David Solsberry has been with ServiceMaster Clean® for 11 years. His key to success? Attracting top talent and creating a culture that encourages an average tenure of 5 years. For David, it is important to mentor and help other minorities achieve the American dream – just as he has.
David shares his approaches to business, five tips for other entrepreneurs, and in honor of Black History Month, his perspective on being a black-owned business leader.
What is your proudest achievement in your franchising career so far?
While I have had several proud moments over the past 11 years, including winning my first customer, hitting my first revenue milestone, and receiving customer referrals, my proudest achievement has been creating a company culture where our people enjoy their work and take pride in the job they do. Our average employee tenure is five years. It gives us a lot of credibility with our customers when they see the same individuals cleaning their facilities year after year. We have essentially become a part of their extended team.
How did you build a winning team for your business?
I started by recruiting top talent and setting high standards and expectations. I would rather clean a facility myself in the short term than compromise on talent and the results we provide our customers.
We are always searching for our next teammate, through employee referrals, job posts on CareerPlug, or networking events. Attracting and retaining the right talent is about respect for the individual, proper training, employee appreciation, career development, and finally compensation. We do our best to ensure our employees earn a competitive salary in a work environment that gives them the freedom to shine.
What is your best advice for people who want to open their own business or franchise?
Think TWICE! In some cases, it takes years of building a business to replace the corporate salary you are leaving. You work harder and spend countless hours being everything to everyone until you can afford to hire key individuals, frontline, or management. Make sure you have the support you need from your significant other, extended family, and friends because there will be times when additional support is needed.
Do your due diligence. Understand the state of the industry, where is the industry going in the next three to give years, what is the industry profit margin for your product or service, who has the greatest market share, what is their sales model, whether are you trying to compete for the same customer…. the list goes on and on. Do not assume success is in your favor regardless of your key attributes (knowledge, network, experience, etc.).
Know your numbers. That was my “aha” moment in the business. You can grow your business into financial destruction without the wisdom and knowledge of knowing your numbers. Establish a cadence of reviewing your P&L, balance sheet, and cash flow statement monthly.
Make marketing a daily habit. Always be closing! Regardless of how you look at the situation, you should never stop looking for the next customer. Our competition does not stop looking for ways to take your business. We are all striving to drive more top-line revenue growth and bottom-line profit. Do not assume someone is going to call you, click on your website, or send you a customer. The job of prospecting, proposing, and closing the deal is squarely on your shoulders. Set a realistic expectation that every customer will not be your customer. Find a niche market in which you can set yourself apart from the competition.
Make logical decisions versus emotional decisions. This is something I learned late in my career as a business owner. It was not until I got around other local entrepreneurs in my area to challenge myself and others around me to wake up and stop making emotional decisions. I spent years working and leading teams in corporate America; however, I was not applying these same principles to my own business. The lesson: take the emotions out of the business when you need to make key decisions. The numbers do not lie.
What about ServiceMaster Clean® made it the right company for you and your career?
I could talk about the history of ServiceMaster Clean® since its inception in 1929 or the quality products the company developed but it came down to the responses to a few questions. Does the leadership team have a strategy to grow the business? Is ServiceMaster Clean® a key player in the cleaning industry? Where is the brand going in the next five years? Are the fees and royalties fair for both the franchisor and the franchisee? Do they have a turnkey solution that can help me close my learning gap? Is the support center staff approachable, available, and ready to help me grow the business? Does the company lead with quality service and integrity? These were just a few questions I asked before making the decision to join the ServiceMaster Clean® network of franchisees. The support center team not only answered these questions but also aligned themselves with the growth of my business. I felt as if they lived up to the ServiceMaster creed of being a servant leader to the customer, franchisee, and brand. Coming from a brand culture, I always knew my first option for owning a business would be buying into a franchise.
What does it mean to you to be a black-owned business leader?
Being a black-owned business leader is extremely important to me. Most minority-owned businesses, black-owned, women-owned, etc. have some challenges when it comes to launching a business. Many of our businesses are underfunded from the start, so it is a struggle out of the gates to keep the doors open. In our society, several professions garner the respect and trust of the community, and owning a small business is one of those professions. The same holds true with being a black-owned business in our community, church, and network. It is not only an opportunity for me to put food on the table for my family but the family of the people who made the decision to join the company. It is not only an obligation to be successful but also an obligation to mentor and help other minorities achieve the American dream. A dream that is not always available to many aspiring entrepreneurs. Creating generational wealth and financial independence is truly a dream come true.
“Creating generational wealth and financial independence is truly a dream come true.”
What does Black History Month mean to you?
It is about hope, visibility and opportunity for all. The month of February has been designated as a time to reflect on the contributions that African Americans have contributed to our nation and the world, but I give thanks and honor to all distinguished African American leaders – not only during Black History Month but always. Those who have paved the way for me and other minority groups to pursue our dreams and help lead our society into the next century deserve our thanks, recognition, and respect every day. As for my team, it is an opportunity for them to be comfortable in their ethnicity and know they can be themselves and grow their careers as the company grows.