Jonathan Barnett launched Oxi Fresh Carpet Cleaning as a way to support his true passions in life. But he found that supporting his employees is his greatest achievement.
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When Jonathan Barnett launched Oxi Fresh Carpet Cleaning in 2006, at the age of 26, he had one goal in mind: Make enough money to be able to explore his true passions — which, truth be told, did not include carpet cleaning. (He was more of a basketball kind of guy.) Still, he took his new business seriously. He knew he’d entered a crowded marketplace, so to differentiate himself, he enlisted chemists to help him develop a cleaning system with a one-hour drying time that uses just two gallons of water per home. That was a big improvement over the industry standard of 40 to 60 gallons. Customers came calling — and so did franchising. Today he has nearly 400 Oxi Fresh franchisees, and he understands if carpet cleaning isn’t their lifelong dream. But he’s found a passion in supporting his owners … and in turn, he believes he can help them build a business they’re passionate about, too.
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You started this company as a way to fund your true passion. What was that?
International outreach through basketball. I’d played in college, and I went on to launch an organization called Crossover International. We’d bring American basketball players to other countries to play against teams of young people and talk about the Bible. For the 10 years Crossover was active, my carpet-cleaning business was a way to fund that passion. And a lot of the basketball players who participated in Crossover ended up as some of my first franchisees.
I bet you felt especially invested in those franchisees’ success. How have you continued to support them?
One thing that separates us big-time is our “protected territories.” Each franchisee is assigned to 110,000 households, so when a customer calls in, their address tells us which franchisee’s territory they live in. The fact that our franchisees aren’t competing for the same customers makes them want to share what’s working, and that gives us a huge advantage at our annual conference. We put the most successful franchisees onstage to talk about what they’re doing, and I get to listen and learn from them. It’s like a big family, and this model is one reason we’re growing so fast.
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What services have you built to help your franchisees?
Imagine you’re cleaning carpet and a customer calls your cellphone to book an appointment. You’d have to tell your current customer to hold on, then answer the phone and try to schedule another job while trying to focus on your current one. Our call center is at the heart of the Oxi Fresh business: We answer the phones for all our franchisees across the country so they can prioritize working on their businesses. It also allows them to scale, to let go in order to grow.
Back when you first launched, was it challenging to put a new spin on a traditional service?
There were about four different methods of cleaning at the time, and I tried to combine them. But I’m not a chemist. When you mix these methods, it sometimes doesn’t work. So I met with a few different chemists who could help me. My grandpa always taught me to operate as if you have the green light until you get the red light; never wait until something’s perfect. So I didn’t actually have a perfect system when we launched. I had to hear a lot of complaints. But the key was being willing to change and adapt. And now, at this point in the game, my job as the franchisor is to listen to the franchisees.