Performance Industrial, under new name, finds growth in commercial cleaning, painting
SOUTH GLENS FALLS — Leafing through a copy of Entrepreneur magazine in 1986, an ad for a pressure-washing franchise opportunity caught Mark Miller’s eye.
He was 26 years old, driving a tractor-trailer hauling goods across the country. It was good money, but it required him to be on the road more than he liked.
“I didn’t have any schooling. I didn’t have any college. I barely graduated high school. I was driving a truck and I wanted to do something different. I needed to make some good money because I had a family. I was making good money driving a truck, but I was gone all the time,” Miller said.
So instead of driving trucks, he figured he could wash them closer to home and bought into a franchise called Americlean that would take him around the area pressures-washing houses and trucks.
He quit his job and cashed in on a profit-sharing plan at the trucking company, borrowed some money from family and scraped together $17,000 to buy Americlean’s 17th franchise on April 1, 1986, in his home.
By the next year, there were 120 franchises, Miller said, but the franchisor was all washed up.
“Then they went broke. Within a year, there was no franchise. There was nothing except my ignorance that led me to say, ‘I’m just going to keep doing this.’ The other 119 — they tried to sue the company. They went out of business and thought life was over for them,” Miller said.
The copyright for Americlean wasn’t held by the franchisor, another problem for them, Miller said.
“The owners of the copyright in Montana and I had a little discussion. I said, ‘I’m just a little guy in New York. I just want to keep washing houses. I can’t afford to change my name,’” Miller said, and they agreed to allow him to keep using it.
Now the business, which shared the name of a national dry-cleaning franchise, no longer needs that clearance since it was officially changed April 1 to Performance Industrial, a title that better describes what the company that now employs nearly 30 people actually does.
Another plus, Miller owns the URL for Performance Industrial.
“The name Americlean worked fine when we started. But for the last 10, 15 years, we’ve had this identity crisis with Americlean. We do so much more than clean. Even still today we get calls for carpet cleaning, window washing, janitorial services that we just don’t do, and some of it we never have,” Miller said.
Operating out of a blue building at 51 Harrison Ave. in South Glens Falls, Performance Industrial crews travel around the Northeast providing a one-stop shop for industrial and commercial cleaning and painting services.
The company crews complete 800 to 1,000 jobs a year in several states, from western New England through Tech Valley and into central and northern New York.
Services include heavy-duty industrial cleaning, sandblasting, HVAC cleaning, complex commercial and industrial painting jobs and commercial kitchen exhaust cleaning.
While Performance Industrial doesn’t offer residential painting, Miller’s son’s business does. It’s an entirely separate company, American Pride Painting.
The transition from washing housing to industrial jobs came when Miller was washing a house for an engineer who worked at what is now Irving Tissue.
“Everybody who owns a house works somewhere,” he said, and through those contacts, he entered the industrial market.
“It involves a lot of thinking. It’s not something you just go start doing. There’s a big safety factor. It just requires planning, it’s backstage work. It requires hours of preparation to do a small performance.”
The new name, proposed by his wife, lends itself to his analogy for running a business — a Broadway play. There is front stage work — the performance or work at the job — and backstage work such as safety training, planning and office work, and everyone must do their part.
Putting on a good show has built Performance Industrial a following. When it comes to the backstage work, the company has been recognized by the Department of Labor’s On-site Consultation Program’s Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program, a federal designation. The OSHA cooperative program recognizes small business employers “who operate an exemplary injury and illness prevention program,” and sends inspectors to the company job sites.
Miller said the business remains the only cleaning and painting contractor in the state with the designation. That’s an honor, but it’s not about the recognition, Miller said.
“It’s about the type of people we become by getting it,” Miller said.
Over the years Performance Industrial has grown by acquiring several similar businesses throughout the region and has hit $3 million in annual revenues.
Also adding to its financial growth, the company fosters a spirit of personal growth, investing $3,000 annually for each vice president’s personal development, which goes toward seminars like Dale Carnegie-inspired courses or to join organizations like Toastmasters International.
The book that changed Miller’s life was Jack Canfield’s “The Success Principles.” From there, he went on to work directly on Canfield’s team three different times to help plan the annual workshop. Canfield is best known for the “Chicken Soup” books.
“It’s just to help people feel better about themselves and realize how important it is take care of themselves, to put their oxygen mask on first, so they can help others,” Miller said, drawing on another analogy — a flight attendant’s instructions to put your own oxygen mask on before helping others during an emergency.