This is the third article in a series, “Building a Million Dollar Business,” where we conduct exclusive interviews with industry leaders to learn more about how they’ve transformed their cleaning and restoration companies into successful, million dollar businesses. This article features Len Hume and Annette Marchionda, former owners of PCS of Niagara based out of Ontario, Canada.
Len Hume and Annette Marchionda aren’t your typical couple. They’re a husband and wife power duo who turned their cleaning and restoration franchise into a million dollar business. After putting 30 years of blood, sweat and tears into their company, they did something many business owners only dream of – they sold their business.
“If your business is bothering your mental or physical health, sell. It’s time,” Hume said. “If someone comes along and offers you more money than you ever thought, sell. If your next opportunity is bigger and more exciting than your present situation, sell.”
It might come as a surprise to some, but selling the business was part of Hume and Marchionda’s plan from the beginning. Having an exit plan in place helped them create a solid structural outline for their business to get all the right procedures in place.
“If you think about your exit strategy from the start, all these little things will happen which will help make that exit strategy and selling your business easier and more profitable,” Marchionda said. “These are all things potential buyers are looking for.”
After decades of investing everything into their business and eventually selling it, they got something greater in return – the freedom to live their lives without the stresses of having financial burdens.
“The business gave us a good lifestyle,” Hume said. “Like all entrepreneurs, we worked like crazy and we worked a lot. We’re grateful we sold the business because this is something we’ve had in our minds for a long time.”
The great thing about Hume’s and Marchionda’s success story is that cleaning and restoration business owners everywhere can have the same outcome if they work hard, seek out the right resources, and get the timing right. Within their 30 year timespan of buying, building, and selling their business, here are some of the important lessons they’ve learned along the way.
Finding A Balance
When your business partner doubles as your spouse, it can be a challenge separating work and home life. From Hume and Marchionda’s experience, business talk was often brought home and continued long after business hours.
“There wasn’t enough time to discuss everything within the hours of the day,” Marchionda said. “You just have to know when the other person says ‘enough,’ to back off and put it on the list to get back to another time.”
“In reality, there were probably more business decisions made that prepared the business to move forward that we made after hours,” Hume said. “During the day there’s just stuff going on! Dealing with clients, dealing with the team. Every husband and wife team I know has this happen.”
Another business aspect they’ve had to strike a balance between was their different leadership roles. According to Marchionda, she and Hume had a different set of skills that complemented each other and benefited the business as a whole. While Marchionda optimized the operations, systems and procedures of the business, Hume’s expertise was in working with the machinery, equipment and assets. Having different roles didn’t always guarantee the absence of occasional clashes, but they were always able to work things out in the end.
“There were some heated discussions, but we’re still together! No matter what, we always knew that we each had the best interest at heart for the company and the team,” Marchionda said.
Connection & Association Through Marketing
Hume and Marchionda agree that marketing has been an essential piece in their overall success, and a major reason as to why they’ve been able to create the business legacy they did. Marketing investments opened the doors for them to make connections, get referrals, stay up-to-date with the latest technology, and develop a high-converting website.
“It played a huge role in growing our business. With that and the connections we made with people like those at Piranha, Violand and Patti Mara have been huge in helping us develop our customer service experience,” Marchionda said. “Spot On Solutions has also been instrumental in our website development and social media! The power of those connections and letting people teach you help you do the things that they’re experts in.”
“We learn from people far smarter than us! The only thing that’s the matter with our business is what’s between our ears,” Hume said. “Get a little adjustment on that, start listening to other people and get examples.”
The power of connection and association has been a key in helping Hume and Marchionda foster the growth of PCS of Niagara. In fact, their first building was purchased because of their positive connections with other businesses in the community. When Hume and Marchionda were in the market for a building, they came across one that they fell in love with. However, it was snatched up by a janitorial company before they could purchase it. The janitorial company eventually decided the building wasn’t a good fit for them and contacted Hume and Marchionda to see if they still had interest in buying it.
“We knew them, worked with them and had a great relationship,” Marchionda said. “It was because of that association with them that we were able to buy that building.”
From that initial connection they were able to add a significant asset to their portfolio and continue the upward momentum of their business. Another important tip Hume shares is the importance of knowing where time is spent.
“Know where you’re personally spending your time,” Hume said. “If you have an employee you probably ask them to fill out a timesheet or production log. You need to do the same and ask yourself, where did I spend my time?”
Time spent making connections, analyzing business numbers, investing in a website and optimizing a CRM are all efforts that Hume and Marchionda have found to be worthwhile.
Preparing To Pass On A Legacy
When a successful business is built, it becomes like a beacon in the community of its establishment. The people recognize it as a trusted name, speak highly of it and rely on its products and services. Letting go of a business legacy is never an easy thing to do, according to Hume and Marchionda. But sometimes it’s a necessary step in order to progress to the next phase in a journey.
“For me, building this company was like raising a kid – where you love, nurture and watch them grow,” Marchionda said. “When they’re old enough you want them to go, but at the same time you don’t want them to go.”
Similar to raising a child, building a business requires dedicated efforts in making corrections, trudging through the growing pains, and learning through experience. One of the greatest approaches Hume and Marchionda adopted into their leadership practices was to step back and let their employees make mistakes, no matter how hard it was at times.
“You know the old story, it’s easier to tell someone than to watch them fight through something,” Hume said.
“It’s hard sometimes not to tell them what to do. And you shouldn’t have to tell them what to do all the time.” Marchionda said, “You should let people figure out what they’re going to do and then maybe course correct.”
When choosing who to sell to, Marchionda emphasizes the importance of taking the time to find someone who’s a good fit for the company.
“You want to make sure people have the same honor and vision. That’s the selection process of deciding who to sell to, and we definitely feel we found that,” Marchionda said.
While PCS of Niagara continues to flourish under the management of new leaders, Hume and Marchionda have decided to accept their next mission – to share their experiences and help others pass on their business legacies when the time is right.
“A lot of businesses close up because they don’t have the procedures and systems in place that allow them to get out on the market,” Hume said. “That’s why it’s one of our goals to help others figure out how to successfully grow and sell their businesses.”
For more content, check out the full video interview with Len and Annette.