From military service to J’s Cleaning Service, a chat with David Bracy

David and Jennifer Bracey, owners of J's Cleaning Service in Hampton Roads area of Virginia
David and Jennifer Bracy, owners of J’s Cleaning Service in Hampton Roads area of Virginia

David met wife Jennifer at a party at her sister’s house when he was stationed in Virginia with the U.S. Navy. They were soon married, and while David managed his successful military career, Jennifer worked for various professional cleaning services. “She would always come home and tell me that she could do this on her own, that she should start a cleaning company,” David said.

It was only as he was approaching retirement from the military after over twenty years of service that they began to seriously consider starting a cleaning business. Jennifer launched J’s Cleaning Service in December of 2014, fully confident that she could provide excellent cleaning service with her own business.

When David retired at the end of 2015, he was able to help the company by devoting all his attention to growing the business.

It’s a family affair

Like many of the owner-operator cleaning businesses we’ve spoken with, J’s Cleaning Service is run entirely by members of the family. The staff of six is made up of brothers, a sister-in-law, cousins, and an aunt. “It’s not without it’s challenges,” David admits. “I didn’t really understand how hard it is to do business with family.”

Part of the difficulty lies in figuring out how to tell a family member that something isn’t cleaned right, and part of the problem is with the family members having to adjust to the idea of you as their boss.

This is compounded by the adjustment David had to make back to civilian life post-military. “There’s a huge difference. I was in a leadership role for most of my Navy career, so I was used to telling people what to do, but I never had to explain it. Now I have to explain everything, and I’m not used to that.”

The family had shared plenty of meals and social time with David before, but now that he’s their boss, they’re exposed to his leadership style. “A lot of my family members have never seen this side of me. It’s always been there, but they’ve just never seen it.”

Growing pains

As with most businesses getting started, they ran into a few snags along the way. After they added carpet cleaning to their roster of services, David used one of their new machines (Rotovac portable carpet cleaners with extractors) on a job for a client.

“It was the first job I did with the machine, everything was good, and the client was happy. It was a rental property and she was pleased that she didn’t have to buy a new carpet because we were able to clean it. She left us a great review, and then a few days later she called complaining about a mildew smell. Well, I had failed to tell her that she needed to open her windows and turn on the ceiling fans to help the carpet dry,” David laughed. Since then clients are always told what to expect after a carpet cleaning.

Now the carpet cleaning is managed successfully by the boyfriend of Jennifer’s cousin. “He’s one of my carpet technicians. He picked up the carpet business really well and can do it just like I do. He does a great job and loves what he does,” said David.

Hard to step away from day-to-day

Jennifer focuses on employee management, scheduling, and controlling inventory while David manages marketing and financials. Both of these owner-operators are also on the cleaning schedule to do jobs, as well. “I am looking to get away from that, I have a plan. Once I get people trained up to take my spot then I can step away,” David said.

Even with this plan in place, he finds it hard to give up control of the day-to-day cleaning. “The same level of attention won’t be afforded without me there. I don’t want my reputation to go down. I’m a five star rated cleaning service and I’d like to keep it that way!” he said.

Part of the reason he may find it hard to step away is that he gets a lot of joy in interacting with people, having been in a customer service type job for his years in the military. “I like the satisfaction my company brings when we leave a client’s home. That is priceless.”

Communication is key

David named several customers who were loyal favorites. When I asked him what makes a good customer, he emphasized that his best customers were those who communicated with him. “If they have a problem, they let me know. We can’t come to a solution if they don’t tell me there’s a problem in the first place. With some clients, you only find out all the problems when they’re breaking up with you.”

How to handle having too much going on

In today’s world, people are swamped by having too many obligations and being overscheduled. One of the ways to combat this is to hire a cleaning company. “I wish I had a cleaning service for my house!” laughed David. “A lot of people have too much going on. Cleaning shouldn’t be one of the things that you are worried about.”

When they need a break, David and Jennifer take quick getaway trips that they can enjoy before heading back to work. They recently hit up Six Flags in Maryland and are headed to Atlantic City next weekend. If you’d like to schedule a cleaning service with them when they’re back and well-rested, you can book them here.

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