Part three of this four-part article details how the family began transitioning presidents.

After Jim Jr. helped pull Janitronics out of its early ’90s rut and expand, Jim Sr. began to notice that his son was running out of challenges.

“Every once in a while he would come into my office with an idea,” says Jim Sr. “And I would shoot it down or something, and he’d hesitate, and then he’d walk out and say, ‘Well, maybe you’re right, Pop.’ And then it was evident to me that he had reached the point where his juices were flowing and I wasn’t allowing it. I was not thinking of the future, I was thinking of just the present. And it came to me very definitively that this guy’s got to move on or he’s going to move out, because he’s got too much horsepower.”

And so the succession planning began — sort of. In the early 2000s, Jim Sr. talked to a few of his BSCAI friends to see how they handled the process, but their methods weren’t really to his liking.

“It’s so formal,” he says. “It was just so mechanical. You do this, you do this, you’ve got to have this, you’ve got to have that. And I’m saying, ‘That’s not natural. That’s not us.’”

The Harrises didn’t so much have a succession plan as they had an understanding — an understanding of each other’s needs within the company and the industry. In fact, the only part of the process that was really planned at the time was that the responsibility shift was to be gradual. There was never a specific day that the baton was to be passed.

“It wasn’t like I was vice president on a Friday and Monday I was CEO,” says Jim Jr.

The slow pace was designed to allow the company to evolve as its new leader emerged. It worked to a large degree, and if one of Jim Jr.’s three kids take over the business some day, a similar path will likely be followed. Since Jim Jr. officially took over, he and his father have put a more formalized succession plan down on paper for future generations.

But just because the slow, deliberate approach worked, doesn’t mean it was easy on either party. When Jim Jr. told me his father was overbearing at times, Jim Sr., sitting right next to Jim Jr., didn’t argue.

“Him wanting to take on responsibility is natural,” says Jim Sr. “Me willing to give up authority and responsibility is against my nature.”

But as Jim Jr. slowly began to take over Janitronics’ day-to-day operations, Jim Sr., in his early 60s at the time, began to wonder what it was he would pour his still abundant energy into.

“I have some friends who have sold their business,” says Jim Sr. “They lost their identity. They become listless. The drive is gone, so you’ve got to be able to replace it with something else.”

As it turns out, his devotion to improving the industry had yielded several different possibilities. Jim Sr.’s team cleaning proselytizing eventually turned into a full-fledged side business, a cleaning consulting firm called Concepts4 created in 1994. The firm still exists today, having taught team cleaning — or rather, Janitronics’ version of team cleaning — to more than 4,900 building service contractors and in-house cleaning department managers.

Then, just as Concepts4 was getting off the ground, Jim Sr. was approached by a national magazine publisher who asked if he thought the cleaning industry needed a science research institute.

“I said, ‘My God, of course it does,’” says Jim Sr. “Well, by saying I would love to be helpful, I ended up being chairman of it.”

Jim Sr. is still heavily involved with the Cleaning Industry Research Institute, but much of his time is now devoted to his newest endeavor: SysteamClean. Born of Jim Sr.’s belief in team cleaning, SysteamClean is a training and management software system designed by Concepts4 to simplify and streamline the implementation of a team cleaning approach. It allows users to upload a building’s floor plan, workload the space and create route cards for workers. In the past, this all required the use of multiple software programs and was much more cumbersome, says Merrihew.

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Choosing The Cleaning Industry
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Making The Best Of Business Succession Planning