Tragedy Fueled Army Veteran With Valuable Lessons in Leadership

I joined the U.S. Army in 1986, being stationed everywhere from Fort Benning, GA to the coasts of Honduras. It was through these experiences that I gained valuable lessons in leadership, determination, and teamwork, which have also served as my foundation as an entrepreneur. As I transitioned from the armed forces, I became a franchise owner of Chem-Dry, the world’s largest carpet and upholstery cleaning franchise system, and have grown my business to seven territories. During my time in the military and as a small business owner, one thing has remained constant – I owe much of my success to the support of my team.

The road to success is a truly humbling experience. Both in the military and as an entrepreneur, I’ve faced adversity and countless obstacles that could only be overcome with the efforts of a strong support team.

For 12 years, my business was growing and flourishing until I was faced with a tragic accident involving a close friend and business partner. What was initially a competitive situation evolved into a partnership, and I found it rewarding to work alongside someone who pushed me to be better. Unfortunately, he passed away shortly after we began our partnership. Six weeks after his passing, I was rushed to the hospital after having a life-threatening accident myself. The recovery process kept me away from my work for over a year. While I was facing the toughest adversity, everyone around me came together to keep the business running. Colleagues, family, even long-term friends did whatever they could to help out.

As business owners – and especially in the Chem-Dry network where there is a close-knit family culture – we provide guidance and support to those around us without any expectation of reciprocation. Having this supportive network aid in my recovery was one of the most humbling and yet inspirational experiences of my life. I cannot express enough how essential it is to build these deeply rooted relationships to grow a strong support team.

This obligation and spirit of support was instilled in me and was part of my identity before the accident and even before I opened my first Chem-Dry. It was formed during my time as a young Infantry Platoon Leader and during the training and schools I attended like Ranger school. The trials one endures as an Infantry officer and at Ranger school were significant. The physical and mental stress each and every one of us experienced made it impossible for an individual to function at 100 percent. But more than that, how we were reviewed put us under even greater pressure. This was because as Rangers, we as squad-mates would evaluate each other. A trainee who was marked below average by their squad would be transferred to another squad, and a second review with poor marks would result in dismissal.

When our squad was first given the outlines for how this training worked, we had two options: compete against each other and only let the strongest survive, or work together to ensure that we would all got through training together. We chose the latter, committing to each other that none of us would let anyone in the squad fail. We did this by providing motivation and advice and even physically carrying one another if and when it came to that. For those long months, everyone in our squad had each other’s backs – literally.

These leadership and teamwork skills strengthened my character and helped me build wonderful relationships that have carried me through my darkest moments and greatest successes. Being put in a position of leadership –whether it is in the military or in business – will make you a more empathetic person as you work with a team to reach your desired goals.

Franchising is a great opportunity for veterans because you become part of a unit that wants you to succeed and will help you get there. Under a strong organization like Chem-Dry, you are connected to a network of people who will provide training, ongoing consultation and support, and will share best practices to help you establish and grow your business. Because whether you are operating a business or working as a military unit, there is no shame in leaning on others for support. In fact, building a strong team is one of the most critical and rewarding aspects of being a successful business owner.

That certainly is true with my wife and business partner Ashley and the rest of our outstanding team. And that’s one of the things I love about franchising – as we often say, “you’re in business for yourself, but not by yourself.”

Dan Quinlan is the owner of Chem-Dry Express, and has been serving residents and business owners of the Central New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania areas for more than twenty years. Prior to working with Chem-Dry, Dan graduated from Minnesota State University and the ROTC program as a commissioned officer in 1986. Dan served for three years in the national guard and later as a ranger for the 101st airborne division. After active duty, Dan served as a reservist while also working as a sales representative for Gulf Oil. He resigned from Gulf Oil after two years before deciding to invest in Chem-Dry, the world’s leading carpet and upholstery cleaning service.

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