In A World Podcast – Carol Taylor – A Clean Slate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Clean Slate is a privately-owned, MBE/DBE, full service commercial and construction cleaning company based out of Kansas City, Missouri. Established by Carol L. Taylor in September 2003, A Clean Slate operates with an experienced management team with Ms. Taylor as CEO, using both union and non-union labor. After seventeen years in the industry, A Clean Slate has grown tremendously and currently has contracts in both Kansas and Missouri, offering premium cleaning services by experienced professionals at competitive prices.

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-Transcript-

Brad Burrow: Hello. This is the In a World with Real Media podcast and I am here with Carol Taylor. Now, let me just tell you a little bit, so Carol and I… By the way, hello Carol.

Carol Taylor: Hello, Brad.

Brad Burrow: Carol and I met, we spoke together at an event down in Springfield with Marquita Miller. That was an interesting night for me. I wasn’t sure how that was going to go, but I really enjoyed it.

Carol Taylor: And you did very well.

Brad Burrow: Well, thank you.

Carol Taylor: Very, very well.

Brad Burrow: But you did awesome. So I was sitting there listening to your story and I thought wow, we’ve got to do a podcast. This is going to be an amazing story. So anyway, Carol is the owner of A Clean Slate.

Carol Taylor: Yeah.

Brad Burrow: Tell me a little bit about the business and I want to get into your background and what got you to the point where you said, “I’m going to start a business.”

Carol Taylor: Okay. So a clean slate is a construction and final cleaning company. We’ve been in business, this is our 17th year. And so-

Brad Burrow: Wow. That’s a long time.

Carol Taylor: That is a long time of sweeping, mopping, doing windows. Yes, yes.

Brad Burrow: Yeah.

Carol Taylor: All the part of the construction industry.

Brad Burrow: Okay. And how did you get started in that? I heard this story when we spoke a little bit, but I want to hear… Tell me the details about how that whole thing came together.

Carol Taylor: Okay. So my version is different from Marquita Miller’s version. So I’m going to give the Carol Taylor uncut version.

Brad Burrow: Okay, good. That’s what we want. We want the uncut version.

Carol Taylor: So what happened was… No. So in 2003, I was a project manager for Gateway Computers, which if you’re-

Brad Burrow: Is that right?

Carol Taylor: Yes.

Brad Burrow: Down in the Bottoms.

Carol Taylor: The West Bottoms, yes. So I think if you’re over 25, you don’t know what that is.

Brad Burrow: That could be. Yeah, I remember that.

Carol Taylor: Yes. So I was working there in, it’s in the month of May. Anyway it was May of 2003, and so I’m a project manager, been with Gateway I think at that time for about seven years and we had this big sales meeting, and all the upper echelon, our division leaders and all these sales folks were in town, and it was the weekend of May 5th. And I think this might have been May 3rd, it was a Saturday and I was in a meeting, and I was like, “Oh my gosh. Why am I here? I don’t want to be here at all.” I just don’t want to be with this company any longer, and at that time our stock was like penny stocks and so Gateways… Excuse me, Luster had gone down. It was just crazy.

Brad Burrow: I remember that because they were a big company and they were really-

Carol Taylor: A very big company.

Brad Burrow: Gateway Computers was a big deal, and then all of a sudden it just crashed.

Carol Taylor: When the company wanted to be more hit, they moved to Silicon Valley from South Dakota so they were no longer the cattle herders. So now they’re the cool people, and then things started to bottom out. So sitting in this meeting on a Saturday and I’m just like, “I am over customer service, I’m over people. I’m just really tired of what’s going on in my life.” So anyway that’s a Saturday and then go home, and just go home and reflect on a few things and thinking, “Okay, if I was going to do something different, what would I do?” And I couldn’t think of absolutely anything at all.

Carol Taylor: So I said, “I’m going to stay where I am and just see where it goes.” The very next day, which was and I’m sorry I said the wrong day, May 3rd, it was May 4th. May 5th which… And I think I’m still off on my day so please forgive me. Anyway this was May 2003. The very next day, it was a dreary day. I can still remember a lot of it. The air was kind of muggy. It was misty… Not misty, but you can feel the mugginess in the air, heavy. I mean, very heavy. So that Sunday afternoon we started hearing sirens going off and we started… We were watching the news and we were seeing that there were tornadoes in the area or there was tornado sightings.

Carol Taylor: And we live in Gladstone, and so at the time we’re thinking, okay, we’re safe. Everything is fine, but you can just, in the air, I mean, you could like cut it with a knife. And so I don’t quite remember the time, but my husband and our three children, we were watching TV and Katie Horner was on channel 5 at that time. She’s not there anymore, but shout out to Katie. So we’re watching Katie and she says Gladstone take cover. My husband I looked at each other and we say, “Hey, that’s us. We’re in Gladstone. Maybe they’re telling us to take cover.”

Brad Burrow: Yeah.

Carol Taylor: And she’s saying take cover now. And we’re just, “Okay. Is she really talking about Gladstone, Missouri?” because of course we’ve never been anywhere around a tornado. So we looked out our window which faces west, and we saw the tornado.

Brad Burrow: Did you really?

Carol Taylor: We actually saw the tornado.

Brad Burrow: Wow.

Carol Taylor: And went down in the basement, I mean ran to the basement. I actually fell. I was the only casualty.

Brad Burrow: You fell down stairs?

Carol Taylor: I fell down in the stairs. And so we hovered, and just like Katie said it hit our home.

Brad Burrow: Wow.

Carol Taylor: I don’t know how long we were in our basement. I can’t even recall the time. It went by fast. The time stopped. I mean, literally it stopped and you can hear the train go through our home.

Brad Burrow: Wow.

Carol Taylor: We could hear the wind and the whistle and it was just crazy. So it could have lasted two minutes, it could have lasted two hours. We don’t recall the time. So when we finally came up, our house is now in disarray. It was devastating. There was a portion of our homes, our garage was actually gone.

Brad Burrow: Wow.

Carol Taylor: I think one of our cars was gone. It was gone from our front yard. It was like two blocks away.

Brad Burrow: So it picked up the car.

Carol Taylor: It picked up the car and we went outside, and it looked like a bomb had hit our neighborhood. It was just crazy. But what’s even crazier is just one block west of us, there was no damage.

Brad Burrow: Yeah.

Carol Taylor: Maybe they had some wind damage. So the tornado lifted up and then it sat back, or sat back down on the ground. So we live across the street from a cemetery, so there was a lot of damage that was done at the cemetery, and then a few blocks where we were lifted back up and then it sat back down some blocks away. Most of the damage was east from our street, east.

Brad Burrow: So you were where? It came back down as it was moving to the east?

Carol Taylor: Yes, yes, yes.

Brad Burrow: Wow.

Carol Taylor: So that started, “Where do you want to go in life, Carol?” Was that my movie voice?

Brad Burrow: That was pretty good, yeah. “Carol, where do you want to go in life?”

Carol Taylor: That was the voice. Brad, you must have been there.

Brad Burrow: I was.

Carol Taylor: Okay. It was you. It was the voice of Brad.

Brad Burrow: So that event changed your life in many ways?

Carol Taylor: That was just the beginning of a few more events. That was the first one. So we’re displaced from home, and I’m thinking, “Okay. What is going to happen?” I don’t want to say… People say bad things happen in threes. I was like, “I’m not going to even think like that. That’s crazy. Well, I was off work for I think three days and I got back to work on a Thursday or a Friday, and I got laid off.

Brad Burrow: Is that right?

Carol Taylor: That very next week.

Brad Burrow: Wow.

Carol Taylor: It’s like that’s number two.

Brad Burrow: Wow.

Carol Taylor: So maybe like a day or so after that, I had a family member that died suddenly. I mean, there was no warning. I get a phone call, they’re no longer here and I’m like that’s number three.

Brad Burrow: Wow.

Carol Taylor: Something is not right. And then the last thing is that my son was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. All these incidents occurred within two weeks. I mean, it was like one thing after another, and so I have… I don’t want to say I’m a spiritual person, but I believe in Jesus Christ. So that’s the bottom line. I believe in every word that’s in the bible. I don’t question anything. And so with that being said, as I’m trying to decide, “Okay. What am I to do now? I don’t have a job. We don’t have a home yet.” You’re just displaced until they build a home.

Brad Burrow: Right.

Carol Taylor: So what do I do now? And there was a couple of opportunities that I had real estate and some other things. I was like, “No, I’ve been working now half my life. I don’t want to go back to a job where I’ve got to do all these things that I really don’t want to do like I did at Gateway. So I said, “Well, you know what. I’ll work at Walmart. I think Walmart is the best place I can say paper or plastic. May I help you? Do you need to know where the milk is? Is there anything?” That is perfect for me. Well, I didn’t get hired and Walmart. They did not give a job. And I don’t know why, Brad. I should have followed up, but I didn’t.

Brad Burrow: That might be divine providence right there. You think?

Carol Taylor: The voice of God.

Brad Burrow: You are not working at Walmart.

Carol Taylor: That was the voice. That was the voice. So now this is September of that same year, we’re ready to move back in the home and I get a call, I’m sitting on the bed, the kids are back in school, and they’ve been out… Oh, well. It was the summer and so we’re in September, and I’m sitting on the bed in the apartment, the insurance company moves you out and you’re staying in temporary housing. So I’m sitting on the bed, and I’m saying, “God, I don’t know what to do. I have no idea what you want me to do. Can you please tell me and tell me quickly?” Because Walmart wouldn’t even hire me.

Carol Taylor: So I don’t know if that’s good or bad. So I’m sitting there. This was a Monday morning and the kids are at school and I’m talking with God, and I think he’s winning the argument. And he tells me to clean my house. So I said, as I was saying that in Springfield, “I’m thinking, are you talking more spiritual? Am I not reading my Bible enough? Am I not praying enough? Am I not seeking you enough? And I heard him laugh. Can you laugh, Brad?

Brad Burrow: Not like God.

Carol Taylor: Give me your laugh, Brad. That was the laugh.

Brad Burrow: There it was, yeah.

Carol Taylor: That was the laugh. I heard that laugh and I said, “Okay. What do you mean clean my house?” I mean, just like we were talking to each other, it was very clear to clean my house. And I get a phone call and it was so crazy. At first… Well, prior to the phone call, I said, “God, I’m going to call my best friend and I’m going to discuss this with her. And I’m going to a see if she understands because maybe she’s closer to you, and I’m missing the but’s and the and’s or something so I’m going to call her.” So as I pick up the phone, and I’m dialing her number, a call was actually coming in at the same time. So I answered the call and it’s the builder of my home, and he says, “Mrs. Taylor, are you ready…” He didn’t say it that high, but I’m saying that.

Brad Burrow: That’s how you heard it though, right?

Carol Taylor: That’s how I heard it. So he tells me that the moving band will be our home on Thursday. And so I need to start packing up from the apartment and get ready so that I can move back to my home. And I just blurted out as fast as I could, “Who’s going to clean my home?” And he starts laughing. So it wasn’t the voice of Brad, it was the voice of Stu. That’s who it was. So he says, “Well, I’ve got some folks that will come and clean your home.” And I said, “Can I clean my home?” And he laughs again, and he said, “Sure. Can you give me an invoice?” And I said, “Okay.” He asked me, “How much is it going to cost?” And I say $350. And he said, “That’ll be great. Give me an invoice. You’ll start tomorrow.” So I hang up from Stu and I said, “What is an invoice?”

Brad Burrow: Is that right?

Carol Taylor: I did not know.

Brad Burrow: You didn’t know what an invoice was, huh?

Carol Taylor: I had no idea.

Brad Burrow: Is that right?

Carol Taylor: I did not know anything. So I called my dad and I said, “I’m going to clean my house.” And he said, “Okay. Clean your house.” “But I need your help.” And so he was my first employee.

Brad Burrow: Okay, yeah.

Carol Taylor: He did end up getting fired. Don’t tell him I said that. But anyway-

Brad Burrow: Tell me to edit that out of the podcast.

Carol Taylor: Yes. Please.

Brad Burrow: Beep. It’s gone.

Carol Taylor: I love it. So my dad and I cleaned my house. That was thus clean my house.

Brad Burrow: Yeah.

Carol Taylor: And so two weeks after that, I was set up in business.

Brad Burrow: And so that builder is that how you started the business then, doing more houses for him?

Carol Taylor: That is, yes. So this is September of 2003. So I started the business at the end of September of 2003. So at that year I think I made $3,000, and I was rich. I thought I was rich. So the builder did a couple of other houses from the tornado victims or families that were displaced by the tornado. And I think we may have done two or three houses in our same neighborhood and then I started apartment cleaning, doing the make ready apartment cleanings, and that was all in that first year. So that’s how we got started in business.

Brad Burrow: Wow. So you didn’t know anything about business at all really at that point, does it sound like?

Carol Taylor: Absolutely. Nothing.

Brad Burrow: So what did you do? I mean, this is what I think is really interesting. How did you even… I mean, obviously, you had the instincts to know that I need to go out and sell. I need to go out and find clients. I mean, day one, how did you approach that? You didn’t really know anything.

Carol Taylor: I didn’t know anything, but prior to that I had several years of customer service, so I knew how to talk to people, and my last stint at Gateway, I think that really prepared me for this. So I look back and some of the things that my managers and directors had said to me as far as sales, that really did help me. When I was at Gateway before I became a project manager, I was a sales assistant, and when I say assistant, my sales rep would actually do the sale or would make the sale and then it’s turned over to me, and I cultivate that sale.

Brad Burrow: Yeah.

Carol Taylor: So I kept that contract and officer with the different… And we were on the military side. So we had the army, we had all the military branches. So I talked directly to contracting officers. And their lingo is different from just the sales rep at Walmart. Because you’ve got to know the far clauses and all this other stuff that goes along with government sales. So that really prepared me for talking to people about selling my services.

Brad Burrow: And contractors.

Carol Taylor: And contractors.

Brad Burrow: Yeah, that’s amazing. Do you ever look back and think, “Okay. What if I got the job at Walmart? What if the tornado had not have come through?” I mean, that changed everything.

Carol Taylor: It changed everything. I think about that constantly. I love the way that God does things. I’m just in awe of everything that he does. The Gateway, I mean, really I would say it goes back to Gateway because I did not want to do customer service at all. I was so tired of doing customer service. I thought it was a thankless job. I said this is just a job that has no great ending. I’m putting the headset on. Yeah, I got a headset on today. I’m putting a headset on and I’m talking to people that really don’t care about this product. They just have nothing else to do.

Carol Taylor: Of course, that’s not the case, but that’s when I thought… So it really goes back to Gateway because that’s where I learned a lot of business. I started out in customer service and then when I went to the government side of things, I was in residential customer service and when I went to the government side of it, I started running my portion of the sales as if it was my own business. I did the follow up, the follow through, and “How was your shipment? Everything worked out well? You got any problems? Let me fix that for you right now.” So it was really the gateway portion of it that set me up for the sales.

Brad Burrow: As a business owner, I wish everybody had that attitude that worked for us. You know what I’m saying?

Carol Taylor: Yes.

Brad Burrow: That was the perfect experience for what you’re about to do.

Carol Taylor: Yes, it really was. It was the perfect experience. So I got reprimanded by my manager. We may have to bleep this out.

Brad Burrow: Okay.

Carol Taylor: So being who I am and talking to some of the contracting officers, my manager would always say you have to return calls within 24 hours. Well, I always would return my calls earlier than that. I didn’t like the 24-hour rule, but you had up to 24 hours. But of course, you work with difficult people, and so instead of returning the phone call, I would send an email and I would misspell their names purposely. So that’s how I got a lot of folks back in the government world. I misspelled their names. Can you bleep that out for me?

Brad Burrow: Okay.

Carol Taylor: In case one of them is listening.

Brad Burrow: Okay. So would that get them to call you back or something?

Carol Taylor: They would always call my manager and say she misspelled my name. I think there was one customer, her name was not Peppermint and it was nowhere near Peppermint, but I always called her Peppermint. Miss Peppermint. I don’t know why, but sometimes the contracting officers were demanding. “I want it now. We’re the government. We spend $22 for a cable, and I want it now. Where’s my cable.” So that was my way of getting back.

Brad Burrow: Yeah. I got you. Well, if you call me Peppermint, I know there’s a problem.

Carol Taylor: Absolutely, Brad. Brad Peppermint.

Brad Burrow: So tell me about some of the challenges you’ve had growing a business in 17 years. That’s a long time.

Carol Taylor: Yes.

Brad Burrow: You’ve overcome a lot. Anybody that’s had a business that long and stayed in business has overcome a lot. You probably had lots of challenges, maybe some great times too.

Carol Taylor: What I say is that, as I said in Springfield is that I don’t really believe I started running the business just a few years ago. I was just in the business. Now, I’m running the business and why I say that is I know I can walk away from business. I’d say maybe up to 14 years ago, I wouldn’t walk away from any business even if I knew it was bad business.

Carol Taylor: We hear that saying, all money is not good money, which is absolutely true. And you think about in cleaning, I mean how can they be bad? You’ve got a contractor who’ll say, “Hey, this cleaning company charges this? I mean, why can’t you do it for this price? Well, I didn’t know how to say no. I’m thinking, “Okay. This is what I have to do. I’ve got employees, they’ve got families. They’ve got to feed their families. They’ve got bills that they’ve got to take care of.” So I got to take this contract. And a lot of times we never lost anything. I can say in 17 years I never lost on a contract, but I broke even more than I gained.

Carol Taylor: And so I said I got to change this trajectory. I am not working dollar-for-dollar. It’s got to be a profit in it. So in the last five years, I’ve learned how to walk away from business that is not going to benefit me. When folks say, “Hey, can you sharpen your pencil a little bit? No, I can’t. But I will take something off my plate, and then that’ll even out the price.”

Brad Burrow: Yeah. So the scope can change but I still have to make money.

Carol Taylor: Absolutely, absolutely. So I said the pro bono work that I did several years ago, we don’t do pro bono work anymore. So I would say that was my challenge. I’ve enjoyed being in business. The smile that had… Can they see my smile?

Brad Burrow: No, but I’ll take a picture.

Carol Taylor: Okay. Thank you. So the smile that I had, I can say I’ve had this smile for 17 years. I enjoy being in business. It is outside of my children and in my family. It is one of my greatest joys is being in business. Excuse me. I enjoy business. I’ve had some challenges, but I don’t even focus on the challenges. I can maybe tell you some. You’d have to let me think a few minutes, but we’ve had challenges with being a minority. I’ve had challenges being a female construction.

Brad Burrow: In the building industry, yes.

Carol Taylor: In the building industry. And those things occur, but it’s really how I see it. I’m not waiting for someone to dictate to me how I do business. It’s how I do the business, and that’s where I’ve overcome the challenges even before they get there. I mean, I had a meeting yesterday and someone was saying, “There’s a lot more cleaning companies that are coming into town.” And there’s a lot of construction that’s going on, and [inaudible 00:25:14] “What are you going to do about it?” I’m going to wrap this meeting up, and I’m going to go to lunch. I mean, what do you want me to do? It’s just what it is.

Carol Taylor: People see it as being easy. The final cleaning or cleaning being easy, but it really is not easy. It is not at all. So I take pride in what I do, and I take pride in what my employees do. However, so where I live in Gladstone, I look at… I don’t look at the construction industry to be my guide for business, I look at everything else. The greatest company that I like to watch and follow is Kwik Trip.

Brad Burrow: Yeah, boy.

Carol Taylor: I love, love, love, love Kwik Trip. Not because of Kwik Trip but just because the business model of Kwik Trip. If you think back 10 years ago, the building was maybe 7,000 square feet and you had chips and candy, and you had milk, and soda from the fountain, and coffee. Now, Kwik Trip is an experience.

Brad Burrow: It’s unbelievable, isn’t it?

Carol Taylor: It is. They should have a Kwik Trip night for singles. Every Tuesday, should be… You can meet someone… I mean, I really believe that you can at Kwik Trip so they’ve made it an experience. Excuse me. I’m so sorry. So I look at those kind of things. I look at how vendors of milk Kwik Trip has. If you go to Price Chopper or Hy-Vee they’ll have more. Well, Kwik Trip has fewer vendors of milk, but they still have milk. They have fewer vendors of chips, but they still have chips. So I look at how they do business versus how my industry does business, because Kwik Trip is going to be there. So I’ve got to have a solid business model that will last.

Brad Burrow: Yeah. Boy, they have done a good job. I go there and eat lunch sometimes.

Carol Taylor: What did I say, Brad? They need a singles night.

Brad Burrow: I mean, it’s amazing.

Carol Taylor: They need a singles night. They do.

Brad Burrow: And now you can go there, you can order from your app. I mean, they’re very, very forward-thinking. So you’re exactly right. They’re great to learn from.

Carol Taylor: Yes, yes. So that’s what I’m saying in business. I don’t watch my competitors in the cleaning industry because we mop and sweep or we sweep and then we mop. So why would I watch them? You’re going to sweep with a broom and you’re going to mop with a mop.

Brad Burrow: Yeah.

Carol Taylor: So I need to look at some other business model and see the forward thinking. And I think Kwik Trip has the best forward-thinking. I am really waiting for them to have a singles night there. I think they’re going to have karaoke and a poetry night.

Brad Burrow: There you go.

Carol Taylor: And if this happens Kwik Trip, you got it from me.

Brad Burrow: That’s right. We will document it.

Carol Taylor: Yes, yes.

Brad Burrow: So Carol, I want to talk about that moment. I’ve done videos for The Women Who Mean Business for years. I did it for 15 years, something. And one thing you said that really rings true with a lot of the interviews that I did was that when people learn to work on the business and not in the business, that everything changed.

Carol Taylor: Yes.

Brad Burrow: And you said that too. I want to know what what was the thing that made you realize that, “Okay. I need to not be working in the business anymore, I need to be working on the business.” Is there something that happened or a light bulb that came on and said, “I need to change the way I think.”

Carol Taylor: So in 2013, we were blessed to file bankruptcy. And so that really changed everything. So the smile that I had was now a snarl. If you talk to me, I’m going to bite your head off. Don’t say anything to me. And I just felt… I don’t want to say I was in a depression, because I wasn’t in a depression, but I just felt like everything I had worked for and everything that I’ve strived to be great in my industry as a minority, and also as a woman on business has now come to naught.

Carol Taylor: I’m the statistic. It’s just I’m the statistic. I’m the statistic, and it’s not good, and that’s what I felt like I was carrying this chip on my shoulder and now, I’ve just made everyone say, “Okay. We knew it was going to happen. We knew you can be that happy and we knew you cam make that much money being a cleaning company.” And so I had to-

Brad Burrow: All the naysayers right there.

Carol Taylor: All the naysayers, but some of that was true. Some folks did say some things to me and some people didn’t say anything to me. And so I started if I’m meeting a new client, “Hey, by the way I filed bankruptcy.” And I’m like, “Okay. So now that’s what you’re going to know about me is that I filed bankruptcy, not that I overcame a challenge or anything.” So then I did a little research about companies that file bankruptcy, how did they come out of it. A lot of them will close that business down and then they’ll start over again. Even when I was going through the process, my lawyer said, “I think the best thing for you to do is to close the business and start all over again.”

Carol Taylor: And I said, “But isn’t that what bankruptcy does? Isn’t that what we’re looking at?” And so he’s like, “No, no. You need to just stop. You need to stop everything and then let’s just close this and start all over again.” And I told him no. We’re not going to close it. Nothing is going to change. We’re just going to do better business. I’m going to change the way that I’m looking at the way you’re perceiving me. It’s going to be about business. And so that’s what I made it about was business. And so I started looking at things a little bit differently. I was carrying my business as if it was a baby. I was treating it like it was my child, but it’s not my child. It is not. If you said something bad about Clean Slate, I would cut you, Brad.

Brad Burrow: Yeah, It’s personal.

Carol Taylor: It was personal.

Brad Burrow: Somebody saying something about you.

Carol Taylor: Exactly. So I think that was the thing and I don’t want to say that that’s a minority or that’s a woman thing, it’s just I started the business. So I know the most about the business, and if you say something bad about it, then now we have a problem. Now, you say something bad about it, “Oh, I’m so sorry you feel that way. Have a great day.”

Brad Burrow: Yeah.

Carol Taylor: So that was my growing up period, and I’m so glad for it. I really am glad. Now, it is business and my staff still says to me, “Okay, if you want to do other endeavors, can you give this to us and allow us to keep it so you can work on other things?” And I am learning to be a great delegator.

Brad Burrow: Wow. So that’s something you weren’t probably prepared for that when you started the business? You had to learn that through experience?

Carol Taylor: I had to. I had to, but I recall listening to Jesse Jackson who at the time… I don’t even know how many… I believe actually before I was in business. What he said is a good leader is a good delegator.

Brad Burrow: Yeah.

Carol Taylor: And I was like, “Oh my gosh. He’s absolutely right.” He is right. Now, I’ve heard people say everyone that works for you should be smarter than you, and maybe that’s true in my case but they don’t know they’re smarter than me, and I won’t tell them.

Brad Burrow: I like that voice. It is very true that’s as a business owner. We’ve been in business 22 years.

Carol Taylor: Congrats.

Brad Burrow: And it’s really hard to let go of…

Carol Taylor: It is.

Brad Burrow: We’re in a creative business, and I’ve been the driving force behind the creative side of it all these years. And as we’ve grown, it’s harder for me to let go of that.

Carol Taylor: Yes.

Brad Burrow: And I know how to sell, I know how to do a good job in business development which what is I really focus on the most now, but I really have this strong instinct to get in there and say, “Don’t you think we should do that differently? Shouldn’t that shot be in slow motion?” The color is just a little off on that one. You know what I mean?

Carol Taylor: Yes, sir.

Brad Burrow: But there is no way that we have any chance of growing if I don’t step back and let my staff do it, and make mistakes and learn from those mistakes. That’s super hard.

Carol Taylor: Yes. So I tell my staff I have to back what you say. I have to. So I have 30 employees, and I have three that is my inside staff. So I have to… When those three employees make a decision, I’ve got to respect that decision. I have to back that decision because I’ve given that to them. They own that so they’re the leader of it. Now, I can say okay, why don’t you make that decision and why did you hire that person? And so we were struggling with this just yesterday and so I told my HR manager, I said, “I’m going to let you hire whoever you hire and if it doesn’t work out, what are you going to do?” She said, “I’m going to fire them.” And I said, “Okay. Well, then we’re done. We’re done.” So I wanted to be the one to do all the hiring and I wanted to be the one to do all the firing, and I said you know I think you’re absolutely right. This is what I hired you to do, I’m going to let you make that decision.

Brad Burrow: Carol, does does the economy affect your business at all? Some businesses do well when the economy is not good. Some do obviously well when it’s good. It’s good right now for us. I know that’s the case. What about that business?

Carol Taylor: So in construction it’s cyclical. It’s up and down. And so at this point, we know that a recession is going to come, it’s going to hit the construction industry.

Brad Burrow: First probably, right?

Carol Taylor: Well, for me because I’m at the very end, it won’t hit me for another two or three years. So when the recession came in 2008, that did hit the construction industry. We had booked contracts already. So it was in 2012 before I felt the pinch of that.

Brad Burrow: But you could see it coming which is helpful, right?

Carol Taylor: So what I do is I watch architects. I don’t watch general contractors because they’re not necessarily the first ones there. They’re not really the boots on the ground. It is the architects. When you start seeing the architectural firms, the engineering firms, when they are starting to lay off, you know that it’s coming.

Brad Burrow: How did you learn that? I mean, that’s something that a savvy business owner is going to know. I mean, how did you figure that out?

Carol Taylor: This is really a lot of trial and error for me. And I tell people all the time, please don’t let the pretty face fool you because I’m pretty smart.

Brad Burrow: You’re a leaner.

Carol Taylor: And I watch everything, and that’s what I love about business, I watch everything. So I had to learn who’s the first ones there. It’s not the general contractor. They are not the first ones there. And if I want to build something, I’m the owner. So of course me as the owner, I’m not going to say, “Hey, I don’t have the money to build it. I’m not going to tell you that.” But I know the first ones there is the architects and the engineers. They’re saying we’re laying off. I watched Black & Veatch. I watched Burns & McDonnell. I watched them when they start to layoff, it’s time to run. It’s time to start selling widgets. Or getting a job at Walmart.

Brad Burrow: I don’t think you’re going to work at Walmart.

Carol Taylor: Well, they’re always hiring.

Brad Burrow: Yeah, they are. So what’s the future look like? Obviously, things are good right now with the economy and building. I mean, there’s so much building going on, it seems like. Anything new that you’re looking at that you can tell me without having to kill me.

Carol Taylor: Okay. No, I have to kill you for that. I’d cut your pinky toe. Okay, no. So the goal right now for a clean slate is to be a national company. So we do have a second location in Omaha.

Brad Burrow: Oh, wow.

Carol Taylor: Yes. So we’re growing that market. Also, we don’t have a location, but I’m certified in Nashville, Minnesota. We’re waiting for our approval of Las Vegas and we’re looking at LA.

Brad Burrow: Wow.

Carol Taylor: So that’s the goal is to become a national company. I am thinking right now in the talks of setting up a third office in Sacramento.

Brad Burrow: Why California? What made you think there?

Carol Taylor: So California is there’s a surge of construction. The infrastructure, stadiums are being built. We’ve got some talks of a contract in LA and LAX. I don’t know how many terminals they have right now, but I think by time of the Olympics, the Summer Olympics rolls around in LA, there’ll be a gajillion terminals. And so they are looking for folks. So what I like to do is create partnership, and I’ve created some partnerships with some companies in LA, and I think they’re going great, but California, the entire state is just in a surge of construction right now, same way with Texas. So I’m not really sure about the Texas market. I think the California market is a little bit more accessible to me than the Texas market.

Brad Burrow: And the projects, these are big projects you’re talking about.

Carol Taylor: These are huge projects.

Brad Burrow: So you’re getting contracts that are not just one-off, they’re overtime.

Carol Taylor: They’re overtime. Yes, they are overtime. I don’t know exactly how many stadiums are being built in California, but there are several. There are several stadiums. I think Inglewood just built one of the NFL teams, got a new stadium and then the Summer Olympics is in LA. The World Cup I believe is in LA.

Brad Burrow: So that’s strategically why you’d want to expand there?

Carol Taylor: Absolutely. So those are states. And I do my research, so my bible of construction is Construction Dive. I’d say a weekly publication, and it maybe even a daily publication, but I’m always looking not for the next big thing, but I’m looking for… I don’t want to go to necessarily an area that there is a single one off, but there are one offs for the next four or five years. So you’ve got stadiums, you’ve got hospitals, you got infrastructures. There are rail systems that those are the multiple things. Denver is another great city to look at. It’s trying to find a partner in Denver. There’s so much going on in Denver. The mayor has asked other contractors from outside of Denver to come into the city to do work. They can barely keep up.

Brad Burrow: Is that right? Amazing.

Carol Taylor: Yes.

Brad Burrow: Amazing. Man, what a bright future.

Carol Taylor: Yes.

Brad Burrow: I had no idea. That’s awesome.

Carol Taylor: Brad, stick with me.

Brad Burrow: I am.

Carol Taylor: Stick with me.

Brad Burrow: I’m your guy. That’s awesome. So I want to go ahead and wrap it up, but I want to end… When you spoke in front of that group of people that was so inspirational, I loved what you said and I want you to just speak to somebody. There might be somebody listening to the podcast that’s thinking, I work at Gateway and I hate my job and I’m done with this, I want to do something different. What would you say to that person?

Carol Taylor: I would tell the person first of all, make sure you got money in the bank.

Brad Burrow: That’s a good idea. You’re going to quit, you got to live for a while.

Carol Taylor: You got to live for a while because it takes a minute to build up that financial security, but it can happen. It really can happen. But I would tell the person to be true to who they are. When I started my company, I really… I know this is going to be crazy and people will not believe me. I did not know that they were other cleaning companies. I knew there were janitorial. I didn’t know there were construction cleaning companies. I really thought I had coined the term. I thought I was the only one in the city, only to find out I was not.

Carol Taylor: What I learned from that is I don’t study my competitors. I don’t. So I’m true to who I am. I’m thankful for competitors because they keep me on my toes, but I don’t look. I don’t go to their page I don’t say, “Hey, what are you guys doing?” I don’t do that. So I think the number one thing I would say to anyone that wants to start a business is be true to who you are. You are your brand, so make your brand good. Look at what you’re doing and don’t look for validation from everyone. Have that core group that multitude that is safe around you, maybe two or three people. And when folks start to say, “Hey, I don’t think you can do that.” If God has put it in you to do it, then you do it. It doesn’t matter what they say, you go ahead and do it. So just be true to yourself.

Brad Burrow: That’s awesome advice.

Carol Taylor: Thank you.

Brad Burrow: Well Carol, thank you so much for being on the podcast. I really appreciate it. Maybe you need to come back. Maybe we should expand and talk about some other things.

Carol Taylor: I think so. Can we take this on the road?

Brad Burrow: The Carol and Brad show. We may have to start our own deal.

Carol Taylor: Carol and Brad. Carol is the one with more hair.

Brad Burrow: Yeah. That’s right.

Carol Taylor: We already got a tagline.

Brad Burrow: That’s it. It’s going to be huge.

Carol Taylor: I love it.

Brad Burrow: All right. Well, thanks for joining us.

Carol Taylor: Thank you.

Brad Burrow: This is In a World. Go ahead and give me In a World.

Carol Taylor: In a World.

Brad Burrow: There you go. In a World with Real Media podcast. Thanks for joining us. We’re on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, all the podcasts platforms, so be sure to subscribe. If they subscribe, every time we put out a new episode, they get a little ding on their phone. They’re like, “Oh, there’s a new podcast.”

Carol Taylor: Oh, how sweet. We love dings.

Brad Burrow: Yes. That’s going to be great. All right. So we’ll look forward to seeing you next time. Thanks.

Carol Taylor: Thank you.

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