A Q&A with Jay McMillan
When you talk to Jay McMillan, founder of Royal Services, you can’t help but be inspired not only by his passion for his business, but by the passion he has toward yours! In an era where too many business owners are only looking out for their bottom line, Jay eschews the “what’s in it for me” mentality and serves to connect people. It’s refreshing to meet someone like Jay who realizes that business relationships are formed when you first seek to help someone other than yourself.
In this Q&A we learn about Jay’s path to Royal Services and what he’s done to differentiate his professional commercial cleaning company. Mix in the fact that
he’s a strong community leader (Chair of the Ferndale Chamber), committed to his well-being (an avid biker and early morning exerciser) and a tireless networker, don’t be alarmed if this entire conversation makes you feel, well, a little bit lazy. Enjoy…
You often hear people say that if you want to see how clean a restaurant is, check out their restrooms. That can probably hold true for all businesses, right?
Yes, it does hold true for all businesses. The benefit is not only in public perception of your business, but also cleanliness influences the productivity of a workspace.
What’s important to your clients? What have they come to expect from working with Royal Services?
There are a number of things that add to the Royal Services experience. Detailed cleaning, consistency, open communications, polite and professional, and unseen. These are some of the phrases that are used to explain what we do.
What’s one of your biggest business challenges?
Communication driven. If there are concerns that are not expressed to myself of my staff, or visa versa inside of the customer, we aren’t aware that these concerns are present. We always put our customer in the driver seat, as my company name say, Royal Service…we are all about servicing our client.
You’re an entrepreneur with a varied business background, tell me a little bit how Royal Services came to be?
I have spent over 20 years in the Food Industry, and another 11 years now in the Environmental area (cleaning), prior to that I studied at Lawrence Technological University. I have worked for a Foodservice Distributor as a Distributor Sales Representative, and then made a move to Hunt Wesson Foodservice, where as a Territory manager and moved up along the ranks. At Hunt Wesson, I managed 19 brands, and a network of Foodservice Distributors. Royal Services was my second business venture. In 2001 I moved from the food industry, and at the same time my mother had been diagnosed with cancer a second time, I formed a partnership, bought a cleaning company where most of the business was done at night, allowing to take care of Mom during the day. That company was sold a few years later, and Royal Services was born as Royal Sweep in 2004, built from the ground up. Royal Sweep evolved into Royal Services in 2007 and has continued our growth and expansion all with the core value of fair business and a high customer service level.
Where did the name come from?
Royal Sweep was a name that came from being a gay owned and operated business, my business partner at the time and I jokingly referred to ourselves as queens…hence Royal. Services, as explained before embraces the value of customer service. Half jokingly, Half quality.
What is your approach to customer service?
Customer service is one of our core values. We deliver a quality product, at a fair price, and believe in open communication between our client management and ourselves. Being a small company we have the ability to move quickly and react to client needs in a very efficient manner. Customer service is one of the areas that drive Royal Services.
What does a perfect client look like to you?
The ideal client can come in many shapes and sizes. I think it would be better if I took a moment to explain what we do. Royal Services is a commercial cleaning company. We do Janitorial/Custodial, Window Care, Carpet/Upholstery Care, Floor Care, Post Construction Cleanings and Property Trash Outs. Our preference and an area that we excel in are multi-unit clients.
Where do you find them?
I network all the time. The area that I network in are Chamber of Commerce and sub groups in the Chamber of Commerce(s), where I am Chair for the Ferndale Area Chamber, Ferndale DDA as a Board of Director, a master mind group, and three invitation-only groups of business professionals. Many new clients are also a result of referrals that our clients offer.
How has the cleaning business changed over the years?
The concept of Green and being more environmentally correct has become more and more prevalent in all areas of our society. Cleaning is not excluded in this, as the client base as well as ourselves are more aware of the footprint that we leave behind. Green is an ala carte item that our clients can choose from.
Looking at some of your strongest competition what is it that you think you do that differentiates you from them?
I would have to say the layers of customer service that I have built into my company. From the top down, we are customer service focused, including even my admin. Follow up calls and showing the client that we DO care about them and their business.
You love to travel. How much does traveling inspire and keep you innovative?
Traveling is a passion, and although I can’t travel as much as I would want it is one of the proverbial carrot that keeps me focused and motivated to make a GREAT first impression. My reward if you will for allowing myself the time to unwind from all the hard work that’s involved in running and growing my company and brand.
Tell me a little bit about your experiences last year when you left the country and the day-to-day of running your business. How did that go? What did you learn from that experience of letting go and putting others in charge?
The ability to travel last year was amazing. I was gone a month, but still reached out to key personal on a daily basis via Skype and email. I would work 45 minutes every morning. I would reach out to my admin, operations staff, and book keeper to keep up to date while stepping back and letting them run things in my absence. The art of letting go has to be learned, but is still scary.
You were on the other side of the world, how did you stay connected?
I depended on Skype and Email for all communications. If emergencies came up, I could always call as I keep a cell phone in Thailand.
Would you do it again?
Most definitely! I know it can be done now and will be taking full advantage of that.
You’re also the president of the Ferndale Chamber. Where do you find the time to wear that hat?
Initially taking the office of Chair of the Ferndale Area Chamber of Commerce was a learning experience, but found it’s level ground and is part of week to week operations. I am fortunate to have an amazing staff at the Chamber, and as Chair, I just suggest and guide when needed.
Knowing you, it seems like a perfect role for you. You are definitely a connector of people and businesses. What is your approach to networking?
Yes, you do know me, and this is one of the joys that I get from being Chair and leading the Chamber. We are being noticed, and as we continue through the year, we make doing business fun. The initial goal for new members was 100 new members, and the staff would ‘Go Blond’ for our holiday party. By the end of the 1st quarter we were already at 52 new members. I made a side agreement that if by the end of the 2nd quarter we were at 75, I would have my chest waxed…lol…that happened! The Chamber hit 100 by the end of the 3rd quarter, and of course I kicked up the yearend goal to 125. When we hit that number the entire Board of Directors will donate a day to serve those in need at the Capuchin Soup Kitchen. One of our many give back projects to our community.
Do you have a business mentor out there who helped you along the way? Maybe they provided that spark or nudge to make a certain leap.
Yes, I have used a couple of mentors, but now rely on peers and those in a master mind group that I am a member of to bounce ideas and discuss opportunities that come my way.
You bike and exercise regularly. How has maintaining a healthy lifestyle helped in business?
The one thing that I can say is that it’s infectious. Some may say possessed. I started Weight Watchers in March and as the commercials say “I believe”. I have always worked out, and now bike 60+ miles a week, and recently started yoga. All of this offers clarity and time to get into my own head and workout opportunities and yes sometimes problems, while being healthy. I have even put together a major contract on bike. It’s a wonderful thing that is changing my life. I have just signed up for the Make A Wish ride 2013, 300 miles in 3 days…I am so looking forward to this for such an amazing cause.
What else do you do to recharge?
Spending quality time with friends and family, cooking, putzing in my yard, it all adds to much needed ‘Jay Time’. I do enjoy gallery openings and I’m an advocate of the arts…great exposure to new concepts, besides the fun people watching.
Do you ever stop thinking about what to do next for your business?
Being an entrepreneur, and somewhat of a community leader through activities in the Chamber and sitting on the board for the Ferndale DDA, I am always looking at ways to promote my city and community and of course opportunities to increase my market share. I find that thinking outside of the box is important, not letting boundaries get in my way. There is no such thing as ‘I can’t,’ all of which we all do is a choice and I believe we can do anything that we set our minds to.
Some people like the freedom of doing things their way while others like to create something from scratch. What’s your favorite part of owning your own business?
The opportunity of making a difference, or creating and growing Royal Services. It also allows the opportunity of helping others and meeting some fascinating people along the way, of which many I proudly call friends now. I tend to be modest, and as I think and say…I am just doing me!
What does a typical day in the life of Jay McMillan look like?
I’m not sure there is such thing as typical, but I suppose starting my days with a good workout, leading a balanced lifestyle and taking care of me! From there, I get business done through the blessing of a good staff, and enjoy my journey. We have to enjoy the journey that life is taking us on, and for each and everyone it’s different. Be happy in what you are doing, looking for the good in people, things and circumstances, and take the time to listen to others and help when you can. It makes life so rich in what you do.
Somebody comes up to you and says they’re starting their own business. What’s your most valuable piece of advice to them?
Have a vision, create a plan, reach out to others for assistance and have the dedication to succeed!