Ohio-based Violand Management Associates (VMA) touts itself as North America's preeminent restoration and cleaning business consulting, advisory service, and professional training company. And you'll find few who will argue that point.
Chuck Violand founded the firm in 1987 after owning several different businesses as a younger entrepreneur—everything from food processing to nightclubs. Just over three decades ago, he had the opportunity to leverage the company he owned at the time into a consulting practice. In a recent interview, he proudly stated, "I've been able to grow this practice since and follow my passion. And that passion is indeed consulting, specifically within the small business/disaster restoration and cleaning industries."
Violand will be one of the featured speakers at BSCAI's upcoming CEO Seminar in the Cayman Islands. His session, titled "Winning Streaks: How to Maintain Momentum When Your Business Is on Top," is scheduled for the morning of Saturday, Jan. 26. Violand sat down with us recently to discuss his career and what attendees can expect from this session.
BSCAI: So, when someone comes to you from our industry, what are they generally asking you to do? How are they in need of your services?
CHUCK VIOLAND: Three buckets. One of them is growth. Maybe their business has stalled. Maybe they don't know how to navigate those next steps. So, they're looking for assistance in doing that. Another bucket is that, occasionally they're in trouble. They're upside down with their numbers, and they don't know how to fix that. So, they're looking for assistance. And, then, the third bucket has to do with succession, whether it's the traditional "It's time for me to exit and I want to pass it along to somebody else" or it's succession in the larger sense of "I want to develop the people within the organization to relieve the pressure on me and to grow the business without me having to be there every day."
BSCAI: Was there some advice given to you early in your career with regards to helping clients that has stuck with you?
CV: The first consultant I ever hired was a guy who wasn't even in my industry. The business I was in at the time was in distress, I was out of answers, and I needed to look outside. So, I hired a guy who had built up successful jewelry businesses, and he had gone into consulting. Probably the most important lesson he taught me was "Pay attention to your numbers." I thought I did, but I learned I was not paying attention to my numbers the way I should. He was able to explain numbers in a way I never understood them before.
Years later, I learned another lesson … that numbers follow. They don't lead. After that initial lesson, that was probably the most profound lesson I ever learned. The numbers in a business follow. They follow the actions that follow the decisions that follow the thinking of the owner. So, if you want to change the numbers, get to know the thinking of the owner.
BSCAI: What do you consider to be the favorite part of your job?
CV: Three things. One is speaking to groups. I love small businesses and I love small business owners. To speak to groups of them about business and to remove some of the mysteries and frustrations around it is a huge thrill. Another one is talking with our clients. And the third thing is working with the folks here at VMA. I am incredibly fortunate to have such a group of talented people at all different positions in the organization. It's a lot of fun.
BSCAI: What do you like most about working with people in our industry, building service contractors?
CV: They're terrific, salt-of-the-Earth folks. The men and women in the cleaning industry are hard-working people, trying to carve out a living for themselves and their families. And when you can assist them with that, what greater joy is there?
BSCAI: What do you still find challenging about consulting?
CV: I've discovered this over the years. As our practice has grown and probably as I have aged, the biggest challenge is maintaining the culture that we enjoy here at VMA. There are a lot of hard-charging people with very strong opinions. We feel we have a very special family here, a special culture. The challenge is maintaining that culture as we grow, to make sure we are getting people who share that same passion and share the same values without letting it all get watered down.
BSCAI: You will be speaking at BSCAI's upcoming CEO Seminar. What can attendees expect from your "How to Maintain Momentum When Your Business Is on Top" session?
CV: Probably more introspection than mechanics. What happens a lot of times when businesses grow is that we, as owners, take an awful lot of credit for it. But, really, it isn't us! What I'd like to accomplish with this presentation is help see those forces that we can affect and the things that we can do to sustain the growth of our business. The economy has enjoyed a pretty good run of success lately. It's very easy for us to think it's going to go on forever. It's not. So, I can give a couple of tips that will not only help business owners keep it going, but keep it going when things won't be as rosy in the economy. If I can do that, then I will have done my job.
BSCAI: Our exit question is what makes you passionate about your session's topic? What made you pick that?
CV: For so many business owners that we work with, the big part of the job is getting them on the winning track. A lot of times, that's actually the easy part, because you have the owner's attention. It's when they get on that winning streak, then it becomes difficult getting them to stay on that streak and not self-sabotage. By pointing out some fundamental stuff that they could be doing and paying attention to on a regular basis, we will help them stay there.
See Violand speak at the BSCAI CEO Seminar. To see a full schedule, and to learn more about the conference, visit our website.