Service Master by Ayotte
Industry leaders come in all different shapes and sizes. There are no defining physical characteristics. Height, hair color, or shoe size generally don’t make a difference when looking for the best in any given industry. An industry leader has knowledge, understanding, vision, drive, compassion, and the ability to communicate and inspire.
As a corporation, an industry leader can anticipate the needs of the marketplace and respond to any given situation with well-trained employees and prepared resourcefulness.
Beth Ayotte and Service Master, then, are the perfect combination.
Service Master by Ayotte has served the south-central region of Minnesota for 26 years. It began when Beth’s father, Danny, was looking for a new challenge after spending nearly three decades as an international manager in the Sam’s Club Division of Walmart. One day, he saw an ad in the paper for an opportunity to become a franchisee of an industrial cleaning and restoration company.
“He thought it would be a fun part-time gig,” said Ayotte.
“And then he landed Malt-O-Meal.”
With that, he retired from Sam’s Club, and Service Master by Ayotte was on its way to becoming a Northfield, and indeed a Southern Minnesota, business institution. The company, easily recognizable by their yellow vans and simple, triangular trademark, offers cleaning and restoration services in the industrial and residential market. From 24-hour corporate janitorial services to disaster restoration to residential house cleaning, Service Master will help any client make their space clean and safe.
“No job is too big or small,” she said.
As Danny Ayotte was embarking on a new career path, his daughter Beth was beginning her college studies in Mankato, with an eye to the future. By day she was studying marketing and public relations and by night she was cleaning clients’ offices in Waterville and Morristown.
“I used this business as my platform for some of my classes. I wrote a lot of business and marketing plans for this business long before I took over.”
Beth joined her father full-time in 2000, and eventually bought him out in 2013. Becoming the sole owner meant joining a very exclusive club.
“In the cleaning and restoration industry,” she said, “about 1% of owners are female.”
Through no fault of her own, Ayotte said being taken seriously, or even getting someone’s attention in her chosen industry was a hurdle when she began her career.
“It’s always been a bit of a challenge. Let’s say you walk into the Archer House after there’s been a fire. You’re dealing with investigators and inspectors and fire and police personnel. There are a lot of people who don’t give the attention and the understanding to what I may know, being an expert in our field.”
Ayotte said things were different 15-20 years ago. She would be in somebody’s home after a fire and people wouldn’t talk to her. At one point, she was called “Little Girl.” Things have changed for the better, at least a little, since then, but Ayotte met the challenge head on.
“I powered myself with knowledge and education,” she said. “And eventually it was recognized that it was okay to listen to me, and that I am a player in this industry.”
In those times of frustration, Ayotte said, she would lean on hard work and her family to keep from giving in.
“You just figure it out, and you don’t let it get under your skin. I’ve worked hard, and I’m proud of that. I have three kids of my own, and two bonus kids. And I want them to see that this is what it takes.”
It also takes acumen, wisdom, courage, determination, and confidence.
Ayotte had to call on all those traits 18 months ago. On March 1, 2020, Service Master by Ayotte expanded into the Mankato/Waseca/St. Peter market doubling their service terrotory. Seventeen days later, Governor Tim Walz gave the shelter-in-place order, and suddenly thanks to Covid-19, people were not going to their offices and therefore, offices did not need to be cleaned.
“Janitorial cleaning can be as much as 50% of our business,” she said. “So, we experienced a hard loss.”
Ayotte said, however, because of Service Master’s experience – and her own – they were able to anticipate the seriousness of the situation before most other people, and they were ready. They established their essential business status in February. They paired themselves with the Red Cross and worked with them in the initial stages of the pandemic. And then the rest of the world began to catch up with her organization in terms of understanding the need for good cleaning habits and good air quality.
With a diminished work force, and a territory that was now twice as big, Ayotte and her team went to work. While much of the world was sitting at home watching Netflix, they were working long hard hours to keep the business afloat.
“Education sustained us,” she said.
Today the commercial cleaning work and duct cleaning services they provide have become stronger components of the business, and Service Master by Ayotte is still standing and healthy.
“If it wasn’t in my blood to be a workaholic,” she said, “and if it wasn’t for my team loving what they do,” the challenge might have been too much. But she has built her organization around what she calls solid principles and hard work, and her employees have bought in to her philosophy.
Service Master is still able to offer the same top-quality experience it always has, and Ayotte has been able to navigate her company through some treacherous waters. Which should really come as no surprise. That is what is expected of an industry leader.