees to do the right thing, as well. She said that when you always do what is right, there are times that the business does not profit.

“We believe in second and third chances,” she said.

Pierson said that she and others in the company do things for their employees that traditional businesses might not do. She said they have purchased airline tickets for employees to visit out-of-town parents when they were ill and have provided help to employees in other ways.

She said they develop personal relationships with their employees, treat them like family and do everything they can to make it a good place to work for everyone.

Although Stanton acknowledges that there may be times when they are taken advantage of, he said the concept has done wonders for the business overall.

The ServiceMaster Clean business provides residential and commercial cleaning, and restoration, cleaning, documentation and other services after fires, floods and other disasters. The MerryMaid business provides customized residential cleaning services.

His franchises have doubled their revenues and profits during the time he has owned them.

Pierson said she strives to be more like Stanton in the way that she deals with her employees.

“My management skills are in progress,” she said.

Stanton said that seeing Pierson and his other supervisors handle situations in the way that he would, even when he is not around, makes him feel he has done a good job with them. He said it is important to him and to the company as a whole to create an environment where people feel trusted and valued for who they are.

Within this type of environment, which he referred to as one of grace, he said people feel safe, and they sense that who they are is OK, even though they know great things are expected of them.

“It’s taking a Biblical principle and applying it to a business setting,” he said.

Two years ago, Andrew Meyers was a waiter at a chain restaurant when Stanton’s wife Kelly noticed him. She overheard another customer of his ask him for a newspaper. Although the restaurant did not have any on-hand for customers, she watched Andrew run across the street to buy a paper for the gentleman.

Andrew said that Kelly asked him if he wanted a job because she saw that he had initiative. He was on probation at the time for a juvenile offense, but Stanton decided to give him a chance. Although it involved working closely with his probation officer and other inconveniences, Stanton said hiring Andrew two years ago was a good decision.

“He’s an excellent employee,” Stanton said. “The customers love Andy; we knew they would. He’s going to school to become an auto mechanic and he’s trying to buy a house. Those were the opportunities I got, so I’d like to see that for Andy.”

Meyers said that he enjoys working for Stanton. He said Stanton expects a lot from everybody, but he takes a personal interest in the people who work for him. He said that Stanton has allowed him to schedule his work hours around his classes at school.

Meyers currently has plans to get married and feels he is making a good life for himself. Stanton is happy to have played a part in that.

ServiceMaster Clean
& MerryMaids
Franchise owner Karl Stanton
1554 Crescent Lake Drive
(630) 896-0030