This four-part article profiles Jordan Tong, the third-generation leader of Frantz Building Services.

To hear Jordan Tong tell it, his parents thought asking him to take over the family building service contracting business would have been holding him back in some way.

“Your parents always want you to do something big in life,” says Jordan, the president and third-generation owner of Frantz Building Services in Owensboro, Kentucky. “And I think this is just common with human nature. My parents see what they do as normal, and they want you to go above and beyond what they’ve done.”

Jordan grew up cleaning buildings in the evenings for the family business, but he was never being groomed for a future management position; it was just a high school job. Even after graduating from high school and leaving his hometown, Jordan didn’t set out for business school with an eye on one day returning to Frantz Building Services. Instead, he pursued an engineering degree and eventually landed a job with a large construction company in Nashville, about two hours south of Owensboro.

Yet all these decisions, which initially carried Jordan further from Frantz Building Services, perfectly prepared him to one day return and grow the company into a modern model of BSC expansion and diversification. As the third generation of his family to run Frantz Building Services, he’s taken the company to a new level of success.

Realizing A Dream

Jordan Tong’s maternal grandfather, Bernard Frantz, was stationed with the U.S. Army in 1961 in Germany, where he met his future wife, a young German girl named Gerfriede. He didn’t speak a lick of German. She hardly spoke any English. But that didn’t seem to matter.

“He liked her and she liked him,” says Kathy Tong, Jordan’s mother and Bernard and Gerfriede’s oldest daughter.

Bernard and Gerfriede soon married in Germany and had Kathy. The family then bounced around between Germany and Louisville, where Gerfriede and Bernard owned a home. When Bernard was deployed in Vietnam, Gerfriede, who was expecting her second child, and Kathy stayed in Louisville.

After a tour in Vietnam, Bernard joined the U.S. Army Reserve and found a job as a boilermaker back in Louisville. It was hard, relatively unstable work. He often worked on projects hours away from Louisville, staying in hotels without his family. The work was unpredictable, as well, and he’d be forced to wait long stretches until the next job rolled around.

After about 13 years, says Kathy, Bernard had had enough of the traveling and inconsistent employment. During another period between jobs, he began to think about starting his own business, something he’d always dreamed of.

But Bernard only knew he wanted to start his own business — he had no idea what type of business.

Kathy, who was 22 at the time and already had two children, including Jordan, remembers her father sitting at the breakfast bar in their home, looking through magazines for ideas for a company. Each time Bernard had an idea, he’d ask Gerfriede what she thought. She shot down most of them.

“Mom would say, ‘I just don’t think so,’ ” says Kathy.

Until, that is, Bernard suggested a cleaning business.

As a former Army drill instructor, Bernard preferred things neat and orderly. He had been that way growing up, as well, says Kathy.

“If he would clean something up, he would clean it very well,” she says. “Like he might take the stove completely apart and clean every crevice on the stove and work on it all day. Or when he would detail his car, he would work on it for hours, and it was like it had just come from the detail shop.”

Sitting at the breakfast bar in 1985, when Bernard asked Gerfriede what she thought of a janitorial services business, she knew that was the one. With his wife’s blessing, Bernard made up his mind right then, without so much as a single sales lead: He would start a commercial cleaning company.

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Three Generations Of A Family Owned Business