When Carol Doak and her husband purchased Gainesville Mini Maid more than twenty years ago, her understanding was that they were going into business to provide cleaning services. It didn’t take long, however, for Carol to realize that her new business was actually about much more than just cleaning. The Business Report spoke to Carol about the evolution of her business and how she learned to focus on what’s important and turn a job into a successful lifestyle.
TBR: How long have you owned Gainesville Mini Maid? How has it changed during that time?
Carol: My husband, Bob, and I purchased Mini Maid in 1994 from the previous owner. In the first year, we grew tremendously and were awarded “Franchise of the Year” nationally. At that time, we had twenty-six employees and cleaned an average of thirty-five homes per day. In later years, we pared down to a smaller staff and I became more hands-on. It was easier to control and our quality improved greatly.
The recession actually helped our business become better. Although we don’t clean as many homes and businesses as we did in earlier years, we are a much stronger company today because of the changes we made and the culture we developed from that challenge.
TBR: Can you describe your background?
Carol: I grew up in Massachusetts as the youngest of four kids. I’ve always lived in a college town and love it. I received my degree in Exercise Science and coached field hockey for the University of Massachusetts, Old Dominion University and the USA Field Hockey team. I also played on the US team and was on the selection committee for the 1988 Olympic Team.
Ultimately, I left coaching and became the assistant to the CEO of a real estate development company in Virginia where I met my husband. We had our three children and moved to Gainesville to be near my sister’s family and start our own business. My husband is a pilot for the UF athletics department and we love Gator sports.
TBR: Did having been a female involved in the world of sports have an influence on how you approach running your business?
Carol: I think that, as a woman and working with predominantly women, I am able to understand what motivates us. Women are as goal-oriented as men but may go about it in a different way. I have noticed no disadvantage to being a woman business owner because I don’t pay attention to the idea of limitations.
TBR: Do you have any advice for someone aspiring to someday own their own business?
Carol: I would say to any young person starting their own business that they need to make every decision based on what is right. Simply doing what you say you will do and operating with integrity and character will make you a success.
It’s also important to choose a business that will make you happy. For a long time, I was not fulfilled with a business that “just cleaned houses”. My husband and I reset our attitude and realized that what we do is a great service to people and in some cases is life-changing. I have had clients tell me, after working with us for twenty years in some cases, that they could not have stayed sane raising their kids without Mini Maid’s help.
TBR: What is your favorite part of owning your business?
Carol: I love that the hearts of our employees are our biggest asset. We currently have eighteen employees and I have seen them go to great lengths to bless families and individuals by working under tough conditions, such as helping our cancer patients and the elderly or disabled. They become very attached to them. To be a part of helping households gain more peace is so rewarding.
TBR: Are there organizations you enjoy being a part of as a local business owner?
Carol: I am involved in the United Way. It’s a great organization that gives back to the community in so many ways.
I’m also involved with BNI Green Machine, a networking group for like-minded business owners to encourage each other and help each other succeed through networking. I have enjoyed being in a leadership role in growing this group, as well as mentoring other business owners. It is very inspirational.
Finally, Cleaning for a Reason is an organization that we partner with to provide free housecleaning for women going through cancer treatment. I love that my employees can experience the benefits of being able to give back in this way. They are awesome at helping these women.
TBR: Do you have any final thoughts about being a business owner that you’d like to share?
Carol: I think it is important to stay focused on your own business and what you can control rather than worrying about the competition. Surprise the competition by reaching out to them to see how you can help each other. Just like in sports, the only things you can control are your own preparation and focus.
You will likely be much happier running your business if you pull up others in the process. It will bring much more meaning to your career and make it a fulfilling way of life.