Alan: Welcome back I have here today with me Steve Collins, he is the Founder and President of Marvel Maids, Steve welcome to today’s show.
Steve: Thanks Alan, thanks for having me here today
Alan: So Steve can you give us some background on your career history and how you got to where you are today?
Steve: Sure, this is a fun story for me and I love to tell it because I was in a very high-tech background and I moved to very low tech background here with Marvel Maids. I started out after college doing a lot of international business, 私は日本語を話す I speak Japanese and so therefore after I graduated from college I got recruited into a startup company and the started doing a lot of business in Asia-Pacific and started flying out to Japan quite a bit. Australia, Korea, England, and here I am right out of college and my company knowing that I have this Japanese background sent me out to Japan to do business for them. I was doing sales and training and I loved it. Here I am flying around the world and staying of the best hotels eating the best food and it was a great gig for someone coming out of college. After that I got recruited out with a few startup companies, a few different software companies. I've been in enterprise software space and back in about 2002, 2003. I decided it's time to move on from this. I've been helping other enterprises build up and what's really happening what, what's happening for me throughout this process. it's great I’m enjoying myself, doing great things and during this time actually became married to my wife and we love it. But I need to stop traveling, so I went out looking to acquire business. At that point and I really didn't care about what the business did, what I was looking for is a business with a good growth stream, a good revenue stream. Something that I can take my high-tech background and my sales, my marketing my management and also the computer side of things. And change into something new and something exciting. And so what I did is that I took over a company called Marvel Maids, it had been around, it's been around for 34 years. At the point we acquired it, was about 10 years ago. So what we did is, we rebranded the company and took these in a high-tech principles and put it into a very low-tech business.
Alan: When you, when you took over Marvel Maids I guess, how did you keep the momentum going, new management team coming in there, you had your own ideas?
Steve: Yea that's, that's a great question and so what happened at that point was we had quite a big staff on and so I didn't want to toss out all the apples out the apple cart I wanted to leave things how they've been. You know this is a company that's been well established for over 24 years at that point, and I wanted to make sure to kind of leave it the way it was. Our customers knew Marvel Maids a certain way, our employee’s new marble mates a certain way and so I left that. I sat back, I watched, I had a great team in place of the time they came over with the transition and so I just let them do their jobs. And I sat back and said you know, what can we change to make this a better company, what's going right today and, and how can we put new processes into place to make this a best practice company?
Alan: So this is your first company that you're running?
Steve: It is, in college I did a computer consulting company. And we were out there consulting with customers helping them with their computer issues and that had been kind of a spinoff from that while I was in high school and college, actually managed a computer store. And that was a great learning a process for me; I learned a lot from the owner that business on how to run a business effectively and how to manage people and how to get great customers. And so I took that into the computer consulting business and then finally into Marble Maids.
Alan: Did you feel that your position as a new owner of Marvel Maids, and you had a group of existing employees, was ever challenge to say, why should we follow you? You’re the new kid on the block.
Steve: I actually didn't have that with my company; I came in listening, learning from my employees. That you know, I don't know everything, I never claim to know everything. I go out and I seek the best from people I know. I always want to make sure to surround myself with the best team. I always hire people that are smarter than myself, and bring that team in place. And so what I did is I just sat back and listened to all the ideas that these employees had, and said, let's do it. And I encourage them along the way.
Alan: And how often did you have to meet with the group?
Steve: And I was meeting with them on a daily basis and just listening to what they're enjoying about their job what they're not enjoying about their job. And also what they're hearing from their customers and then, most importantly, listening to those customers. You know what's going right today and what's not going right today.
Alan: So, how do you feel the business environment is today?
Alan: The business environment today is actually a lot better than it was two years ago, and you’re going to hear that from everybody you talk to. It's going well, we’re picking back up in Silicon Valley with the resurgence of high tech is going very well.
Alan: So, when you, we look at your business model, it’s basically you have a set of maids and they’re going into, how do you work that model?
Steve: Yes, so our model, when I took over the company it was jump on a bus, and go out to the customer’s houses. Use the customer’s supplies and hope that everything goes right in the meantime. Oh and by the way, the employees were there, and oh, who are these people are going out to the customer's house itself. And so, as I said, I guess we've gone through three phases in our company's history. One, is the phase when I took over and just leaving things how they are. Two, is a, back in about 2008, we change the way everything works in the company. I, we went out and bought company vehicles we rebranded the company and more importantly, we started using environmentally friendly products. Our employees are out in the customers’ homes there, out around Clorox and all these other products and we wanted to change that, and so we put environmentally friendly products in the hands. Because they’re out there smelling those fumes.
Alan: I'm visiting here today with Steve Collins; he’s the President of Marvel Maids here in the San Francisco Bay Area. Steve, we need to take a quick break, but after the break, I want to come back and talk about how you know when you have a great business idea, setting up a strategy for the future and how that gets implemented in a company? Steve: Sounds Great. Alan: We'll be right back after these messages
Alan: Welcome back, I’m visiting here today with Steve Collins. He’s the President of Marvel Maids, right here in the San Francisco Bay Area. And Steve, before the break we were talking about how you transitioned from an employee into owning your own business. So, I like to move this section though over to talk about strategy, when you're defining strategy as the CEO of the company, how do you know when you have a good idea?
Steve: Yes, Strategy is critical I think to any business and any business success. And that was one the most important components when I took over the business back in 2003, as we put a strategy in place. You know, where’s the company today and where do you want the company be tomorrow? And how do we put those pieces together, so what we did is, we put out a strategy. We actually used a one page business plan to plot that strategy. It kept things very simple, I think that's very important if you're planning a strategy is to keep things simple. If you start going crazy with these ideas having 30 page business plans and plotting out that strategy, it gets difficult to manage that business. And so what we did is, we said okay, we want to be a company that services the entire San Francisco Bay Area, we want to be a company that treats our employees well, which in turn means we’re going to treat our customers well, we want to be a kind enough company that exposes our employees to less of these chemicals that are used in cleaning companies. We want to make sure we treat people right, we want to make sure to do these background checks and credit checks and make sure that when we are putting a person in that customer’s home, that person feels secure that they can trust that person. They’re off at work, they’re busy professionals and they need to know that, that person that's in their house, they can trust them. So, as all these pieces can come together in that strategy.
Alan: So, when you’re setting your plan, how do you get that plan communicated down to your employees?
Steve: Yes, so again this comes back to making sure that we're talking to our employees on a daily basis about who we are as a company. Are we a company you can trust? And so, if our employees know that we are a company you can trust, then they communicate that out to their customers, when they arrive, they present themselves in a way that says we’re a company you can trust.
Alan: Steve, what are the most important factors you feel that cause a small business to fail?
Steve: I think it's not planning properly and poor execution. So not planning properly, again, goes back to strategy. Lf I didn't put down on paper what I’m going to do as a company, then how can we execute on it. Then the number two, is pulling a team together and executing on that strategy. So if I can’t execute on that strategy, then forget it, it’s all useless. And I think part of that component, is making sure you have great people in your network to mentor you. I am surrounded by professionals, I have a phenomenal network and I use the network to ask questions, and I also make sure that I'm connecting those people to other people my network, I think that's all part of the great picture.
Alan: So, how is starting company today different from 10 years ago?
Steve: Yes, 10 years ago was a very different environment. I think back then, we were in a recession actually, it was a very challenging business environment, that's part of the reason I actually acquire this particular business. It was more of a business to consumer business, it didn't really matter what was going on in the grander economy. Everybody needs their house clean and so that's part of the reason we took over this particular business. So, we've kind of maintained a focus on the consumer and delivering great results.
Alan: You know, when you had to rebrand the company, did you find that difficult? For the recognition of how to get your brand known to the right people?
Steve: Yes, I think that was part of how we changed our strategy too. In the beginning, 10 years ago, when I took over the company it was focused on the broad masses. Let's just service everybody, and I think that's a challenge. You can't really be one thing to everybody; you need to be one thing to a certain group. So, what we’ve done, we’ve just gone after the upscale market. So, we service everything from those mansions in Pacific Heights, the condos in downtown San Francisco.
Alan: Do you ever get into concierge services?
Steve: Sometimes our clients will ask us to do personal services for them, pick up the dry cleaning or whatever it is, and we can help our customers wherever they need help.
Alan: So Steve, if someone wanted to come use the services of Marvel Maids how do they go about that?
Steve: So they just go out to the website of MarvelMaids.com/quote.html . It'll, they can put in their information and we’ll call them back right away.
Alan: And then typically, for an ongoing customer relationship how often do they, the customers, have you go?
Steve: We have some customer’s use us on a daily basis and some go every week and some every other week and some say you know, I need every month, some say mom is coming into town or I need you every six months. And we service everything, we service the move outs, the move ins, all those. We work with the apartment associations and the condo associations.
Alan: Very good, well Steve we’ve enjoyed having you on today’s show.
Steve: Thanks again for having me on today Alan.
Alan: And so, Steve Collins the President of Marvel Maids, for more information, you can visit his website at MarvelMaids.com.
Steve: Thanks Alan
Alan: We’ll be right back after these messages.
About Steve Collins:
Steve became the President of Marvel Maids in 2003 and quickly was able to grow the company. Prior to coming Marvel Maids Steve worked in the international business community and in the software enterprise industry. He has a passion for business and entrepreneurship.