A Sit-Down with Janet Schultz of Blue-J Cleaning Solutions

As Part of the Heroes of Change Podcast

Jeremy Turner, Founder & Managing Director of EPIC Mission:

Thank you for tuning into this episode of the Heroes of Change podcast from EPIC Mission. This is Jeremy Turner, Founder and Managing Director of EPIC Mission and I’ll be your host here on the podcast. We are highlighting the trials, victories, applied wisdom of our community, change agents, unsung heroes, and those who empower them to be the change across Appalachia and beyond. We seek to inspire and equip everyday heroes just like you to take on our greatest challenges because together, we are the change. On this episode, it’s a real pleasure for me to welcome someone I haven’t talked to for a little while. It’s my friend, Janet Schultz from Blue-J Cleaning Solutions. Before we get to Janet, I just want to read a quick paragraph about her. So Janet Schultz, former special education teacher turned entrepreneur, began Blue-J Cleaning Solutions in November of 2012. The first year the biggest struggle and frustration was finding employees who would clean to a process where dependable, committed, detail-oriented, and routine-driven.

Then the epiphany came, individuals on the autism spectrum have had those attributes coupled with a strong work ethic. Hiring Eric in 2013 being Blue-J’s first employee on the spectrum marked the beginning of the solution to the problem of finding a reliable employee base. After some investigation into this idea, it was found that the high unemployment rate of those on the spectrum was and still is the current platform and focus of Autism Speaks and other said groups. It all began to come together and make sense. Blue-J joined the ranks as a social business. The Blue-J idea is a win-win for all involved. So I obviously know a little bit about your business or knew a little bit about it. We haven’t talked in a while, but I met you shortly after your original formation. But let’s take a minute. Let’s get past this, the prepared bio for just a minute, and please share with me and our listeners a little bit more about you, your story personally, and the Blue-J story, the work that you’re doing. So take a moment and share with us and welcome, by the way.

Janet Schultz, Founder of Blue-J Cleaning Solutions:

Thank you, Jeremy. It’s good to see you. I’ve always had an entrepreneur spirit from way back. And it wasn’t until my second marriage that that was actually tapped into and realized in that particular situation. I was partners with my husband in a construction company and I was kind of given certain responsibilities and realized that I was in my zone. With that, I love marketing, sales, and having my own business. It just all kind of, I grew, I really was able to recognize some skills within myself that I did not even know I had. And so I was able to act those out and just explore those, you know, for time being, and then you know as sometimes life comes at us in unexpected ways a forced live situation came my way where I had to make a life change, an unexpected one and knew that having been in the classroom, that was not something that I excelled in, but having my own business and being in that world and now that I knew what some of my skill sets were, I knew that I was destined to have my own business.

So the question here, what business would that be? What was I good at? Having been a single parent prior to my second marriage for a number of years and taught school, I also cleaned houses and I’ve always cleaned, played cleaning when I was growing up. Not that I enjoy cleaning because I don’t. You do not have to own your own business and enjoy doing the actual task, hands-on. You can but you can as long as you know how and you’re good at it, entrepreneurs really don’t need to be working in their business so much as they work on it. But in the beginning, you have to do that, but you have to be knowing all the time that you need to grow out of that. So, but I was good at cleaning and that’s what I knew. So that was just kind of a natural thing for me to go into, starting out. You know, doing most of the work myself, I started with nothing and I do not advise anyone to start a business with nothing. You have to start with capital, with cash flow going into a business because that will help you to survive the growing years. But by God’s grace, I’ve made it eight years and it’s just been a learning – Blue-J has done more to change me than it has for anyone that I employ. And so it’s just been a tremendous journey for me. I’m still, I’m still growing, I’m still moving in the direction of which from day one has always been to help other people do what I’ve done and start a Blue-J in their community employing people that are on the spectrum. But I do not solely employ people on the spectrum because that came later actually, you know, like I said earlier, cleaning and doing most of the work myself, cleaning houses. But I knew that that wasn’t my forte. I really wanted to clean commercially and small offices was what my niche would be. I’m not a Janet King. I’m not someone who would compete in that arena. Every business is fashioned itself and has it’s culture, because every business has its culture, its own personality and it’s always fashioned after the owner. So me, Janet, my personality is I get overwhelmed in big environments. I prefer to go to a True Value Hardware store rather than a Lowe’s because it’s more manageable. Containable therefore that’s why I decided a small office, you know, hey that’s a better fit for me. I can manage that. Not knowing two years down the road after, you know, my employee frustration began, where are these people, you know, that would clean to a process because I was developing a process, you clean this way and we become consistent when we do that. And that was one of the main problems I heard consistently from my clients, businesses who were seeking a new cleaning company to come in because there was no consistency and that process offers that, but who would follow it? You know, it’s good to have on paper, but it’s no good if no one’s going to follow it if they come with an agenda. Well, I know already how to clean. So, so I was facing that and being, you know, being thrust into the situation in which I had to survive. I had a lot going on which I would not advise, you know, and that would be something that I would say to people who are starting a small business, don’t, you know, want to start something during a trauma situation, you need to get stabilized emotionally and mentally before you venture off into something as serious as starting your own business. But because I was was in that environment, that’s where I felt the most comfortable. That’s what, that’s what life was handing me. Right then I did not say, or even think of another option. I was an entrepreneur at heart. I was a risk-taker. Anyway. So there I got and off I went. And that was in God’s plan because you know, that was, it was His idea from day one. I didn’t, and I knew from day one that it would become a franchise marketable in the very beginning of this one. I didn’t have no, I had no idea what that would look like or what that even meant. But that was the theme from day one, two years into it. Jeremy, as my bio says, that’s when it became apparent that hey, I need to look into the autistic in population. Because they would be a great fit for this. And as a special ed teacher, we just got each other. We naturally gravitated to each other. And so I didn’t, again, I didn’t jump into it lightly, haphazardly. I went and talked to professionals in that world and just they were able to validate and confirm my suspicions or my thoughts that yes, indeed, this is a population that would fit that bill of root. They do not get bored with a routine. There are outstanding employees and you can’t put everybody in a box because you know, if they have behavioral issues or they can be some, sometimes socially immature or behaviors may get in the way and they’ve had to be let go. It was, or sometimes it’s a mutual agreement. This, you’re not ready for work yet, you know, and, and I provide a safe environment in which they can explore themselves and, and just kind of learn and grow.

Having said all that, it just became because I hire people that aren’t autistic because in the beginning it takes all of us. So I’m not, we’re not isolating ourselves because that’s not the real world. Society involves all of us and we have to learn how to communicate, get along, understand one another. So it has forced us, all people who aren’t autistic and myself included and the autistic population as well to learn how to be intentional, be in the moment, how to communicate with each other so that we’ll avoid misunderstandings and be misinterpreted. Because that is a big problem I see in, in relationships is that our intentions are misinterpreted. And it’s become, it’s, it’s a challenge at times, but it’s because you believe in what you’re doing, then that’s what gets you through. They’ve been many times I’ve wanted to throw in the towel and just, you know, lack of how am I going to make payroll, you know, how am I going to, I can’t take this anymore. You know, complaints from clients. They’re few and far between, but no one’s perfect. So they do come and some clients are hard to please and you can’t please everyone. And I am on the philosophy that, and there’s a great book out there that I read and I thought, I may say this to people that are interested in starting their own business. You’ve got to go into it with knowledge and you got to decide on what your philosophy is. And, and so I, while I was cleaning houses and just kind of getting this thing off the ground and trying to get my head on straight and, and trying to recover because I was in recovery emotionally, I read a lot of books. I sought out people that I could trust in the entrepreneur world and, and they, I was able to gain and glean from them some valuable insight. And I saw, I read a lot of books, one of which I do not recall the author. But the book is entitled, Clients Come Second and it’s a very short read and it talks about how you’re, you got to take care of your own first. We can take care of your employees and you got their back and they know that, but yet you don’t cover for them, you know, but they’re the ones that are out there in the field. They are an extension of you. They’re an extension of me. They are Janet, you know, in the field they are Blue-J. So you’re only as good as the last employee you have working for you. So you need to take care of them. So that book was, was just fit into my philosophy. And there are countless others. And in the business, in a box model business model that I’ve, the prototype that I’ve developed now that’s marketable for, for people to start their own Blue-J in their own community. It has a list of reading material that I suggest before you, you know, this is part of the package. You got to learn, you got to grow. You have to always be a lifelong learner. Which I don’t advise anyone learning on the fly, you know, what I’ve had to do, but gain from my experience, great gain from my failures and experience and interest, a natural instinct and I think an entrepreneur needs to have a certain amount of natural instinct and the need to have confidence in listening to their gut. But I, I have a passion as well to help other people start their own business because I feel like that’s where my real skill set lies. Former teacher always be a teacher, you know, just in different venues. So I manage my cleaning company, I’m a good manager of people, I believe. And you know, Blue-J at this point in its existence pretty much runs on its own, which is what you want as a owner is you want your business to run without you. Just means I have good people in the field and more than half of those people are autistic and they are the ones that have stayed on and we currently have. And I’ve been, I’ve learned how to interview better and how to know when a person on the spectrum is ready for work. They’re mature enough and they can handle it. And you know, I’ve gotten better. So right now as we speak, things are running very smoothly and it’s a good time now I feel like I’m ready. I’m at the place that I want to focus now on helping other people that want to do the same thing that I’ve done and they can do it. They can certainly do it and I would love the opportunity to help them do it because that’s where my skill set and my passion lies in helping other people succeed. And then consequently, they’re a social enterprise and I’m actually able to act out. The other aspect, of on a spiritual level of what I feel God wants me to do is to be His hands and feet in my community. And so we’re all placed in a community and we see needs and we know what needs its destiny. And I pray Janet that God would, my heart would break, He would break my heart for what breaks His and, and, and even the things that I’ve been through in my past bad, you know, traumatic things during my childhood. Even those God wastes nothing and that those things made me into the person I am so that I can be in a position that I can have a different perspective on things. I see things differently than maybe other people. I see the world through a different pair of eyes and that makes me maybe have more empathy to certain populations and say others and therefore God is using that for His good and that He can work through me because He works through people to accomplish His will and that, you know, I can make an impact in my community which, which is what a social entrepreneurship does. It’s a business for-profit, but it addresses a social need, which is employment of people on the spectrum, which consequently I have to add that if someone that does not have autism but is, has a learning difference, then they are certainly, it’s an open door. You can certainly come and interview and I conduct my interviews by way of job shadow because that is the best way to accomplish whether or not that something for them they want or, and I can see firsthand, you know, how well they follow instructions, can they work independently, you know, that kind of thing. So it was a very informative way to interview those types of persons. And so yes, I’m addressing a social need because the high employment rate affects us all now and they want to be productive. They are an overlooked population when it comes to employment.

So I feel like we have a solution, you know, for that within our business model, but also a social enterprise. Also, reinvest some of the profit back into the community to help support and come alongside other groups that are already doing work, churches, other nonprofit groups that are in the community doing things that I believe that I believe with all my heart that more and more businesses that this is a very key time to be in business because we are part of a bigger movement. I believe that we, it’s now I consider myself part of the church, excuse me in that it should be coming back to that you know that we should be more involved in our community and not looking to programs or other things to help resource the support sometimes and oftentimes we have trained and have conditioned our population that have learning differences, whether it be people on the spectrum, whether it be people with Down Syndrome, we have caused them to be reliant on and, and when they graduate from high school and those programs don’t exist anymore. So I foster independence and it’s amazing to see firsthand how that, what that level of independence and I’m making my own money. I can now pay for my own car. I can take myself to movies, I can buy my own popcorn and gee is it very expensive? You know, these realizations of what it really takes in life because I am doing it on my own. I’m making my own way and that’s a lot of satisfaction to sit back and watch that. Being able to provide that kind of environment and the experiences from family members, how they’re people in the spectrum, you know, their key problem is communication. How their ability to communicate levels go sky high, that they so improved given an environment in which they are expected to achieve and have given room for failure. Then they rise to the occasion. And so it’s all that in a nutshell. I’m doing what I am fashioned to do and this is to me, I’m onto the next and the next leg, you know, or –

Jeremy:

 that next stage of your journey. 

Janet:

Exactly.

Jeremy:

Next chapter, another way to phrase it. 

So, you brought up a lot of great points. I’m going to try and dig into these one at a time, but undoubtedly we’ll find other nuggets to dig into. So, you know, one of the earlier things that you said was at a time in your life when you really didn’t have any other options, when you had to strike out on your own, you did an inventory of self and said, you know, what is it that I’m good at and I’ll start there. That is a crucial lesson for entrepreneurs. Too often I run into people who want to start entrepreneurial ventures and they say, I want to do this thing. Okay, great. Let’s talk about that. You know, have you done this before and you know, let’s talk about your skill-set. Oh no, I haven’t done anything like that before, but I think it’s a great idea, right? So starting with what you have what, you know, physical and emotional and skill-based resources, financial resources that you have currently and then moving forward from there. So I think that’s a terrific lesson. I appreciate you bringing that up.

Janet:

Yeah, your idea has to match. You are your passion. We’re given passions and skill-sets for a reason, God gave us those, you know, to channel to use, we need to do what’s comfortable. That’s my feeling anyway. 

Jeremy:

And even within that, you can be a little bit uncomfortable doing what you’re comfortable doing. Right. Which is part of the whole, as you said, that it’s maintaining that growth mindset, lifelong learner, continuing to grow and personally and professionally develop and push yourself so that you can further push those around you, of course, in the most positive way. Push them to also grow and develop personally, professionally, which is what you’re doing.

Janet:

Well, it hasn’t, it didn’t start out that well. I was learning and managing at the same time and I had some severe relational problems, you know, and I made some terrible mistakes, you know, in how I relate to my employees, but I learned and I was given a tremendous amount of grace and that was just part of, you know, why I would advise anyone, you know, you got to have yourself together. I mean, you know what I’m saying? 

Jeremy:

I absolutely do.

Janet:

But you cannot go into this situation unprepared and you need to have people behind you and support. And the biggest stress, I would not have had such a difficult time emotionally had I had financial support and that caused me, especially as a single woman, tremendous stress, tremendous stress.

Jeremy:

You early on in this, in this adventure, and you know, I remember, you know, I loved your idea and I loved your heart and I still do. I remember the stress that I felt rolling off of you at that time, it was palpable, but you held fast to your vision for what you wanted to achieve and you’re closer. You’re moving in that direction, you know, the whole business in a box concept. I remember our first conversations about that. And to know that that’s, that’s in place now. And you know, I, I love it. I’m really, really thrilled that that’s where the, that’s the state of affairs at present for you, is that you’re continuing to grow the businesses viable. You’re doing it. And not just are you maintaining it, but you’re continuing to evolve it and move it on you know, because businesses that don’t grow and evolve, they stagnate and die.

Janet:

Right. And I couldn’t be, I had to learn this, but I couldn’t be so set. And this is the way it has to be. I had to be open to change, you know, that maybe, you know it needs to be tweaked this way and that way. And so I’ve had to swallow my pride and, you know, really always self-evaluate, you know, always self-evaluate and always treat, look at other people, including my employees and clients, you know, as I’m a servant to them as better than me, you know, so that you want to, you want to present a good model, you know, not just as an employer but a person, you know, because it’s hard for someone to go out in the field and work for you if they don’t first respect you and what you’re all about. So I’ve worked and it’s been painful, very painful emotionally and personally to have experienced some, you know, hard things. But again, I’m, I moved past it and those were the times I wanted to just quit and give up. 

Jeremy:

Why didn’t you quit? 

Janet:

Well, because every time I tried, God would turn me back around. He would give me a new client the next day or something, you know? And so I had to come and so I couldn’t quit. You know, I couldn’t, I couldn’t quit. You know, questioning whether or not this did I hear you wrong, God? You know, is, is this really, maybe I should just go and be a teacher in a classroom. But that would be so against who I was, who my personality is. I would be a burden, a cage, and I couldn’t live. I do not and I said this recently in a group that I do not want a mediocre life. I am not going to settle for the status quo. It is just not in me to do that. And I don’t know what that makes me, but that’s just not me. 

Jeremy:

It makes you a great guest for this podcast, which is called Heroes of Change, right? You’re not willing to settle for mediocre or status quo. So let me ask you, when you know, the name of the podcast Heroes of Change, the tagline for my company is Guiding the Heroes of Change. When you hear that phrase, Hero of Change, what does that mean to you when you think about and how are you living that out every day?

Janet:

Well, first, you know, I think that it’s important to note again that the change had to happen within me first. And so that’s what Blue-J has done and continues to do. We’re, like I said, lifelong learners. We’re always growing. You never think that you’ve arrived, but Heroes of Change. The things that break my heart, I cannot sit oddly by and watch that. I am determined to do something about that, to change that, to not just keep the pattern. I want to change patterns. You know, that destructive patterns that exist in children that exist in families, that exists in individuals. And if we can change those patterns, just one person, one child, one program, you know, we see something wrong, then this don’t be quick to judge or be cynical. But how can I impart some change in that? You know, what can I do? Just a little thing to bring some change to that situation instead of sitting on the sidelines and watching it just continue to happen. And I just want it to be within my power is within my spirit. And I, I’m already doing that. But in just little things, little ways and certainly within my business, you know, change, bringing people’s change about their perspective people that have autism, you know, you have your stereotypes and, but it’s been about that so that our employees, the people in the spectrum that work for Blue-J, Blue-J employees that they not always are by themselves at night and no one else is around working. Sometimes they work among people that are working at the same time in the office and they’ve had to learn how to communicate. And the people that are working there have also learned and been educated about, you know, this person.

Jeremy:

So there’s really a lot of layers with what you’re doing. I mean there’s, there’s the employment layer where, you know, you’re allowing someone an opportunity to either gain for the first time or regain a sense of dignity of you know, self-reliance, independence. You are, there’s a socialization aspect, right, where you’re getting people on the spectrum out and to intermingle with one another and with others who are not on the spectrum and you’re working to destroy stereotypes and of which there are myriad stereotypes by intermingling your workers who are on the spectrum and the employees of whatever said business you’re working with who are light or not on the spectrum so that they can see and be seen in here and be heard by one another, the curtain and discuss and let each discover who the other is.

Janet:

That’s right. And not be afraid because people are afraid of what they don’t understand. Now, there are occasions where some of our Blue-J employees, you know, talk to themselves. They work at extremely sometimes slower pace than others. And that’s the beauty of what Blue-J and what it’s all about. And in the model that explains how that works together so they understand that there’s their job site would be a place better fit for them with no one else’s around because they’re misunderstood. And this has happened, you know, where I’ve had to have no last resort but to take an employee, a Blue-J employee off that job site, not because of their job performance because they are the best at what they do. They’re professionals and put at another job site where it was better suited because you can’t force yourself on other people. You can’t force your ideas or your ideals on other people. People are just resistant to that.

Jeremy:

Well, there’s no saying that people hate to be sold, but they love to buy. And so by trying to cram the idea of a, of a person on the spectrum, doing the cleaning in your office while you’re there may not be palatable to everybody. 

Janet:

That’s right. 

Jeremy:

But perhaps by the, by the experience, by modeling this for them, with them, they can begin to see and make the decision on their own or come to the realization or become enlightened on their own that, oh well this is just like, this is another human being just like me. We have our differences because all humans are a little different from one another, but they’re still a human being with a soul and with goals and such. And you know, now I don’t have to be afraid because I can understand now I’ve seen it in the flesh.

Janet:

Right. And on the other side, it’s also opportunity for us to teach those on the spectrum that are involved with this. And I tell them all the time that you’re not just a representative of Blue-J, you got more responsibility on your shoulders because you’re also representing the people on the spectrum. And so you really have carrying a heavy responsibility because people are watching you and they’re looking to see how you react or respond. And so I, I put a lot of it’s your responsibility to act. There are certain, you know, be conscious, you know, and a lot of times they’re not very self-aware and so that helps them to kind of grow outside of their bubble.

Jeremy:

That lack of self-awareness is pretty prevalent among our entire population. 

Janet:

Yeah. And so I, I try to, I agree. And that’s something you’re right and it’s, we have to all be conscious of, you know, what we’re doing, how it might, might affect other people. It’s not that we’re trying to please others, but we want to be approachable, you know, and not come off as odd or weird because people already have their stereotypes and so, they try to catch themselves, you know, and it’s discipline. It’s discipline for them. Oh yeah, that’s not appropriate. You know, if I’m talking to myself while I’m cleaning, that’s maybe seen by other people scary. You know, that’s just not appropriate. So they’re learning, of course, they don’t know what’s appropriate, but they learn. I mean, my goodness, you know, it’s, there are so many facets where we have a saying that Blue-J is more than a cleaning company. We are a movement, you know, a movement, a change, a movement, a change of perception. 

Jeremy:

Thinking about that movement piece, you know, let’s fast forward decades into the future and you’re looking back on everything. You know, what sort of legacy do you want to leave behind and what is that change that you’re fighting for with this movement?

Janet:

So to back up a little bit about this movement, it has, it’s not just a movement of change within the employment arena for those with disability or, or learning differences. It’s also on a spiritual sense. It was and you probably heard this too, because we were in the same circles, you know, a few years ago that the last greatest prophecy or word that Billy Graham said was that the next great move of God would come in the marketplace. Do you recall him?

Jeremy:

Yeah. And marketplace ministry was then becoming, you know, the next big thing and lots of people were jumping into it. 

Janet:

About that time is when Blue-J was, you know, going. And I really, that resonated with my spirit, you know, that, yeah, I’m part of that, you know, that businesses, the marketplace individuals, you know, more central businesses can do more good and their business of profit can do more good than any nonprofit could because nonprofits are somewhat, from what I’m understanding is, is changed a little bit, hands tied. But with a social enterprise, you know, it’s endless. So I feel like that I’m a part of a spiritual movement as well as a movement to create change in the marketplace for those that are, have learned differences. So particularly those with autism is what I find are a, you know, a great group to look at because they have the skillset and the fact that they don’t get bored.

You see, that is such a, in the cleaning industry, it’s the same thing over and over. And that’s what makes them such a great fit. It’s, they don’t get bored. They actually find comfort in the routine. Is that they do they find comfort in the routine and they get better with time and are they, do I still have to re-train? Yes. You know, it’s like one of my mentors, it happens to be one of my clients, you know, sometimes we clean, you know, clean for him because he’s one of my clients. But you know, I get so frustrated, you know, with, and the people that were on his job particularly were not on the spectrum and he would have complaints, you know, and he’s rightly said because he, he is one that strives for excellence, you know, and everything that you do, you need to strive for excellence, not perfection, but excellence, you know?

And so I got, you know, I just get, was really getting frustrated with it. You know, why can’t, why can’t there be no complaints, you know? And he said, doesn’t mean, and he took that as a learning opportunity for me and told me that it doesn’t mean you have to go and fire them. You just have to retrain and refocus. And so that is something that I’ve learned to apply. And I remember that when he said, what now? Sometimes you have to, okay, but you have to learn, know the difference. And some, some now in the end got to go and retrain and refocus. Great employees would not give them up for anything. But again, you have to be a good manager. You have to be a good you know, in person, encourager, you know, let them know when they’re doing great. 

Jeremy:

Got to be a good leader. 

Janet:

That’s right. Thank you. Thank you. Right, right. Exactly. And what does that look like? You know, that’s what I’m asking. You mean how would you define being a great leader?

Jeremy:

Leadership has millions of definitions and there’s tons of books written about it, but I think, you know, leadership in its essence is a very selfless act where you take your own personal, eat your own ego out of the space and you take a greater look at the larger responsibility. And you look at the people around you that you’re leading and you give of yourself to make the people around you better. So that the initiative, the business, the nonprofit, whatever it is you’re leading can have its greatest opportunity for success. 

Janet:

Well done.

Jeremy:

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about that. It’s a, it’s such a big topic and leadership is so terribly important and yet I don’t find that there are a lot of really simple definitions for it out there. You know, I once did a, did an exercise where I was doing a, I did a workshop on leadership and I took a picture of my bookshelf and showed I think at that time, like 20 or 30 different books on leadership and showed the results of a, of a Google search on leadership and how many millions of results for leadership definition. So, you know, leadership has to be a very personal thing as well. You’ve got to find your own style. We oftentimes in our culture, we mistake a dictator for a leader because we think that a leader has to be that loud, boisterous forceful person who jumps out and takes charge and says, let’s go, here’s what we’re going to do. The leadership looks and sounds differently. And so each of us has to find our own authentic leadership style, our own voice and lead that way, that ensuring that style and that voice matches with those who we’re trying to lead. 

Janet:

That’s right. That’s right. 

Jeremy:

So, you know, one of the things that you absolutely are an entrepreneur, and I’ve always felt that from you. So I’m glad that you know, it’s wonderful to hear you confirming that you, you’ve known this for years and you’re feeling it. Too many people don’t embrace the fact that they’re an entrepreneur because maybe they don’t have a business degree from a prestigious university or you know, they haven’t been mentored by someone from Silicon Valley. They don’t think maybe they’re an entrepreneur. One of the things within entrepreneurship, and I think our culture, in general, does a really poor job preparing people for life. We teach that failure is not an option, right? You can win at all costs. Failure’s not an option. Whatever it takes. If I have to work more hours, so be it, I, I can’t lose. We’ve created this misunderstanding of what failure actually is in an entrepreneurial circles, especially the more modern, progressive entrepreneurial circles where best practices are being set and practiced. We know that failure is a terrific teacher if we’re open to learning the lessons. Right? And so from our conversation conversations, way back, our conversation today, you’ve mentioned some of the areas where you’ve made mistakes or failed or screwed up or you know, we can use whatever words. If you would take a moment and talk about failure and maybe something that you’ve done in the past, mistake you’ve made that might be called a failure. And what did you learn from that? How did you move forward from, from that episode and that failure, that mistake?

Janet:

Well probably my relationships within the beginning on how to, I’m recovering myself and trying to be a good manager and relate to other people. You know, I, so I oftentimes approach that, lost my temper, didn’t handle it in the most professional way. I think the key there, whatever failure it happens to be, you have to, as a leader, you have to own up to it and be held accountable. Always self-check, always self-evaluate first before. And you can’t be the one to cast blame, you know? And there might be a lot of reasons why you do things or not do things, but there’s really no excuse for poor behavior or immature behavior. And so what have I learned? I’ve learned how to nurture relationships. I’ve had to learn that I, what kind of leader did I want to be? What kind of company did I want to be? And then just fashion myself after that. I’ve had to recognize that and allow room for people to grow and I didn’t know everything. I need to be open to change. I needed to be open to hear other people’s perspectives and be okay, even though I was the owner and the leader per se. But be okay with saying, you know, that’s a good point. You’re right. But then on the same, I hear, I hear what you’re saying, but you also have to be strong enough to say, well, when you have your business, you can do it that way. But for right now, this is my business and we’re going to do it this way. And that’s what one of my mentors said. He said, you know, you may have a good way of doing it and it may be, you know, a better way to you, but we’re going to do it my way and this way.

So I’ve had to I’ve known about, my biggest thing was, is has been about relationships. You know, I’ve, I’ve done some damage. But then I’ve been able to forgive myself and you can’t help if the other person chooses not to forgive. But all I can do is look at my regrets in my life, Jeremy and failures can sometimes be regrets, but they happen and you have to look them straight in the eye. This is what it is. Yes. I own up to it and move on, you know, and that’s, that’s been the strength, you know, of what I feel like that I’ve been able to go forward is the ability to self-check, self-evaluate, not own everything that’s not mine. I’m not going to carry my baggage. And their’s, too. Does that make sense?

Jeremy:

It does. There’s a book out there, it’s called The One-Minute Manager Meets the Monkey

Janet:

Oh, I hadn’t heard of that one. 

Jeremy:

Yeah. It’s part of that whole One-Minute Manager series. And you know, part of it is about baggage and you know, hey, that’s not my monkey. I’m not carrying that.

Janet:

That’s exactly right. That’s right. And then, you know, and just, it is what it is. You know, this happened. it is a regret. I wish it didn’t happen, but I’m just going to move forward. I’m not going to let that be the final thing in my life. I’m not going to let it define where I go from here. 

Jeremy:

So, you know, too often we think, we feel like in our, in our culture, when someone makes a mistake, they internalize it and believe that because they have made a mistake that they are a mistake because they have failed, that they are a failure. And we really need to begin to separate those two things. You know, a failure or a mistake or that’s an act. Human beings are not, failures are not mistakes due to their actions, right?

Janet:

It’s a trap that we can fall into. And we have to, we have to learn who to believe. Are we going to believe the story that’s told about us? Are we going to believe that this situation defines who I am or are we going to believe who God says I am? And that comes about in your, your part of your journey is to always be self-checking and self-evaluating and, and learn. You know, what you’re all about. You know, what is your purpose for doing this? And, and for being here because we all have one. And, and just learn who to listen to and learn the right voices to believe. And listen to has been my, and, and learn to take it through a filter, you know, and, and, and move on.

Jeremy:

Could you a little bit about various people in your circle? How important has it been for you to have people outside of yourself to talk to and bounce ideas off of or come alongside you at different points along your journey? 

Janet:

It’s been, it’s been key there and, and consequently my clients, there are two that I can, three actually, that I can pinpoint that I look at them and they have their businesses have grown. They’ve been in business for a long time. They’re not old, you know, I’m older than they are. And, and that’s another thing, you know, and I’m, I’m older, I’m 62 and I kind of, I’m into my zone now in the early stage of my life and it’s never too late, I’m saying, you know, it’s never too late, you know, to, to jump on and do what you’ve been wanting to do all your life and feel like you’re too old. You can have an impact. But I look to them, I look at them, I watched them just as say, Blue-J employees maybe watching me, I watched those people who I look up to, I see how they do things, how they handle issues, how calm they are in maybe emergency situations. And I’ve learned how to do that. That’s really a key thing. I’ve learned how to not react but to sit back and contemplate and not be on the so sudden to make a decision that it’s okay to just sometimes let things just happen, you know, naturally and to not always be the decision-maker. Put it off on say some of my some of Blue-J’s employees. I don’t want always to say my, my, my, Blue-J employees. Okay, let’s look at this situation and that’s, you helped me decide. What do you think could have, this could be handled best. But so I look at them and seek advice when it comes to making some decisions that I have to make. And because I respect them, they, their businesses have, have just grown in the last eight years that I’ve been involved with them and they have a long track record and they don’t mind at all sharing with me. Some insight that they have, but what most important, Jeremy, that I get from them, all three of them, that they empathize with where I am, and they may have been in for 20 years, but they still have the same struggles as me, a business in business for eight or in the beginning, two or three. But they know that’s where they’re supposed to be doing what they’re supposed to be doing. And so they keep on going, you know, and stronger than they ever have been before. But we, you know, the biggest problem any company has, and I think that they were, I would tell you the, are the employees. 

Jeremy:

Sure. 

Janet:

And so, you know that’s, that’s relational I think. So I’ve learned a great deal just by watching and, and being, you know, what I think a key here is being vulnerable. 

Jeremy:

Absolutely. Transparency and vulnerability are two key traits of great leadership.

Janet:

Right. And see that gets lets people say, oh well you don’t have it all together. Well, I, I don’t, and I, you know what, I’m not afraid to let it be known. You know, I struggle too, and I have these fears. I have these concerns, but I’m not, I got someone that I can go to that understands, and that allows me to be vulnerable. You know, that’s, you got to find those people that allow you to be vulnerable and that they’re safe and that they won’t use whatever you share in your vulnerable state against you in the future.

Jeremy:

On another episode, someone talked about finding your tribe. 

Janet:

Oh, okay. 

Jeremy:

Right. Yeah. 

Janet:

I love that.

Jeremy:

There’s a book out there. I think it’s Seth Goden that talks about tribes. Terrific book. 

Janet:

I like that.

Jeremy:

I don’t want to keep you here all day. I’ve got a couple more questions I want to want to work through. One is, what would you say to young ladies who may be considering an entrepreneurial venture as well as older ladies who are more mature ladies who are maybe considering an entrepreneurial venture? And I asked this question for a couple of reasons. One is, you know, TV, the media it makes it seem like the entrepreneurial space is, it’s got a, it’s all men or it’s all you know, and that that’s a farce. And you know that you’ve got to be young, you’ve got to be a 20 something and have all the, all the fire under you to go launch a, an entrepreneurial venture. So if you want to take a minute and if you share a message to perhaps any, any young ladies out there or, or mature ladies who are looking for maybe a twilight career, something, something that to transition into, to, to maybe finally step into their entrepreneurial journey.

Janet:

Well, I think in general, and I, I’ve been, I don’t mean to have a strong personality or, but you have to have a sense of strength, confidence, healthy confidence, God-given confidence in who you are. In this world and probably even more so than men because I’m pretty sure, say with confidence that in the beginning, I had such a struggle because with, with relationships, with employees and such because I wasn’t maybe taken seriously, you know, if had it been a male being saying the same thing that I said, I would have been taken more seriously. I feel like that, that maybe that’s a stereotype that I have no misconception. I believe that women, especially teachers, women have women’s struggle with control. And I think if you have a personality, you know that and I think a controlling nature does have something to do with your past, you know, things that you’ve gone through. Abused persons tend to become more controlling because they need to control their environment. It feels safe. All those things make up an entrepreneur. I mean, at least I feel that you have to have a sense of control, you know, and a strong personality, a strong sense of who you are, a risk-taker and adventurous person, you know, and it’s not for cowards. I mean, that’s for sure. And it’s not for everyone. It’s not for everyone.

But if you find yourself having, you just, you want to make a difference in the world. Financially or other avenues, a business, having your own business, being an entrepreneur opens up those doors, opens up those opportunities that you can, that you, the possibilities are endless. They’re up to you. Your return on investment is entirely your choice. What you put into it is what you’re going to get out of and what have you got to lose. You know, if you’re not, it should, life is too short to do something that you don’t want to do. 

Jeremy:

Yeah. You said it earlier that a regret could be a mistake or a failure. And so don’t leave anything. Don’t look, you know –

Janet:

Don’t look, and I wish I could have, I wish I would have an opportunity. I think as John Wooden, some, some famous person has great sayings and one of them was, I’m not sure, but it has to do with something about opportunity. You know, opportunities don’t always come back around, you know, and you need to be able to see some and not be always afraid of the unknown because honestly, being a small business owner is a difficult thing and it is the unknown. But at the same time, you can feel like you’re in your zone and you can’t imagine yourself doing anything else. And I know that that is where I find myself at my late stage in life. But every, I can look back and see how God’s connected all the dots and to lead me to where I am today and where I’m going to the future. So I’ve got no regrets about what I’m doing. The way in which it occurred and started was unfortunate and it made it harder. But that was what I was supposed to, that’s where God met me, where I was and He’s not giving up on me and, and so I can’t give up. And you asked me a few questions back about why didn’t I give up? 

Jeremy:

Yeah. 

Janet:

Okay and I said, God always gave me another job or you know, whatever came through with something, you know, that I needed. But what I had to come to Jeremy was, I guess it’s now been three years ago, I came, I was, was, I had to be resolved within myself that yes, it’s hard, it’s challenging, it’s a tremendous amount of stress, but a lot of that, my circumstances and my situation is not yours or not someone else’s who might want to pick up and take this baton and do the same thing. Can’t gauge your, my experience with yours. So I had to come, I had to be resolved and myself, that is is what I’m supposed to be doing. And if God continues to show me that and provide for me in that, and he continues to make things happen because He’s the God who makes things happen, then I’m not going, He’s depending on me. If He sees something in me and it’s almost too emotional for me to bear to start this and hopefully as I, the vision He’s given me, it’s an amazing vision. And to not just see change. And in Cabarrus County, but see change in other communities and it’s not just about employment, it’s overwhelming. Then I can’t give up on myself. And so I see myself through His eyes, you know? And it doesn’t matter anymore. You know what? As long as I know God’s for me, you know that’s the most important thing.

Jeremy:

Something that’s bigger than yourself – it’s not just about you.

Janet:

Oh my gosh. No, it’s humbling is if that’s a true sign. If this is bigger than me and I see it that way, then it’s not me. It’s God. And I just was listening to a sermon last night, I think it was Jimmy Evans, Pastor Jimmy Evans who said it, and I needed to hear it because I do question sometimes. Am I just doing this for me? Is this true for the wrong reasons? But he said, if God puts a desire, a passion in your heart, and it’s for good for helping people, if you have it, in other words, if you feel it, then it’s from God. So okay, I’m, I’m resolved then. You know, again, I’m going to keep pushing my, I’m going to put big, keep pushing this idea, which is really what I’m doing. I’m selling or pushing or marketing an idea, right? I’m going to keep going because I know what He’s put within me and I know it’s for good. And why wouldn’t it be for Him to help people? Why would it work? 

Jeremy:

Right. 

Janet:

You know? And so that’s kind of, I have to daily do a pep talk and pat myself on the back, keep going, you know, because sometimes Jeremy, it is lonely and don’t let anybody say differently or tell someone else or it is lonely, because sometimes it is just you. 

Jeremy:

Right. 

Janet:

And so I battle with that sometimes, you know, but that’s where you find yourself and you have to just resolve.

Jeremy:

You got to embrace the struggle and, and see it as an opportunity for ongoing growth and development, right? 

Janet:

Right. Well, you said it really well. Very well.

Jeremy:

But you know, you’ve, you’ve said so many wonderful things and I know that there’s, there’s a lot more that we could pull out and so maybe I can have you back on as a guest again and we can dig into some more of these things. You know, I’ve loved that in the meantime, you know, you’ve got, you’ve got a really cool business and the whole business and the box concept is, is I love it and there may be some people listening who want to learn more. So how can people learn more about you and the work that you’re doing there with Blue-J?

Janet:

They can first we have a chat form that they can go on our website, Blue-J and that’s blue. The color blue, the letter J, which blue stands for autism awareness. J for Janet, no reference to the bird cleaning franchise.com. And there’s a chat form that they can go in and ask questions and I’ll respond also by the, you know, again, going to the website, read about us, you know, doing the contact form, you know, find out my, you can call me and I’ll be more than happy. You know, this is one of my favorite subjects is to talk about this and my grandchildren. I seriously, I have, you can, I hope that it comes off that I do have a passionate about what I’m doing.

Jeremy:

If someone doesn’t feel your passion, they need to go to the doctor immediately.

Janet:

It just is naturally, comes off, you know, and I desire to share that with other people and help other people.

Jeremy:

Well, I would encourage anyone on the call on the, on listening to this and then watching when the video comes out, reach out to Janet, learn more, do your own research, but reach out to her and you know, learn more about what she’s doing. And if you have an interest in potentially bringing the Blue-J franchise to your community, then you should definitely reach out and learn more.

Janet, I love what she’s doing and who she is and her heart and I love the business and what it’s doing and I encourage you to learn more. So I appreciate you being on today, Janet. And you know, we’ll have to catch up again offline and possibly have you back on as a guest if you grace me with your presence again.

Janet:

I’d love to do that. Thank you, Jeremy, so much. 

Jeremy:

Absolutely. So that’s all for this episode of the Heroes of Change podcast from EPIC Mission. We hope that you have been inspired by something you heard today because together, we are the change. Tune in next time as we dig into the story of another hero and learn what they do, how they do it, and most importantly, why they do what they do. Take care. Stay encouraged, and we’ll look forward to seeing you next time on the Heroes of Change podcast from EPIC Mission.