Johnson Makes Clean Sweep

October 28, 2002
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HOLLAND — For nearly 10 years now, Gregory Johnson has been a janitor. More than that, he’s probably the hardest working janitor in Holland, and he might just be the hardest working man in Holland altogether.

“I worked 18 hours a day when I was starting out,” said Johnson, who is now the owner of Johnson Cleaning Contractors LLC. “I woke up at 5 in the morning and worked my day job from 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Then I spent a few hours making phone calls to market my business. Then I would take off at 5 so I could be cleaning by 5:30. And I would do that until 12:30, maybe 1 o’clock.

“And I did that most every day.”

When he came to Holland 12 years ago, Johnson floated around several temporary jobs through Manpower, before landing janitorial positions at Enviro-Clean’s Parke-Davis site full-time and Walgreen’s part-time. After his fourth year as a Holland resident, Johnson branched out on his own and started Johnson Cleaning Contractors.

“I actually started my business out of desperation,” Johnson explained. “I wanted the ability to make more than I was making. I needed something better to support myself and my family.”

So Johnson turned a spare bedroom in the home they had been renting into an office, and began promoting his fledgling service.

Soon enough, Johnson’s first account came to him from a friend. A member of Johnson’s church, First Assembly of God in Holland, had provided the cleaning service for Filmore Equipment and was looking to give it up. The friend suggested Johnson for the job.

A former co-worker of Johnson’s soon called and dropped a tip that Bruischat Environmental was looking for a new cleaning service. Bruischat quickly became Johnson’s first five-days-a-week account.

Over the next few years Johnson would hire his first employee, to work with him at their Premiere Foods site, and move into his first office. He would even quit his day job.

“I waited until I knew I had the ability to fill the income void that would be left when I quit with the income from my business,” he said. “I even asked God to give me the knowledge to know when the time was right.”

After several months of 18-hour days, Johnson had his sign.

“I woke up one morning, one early morning, and didn’t know where I was,” he said. “That’s when I knew it was time to quit.”

Two and a half years later, Johnson has a new office and 14 employees. He holds 15 full-time accounts, including Hart and Cooley, Black River Public Schools and Elhart Collision. And it’s been a while since he’s held a broom or a mop.

“I miss it, I really do,” Johnson said. “I had really grown to enjoy that time.

“But we’re big enough now with a large enough staff that I have a lot more responsibility as a manager of people and in running this business,” Johnson explained. “I still do all the marketing, scheduling and, even right now, act as my own secretary. I do have a bookkeeper to help with some of the administrative duties.

“And I’m still formulating business development now,” Johnson added. “I’m still really learning my business and how to be successful. It’s all been a great challenge … I’ve had all kinds of employees and met all kinds of people. I’ve learned about professionalism and the ways of hiring and firing. I’m still learning how to better serve the customer, how to ensure the business grows successfully.”

Johnson credits most of his success to two factors — the city of Holland and his family.

“Holland is where I began my business,” Johnson said. “It was here that I was able to take all the things I’ve learned and put them to use. Everything I’ve established so far started here.”

He has served on the board of the Holland Chamber of Commerce since September, and has also served on the board of the Holland Boys and Girls Club since last year. In addition to that, he is an instructor with Junior Achievement and still active in his church.

It was Johnson’s wife of 15 years that brought him to Holland. Her employer, Herman Miller Inc., transferred her from Atlanta to Holland. Johnson had lived in Atlanta since his teen years and his parents still do.

“I believe that my wife has contributed greatly to my success,” he said. “She and my kids are my biggest fans.”

She is currently a senior closer at Metropolitan Title Company.

Johnson Cleaning Contractors was recently awarded certification by the Michigan Minority Business Development Center certification.           

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