Business Ownership is the Perfect Opportunity to Truly be Free
Danny Sarner had completed a decorated military career before entering the civilian business world as a high-level executive. A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, he was commissioned as an Officer in the Marine Corps before heading to flight school to become a helicopter pilot where he led multiple combat missions. After the Corps, he joined the family business, a commercial cleaning franchise called Swisher Hygiene where he served as Vice President of Sales and Customer Service under his father Joel who served as CEO, and his brother Jason who was in charge of operations.
Ironically, when the family business was sold, Danny became the COO of Paradise Helicopters, one of the largest helicopter companies in the State of Hawaii. But he never lost touch with his roots in sales, creating and growing the company’s VIP Private Charter division.
In 2015 Jason moved Hygenex Headquarters to Los Angeles and after some soul searching, Danny purchased 50 percent of Hygenex and became equal partners with Jason. “It was my dream job and an absolutely special opportunity—I loved it. It will always be one of the greatest times in my life, but I was still working for someone, so I wasn’t truly free,” he explained. “The opportunity to have the true freedom of being a business owner and be close to my family is the only thing that could have pulled my away from Kona. It was a difficult but wonderful decision in my life.”
How has your previous career informed or improved Hygenex?
The leadership experience that stems from a U.S. Naval Academy education, and the application of those principles as an Officer in the active fleet Marine Force, very much relate to being a business owner, particularly when it comes to inspiring a high level of performance and happiness within the team. One example that directly translates is our evaluation system. Each member of the team receives a one-on-one “check-in” each month, along with a more formal quarterly performance review. Everybody knows where they stand, what they can do to improve, and that they have a direct line to the owner of the company to make suggestions or express ways management can improve.
In the Marines, I took care of my troops by setting a high standard, then holding them to that standard, which ensured their personal success as well as the unit’s success. In that case, the stakes were much higher, but the principles remain the same at Hygenex. By focusing on the team’s success and happiness, which I believe go together, customer service tends to take care of itself.
As far as my 5 years with Swisher, I studied, learned, and was able to apply through experience the art of sales; it was the biggest takeaway during that time period. I am still learning, but what better laboratory than that? I also learned how to get along with my brother, which pays huge dividends now.
At Paradise Helicopters as COO, I learned how to run a company operationally. While this is really Jason’s primary area now, I have a much better understanding of that side of things. That experience has made me a more well-rounded business owner as well as a more impactful business partner for my brother.
What ideas have you created to enhance the business and promote the Hygenex Brand?
The big one is evolving sales and customer retention techniques as technology advances—if you aren’t changing you are falling behind! One of the core advantages to our particular business is the low-tech nature of what we do. However, by streamlining proposals that feature photos of a potential customer’s problem areas via the convenience of a smartphone, we are able to in essence “bring the bathroom to the comfort of their desk” electronically. As they say, “a picture speaks a thousand words.” We also use photo technology to create “before and after” photo profiles to garner initial verisimilitude, as well as “quality assurance” profiles to ensure a high level of performance.
How will you support and train your franchisees?
The most important way I can impact a franchisee is simple – sales. Generating new business is extremely important in any line of work, and I can show franchisees the specific techniques that apply to our business and that been very successful for me, and then empower them to make those techniques their own. The importance and application of our Performance Evaluation System is another way I can offer immediate and ongoing support.
That’s important because of the motivation-talent management aspect you mentioned?
Absolutely. You hold the team to a high standard, but you also have to have fun. We actually attach money directly to their performance in the form of bonuses—It affects their wallets. We have barbeques together weekly in concurrence with our meetings and bring them up in front of the group and hand out certificates along with their bonuses—they love it. We make a big deal of it.
Our team members are passionate about doing a great job as well as getting acknowledged by our customers for doing a great job because they know they will be recognized for great performance. The end result is happy team members and raving fans customers, which makes all of our work-lives fun and profitable. I learned many years ago from my Dad that a happy employee equals a happy customer. Our Hygiene Technicians are the ones that see the customers face-to-face every single week. Its my job to make them happy.
It’s a performance driver.
It’s a performance “assurer.” One of the ways we can get business from a competitor is by exposing poor performance. We cannot ever allow that to happen to us. A robust quality assurance system drastically increases our opportunity for success. It’s how we take care of our employees, and its how our employees in turn take care of us! We are a team.
Why is it a good business opportunity to a potential investor?
It goes back to the big three: One, it’s a reoccurring revenue business model, sell it one time, receive revenue every week. Two, it’s low-tech. It will never be taken over by the latest smartphone app or internet start-up. As long as companies have bathrooms we will always have prospects. Three, it’s recession resistant. You never have to be in a position where you just sit and hope and pray for business to come your way. You can actually go out and get business via outside sales. That’s why I bought into this business. These things give me the most valuable thing I have in life—my personal freedom. It’s not glamourous, it’s not flying helicopters over lava and waterfalls or rescuing people. But I don’t answer to a boss, and it feels fantastic.
There are other huge benefits like time with family in the evenings and on the weekends. The business generally runs from 8 to 4 Monday through Friday when other commercial business are open. For someone who has a family, that’s huge. It is a big difference for me coming from the tourism industry in Hawaii where there really is no difference between a Tuesday and a Saturday—everybody is on vacation! And in the VIP world dealing with extremely high net worth individuals, there is really no time off. Work actually increased drastically during holidays. With our business, evenings are free for me to coach my kids’ soccer and baseball practices. Weekends are almost always open for mini-vacations or events. And things tend to slow down during the holidays because a lot of the businesses we serve are slowing down too.
So, there is a lot of time and a lot of freedom — and there is the potential to gain the financial abundance to enjoy that time and freedom. The more you put in, the more you get out with this business. It’s direct; it’s numbers. The more sales you get, the bigger and faster you grow. The harder and smarter you work, the more sales you get. But at the same time, if it snows for three days straight in Mammoth and tomorrow’s a “bluebird” day — you can go skiing on a Wednesday. You simply can’t do that if you are working for a boss. That’s freedom!