by Vivian Henoch

Given their professional skills and community leadership in business and HR, Lisa and Jared Rothberger are well suited to running their business together. Emphasizing that “Jared is the entrepreneur, CEO and Chief Dreamer. Jan-Pro is his baby,” Lisa modestly adds, “I am the company pragmatist, the HR Director and Chief Executive Mom: here for support.”

JanPro
Lisa and Jared Rothberger at Jan-Pro Detroit

Married 12 years, Lisa and Jared describe themselves as products of Jewish Detroit – a couple deeply rooted in the community.  Jared grew up at Hillel Day School, Tamarack Camps and BBYO. As Board President of BBYO (2016-2018), he became one of the youngest Federation Board Chairs. A past Board Member of the JCC, Jared currently serves on the Board of Temple Beth El. Active with Temple Beth El through high school, Lisa discovered her passion for community service, specifically in the field of Human Resources, while earning her MBA in Business Management at DeVry University. In 2006, she started her professional career in HR at JARC where she met Jared, an MSU graduate with a degree in Family Community Services, working his way up through frontline service roles.

While Lisa remained at JARC to hone her people skills as Chief Administrative Officer, Jared would move on – first to BBYO as Program Director in 2008, then working in the insurance business with Lisa’s father. In business, Jared would find himself drawn increasingly to community leadership roles and to mentors that would awaken in him the desire to start a business of his own in partnership with Bryan Lubaway, a fraternity brother at MSU.   

Working with a franchise broker, and meticulously doing their homework, Bryan and Jared learned about Jan-Pro, a fast-growing national franchise; they agreed that the company would be the right fit  for their complementary business skills.

“Running a janitorial service was the last thing we ever imagined for our future” said Jared. “But much to our surprise, the Jan-Pro franchise model matched our priorities.” With a rock-solid business proposal in hand, they applied and received financing through Hebrew Free Loan’s Marvin I. Danto Small Business Loan Program.” 

From its start-up in 2015 to its astonishing record of success now in its sixth year, Jan-Pro Detroit continues to create new jobs. In 2019, Jared became sole owner of the enterprise, buying out his partnership with Bryan. The two remain close friends as Bryan purchased the Jan-Pro market in Chattanooga, TN, where he now lives. Here in metro Detroit, Jared and Lisa have ramped up their commercial cleaning regimens for Covid and opened their supply chain to the community in their new company, Jan-Supply Detroit. Additionally, as a service to the community, Jan-Pro Detroit has provided hundreds of free EnviroShield sprays to police, fire and EMS vehicles, in Oakland and Wayne Counties.  “We grew up here, we’re raising our family here, and growing our businesses here: we’re here to help.”

Jan-Pro Detroit has provided hundreds of free EnviroShield sprays to police, fire and EMS vehicles, in Oakland and Wayne Counties.

In conversation with “Jan-Pros” Jared and Lisa Rothberger

On family life and running a hands-on business

myJewishDetroit:  As you wish, please share a snapshot of your family.

Lisa: We have two boys: Milo, 9, and Levi, 7, doing their best under the strange circumstances of their virtual and hybrid classes at Pierce Elementary School.  

Jared: Milo is our great negotiator – “smart as a whip,” and sometimes “too smart” for his own good.  (I only wish I had his gift.)

Lisa: Levi is our chef in the making – our adorable little peanut who takes after me and loves to cook.  He’s got his own Instagram handle, “@ChefLevi”

Jared: Lisa is also into baking and had her own domestic baking business, best known for her brownies, blondies, and incredible hamantaschen.   

Lisa: Like every family this year, sheltering at home presented its individual challenges – and opportunities. Our business is non-stop, and we are fortunate to have a fantastic team – people who never quit. While Jared is in the Southfield office every day, I work mostly from home and come into the office only as needed. We have been busy recruiting – and have created eight new staff positions during the pandemic. On the home front, we are a close-knit family with plenty of support nearby. My mom and two sisters and Jared’s mom live within a few miles from our home in Birmingham. My father lived with us for a long period of time last year as well.

Jared: While juggling our home life and work has been challenging, I can say with pride that this year has been one of extreme personal and professional growth. We’ve been tested at every turn, going non-stop since March, disinfecting Covid outbreaks, cleaning medical facilities, spraying first responder vehicles and providing much needed PPE to individuals and businesses, as well as the State of Michigan.  We have a staff that has been with us every step of the way, working nights and weekends, doing whatever was needed to support our 175+ franchise owners, their crews and our community.

On career decisions, partnerships and leaps of faith

myJewishDetroit: What were the factors that drew you to the Jan-Pro franchise? 

J:  First, the timing was right. My good friend, Bryan Lubaway, and I were at similar points in our careers, and had similar ambitions to start a partnership in business.  Bryan was managing Yoga Shelter at the time – and though I loved working with my father-in-law at Korotkin Insurance Group, I knew that I was never going to be running that business. 

When Bryan and I started investigating opportunities, we consulted with Richard Simtob who specializes in expanding businesses through franchise development. He pointed us in the direction of a broker, who presented us with a short list of companies to research. On the bottom of that list, there was Jan-Pro – franchising and janitorial services which we knew nothing about. But the more we learned about the people, the financials, and the nature of the business, the more we became confident that Jan-Pro fit our goals: first, to support our families, second, to accommodate our different skill sets and approach to business, and third, to provide services to help people.   

myJewishDetroit: Jan-Pro Detroit has a remarkable track record in retaining staff and franchise owners. What’s your secret?  How do you motivate your people?

J: There’s a quote by Richard Branson, “Clients do not come first.  Employees come first.  If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” We believe in the simple principle that when we take care of our employees, they will treat the business as if it were their own.  

All masked-up: the Rothberger family all set and ready to go.

Those aren’t just empty words. The pandemic has proven the point. It’s standard in most businesses to expect roughly 30% turnover in any given year.  From November 2019 to January 2021, we lost no employees and hired eight. Our secret sauce? I would say it’s our people – our culture of trust and gratitude for each relationship with our staff, our franchise owners and our customers.

This may sound funny, but we have a “No A-Holes Allowed” policy – a practice in business that has proven to be a big boost for us. We want to work with good people, and in turn, good people tend to want work with us. We try to be humble, honest, and to learn from our mistakes.  We run a company that knows what it means to “be a mensch.”

L: I believe our instincts in business draw upon our experience in community work. We’re not in a high-pressure work environment. We are in business to provide a service to our community, and it shows in our mutual respect for one another. And we celebrate that in every victory, small and large. 

J: As we look at our numbers this year, we are blown away. To date, we have about 175 certified business owners who own their own cleaning and disinfecting franchises. We also have 22 on staff in the office to consult and support those business owners, and we are still recruiting for a few more new positions. And when you talk about the scale, collectively those franchise owners have 300-400 employees of their own – All together, we have a total impact and Jan-Pro Detroit footprint in metro Detroit representing about 500 people who rely on Jan-Pro for a check every month.   

On networking and mentoring with Hebrew Free Loan

myJewishDetroit: Jared, you have become one of HFL’s “All Stars.” Looking back on your journey with Hebrew Free Loan, please share how “two guys with nothing but a dream and drive to build a business: (your words on a Facebook post, dated 2016) secured your HFL interest-free financing.

J: First, I can’t say enough about HFL Director, David Contorer! I first met him through Federation’s Entrée Program, a series geared to introduce the NEXTGen tier of community leaders to the work of our agencies. It was not yet in my mindset to start a company, but the night I heard David’s presentation, I decided to follow up with him and meet for coffee. I’ll never forget our conversation – as it laid the groundwork for the biggest decision I’ve ever made in my career.     

What HFL does is nothing short of incredible for qualifying entrepreneurs with the goal to start-up or expand their business. You can have all the drive and passion in the world, but if you can’t get past the obstacle of financing your plan, Hebrew Free Loan can help. It’s their mission to make the difference and to see Jewish businesses succeed. For them, it’s a mensch-to-mensch investment, based on trust that every loan is paid back. They look for that strength of purpose and character in every applicant.

As David describes, the final round in the application process is “like Shark Tank” around a Seder table. You sit down with four or five seasoned business members of the community asking you question after question, testing your knowledge, poking holes and tearing your business plan apart. Bryan and I worked hard on the presentation; we prepared answers for everything we thought they might ask, and for the questions we couldn’t answer, we had good reasons why. 

That night, after the presentation, I remember standing in my family room and getting The Call: David had promised a quick turnaround with the committee’s answer, and it was thrilling to hear him say, “Jared, here’s what we’re going to do, we’re going to give you the $90,000 you requested. It’s a large amount, so all we ask of you is to get one more co-signer. And one more thing: we are going to provide you with a mentor, as part of the package.”  David then added that we had given the most prepared presentation he had seen in all his years. That one compliment still resonates with me today.

myJewishDetroit: What advice do you have for anyone starting up a business today?

J: Call Hebrew Free Loan! Don’t hesitate to use community resources. Find a mentor – someone who has been there before, who has faced similar challenges – someone you can trust for an honest opinion. And maintain that relationship; a mentor is one of the most valuable assets any business can have when that random issue pops up and you need to bounce ideas around.  

myJewishDetroit: Who are the people you consider to be your mentors?

J: I have been extremely fortunate to have my wife, who is my go-to for my more outlandish ideas. I know that if I can convince her, it might not be terrible. I can still always count on my good friend and former partner, Bryan Lubaway.

And I couldn’t ask for three more genuine mentors than Richard Simtob (Simtob Management & Investment), Geoff Kretchmer (Star Trax, Detroit Axe, The Corner Grill Bar, and Gameroom) and Jon Dwoskin (Business Coach, The Jon Dwoskin Experience). Jon was in real estate when he was originally assigned to mentor Bryan and me by HFL. He has since launched his own company and I have had the honor of being on his podcast multiple times. In any situation, I can always ask myself “how would they handle this?” and find a path forward.

On essential work, navigating the unknown during Covid

myJewishDetroit: How has your business survived – and thrived – since the outbreak of Covid?

J: No one saw this coming . . . and who prepares for business to change literally overnight. But essentially that’s what happened. We had been cleaning schools, yoga studios, fitness centers and office suites and, suddenly, we were called in as consultants and experts in hospital-grade cleaning and disinfecting with electrostatic sprayers and foggers – all services Jan-Pro had been routinely providing since our start-up in 2015. We had the equipment, the chemicals and the capability set and ready to go. We also had the advantage of extremely competitive pricing. Where some competitors were price gouging at 20, 30, 40 cents a square foot to spray, we were charging roughly four to ten cents a square foot, depending on size of the facility. 

Like other businesses, we were a recipient of the PPP loan. I applied for a small amount, and that bridge saved us. Otherwise, I don’t know how I would have made our payout in April or May to all our franchise owners and employees. Initially, that was my biggest worry. Because at the end of the day, everyone needs to be paid; you miss one payout, and you lose all the trust. Thankfully, we have been able to pivot and bounce back, offering our services at competitive prices.

At the height of the pandemic, as an expression of thanks to the first responders in our community, we offered free sprays to police, fire and EMS vehicles. We were vetted by Homeland Security and approved to send out our crews. I am thrilled to say that my 8-year-old self would be so proud of me! I got to live out my childhood dream – During the pandemic I got to drive a police car, an ambulance, and a fire squad truck.  

Here to help: Jan-Pro Detroit has provided free EnviroShield sprays to emergency vehicles in Oakland and Wayne Counties.

myJewishDetroit: In a year that’s tested you at every turn, what lessons have you learned?

J: Excuse the expression, but it is not very often that a cleaning company gets an opportunity to shine. We have learned that we are experts in providing services that our community has come to value. When l look back at what we have accomplished – and see how our numbers reflect all our hard work, I feel that we have proven our worth. 

Seriously, for most cleaning companies, no news is good news.  If your customers don’t call, it means they are fine with the service. Before Covid, no one cared to talk to the cleaning people. Today?  Everyone wants to talk to us first, to understand our process, to know whether we are doing things the right way. Cleaning was a commodity service – with no barrier into the business. The mom-and-pop companies just going into Home Depot for supplies and calling themselves a janitorial company can’t show the credibility we can show.  And pricing is no longer the driving factor. We’ve gone from a commodity service where customers just cycle through companies to a trusted brand people recognize as quality and expertise.

At Jan-Pro Detroit, our cleaning and disinfecting franchise owners use hospital-grade disinfectants, they use commercial equipment, they come in with branded processes, they follow OSHA guidelines, they are insured, bonded, and if they break something, they fix it. Our credentials and standards make all a difference. And we have grown our business because we make it our business to deliver all that we promise.

Jan-Pro Supplies: a pipeline to masks, cleaning products and equipment in hot demand

On giving back

myJewishDetroit: Reflecting on all the highpoints and lows, all the challenges and opportunities you and Lisa have had this past year, what are some of the things that make you most proud?

 J: I probably have a hundred answers for that question. Covid has put us to the test, but also been our proving ground on all the things we can accomplish when we follow the principle that our employees come first.  The fact that Lisa and I set out as sole owners of Jan-Pro, then launched our new company, Jan-Supply, the fact that we set stretch goals for our employees to reach for the stars in every department and they set record numbers for the year, the fact that we have had zero employee turnover under the hardest workplace circumstances imaginable, the fact that we trust and respect one another – all of that calls for celebration, so we are doing something huge for our employees this summer in recognition of their outstanding accomplishments. 

And since you asked, here are just a more highlights/thank you’s of our year:

  • Thank you to our first responders and for allowing us to help keep them safe.  Our ability to give back to the first responders in our community – by sending our crews out to Decon spray their vehicles. 
  • Keeping our staff safe in their workplace, thanks to Lisa’s part in getting our staff, franchise owners, and their employees vaccinated.  We are very thankful to Representative Haley Stevens who helped coordinate with Governor Whitmer’s office to place our cleaning staff in the classification of 1b Frontline Essential Workers.  And kudos again to Lisa for working her magic day and night through her channels in health facilities to schedule appointments for our staff.
  • Our cleaning products, masks and other supplies were in hot demand, thanks to the Jewish Moms of Metro Detroit Facebook page. Got Purell? For next shipments of products in hot demand at whole sales prices from Jan-Pro Supply.  Email Seth.Gorback@Jan-Pro.com
  • Thank you to the Jewish organizations including Kadima, JARC, Yad Ezra, Temple Beth El, Beth Ahm, Temple Israel, Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, Hillel Day School, MSU Hillel, Tamarack, ORT, BBYO, Jewish Senior Life, Jewish Family Services, Jewish Vocational Services, Sigma Delta Tau, and others for using our services and or supporting us during these troubling times.  We are committed to returning the favor.