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Tips From The Top: One On One With Jonathan Barnett

I spoke to Jonathan Barnett, founder and CEO of Oxi Fresh Carpet Cleaning, about his journey and best advice

Adam: Thanks again for taking the time to share your story and your advice. First things first, though, I am sure readers would love to learn more about you. What is something about you that would surprise people?

Jonathan: I used to sell fireworks. Bottle rockets, firecrackers, roman candles – all the usual stuff. Now, this wasn’t a college job per se, but rather a college business. In fact, it was the first real business I owned.

Back in my freshmen year of college, my grandfather passed away and left me $10,000. Now, I could have spent that on tuition, saved up for a car, or waste it on this and that. Instead, I bought $10,000 worth of fireworks and decided to setup my own stand during that first summer of college: Johnny B’s Fireworks.

My business partner and I enjoyed a good deal of success that first summer, but we also slept in our stand to make sure no one would steal our supplies. It wasn’t exactly fun. So the next year, I changed how we operated. I had a local youth group man the stall and they got a cut of all the sales – win-win. This change also allowed me to expand to multiple locations.

By the time I graduated, these stands had really helped pay for college – which was great – but they weren’t what I wanted to do long-term. So I sold them and left for my next adventure.

Adam: How did you get here? What failures, setbacks or challenges have been most instrumental to your growth?

Johnathan:It’s a long story, so I’ll summarize. Moved to Colorado, got my Master’s Degree, bought an International Basketball League franchise, learned about franchising, decided to open my own carpet cleaning franchise company in 2006.

Of course, that’s easier said than done. In 2006, the carpet cleaning industry looked pretty closed off. There were major, international brands who dominated the market and a host of Mom & Pop operations who were eagerly fighting over what was left. Not exactly the easiest market to break into.

And that challenge was key to my growth as an entrepreneur and the development of the Oxi Fresh brand. We had to be different from the competitors and not just be another company selling the same services. So we implemented a low-moisture cleaning method, green carpet cleaning solutions, and emphasized those differences above all else.

Learning to really hone in on what makes you special was a powerful lesson that was key to Oxi Fresh Carpet Cleaning’s success.

Adam: In your experience, what are defining qualities of an effective leader? How can leaders and aspiring leaders take their leadership skills to the next level?

Jonathan: First, a quality leader is determined to continually improve their company. Every single day, they need to be examining their brand to figure out what is and isn’t working. Where most other people are afraid of change, they need to embrace it. A good leader never rests on their laurels – they must constantly evolve.

Second, a good leader seeks to build a quality team around him. They know that in order for the business to grow, they have to let go of responsibility and trust others. Obviously, you don’t want to give power to just anyone, so a leader needs to find talented individuals and then build a culture that cultivates that talent. Any leader who seeks to surround themselves with “Yes-Men” is no leader at all.

Third, a good leader is focused on finding the future of their company. Now, this isn’t about seeking improvement – this is about looking for completely new opportunities for your company. Adding brands, adding new features and tools – as the leader, you’ve got to lead the charge on making your company bigger and better every year.

Adam: What are your three best tips applicable to entrepreneurs, executives and civic leaders?

Jonathan: Well, there are a lot of great ideas out there, but these are the ones I think are most important. In fact, I have them on the walls at the Oxi Fresh Carpet Cleaning Home Office.

Speed through Systems – The more manual work your employees or franchisees are doing, the fewer opportunities they have to really help the business grow and expand. By creating and implementing systems designed to eliminate that daily grind, you free up your staff and franchisees to focus on growth and development.

Letting Go to Grow – I mentioned this earlier, but it really is key to every good business. You’ve got to learn to let go of things in order to grow. You can’t have a big business if you’re micromanaging every single aspect of it. Either you’ll have a mental breakdown, or the business will be stunted as it can’t grow bigger than you, or both of those things will happen.

Ownership Through Scoring – You can’t measure what you’re not monitoring. It’s important to always track your various programs, marketing efforts, etc. and then to convert that data into a scoring system. Not only does this give you a better understanding of where you brand is succeeding and struggling, but these scores are excellent motivator for your staff and franchisees. No one wants to be in last place.

Adam: What is the single best piece of advice you have ever received?

Jonathan: Act like you’ve got the green light.

A lot of people live life like they’re waiting at a red light, looking for some outward sign that it’s time to move forward. In business, that’s usually waiting for the “Right Moment” or the “Perfect Opportunity.” If you’re waiting for those, get ready to wait for a long time – or forever.

Instead, act like you’ve always got the green light. Move forward, pursue your goals, and don’t wait for things to be prefect. Sure, you’ll encounter bumps in the road, sharp turns, things like that, but that means you’re still advancing. The person at the red light may never hit a bump, but that’s only because they’re not moving.

Adam: What is one thing everyone should be doing to pay it forward?

Jonathan: Make sure your business is about more than just money. Find a cause, whether it’s local or national or global, and make it a core part of your company’s identity. Not only is this useful in terms of cause marketing, but it’s good for “spirit” of the company.

For Oxi Fresh Carpet Cleaning, we work with Water.org. For every job booked online, we donate to this amazing organization that’s helped over 17 million people with access to safe water and sanitation.

Adam: What are your hobbies and how have they shaped you?

Jonathan: Well, I’ve got five kids, most of them pretty young, so not sleeping and stepping on toys are my current hobbies.

Kidding aside, I love attending concerts and basically any game in Denver – basketball, football, hockey, and so on. I grew up on sports, so they’re still a big part of my life.

Adam: Is there anything else you would like to share?

Jonathan: Running a business is hard, but – and I know this is a cliché – anything worth doing is hard. So when you have sleepless nights or long days, just remember that.

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