A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of interviewing Mary Miller, who is the CEO of JANCOA, a company that provides janitorial services throughout the Greater Cincinnati area. Mary is a warm, funny, and determined leader, and Jancoa has been recognized for its caring approach to employees and for the excellent janitorial services 550 employees provide.
“I love getting people excited about their future,” said Mary. She’s certainly put that love into action. Mary’s husband Tony founded the company 45 years ago, and Mary joined him 23 years ago. They put in a place a program that gives employees the opportunity to realize their dreams–at work and in life. In fact, the program is described in a book by Matthew Kelly, called The Dream Manager.
Many of JANCOA’s employees are immigrants and refugees, people who, in Mary’s words, “have gotten stuck and stopped dreaming.” JANCOA provides them with the opportunity to dream about their future and the support to remove the barriers which have gotten in their way. It’s a very inspiring business.
When I asked Mary about what it’s like to work in a family business, she began by sharing her own personal story. I was surprised to learn that before meeting Tony, she was a single mother, bankrupt, and facing eviction. Knowing Mary as the upbeat business and community leader she has become, I listened intently. “I had to change the way I looked my possibilities”, she said. “If you want to see the sunrise but you’ve got your chair and your camera set up facing west, you’ll never see it. Sometimes you have to look in the opposite direction to see what’s possible.” In fact, Mary has just written a new book, called Changing Direction: 10 Choices That Impact Your Dreams. I hope you’ll check it out!
Several family members now work at JANCOA, but of course I was particularly interested in Mary’s relationship with her daughters at work. One daughter worked in the business but then decided to become a nurse, a choice Mary fully understands and supports. Her oldest daughter Christy recently returned to JANCOA after several years away to focus on business development, and Mary calls her the “Queen of Wow.” Mary acknowledges that the two of them have had to learn to communicate differently now that they’re working together. “She’s learning to relate to me as a CEO and a grandmother.” And Mary is learning to accept the changes Christy recommends…”as long as she prepares me for them.”
As our interview came to an end, I commented on the way Mary had changed her own direction. She laughed and said, “I’m a work in progress.”
Aren’t we all!