Everything does not have to be perfectly planned. I tried to plan for every possible scenario and structure I would need before opening. I spent too much time and money on too many details. Plan well but plan to be uncomfortable and jump in, you will see what is necessary and what is not when you’re in the trenches.
Many successful people reinvented themselves in a later period in their life. Jeff Bezos worked in Wall Street before he reinvented himself and started Amazon. Sara Blakely sold office supplies before she started Spanx. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was a WWE wrestler before he became a successful actor and filmmaker. Arnold Schwarzenegger went from a bodybuilder, to an actor to a Governor. McDonald’s founder Ray Croc was a milkshake-device salesman before starting the McDonalds franchise in his 50’s.
How does one reinvent themselves? What hurdles have to be overcome to take life in a new direction? How do you overcome those challenges? How do you ignore the naysayers? How do you push through the paralyzing fear?
In this series called “Second Chapters; How I Reinvented Myself In The Second Chapter Of My Life “ we are interviewing successful people who reinvented themselves in a second chapter in life, to share their story and help empower others.
As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Guy Peters.
After a decades long career working with household names like A&W, Canada Dry and TaylorMade, Guy Peters started MOP STARS Cleaning Service. A complete 180 from the corporate world, MOP STARS provides residential and commercial cleaning services across the United States. When he’s not running the day-to-day operations of MOP STARS, Guy can be found out on the golf course or inside binging the latest Netflix documentary.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I was born in Tripoli, Libya, where my father was Controller for an oil company doing a pipeline deal with the Libyans. When I was 2 years old our family moved back to Ohio, evacuated by the US Army at the start of the Six-Day War, in 1967. At Ten years old I moved to Sacramento, California where I lived until moving to New York for graduate school. I generally consider myself to be from Northern California.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Those who do only what is asked of them are slaves, those who do more are free.” It’s an anonymous quote but one that struck me when I heard it more than 25 years ago. I believe trying different ideas, getting creative and resourceful, taking risks, and thinking like a leader gives us that freedom.
You have been blessed with much success. In your opinion, what are the top three qualities that you possess that have helped you accomplish so much? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
Integrity — In business, especially when in business for yourself, you must decide where you land on the morality continuum. For some people it is natural, one way or the other, and for others it is an internal struggle. I have no choice but to be honest, otherwise I could not sleep.
As much as people say they want to hear the truth, it can also get you in trouble. We provide a service, and while opportunities to massage the truth are always there, it’s not something I’ve ever been good at.
I think honesty has allowed me to attract the right people to my business, and my personal life.
Respect — Respect for everyone with whom you interact is critical in developing trust and long-term relationships. One time I disrespected a vendor by telling him his product was no good. I was being honest, but my delivery lacked respect in a way that 23 years later it still bothers me.
In some ways, I feel like I’m making up for that slight so many years later. But regardless of the motivation, I think continued respect for everyone helps me find the best people to work with, whether it be employees, vendors, or clients.
Humor — Humor has been a way to successfully diffuse uncomfortable conversations and situations. Using humor to help guide meetings and keep people at ease has always been an asset.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about ‘Second Chapters’. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before your Second Chapter?
Armed with a finance undergraduate degree I went to work for Ford Motor Credit Company, Ford’s lending organization. “Before you can loan it, you have to collect it,” I was told.
So, I spent three years in collections, talking to customers who were behind on their car payments. After one year on the phone, I wanted to talk to people in person, so I was repo-man for two years in the field. More of an investigator than anything since people get creative in how they hide a car they know is on the verge of repossession, although I repossessed more than 300 cars in those two years. I learned a lot about people and empathy.
After getting my MBA degree, I embarked on a brand marketing career which included food (Nabisco), carbonated soft drinks (Cadbury Beverages) and golf (Dunlop/Maxfli Sports Corp. and Taylormade-adidas Golf). I was fortunate enough to work on mature brands and create new brands; and worked with many great people along the way. I liked the idea that in these brand-driven organizations, marketing worked with all functional areas.
And how did you “reinvent yourself” in your Second Chapter?
I had a taste of entrepreneurship when I was hired by a private equity group to create a new marketing and distribution plan for a popular yet tired brand they were buying.
Then, I moved to San Francisco to join a startup, and I liked the free-wheeling, high pressure environment of working with a few people to bring a unique product to market.
It was more of an evolution than a reinvention. At times I struggled in corporate America because when someone asked me what I thought, I told them. That didn’t always work well for me. I liked the entrepreneurial struggle, where it was do or die, and there was less politics with more focus on doing what was necessary to succeed.
Can you tell us about the specific trigger that made you decide that you were going to “take the plunge” and make your huge transition?
I was working for a company that, admittedly, was not a good fit for me, which I mentioned to the CEO during my interview, but he disagreed. It was a small yet public company, after my time in the entrepreneurial settings, while I was trying to determine what next.
One day it dawned on me. I realized that if I work in an environment that did not excite me, I will not thrive or be happy. I wanted to start my own company, create my own brand, and I had to completely step away to start the process.
While it may have made sense to leverage my experience in product branding I went a completely different direction and created a service business — cleaning. Whatever company I started, I knew the bottom line was customer satisfaction.
I liked the fact that the cleaning industry is fragmented and lacking many of the corporate best practices that had been my day-to-day for so many years.
Most of my friends and family thought I was completely crazy…to say the least! But with three locations in Colorado and three more planned in Texas, I like our direction.
What did you do to discover that you had a new skillset inside of you that you haven’t been maximizing? How did you find that and how did you ultimately overcome the barriers to help manifest those powers?
For me it was not a new skill set, it was just believing that I had the skills, which really is half the battle.
Once I believed I had the skills to start my own business, it gave me confidence. My experience in marketing, and working with sales, finance, operations, HR, etc., gave me the confidence I needed to launch my brand.
How are things going with this new initiative? We would love to hear some specific examples or stories.
There have been many ups and downs, as one would expect with a new business, and I still feel like I learn something every day.
Constantly striving to create value through the best possible client experience keeps me focused. I am always available to any client who wants to discuss our service and provide feedback. In addition, continually looking for employees who share my vision of providing a consistent, quality service is critical.
Accelerating growth this year is a key initiative as we move into new markets. Investing in controlled growth is a good use of capital for us.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My mother comes to mind first, without a doubt, always a big supporter.
A previous boss, Edward, has been a mentor ever since we worked together. He is a very sharp guy, and a great guy. Interestingly, because he is so smart, and British, sometimes people didn’t know how to react to him. Our sales team didn’t get to spend as much time with him as I did in headquarters, so some of them were unsure about him. I often emceed our national and global sales meetings, and Edward and I had an unwritten rule — he did not censor my comments on stage, and I made fun of him in front of the sales team. I believe our sales group must have thought, “If he lets Guy say those things about him, he must be a good guy!”
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
Operating a service business, in which we go into people’s homes, in a global pandemic has certainly been challenging. But, unfortunately the most interesting event was when I discovered a manager was siphoning cash and clients from the business.
White collar crime is probably much more common than we hear about. I trusted someone and did not have the proper controls in place. One of the many learning experiences along the way, and the most painful. It was a gut punch, but it crystalized my focus on growing my business by providing a consistent, quality service to our clients.
Did you ever struggle with believing in yourself? If so, how did you overcome that limiting belief about yourself? Can you share a story or example?
I never struggled with believing in myself, but never thought about it one way or another. The first time I thought about self-belief was when Cornell University offered me admission to their MBA program.
I was a B+ student through undergrad, but never worked hard and never really challenged myself. I think some friends thought it was a stretch when I applied to Cornell, but why not? I worked hard to get in. I went to two MBA forums and talked to their admissions people at both, visited the school and talked to the same admissions people, and called many alumni to get their thoughts and make sure they knew what I wanted. Persistence helps when you want something.
In my own work I usually encourage my clients to ask for support before they embark on something new. How did you create your support system before you moved to your new chapter?
I made many good friends and business contacts in my first chapter, corporate career, and some of them were helpful. I leaned on them when making key decisions about my future and whether to start a business. It was natural — they were interested in my next chapter, and I wanted their opinions.
Starting a new chapter usually means getting out of your comfort zone, how did you do that? Can you share a story or example of that?
Getting out of my comfort zone was helped, in part, by the fact that my comfort zone itself started becoming uncomfortable. I felt I needed to make a big change. It was still uncomfortable making the change, with the inherent risk of a change that big.
What helped me was going all in. There was nothing hesitant about it when I finally decided I was going to do it. If you are not 110% in, you need to reconsider your probability of success.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
- Everything does not have to be perfectly planned. I tried to plan for every possible scenario and structure I would need before opening. I spent too much time and money on too many details. Plan well but plan to be uncomfortable and jump in, you will see what is necessary and what is not when you’re in the trenches.
- How about this: Don’t take it personally. You can’t be all things to everyone. For example, no matter what work environment you create and how good you may be to your employees, sometimes they have to move on. They have their own issues to deal with and will make decisions that may have little to do with you or your business.
- Conserve cash whenever possible. Spend money when necessary, but ask yourself each time, is it truly necessary? Before opening I created a 401k plan for our employees, which is not cheap, and no employees were interested. In hindsight that is something I could have done in our first year of operation, and at that time I would have realized it would not be helpful.
- If you think it will be hard, and you believe you could not possibly underestimate how hard it will be, think again. Every aspect of the business will likely be more challenging than you can imagine. But that doesn’t mean you should give up.
- You will question yourself. So many times, about so many things, but the biggest question, “Should I have made the leap?” may hit you. Remember why you made the leap and why you were confident in doing so. Those two thoughts will help you in tough times. One of my favorite quotes that I think sums this up perfectly is, “Never question in the dark what was shown to you in the light”
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I would like to inspire more people to believe in and understand the consequences for our global community if we do not make serious changes to our manufacturing, farming, transportation, power generation and storage, and just about every part of how we live.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them. 🙂
Time with Bill Gates would be interesting. His mind is encyclopedia-esque, and whether he discusses his efforts in disease prevention and control, reducing the effects of climate change, or helping the 2 billion people who do not have access to safe drinking water, it fascinates me.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
The best way to connect with me would be to follow the blog on our website:
Of course we talk about cleaning but I’ll occasionally cover business and industry topics, too.
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!