As a first-time business owner, Russ Harlow quickly learned to embrace the challenges and responsibilities that comes with operating a business when he purchased an AdvantaClean franchise in Connecticut earlier this year.
“I had been working 60 hours a week and I was miserable, but now I’m working 90-100 hours a week and I’m loving life,” said Harlow. “If something doesn’t go right, it is on me and I don’t mind taking that pressure. I love it!”
Traits such as responsibility, leadership and teamwork are qualities Harlow acquired as a member of the United States Army Reserve, where he spent six years as a chaplain’s assistant. In that role, he helped with religious services, provided security for the chaplain’s team and offered support and assistance for other members of the unit. Harlow said the opportunity to serve his country was a lifelong goal and his experience in the reserves changed his life.
“Being in the military taught me about chain of command and how to deal with things appropriately and professionally. There are too many people now who don’t take responsibility for their actions and don’t seek responsibility. I think having that mentality and a newfound respect for authority gave me a leg up on my peers.”
Two decades later, Harlow relies on those same qualities as the owner of a franchise specializing in indoor air quality and mold remediation. He cites some of the experiences he learned in the military such as being a team leader, knowing how to motivate others and being able to execute a plan as key traits to being a successful business owner.
Harlow held several jobs throughout his career but found his real calling when he looked into franchising with AdvantaClean.
“I liked the idea that the type of work we are doing is helping people. When I started the process, I didn’t realize how important it was for me to help others. What we do with mold remediation and indoor air quality is really helping people, whether it is fixing a disaster in their home or addressing air that is making them sick. Yes, we are running a business, but at the end of the day, we are helping people take back their homes, and that made a huge difference to me. Between that and a corporate culture that prioritizes community, respect, excellence and customer service, it was a no-brainer for me.”
Although Harlow did not have any experience in the light environmental services that AdvantaClean provides, he was attracted to its successful business model and felt confident in his ability to grow the franchise. He also feels franchise ownership is an excellent opportunity for other veterans looking to establish a new career.
“With franchising, you are working with a team within a corporate environment, but you still have the freedom to make business decisions. You learned team-building skills and the ability to lead others and execute plans. That is why franchises love veterans because we know how to follow orders. In franchising, it is important to understand it is done a certain way for a reason. Veterans get that, and a lot of us understand the process and can execute how to do it. When you come out the military, franchising is a great opportunity because the process is very much the same as what we have already experienced.”