“Whenever an opportunity came to me I always seemed to be more willing to jump into it than shy away from it,” says Steve Peterson, COIT franchise owner. From humble beginnings with his father’s dry cleaning business to running a COIT franchise regime expanding the entire state of Colorado, Peterson is more than pleased to be where he is today.
However, Peterson’s interests did not always lay in the cleaning industry. Before being introduced to the COIT concept he was more interested in numbers and equations than he was customer service, which is why he studied Business Finance and Marketing at Colorado State University. Upon graduating with a major in the field, the savvy young Peterson began working for Johns Manville Corporations, a national sales organization for building materials. Employed with the finance department, Peterson quickly discovered that his motivation was fueled by being involved in running a small business versus parts of a large corporation. “I had a passion to see the whole picture and to be involved in the growth of the whole organization, and that was impossible to do with working in a department of a large national company,” he says.
Peterson’s involvement with COIT began in 1978. At the time Norman Peterson, Steve’s father, owned and operated a small dry cleaning company. Interested in extending his services to include drapery cleaning but not a clue on how to go about the task, he began investigating the process and equipment required. Then, while flipping through the pages of a trade magazine one afternoon, he stumbled upon an ad offering training and courses in drapery cleaning. The business offering the course was in fact COIT. Attending the workshops he was introduced to the possibility of owning his own COIT franchise. Following up on the option, this is when Norman, a soon to be retiree, invited his son to come aboard and help grow the business.
Buying their first COIT franchise, Peterson agreed to join in his father’s endeavor and attended the Discovery Day and comprehensive two-week training program offered in San Francisco, CA. “For the most part the training involved learning all the COIT lingo and their way of doing things,” Peterson says. “I learned about the personnel of the business, the technicians, their processes of running daily routes, how it all tied into the computer software and how to use the software. I also learned about their daily and weekly reporting and how to interpret the information so to utilize it efficiently in our operations.”
Adding the ten lines of cleaning services COIT offers to the small dry cleaning shop, today the Peterson’s original store poses as a production shop for all drapery and area rug cleaning facilities. All previous existing offices including the account and management team have relocated to a much larger building two blocks away. Purchasing a third building to act as their material warehouse for the brand’s restoration services and vehicle parking, “When I came aboard we had three vehicles, now we have around 85 vehicles,” Peterson says, emphasizing their incredible growth over the years.
Peterson has since grown the company from the original single unit to acquire the entire state of Colorado, the major hubs being Colorado Springs, the Denver metro area, Boulder and Fort Collins. With the entire territory under his jurisdiction, COIT allows Peterson to select his own site locations based on population centers of his choice. Corporate then assists in the set up of computer systems and communication networks.
Having made the switch from the finance world into COIT cleaning, Peterson says that while his decision was partially based on his father’s proposition, the other selling point was his drive for a challenge. “I saw that something could be taken from its infantile stage and turned into something much bigger by following the processes correctly and doing the regimented follow through,” Peterson explains. “All that motivated me incredibly and I had quite a bit of energy in that direction.”
Today COIT is the nations largest and most experienced cleaning company with over 60 years of practice through its corporate and franchise locations. Specializing in carpet cleaning, upholstery, drapery, tile and grout, air ducts, wood floors and natural stone services, as well as a 24-hour emergency restoration service, COIT provides its franchisees with the company’s proprietary software system to assist in ongoing training, as well as access to their strong support team, which Peterson notes, are “very pro-active.” Additional training and support is also available from the primary training center in San Francisco to all COIT franchisees and their employees. “There is an open avenue of opportunity in all the different departments of COIT to either go back personally for additional training, or to send specific personal for specified training,” Peterson explains, noting that every facet of the company has it’s own extensive training process.
Peterson’s franchise locations currently employ 120 individuals to service around 30,000 customers a year. The most popular service Peterson’s franchises perform is carpet cleaning, with air duct cleaning following closely behind. “The success we’ve had as a franchise in Colorado has been extremely rewarding and personally gratifying for the goals I’ve had in my life to grow a business,” Peterson says, adding the relationships he has established over the years with the COIT management team and long term employees has also been pleasing. Attending two annual COIT conventions a year, here franchisees have the opportunity to come together, interact and learn new practices from each other. “Seeing the organization grow personally in the lives of my employees makes me feel good about belong to the team,” he says.
Quick to recommend the COIT business model to anyone interested in joining the industry, Peterson says COIT has a very strong, reliable way of doing things with top-notch customer service as their priority. “If someone wants to get into a business were they know that through customer service they will be successful and grow, then COIT has a great systematic process for maximizing by performing in such a manner,” he says. Well versed in the industry, the most important advice Peterson has for those intending to join a franchise is this: “You can be successful only to the extent you’re willing to invest yourself into the company, learn the procedures, and adopt the system, and stick with it!”
Carrying on his father’s legacy with a solid management team in place, Peterson has plenty more free time now than when starting with the company, yet he still chooses to remain actively involved on a daily basis. “I still get a lot of enthusiasm out of coaching and mentoring the team,” he says adding, “Quite often it’s a challenge keeping up with my bright associates, but that’s the best challenge I could ask for.” When Peterson isn’t working there are three notable activities he enjoys: golfing, playing classical guitar, and riding his motorcycle. Otherwise Peterson can be found spending time with his wife Janie, daughter Megan, son in-law Taylor, and two young grandchildren, Benjamin and Belle. “I love what I do, and I love the gratification I feel as a member of the COIT team, they really have become my second family.”
For more information:
Phone: Pat Saign, 800-243-8797 X108.