Relationships Contribute to the Success of Christenson Cleaning and Restoration
Businesses are built on relationships. Sometimes, that means family relationships.
Father-and-son team Eric and Charlie Christenson have built a business that customers all over central Nebraska trust in Christenson Cleaning and Restoration. Each brings his own strengths and vision to the business, which uses its deep roots to fuel expansive growth.
Eric, 57, and his wife, Cindy, began Christenson Cleaning and Restoration in 1983. It wasn’t a glamorous beginning, Eric said, but the business sprang from a strong work ethic.
Eric was working in a restaurant, where his job included cleaning the front of the business. Another man cleaned the kitchen and had a few other commercial cleaning customers. He turned those accounts over to Eric when he moved away.
Initially, Eric and Cindy, who was working as a legal secretary, cleaned those businesses on weekends to supplement their family’s income. But, when they signed a large bank as a client, they saw the potential to serve businesses’ cleaning needs full time.
“Those were a lot of tough, tough, lean years,” Eric said of building their family business. But they taught him the value of business relationships. One satisfied customer would tell another.
“Everything we did was a referral,” Eric said. Clients recommended the Christensons to other businesses because they trusted them to do their very best — leaving a spotless environment that would impress their own customers.
As word of their quality work spread, so did their services. In 2003, they began offering carpet cleaning to the businesses where they already provided top-notch janitorial services.
They started with the same equipment do-it-yourselfers use but eventually added what Eric called a “truck mount,” a powerful piece of carpet-cleaning equipment mounted in a van. He knew its long hoses would be good for getting into stores and offices, but carpet cleaning eventually led them to the residential cleaning business.
Wanting the same quality clean for their houses, people who saw them at work would say, “We know you clean offices. Do you clean homes?”
At that point, the Christensons’ entire operation was based out of their own home. They built the business one relationship at a time by emphasizing quality work and satisfying customers’ needs. Even the carpet-cleaning van was painted plain white, Eric said.
Through hard work and continuing education, Eric amassed a wealth of knowledge on carpeting and the best tools and techniques for cleaning it.
Meanwhile, young Charlie was getting his own education, working in his parents’ business.
“It was something we required of all our kids when they were younger,” Eric said. “Of the three, he had the most passion for it.”
Charlie’s parents gave him his own janitorial account to run when he was 16. After succeeding at that, he began managing crews and helping with administration.
When he was a student at Central Community College, Charlie began helping more with running the business while his mother was battling cancer. After she passed away, he took over all of the operation, including the new Merry Maids franchise they launched in 2015.
“I wanted Charlie to have something he could call his own,” Eric said of Merry Maids. “It’s a very, very good business.”
The Christensons also rented a commercial location for the first time — about 2,000 square feet of warehouse and office space at 117 S. Hastings Ave. That meant making sure the business continued to grow.
“You’re kind of motivated when you see an empty office,” Charlie said with a laugh.
At the time, the business had 18 employees. Since 2015, they have taken over the other half of the building for about 4,000 square feet in total.
Christenson Cleaning and Restoration and the Merry Maids franchise now have a total of about 70 employees delivering the top-notch cleaning services customers count on.
Charlie, now 24, has taken over day-to-day management, but Eric is still on hand to sit in on meetings, offer his advice and connections, and jump in wherever he’s needed.
“My dad will disagree with me, and he’ll say he disagrees,” Charlie said. But if there’s a decision Charlie wants to make, “he’ll still let me do it.”
Eric said Charlie has brought more of a corporate structure to Christenson Cleaning and Restoration — the business he and his wife built on a legacy of quality and trust.
Asked which part of the job he likes best, Charlie said, “I like working with the people.” That includes both staff and customers.
While Eric said, “I definitely like the people end,” he added of his son, “I like watching him grow as a business owner.”
He likes to see Charlie taking the business and running with it.
Christenson Cleaning and Restoration will remain focused on customer satisfaction and the long-term perspective, they said.
The service industry isn’t about making a fast buck, Eric said. It’s about building relationships over the long haul so, when customers have a need, they think of Christenson first.
It’s about accountability to customers, he said, and providing “quality service at a fair price.”
Charlie said customer satisfaction is built on communication.
“We communicate with our customers to figure out what their expectations are, then make sure to communicate that to our staff, and lastly communicate with our customers again to ensure everything was to their liking.”
Was the crew on time? Were they in uniform? Were they polite? Did they get everything done that was supposed to be done?
If not, Christenson Cleaning and Restoration will keep working until everything’s right, Charlie said.
“We won’t stop.”