The 2017 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year season is underway, and on Thursday, Cincinnati will honor about 30 Ohio Valley Region finalists for their innovation, financial performance and commitment to their businesses and communities.
Now in its 31st year, the EY Entrepreneur of the Year is considered to be the world’s most prestigious business awards program for entrepreneurs, and it has grown to reach 25 U.S. cities and more than 60 countries around the globe. Regional winners are eligible for the Entrepreneur of the Year national program, which convenes Nov. 18 in Palm Springs, with a winner then selected to compete for World Entrepreneur of the Year in June 2018.
Nine of this year’s Ohio Valley Region finalists are making a difference right here in Cincinnati. Soapbox sat down with one of those nine — Mary Miller of JANCOA Janitorial Services — to discuss the honor and to learn more about how she’s changing the landscape of her business and of the community.
How do envision yourself and your role at JANCOA?
Being a family business, I wear many hats: CEO, wife, mother, mother-in-law, sister-in-law and chief Dream Manager! I have the best role in the company.
I get to let everyone know just how great our team is and create more opportunity for them and their families. I love each one and look for ways everyday to make the lives of our 600+ team members, their families and the community better for all the tomorrows to come. JANCOA has become an international example of what businesses can do to be successful and care about the people that make that happen.
Once I heard that Warren Buffet said the most important job a CEO has is to be the cheerleader for their team members — that was when I knew I was in the right job.
What is a Dream Manager, and how did the idea come about?
In the late '90s, JANCOA was an average “mom-and-pop” cleaning company with the average turnover of team members at about 400 percent. We decided (after being fired by a consultant) to stop being average and decided to become “the best in the world” at taking care of our people so they can take care of our customers. We used our entrepreneurial spirit to try a lot of ways that had never been tested previously, including creating our own transportation system to get employees to work. The program has evolved into an international model that changes the culture of the company, and that creates results of quality of service, retention of team members, employee engagement and profitability.
By nature we are a service business cleaning up after other people. Our work, though, is helping people build the courage to overcome obstacles and reach for their dreams of a bigger future. This is a model people can connect with and frequently believe is too good to be true. The best selling book The Dream Manager by Matthew Kelly has popularized the programs we began years ago to build a business of value, and today we are focused on creating value for the people we work with everyday.
What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs wanting to make a difference?
There are a lot of resources available to entrepreneurs with best practices in many areas of business. I believe the true value entrepreneurs create is when they look at these practices and add their unique talent and natural gift to the mixture. This is when we are being true to ourselves and to the world. Trying to be what others tell us to be will always miss the mark of possibility. Being true to what we are made to be will create the difference the world is craving to receive and believe.
How does it feel to be selected for the EY Entrepreneur of the Year program?
The EYEOY feels like the Oscars for entrepreneurs. I have been aware of the award for more than 20 years but never really put that down as something within my grasp. I think entrepreneurs have a drive within that pushes us constantly to make things better (in our business and everything we see), and being recognized by EYEOY builds a sense of confidence that I have done some things right and gives me energy to keep moving forward and go after those ideas I have that no one else seems to understand.
I would like to believe that seeing me recognized by EYEOY will encourage many other entrepreneurs to trust what they know to be true, without any proof, and go after the big opportunities even when no one understands what they are trying to do.
Click here to see the other Ohio Valley Region finalists.
Thursday's awards gala will be held at the Hyatt Regency Cincinnati, 151 W. Fifth St., downtown.