Sons’ new ideas for ServiceMaster rocked Dad’s boat
The Talarico family of Anthony, Frank Sr. and Frank Jr. welcome new ideas as they grow their ServiceMaster franchise.
Using technology effectively can take a franchise to the next level, as can new ideas for managing the business. But when those things come from your children, it’s not always as simple as just saying yes.
ServiceMaster TBS franchisee Frank Talarico Sr. found that out first hand when he brought his two sons into a business he’d been running for more than 30 years.
“A huge thing for me was relinquishing power and authority,” says Frank Sr., who started Bellmawr, New Jersey-based Talarico Building Services in 1978 and joined the ServiceMaster Clean franchise system in 1990. “It took a little bit of time to realize that how I did business was predicated on what it was like 10, 15 years ago.”
The implementation of new technologies—including a website and blog incorporating video and before-and-after examples of ServiceMaster TBS’ work—was a key focus for Frank Jr. when he joined the business after graduating from LaSalle University, as was getting his father to recognize the value of those investments.
“Men aren’t the best communicators to begin with some of the time,” says Frank Jr., recalling his start with the company more than 10 years ago. “We’ve all got strong egos and it took some time to gain that trust … we have to hold ourselves accountable.”
That accountability is essential if the next generation hopes to be successful, notes Mary Daugherty, a professor in the Opus College of Business at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. “Ultimately, if the business is going to succeed, family members need to take charge of growth,” she says.
Saying and doing that are two different things, Daugherty continues, and it often comes down to the parents’ willingness to let their kids assume additional responsibilities.
Frank Sr. says in the beginning he wasn’t sure of his sons’ leadership abilities and admits to questioning their judgment—particularly when it came to son Anthony’s assessment of other employees.
The younger Talarico, who left a managerial position with Target in 2008 to join his father and brother, brought with him a more systematic mindset and new processes to drive growth that involved identifying supervisors who weren’t the right people for those positions.
“It was hard to hear about employees that had been loyal to me for years but he’s saying are problematic and maybe not the right fit,” explains Frank Sr.
“He did things a certain way for so long, so it took some time for him to get used to us making decisions,” says Anthony. Knowing his father might be resistant, the 30-year-old came armed with evidence. “I was out at the accounts until 2 o’clock in the morning, doing the work,” he says. “I was able to come to him with evidence of what was actually going on and demonstrate how new training and hiring systems would work.”
The ensuing years have brought measurable growth for the company, with Frank Jr. moving into the role of president and Anthony as operations manager. Frank Sr. is still CEO, and while he says his “stepping away completely” will probably only happen when he retires, he trusts his sons are making decisions with the growth of the company in mind.
“Yes, they’ve made a lot of changes, but they’ve all been for the good,” says Frank Sr.
The Talaricos also took what Daugherty calls an “excellent step” by bringing in a business coach to help improve communication and provide an outside, unbiased viewpoint. That viewpoint is crucial in terms of business development, says Daugherty, as parents often struggle with trying to create a “fair” environment versus one that benefits the franchise.
“It becomes very difficult as a parent when you’re trying to make a decision and one son feels this way and the other is that way,” agrees Frank Sr. “And as CEO you need to sit down and figure out what makes the most sense for the business.”