Interview with Corvus of New Orleans Regional Director and 4th Generation Resident Tommy Petagna
Tommy, can you tell us a little about Corvus of New Orleans and its background?
Tommy: Absolutely. Well, I’m actually approaching my ten-year anniversary as the Regional Director of the New Orleans region, and while that may seem like a long time, the truth is those ten years have really flown by. It has been an honor and a thrill to do my part in growing our local New Orleans franchise base and to provide commercial cleaning services to businesses here in town.
Q: Are you originally from the New Orleans area?
I was born and raised here, and I am proud to be a part of the fourth generation of my family to call New Orleans home… so to be contributing and supporting entrepreneurial growth in an area I love so dearly has been more satisfying than I can adequately express.
Q: When you started out, did you inherit a base of accounts and franchisees?
Tommy: No, we started the operation from scratch; no accounts, no franchisees, no customers. That was tough, of course, but in building the operation and empowering franchisees and servicing customers, you really gain a sense of pride in terms of what we’re trying to achieve. Plus, it has allowed our regional support team to connect in a super relevant and powerful way with our entrepreneurs and franchisees.
Q: How so?
Being a business owner is rewarding, of course, but full of hardships and obstacles. Due to the fact that we built our business from the ground up, I think we can really relate to and provide superior support to our janitorial franchisees who embark on that same journey. A way to put it might be: we’re not just talking the talk, because we’ve walked the walk.
Q: And what is it that you’re trying to achieve?
Tommy: Our goal is to add value and make the lives of our stakeholders better. That sounds trite, maybe, but if our customer facilities are clean, hygienic and vibrant, those businesses or organizations – and their employees and customers – flourish. If the environment we help facilitate benefits the individuals who are a part of that organization, we’ve made a difference and that’s really our goal. Of course, we’re nothing without our vast network of franchised cleaning operators, and it’s our mission to help those valued partners grow and prosper.
Q: That’s a unique take on commercial cleaning!
Tommy: Maybe, but if you approach what you’re doing with passion and purpose, you can always make a difference.
Q: Can you talk about some of the hardships you’ve faced?
Anyone who has founded, and operated a business knows there are almost too many obstacles to mention. But what leaps out at me is when you’re unfairly characterized. If we fail a customer or franchisee, we absolutely want to take responsibility for our role, but often times, especially in the case of a less-than-successful franchisee, blame is assigned directly to us…and even in ways that are not close to being factually accurate.
That said, those situations have been few and far between in our decade of operation, and as a rule we focus on the positive partnerships and successes we’ve enjoyed with our commercial cleaning franchisees, customers, vendors and employees.
Q: Switching gears, can you tell us how you help structure the scope of service for client office cleaning services?
Tommy: The important thing to do is to listen, question and observe. What I mean is, often clients have a sense for how often they need cleaning and what type of cleaning specifications they need or want for their facility. And of course, you need to incorporate those factors into your quote, but all too often cleaning companies and janitorial services simply take orders and generate one size fits all bids as opposed to providing a consultative approach to designing a customized workplace cleaning regime. So, in addition to incorporating the client’s needs, by observing the facility and asking questions, we’ll propose additional service specifications or, alternatively, eliminate some which in turn reduces the cost of service, saving clients money.
Q: Can you give us some examples of observations you try to make or questions you pose?
Tommy: Sure. For instance, you always want to understand the hot spots in a facility. Is there a section of the building which causes more frustration in terms of cleaning than others…which might be due to actual materials (as in floor type) or traffic patterns? Are there departments or individual work spaces that need more attention? By finding these answers and addressing those issues through work specs, we can provide a better clean and alleviate the stress the point person of the facility may have otherwise endured.
Q: What do you mean by that last comment?
Tommy: In many instances, if not all, our points of contact for cleaning services have a variety of other duties and responsibilities. If the nightly cleaning service is failing, that consumes her or his time, which detracts from their other obligations. We remind ourselves that our contact for office cleaning “die a death of a thousand cuts”, if the number of those cuts by providing a reliable, highly effective workplace clean, we’ve made that contacts job a little easier…and that really does make his or her life better.
Q: What is important for prospective office cleaning clients to know about the process of hiring a cleaning company?
Tommy: I can answer that generally and also give specifics in terms of what we at Corvus of New Orleans do. Generally, clients should make sure their service is licensed, bonded and insured. That’s just critical and often overlooked. Second, clients need to know what the quality control process is for the firm and how the company communicates with the client. In the commercial cleaning business, things can and do go wrong. It doesn’t matter what company it is because any service dependent on humans can run into problems. The key is how the service fixes the problem, and that relates to communication, follow up, and, most importantly, relationships. So, you want to understand how QC and operational oversight work. Then of course you want to make sure the cleaning company has the tools and means to provide service from skill of the franchisee to commercial grade equipment to effective solutions for the right material type. The company needs to possess the ability and resources to get the office or workspace clean.
In terms of Corvus of New Orleans, in addition to what I just described, we emphasize that the service specifications are entirely customizable and editable. By that I mean that we work with the client to make sure the cleaning specifications for the office space match their janitorial needs and their budget. One size does not fit all and ensuring that clients know we can add, delete or edit our service offering to get them to the right place is critical. Also, we can always perform additional service during times of year when a firm simply needs more attention…and then ratchet back when that need subsides. Basically, we try to do whatever is necessary for clients to meet their office cleaning needs.
Q: You refer to office cleaning, but I assume you provide janitorial services to all types of facilities, correct?
Tommy: That’s exactly right. You end up defaulting to the term office cleaning or commercial cleaning or janitorial services, but really, we provide services that clean any type of facility, during or after hours of operations. We clean industrial plants, schools, day cares, places of worship, car dealerships, medical offices, multi-tenant offices, banks, you name it. The only facility type we don’t clean, however, are residential properties.
Q: Another change of gears, you mentioned that you are nothing without your Franchisees. Can you elaborate?
Tommy: Absolutely. Corvus uses a franchise model, so customers receive cleaning from any one of our extensive networks of small, owner operator franchise cleaning companies. Folks come to us to help them start, develop and grow their own small businesses; with our help, support and resources, of course. And, yes, we really exist to serve our franchisees and to help them succeed. That’s what I meant. I know we have one of the most outstanding and capable roster of franchisees in the industry. Of course, I am biased! But for ten years, I’ve watched the entrepreneurial spirit take hold and work here in New Orleans. Franchisees like Denice Lee, Latrice Dillion and Vernell Briscoe blow me away with their discipline, fortitude and vision… just to name a few. Yes, our franchisees are simply the heart and soul of our operation, and frankly, inspiring to our team…by the way, to be clear, those are three out of scores of other outstanding entrepreneurs which make up Corvus of New Orleans.
Corvus of New Orleans
2332 Severn Avenue
Metaire, LA 70001