Patricia Claybrook’s job as a pharmaceutical rep took her to numerous doctors’ offices in the region.
“I had great relationships with the doctors, and they were always complaining about their offices being dirty,” she recalls. “I heard that for years.”
The idea for her own business was born.
“I always knew I wanted to own my own business, so I started doing homework on cleaning companies and what it takes to get started,” Claybrook says.
“It doesn’t take a lot.”
Jidan Cleaning, a commercial cleaning company based in Medford, was launched in 2005 as a side venture. Five years later, Claybrook realized she had to go all in.
“I knew my business wouldn’t get to where I wanted it to be unless I gave it my full attention,” she notes. “That’s when things really got started.”
Claybrook now has about 50 clients — office buildings as well as medical offices — in South Jersey and Philadelphia. She employs 55 workers, and while she won’t divulge annual revenue, she says business had doubled each of the last three years.
The Trinidad native was named a 2014 Minority Business Leader by the Philadelphia Business Journal, and in 2012 earned a Small Business Growth Success Award from the New Jersey Small Business Development Centers.
Claybrook also is a graduate of the 10,000 Small Businesses program sponsored by Goldman Sachs. The initiative provides small companies assistance that ranges from business and management education, to mentoring and access to capital and business support services.
What do you think is the key to your success?
Building relationships. And that’s the same with any business or anybody. It’s not what you know, but who you know or who knows you.
It’s about creating brand awareness and follow-up and being consistent. I do a lot of networking. I plant the seed and then I stay in touch. I’m not pushy, but I let you know about our brand, and then when you need a cleaning company you’ll think of us.
Plus, of course, hard work. I love what I do, but I never worked harder.
Did the Goldman Sachs program help?
That was awesome. I graduated from the first class they held. It’s all about how to run and grow a business. I came out of there with a five-year growth plan and I’ve been putting those things into place.
Another big help were the folks at the small business development center at Rutgers University-Camden. I still keep in touch with Gary Rago, Robert Palumbo and Clarence Williams, who is now the director.
They helped me put it all together in the beginning — what to charge, insurances I needed, a business and marketing plan. They’re terrific.
Jidan? Where did the name come from?
That was my dad’s idea. My daughters are named Jillian and Danielle. My dad helps with the business, especially with the training of our team members. He’s also my fixer. If I have an account with some issues, I send him out to deal with them. (laughs)
What’s the hardest part of the job?
Finding and keeping good people. We’ve gotten better at it, but it’s something we have to constantly work at. A high turnover rate is the nature of the business.
We try to focus on those types of people who already have a full-time job and want to supplement their income. They tend to be more responsible and professional. And we try to work on a culture, because I tell them, I know when you were growing up you didn’t say you wanted to clean toilets.
So we try to teach them the value of the service to the bottom line of the business we’re working for. We help them feel proud about what they do. And we have quarterly team building get-togethers. We send out birthday cards. Without them, I wouldn’t have a business.
Running your own business is time consuming. What do you do to relax?
I’m always thinking about the business, but my husband and I find a balance. We’re empty nesters now, so we try to do something together at least once a week. We like to go out to nice restaurants.
And we travel once a quarter. It’s a way to recharge my batteries.
What’s next on the horizon?
First, I want to hire someone to handle business development. Then we want to after-government contracts. And we’re aligning ourselves with a couple of key facility management companies to contract us.
I want to be a multimillion dollar company by 2017.