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Nimble and Growing

Building services firm thrives through pandemic

Small businesses can make or break themselves when market conditions change, or disruptions occur. Surviving change often comes down to being nimble by pivoting business strategy when necessary to accommodate the needs of customers. Adapt, and you can win business and grow. Fail to adapt, and you may hit the skids.

The leaders of Whitlock Building Services LLC understand very well what it means for a business to be nimble. It is an African American-owned commercial janitorial and construction cleaning company based in Grapevine, Texas, in the greater Dallas market. The company was founded in 2007 and is operated by husband-and-wife Bruce and Regina Whitlock.

Along their business journey, the Whitlocks — both seasoned corporate executives before founding the company — have been keen to follow opportunities that keep the company thriving. At one point, the company focused on servicing residential and restaurant accounts, but moved to the more robust commercial and construction cleaning segment.

In March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Whitlock Building Services lost many large accounts when office buildings closed, and workers were sent home. However, the company was able to survive amid the pandemic that uprooted everything in society by boldly adding to its portfolio COVID-free cleaning solutions that clients desperately needed.

“We lost 15 accounts in a two-week period,” Bruce Whitlock recalled. “Customers suspended or eliminated services or closed their offices. That in and of itself was unsettling, but we didn’t have much time to think about things that were unsettling because other customers wanted more disinfectant services.”

Instead of being despondent over lost accounts — saw its revenue increase by more than 111%, Regina Whitlock said. And, she said the company expects to increase revenue by more than $1 million during 2021.

In the year since the beginning of COVID, Whitlock Building Services —

By M.V. Greene

Our strategy now — with people coming back into work — is to help our clients bring their customers and employees back to a safe environment where everyone feels safe. We’re really trying to be a value-add and not just your janitorial vendor.

To build its credentials in disinfecting services, the company gained certification through an organization called the Global Biorisk Advisory Council, a division of ISSA—The Worldwide Cleaning Industry Association. This certification ensured its employees were trained in the finer points of cleaning, disinfection and infectious disease prevention for biohazards like the novel coronavirus.

Regina Whitlock — who previously worked in sales and marketing in the office products segment before the founding of Whitlock Building Services — said the GBAC certification signifies the company’s approach to the marketplace.

"Our strategy now — with people coming back into work — is to help our clients bring their customers and employees back to a safe environment where everyone feels safe. We’re really trying to be a value-add and not just your janitorial vendor." We really want to be a partner with a full range of services that’s all encompassing,” she said.

In addition to janitorial services, for example, Whitlock Building Services provides other services that include sanitation, repairs, landscaping and painting.

“Anything that deals with the building, we want to be their eyes and ears and help them protect that asset,” Regina Whitlock added. “We’re taking on that whole functionality, so [clients] can focus on their core businesses.”

While business metrics and strategy are paramount, Bruce Whitlock said the company’s success and longevity is rooted in its ability to maintain a vibrant workforce and partnerships. It does so through a uniquely comprehensive approach to its people. The company has 63 employees and works with nine other janitorial companies who serve as subcontractors.

“When you think about success in a service business, it’s all about the people. It’s a people business. Success is the ability to hire, train and retain excellent people,” said Bruce Whitlock, whose background is in executive management and operations in the office products and restaurant segments.

He said Whitlock Building Services will often bring in associates and partners who may have difficult backgrounds and experiences, including some of the small cleaning firms the company works with.

“You are encouraging, you’re coaching and you’re driving training and development. It’s an emotional connection. The excitement is taking them on the journey,” Bruce Whitlock said.

He said he anticipates continued success for the company going forward as a sustainable business because of the firm’s approach to service.

“Our service mindset is always yes. Yes, we can do it. Yes, we can handle that. We want to be good partners. We just kind of cover you with services,” Bruce Whitlock said.

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