In my experience, stress can be equated to an emotion. Much like fear, anxiety, happiness, or sadness, emotions can get the best of all of us if we let them. Now, people are very different. Some are more logical and stoic, while others allow their emotions to run the show. In general, one is not better than the other, as each has its positive and negative attributes. However, for dealing with stressful, high-pressure situations, it is best to pull the positive from each. On an emotional side, the energy of stress can be harnessed and applied to give you an edge to deal with the situation at hand.
As part of my series about the “Optimal Performance Before High-Pressure Moments,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Adam Povlitz.
Adam Povlitz is CEO & President of Anago Cleaning Systems, one of the world’s leading franchised commercial cleaning companies and a leader in technological advances relating to business operations and janitorial services. A previous IBM executive, Adam holds several business degrees and certifications, including an MBA in Marketing and Finance from the University of Miami. He is a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt, an IFA Certified Franchise Executive, and an ISSA Cleaning Industry Management Standards Expert.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career as an entrepreneur or business leader? We’d love to hear the story.
After graduating from college, I took a brief career in investment banking. I then took a job to what I thought was the “big league,” but it turned out I was just another cog in the 200,000-employee wheel of IBM. This experience was a huge eye-opener, and I realized that I needed to find something more rewarding personally. At that time, my father’s business, Anago Cleaning Systems, was aligning itself for great success, and he asked me to join the company. I was in my 20s and never aspired to join the family business, but I saw an opportunity to use my business and financial skills. I realized that I could help this franchise grow and create situations that provided quality of life, not just for me, but for our franchisees and all employees. So, I joined the team and started from the bottom, working virtually every job in the company and building relationships throughout the business. After five years and many lessons learned, I was named President.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?
My father played a huge part in my success, but not in the way many might think. Yes, my father started the business, and I took over as CEO & President when he stepped away, but it certainly wasn’t given to me. My father was adamant about earning your way through life and contributing through hard work, education, and experience. When I first started working with my father, he wanted me to experience every aspect of the business, not just how to run it from the top down. He wanted me to understand not only the business of cleaning but the meticulous art form that comes with care and compassion for a hard day’s work and serving Anago’s clients. He wanted me out of the office and in the field, so he had me assigned to clean several clients so that I understood the importance of mixing hard work and dedication.
Can you share the funniest or most exciting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
When I first started working for my father, he assigned me to service some clients so that I could understand the frontline aspect of our business. We have methods at Anago called the 5-Step Office and 10-Step Restroom Cleaning Systems that each of our unit franchisees can utilize as part of the Anago recommended program. Thinking it wasn’t a big deal, I didn’t pay that much attention to it and just cleaned as I saw fit. Well, the next day, a client called and said whoever trained me did a terrible job. The restrooms were still dirty, and the play areas looked even worse. She also went so far to suggest the company send me back for re-training in proper cleaning (she thought I was a new cleaner and not the son of the founder). It was kind of funny but more humbling. I learned never to take any part of your business — no matter how simple or small you think it might be — for granted, because it just might be the most crucial part to someone else.
The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?
The road to success is required dedication, along with passion and purpose. With this trifecta wrapped in ethics and principles, anyone can achieve what they set out to do. I would advise younger generations to focus on those core principles, master them, and be able to summon them on demand. For me, my number one principle is to believe in, and take care of, the people that take care of the business. Reliable, clear communications are also a principle we make a conscious effort to instill throughout the company. Anago has seven unifying principles that we practice, and the first one is to believe in people. These principles tie back to my personal belief in the importance of putting your staff first. Our practice of this ideology has led to an extremely low turnover and high job satisfaction ratings.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
“Leaders Eat Last,” by Simon Sinek explains leadership and caring about the people at work. The book explains that authentic leadership is not about the management of numbers, margins, or even outcomes. It is about taking care of people first. If you accomplish this goal, the people you care for will, in turn, take care of the aspects of the business they are entrusted with overseeing. The author goes on to use examples from military and combat experiences to apply them to companies and organizations. The main summary points that I choose to implement in my everyday interactions with the company and our staff are about facing external threats together. If I can create a culture of safety and protection by looking after my employees first, then there will be no internal threats. The internal team then addresses the external threats we face as a company and brand as one.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
Oswald Chambers once said, “Beware of the tendency to ask the way when you know it perfectly well.” Many times, in our hearts and minds, we know what we need to do next. But we question ourselves and lose time in taking that leap of faith. We ask others their opinion, and we delay while debating decisions. Asking questions and making informed decisions is always good, but the quote demonstrates a belief in faith, in the will, and in the instinct that lives in all of us. Sometimes, you have to take that leap of faith when you know in your heart and mind that it is the right move — even if you don’t have all the information yet.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
Today, I am applying the lessons we’ve learned during the recession of 2007–08 and the COVID-19 pandemic to continue building a recession-resistant commercial cleaning franchise organization. One of my favorite parts of my job is helping a new franchisee grow and flourish into business-ownership. What we continue to hear from prospective franchisees is the desire to be “their own boss” and have more ownership toward their financial success. The commercial cleaning franchise industry allows that. There are several different levels at which a budding entrepreneur can get into the business, and the threshold to entry, in many cases, is much lower than many people expect. To continue our growth and to attract people to the idea of business ownership, we need to continue looking for ways to offer turn-key solutions to address the doubts and barriers that hold many people back from taking that first step. Anago already has a robust solution, but there are always areas of improvement.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. As a business leader, you likely often face high stakes situations that involve a lot of pressure. Most of us tend to wither in the face of such pressure and stress. Can you share with our readers 3 or 4 strategies that you use to cope with the burden of stress?
Stress is inevitable in almost every career path — no matter what you do to mitigate it ahead of time. Thankfully, I’ve found a few things that work for me when that big ball of stress does hit me. First, and I know I’ve said it before, regular exercise does help keep the stress away. I remember one night — all the gyms had shut down due to COVID — and I needed to get a workout in and help melt some stress away. I ended up going out to my backyard to do some jumping jacks and pushups. Even those small actions went a long way. Another stress release I fall back on is just putting on some good jazz music. I have several playlists, different genres, and variations that help me focus and calm my nerves. Probably my favorite stress reliever, though, and the newest addition to my toolbox: getting down on the floor and coloring with my young daughter. Playing and coloring with her has a way of turning my mind off of business and helping me distance myself from the stressors I’m facing. When playtime is over and I get back to business, the things that had been stressing me out usually don’t feel as stressful anymore. Also, it turns out Elmo and Cookie Monster are surprisingly easy to draw!
Aside from being able to deal with the burden of stress, can you share with our readers 3 or 4 strategies that you use to optimize your mind for peak performance before high pressure, high-stress situations?
In my experience, stress can be equated to an emotion. Much like fear, anxiety, happiness, or sadness, emotions can get the best of all of us if we let them. Now, people are very different. Some are more logical and stoic, while others allow their emotions to run the show. In general, one is not better than the other, as each has its positive and negative attributes. However, for dealing with stressful, high-pressure situations, it is best to pull the positive from each. On an emotional side, the energy of stress can be harnessed and applied to give you an edge to deal with the situation at hand. It’s similar to a shot of confidence or bravery that can be laser-focused to your advantage. On the other hand, that calculating, stoic side of you will be needed to control the emotional overdose that stress can create. Finding that balance between the two is the sweet spot when dealing with high-stress situations.
Do you use any special or particular breathing techniques, meditations, or visualizations to help optimize yourself? If you do, we’d love to hear about it.
Depending on the situation, yes. If there is time to anticipate the onset of stress, then there are several things I do to anticipate the emotional surge stress creates. Like many athletes going into a significant moment of the game, or a fighter waiting for the sound of the bell to ring, preparing to march into a “big moment” requires the balance I mentioned above. I tend to do all mine at the same time. I close my eyes and envision the endgame. Visualizing the success you are striving for is the first step. While you develop and nurture that thought, control your breathing by inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. Breathe in and out, slowly and steadily, while keeping that vision present in your mind. Sometimes I like to make a fist, hold it for 10 seconds and let go. This helps me control the emotion of stress. After a lot of practice, these techniques can be done without thinking much about it. You can achieve the same mental control, balance, and positive visualization without going through the conscious steps I just mentioned–it nearly becomes second nature.
Do you have a unique technique to develop a strong focus and clear away distractions?
As listed in the above question, I think visualizing the outcome you strive for is the best technique. It’s mental strength and resolves mixed in with dedication-fueled confidence. You have to trust yourself 100 percent and use that to place thought into how you envision the outcome you want. This is how you visualize it. See it, and make it happen.
We all know the importance of good habits. How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?
I see habits more as routines. My routine works for me, and each person has to figure out what works for them based on the time of day they are at their best. For me, the mornings are about getting my mind and body balanced and energized to face the tasks of the day. I like to exercise first thing to get the blood and endorphins pumping. From there, a nice refreshing shower, a protein-fueled breakfast, and my engines are running on all cylinders. This physical routine awakens my mind and sharpens my senses, and it is those attributes that I use to take on the day toward success.
What is the best way to develop great habits for optimal performance? How can one stop bad habits?
The first step is to know when you are at your best. Morning? Evening? Late-night? Establish your routine around that time and then build outward from there so that you increase that period of optimal performance. Addressing bad habits requires a change in routine. Create a routine that crunches out bad habits. Learn the triggers that lead to bad habits and work toward eliminating those. The most important thing to understand is knowing that bad habits are rarely solved overnight. It takes time, so mind-map the issue you want to eliminate and build your plan from there.
As a business leader, you likely experience times when you are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a state of Flow more often in our lives?
My recommendation would be to simply turn off all the alerts on your phones, emails, reminders, etc. Shut it all off — you don’t need your pocket vibrating, your screen flashing, and your alarms chiming when you’re trying to focus. In the world that we live in, everything is a distraction, and we’re all so connected that it sometimes feels impossible to get a minute to yourself to get in the zone. So, block off an hour or two where you can leave your devices at the door, or if that’s too hard, just put everything on silent. Turn to your project and dive into it. You’d be surprised how easy it can be to get into your flow with projects that you’re passionate about, as soon as you just turn off all of those dings, beeps, and buzzes.
Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of significant influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the most significant number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
There’s a popular meme that reminds people that they should treat the janitor with the same respect as the CEO. As the CEO, literally, of janitors, I hope that people can take time to thank a janitor, or a door attendant, or a construction worker, for their efforts to improve our daily lives. Everyone deserves respect and dignity, and that starts with a thank you and a handshake.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂
It’d be great to have lunch with Warren Buffett. He’s arguably the greatest investing entrepreneur of our time. I’ve followed his ‘Value Investing’ trading philosophy, and his track record is proof enough of his brilliance. I’d love to have a conversation with him and better understand his philosophy on compounding returns to grow your portfolio and net worth.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
I invite anybody interested to follow our blog page on the Anago website. We’re also on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter as @AnagoCleaning.
Thank you so much for sharing these critical insights. We wish you continued success and good health!