Rothman is equally known for his success as a serial entrepreneur as he is for his role in the facility services industry. Although he has worked in the industrial cleaning market for most of his adult life (he first ran an on-site oil recycling company for his father), he carried a vision for a more sophisticated landscape.

“I owned an industrial cleaning company that I sold to Waste Management in 1992,” he says. “As part of the deal, I spent three years in their marketing department and helped identify potential acquisition targets for the industrial cleaning division.”

Moving from the field to working behind the scenes helped Rothman gain new perspective. When he was later approached about buying a commercial cleaning company, Rothman says he liked the profit margins — an asset-light business with recurring revenues seemed favorable enough — but saw several flaws within the business model. Eventually he turned down the deal and launched his own firm. Knowing that downtime could cost companies thousands of dollars, he found the value in “planning carefully,” and shifted his focus to quality assurance.

“If an industrial cleaning job required 20 people, I’d send 30,” he says. “If a truck was needed, we would send two in case one broke down. It taught me that you need to predict what’s going to happen in your customer’s world and be prepared to handle it.”

After every job, a survey was distributed to the client, the results of which allowed the company to maintain quality and be proactive when problems arose.

“My competitors in that field were always the last to know when something went wrong,” he says. “We set up our systems so we would know about a problem before anyone else did.”

Within five years, his coating and cleaning company, known as Kenny Industrial Services, had grown from annual revenues of $7 million to $240 million.

“I was successful in industrial cleaning because we were incredibly focused on quality assurance,” says Rothman. “In that business, there are no second chances. If you made a mistake, you lost the account and you cost your client a lot of money.”

In 2005, Rothman launched a new venture, combining good old-fashioned customer service with state-of-the-art technology. He called the new company SMS Assist.

“I thought that with the right technology the business had great potential to be scalable,” he says.

Rothman was right.

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