Richard Reid gets up at about 6 a.m. in his home in Asheboro, N.C., joins his wife and two children for breakfast, helps the kids get ready for school and prepares for his day. He’s been a Chem-Dry owner in North Carolina’s Triad area — Greensboro, Winston-Salem, High Point and the surrounding area — for six years, and he’s assembled a healthy operation based from an office in Greensboro: Five franchise licenses with nine employees and four vans, all deploying for mainly residential jobs in the morning and returning in late afternoon.
Reid is a stickler for organization and preparation. He doesn’t like surprises. His fleet of vans has been refueled, cleaned and rendered ready for work the night before, and Reid has the day’s schedule mapped out already. He aims to get to the office between 7:30 and 7:45, so he leaves home at just after 7, expecting to pick up his daughter, 9-year-old Leah, from dance class that evening. His Chem-Dry schedule affords him the luxury to do that.
The daily workload is almost always busy but manageable. The techs — led by the lead guys, Jason Wood, Tommy Hill and Ricky Vaughn — are in by 8 so they can pick up their work orders, hit the road and start their first jobs by 8:30 a.m. They’re scheduled in two-hour increments, the expectation being that each job will take no longer than two hours; of course, some do, and it’s the lead tech’s responsibility to call the next appointment and let them know if the team is running behind on the previous job.
Most times, it’s not a problem, and people are flexible. The vans — three-quarter-ton jobs — are all equipped not only with ChemDry’s largest and most powerful truck mount system, the CTS 450, but with GPS and tracking systems so there’s no chance of crews getting lost, wasting fuel or goofing off on the job. Not that Reid is worried about these guys. He’s developed an excellent crew that’s gelling quite nicely. As the guys load up the vans and set off, Reid reflects on some problem employees he used to have and had to dismiss, and he feels a sense of satisfaction that he’s managed to replace them with reliable techs who get the jobs done.
The jobs today are all at people’s homes. While the crews get busy, Reid attends to matters at the office, fielding calls from clients, entering invoices into the computer system, arranging for minor repairs and maintenance to the vans and equipment, a nearly daily task with that many vans and that much equipment. In late morning, he drives out to a commercial job site to meet with another client, who needs his offices cleaned. This job will have to be done later in the week and after hours. It’s no problem, though. Commercial jobs pay well, and crew members are usually happy for the chance. Reid agrees on a day and time and sets the appointment up.
At lunchtime, Reid heads to a lunch meeting of the Greensboro Merchants Association, a trade organization of small business owners like him who exchange tips and leads at these meetings. It’s invaluable for networking; sometimes Reid goes here, other times to similar lunch meetings in High Point or Winston-Salem, and sometimes he meets with an employee for lunch just to see how things are going, if the employee has any problems or issues he wants to discuss. Rarely does Reid use the lunch hour just to eat lunch.
In the afternoon, Reid spends an hour or so meeting with a direct-marketing representative about buying some ad space, another regular aspect of his job. It’s not his favorite thing in the world to do, but he knows it’s necessary, and he likes the results when it’s executed well. Around 2:30, he heads out to a couple of clients’ homes to pick up some items he and his team are working with more and more these days: Oriental rugs. Chem-Dry doesn’t clean only carpet, and customers’ high-priced rugs are items the company is increasingly focusing on. The team can do a much better job cleaning them in the office rather than at the home, so Reid collects them and brings them back.
Around 4:30, the vans begin rolling back to the office, each crew having knocked out four or five jobs today, a good performance. The techs usually have stories to tell: about the lady who didn’t think her cats urinated on the carpet until the techs’ black light revealed carpet covered in stains, or the guy with a decade’s worth of spills caked into the brown carpet that turned out, after cleaning, to be light blue. Reid listens, laughs, and starts helping the techs prepare the vans for tomorrow: refilling tanks with solution, emptying waste tanks, picking up trash, cleaning the gear, straightening things out. It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes a client will call in the evening with an emergency job, and Reid wants to be able to fire up a van and go immediately if need be without having to restock. He may make a few calls to clients, too. He’s usually out the door by 6 p.m.
Most nights, he’s picking up one child or another from an after-school activity, whether it’s his 13-year-old son Cameron’s basketball practice or Leah’s dance classes or sports practice of her own. Reid, even while running a business, has time to coach his daughter’s club basketball team two nights per week and catch every game, without fail, that either of his children play, even if it’s at 4 in the afternoon. If he has to work late on a Tuesday to be able to leave early on a Wednesday to catch a game, he can do it. The flexibility is one of the things about business ownership that attracted Reid to begin with, and now that he’s gotten used to it, he absolutely wouldn’t have it any other way.
Tonight, he picks up Leah, and they’re back home in Asheboro around 7:30. Reid’s wife, Melissa, usually does the cooking if Reid handles the child pick-up and cleaning, so she has dinner ready. The family eats, Reid does the dishes, then he settles back for a little relaxation — an episode of “CSI,” usually, or “The Mentalist,” unless it’s basketball season and his beloved Duke Blue Devils are playing. He helps the kids with homework if they need it. Reid knows some Chem-Dry owners who bring work home with them at night, but Reid seldom does. He almost always can get his work done in the office. Good thing: By 10, it’s bedtime. He rolls into bed worry-free, happy with another satisfying workday and confident he’s ready to make tomorrow just as good, if not better.