Q&A: How a Marine Veteran Successfully Pivoted into a Thriving BSC
Presently, Matisa Ullrich is the proud owner of Ullrich’s Cleaning Services in Stafford, Virginia, which is an OpenWorks franchise. As a small business owner, she has a portfolio of 23 clients and manages a growing team that is on pace to exceed $1 million in revenues.
By offering a wide variety of services including cleaning and disinfecting of commercial and office businesses, there is no limit for what her franchise can continue to expand toward.
Yet like many others who strive to achieve similar business endeavors, nothing was easy for Ullrich from the beginning. Growing up in a difficult Miami neighborhood, it became apparent to her early on that any substantial improvement to her life would have to be a self-made plan. She came across an opportunity to enter the Marine Corps — one that had her starting basic training less than 24 hours after her graduation from high school in 1999.
Ullrich ultimately spent eight years in the Marine Corps., and what she learned during her tenure prepared her for a post-military career that would have some obstacles as well. Her first stop in this new chapter was a job with the IRS — but a government shutdown in 2011 left her scrambling for options. It was then that she first got involved with cleaning businesses — an opportunity she found through referrals from family and friends. While she returned to her IRS position post-shutdown, she maintained a growing clientele as a side business.
Fast-forward to 2014, and a second government shutdown was the sign Ullrich took to make a life-altering decision. She decided to go all-in on her business, quitting her IRS position to focus full-time on her client base. Ullrich started to develop her website and connected with OpenWorks to become an official franchise; two instrumental steps that gave her the marketing and resources to appropriately grow her base.
Her first major client was a large non-profit facility, one that seemed too daunting of a workload at the time. But as no stranger to adversity, Ullrich found a way to make it happen — securing an insurance policy, employees to tackle the job, and officially incorporating her business in a two-day span. She still services that client eight years later, cleaning the facility five days per week.
This first client led to many more, and adjusting to this business growth speaks to a relentless mentality that was fortified early on in her life. To better understand the origins of her journey and some of the pivotal steps on the way to success, CleanLink was able to connect with Ullrich — who shared some valuable insights for current or aspiring building service contractors or owners.
CleanLink: What were some of the most impactful lessons learned during your time in the Marine Corps, and how did they shape your mentality going forward?
Ullrich: For me, the most impactful lessons learned while in the military was realizing that it was necessary to work with whatever resources you have in front of you and that it was okay to adapt. There were times I wanted to give up, but instead, I always kept focused on making the most of each learning situation I came across during my time in the Marine Corps.
CleanLink: When the Government first shut down in 2011 and you first began getting involved in the cleaning industry, what were some of your favorite experiences during that stretch?
Ullrich: Honestly, it felt good to get outside the office and start different things. I loved being given the chance to work with different personalities and being around a diverse group of people. I always thrive when I’m learning something new from new people in my life.
CleanLink: When you decided to start your own franchise full-time in 2014, what prompted you to go all-in on the commercial cleaning business?
Ullrich: Well, I’m the type of person who always goes big! If I’m doing anything new in my life, I do it big. From the first year of starting my business with the help of OpenWorks, it was always my end goal to go big. I knew having OpenWorks on my side meant that I could get bigger accounts, and accept more challenges with more return on investment.
CleanLink: Perhaps the big momentum swing for your business was securing a large-scale nonprofit account early on (one that seemed too big to manage at the time) — yet you were able to quickly collect the employees and resources to get the job done. What advice would you give to other aspiring business owners looking to overcome that first major hurdle?
Ullrich: My advice is to not be afraid of a challenge. Even though I had a moment of questioning my reach and growth, I kept confident and wasn’t afraid of tackling the problem; so, I started recruiting. It was key to keep good judgment. I learned quickly to build confidence and told myself it’s okay to be uncomfortable and step out of my comfort zone. I knew that challenge meant success.
CleanLink: How has OpenWorks helped expand your resources and business capabilities further?
Ullrich: Honestly, OpenWorks offered me a ton of information. I knew from the get-go they had multiple platforms and resources they could connect me to — whether it be from supplies, training and even having the backup of a regional director. OpenWorks helped point out all areas of opportunities for me from the beginning. Instead of having to go out and grow my business from scratch, they gave me all the resources from infancy.