2021 Industry Leaders Review: Christenson Cleaning and Restoration
By Amy Hughes
As the second-generation owner of his family’s business, Charlie Christenson has never known a career outside the cleaning and restoration industry. “I have helped with the business ever since I can remember. From vacuuming, to collecting trash around different sites, and anything else my parents asked me to do. I grew up in the industry,” he says. Started by his parents in 1983, Christenson Cleaning and Restoration of Hastings, Nebraska, has been in business 38 years.
The business began when Cindy and Eric Christenson, parents of Charlie, took on a single cleaning job in the evenings to make some extra money. That one account grew to many accounts, and in 2015 at just 22 years old Charlie took over the business and grew it into a full-service cleaning and restoration company with over 70 employees. Today, Christenson Cleaning and Restoration services multiple cities in Nebraska and travels to six states across the U.S., specializing in fire, water, and mold remediation. The company is IICRC-certified and has additional training and certifications from the EPA for lead paint removal, the Midwest Training Institute for mold remediation, and GBAC for COVID-19 disinfecting.
Having worked in the business his entire life, Charlie took the reins six years ago after his mother died of pancreatic cancer. At the time the Christensons were the owners/operators of one truck with 15 part-time employees, but despite the sadness of his mother’s passing, Charlie could see a bigger and brighter future for the company she helped start. He grew the staff to more than 70 employees and began offering restoration services in fire, water, and mold. He invested in training, certifications, and more equipment, including two truckmounts, one pick-up, one trailer, and three support cars. The company also expanded its accounts across the state and throughout the Midwest region.
This rapid growth didn’t always come easy. “Going from 15 employees to now well over 70 was a challenge at times,” Charlie notes, and if he had it to do over again, he says he would put a stronger focus on making sure to put the right people in the right position.
“As culture, speed, and expectations vary from company to company, it has been hard to find the right fit at times,” Charlie explains, but he was able to meet those challenges. With a focus on training new employees and implementing systems and procedures for day-to-day operations, Charlie built a strong core team that is at the heart of the company today. As he worked to create a new structure for the growing business and expanded service offerings, Charlie was careful never to lose sight of where they began: a family-owned and operated company with a commitment to great customer service.
In fact, the customers are what Charlie likes most about the work he does. He says, “My favorite part of the job is knowing that we can help someone out in their time of need, whether that’s through carpet cleaning, a water loss or fire, or nightly janitorial service. I like being the person that people can lean on.”
This commitment to customer service doubles as the company’s chief marketing strategy: “By creating happy customers, those customers then use word-of-mouth and refer us to others in the community.” Charlie explains that they also ask for reviews after each job to build the company’s credibility and reputation when a potential customer performs an internet search. Additionally, Christenson has partnered with other local businesses in the community, creating a strong network of local referrals that serves as the foundation for other strategies like online marketing and cold calls.
Looking ahead after a challenging year
These marketing strategies have been fruitful as the company has grown over the past six years and managed to weather the ups and downs of the COVID-19 pandemic. Charlie explains that while the residential carpet cleaning side of the business slowed, with customers reluctant to have service contractors in their homes, the disinfecting services picked up significantly with increased demand to maintain healthier public buildings and minimize the risk of transmission. “Our company has performed bio-cleaning, but unlike some of our competitors, we became certified through the Global Biorisk Advisory Council for COVID-19 disinfecting to ensure we are meeting the standards of the industry,” Charlie explains. GBAC offers training and accreditation for infection prevention, response, and recovery. “We also invested in electrostatic sprayers so we could pair the right equipment with the right training to combat the virus.”
As things slowly begin to normalize, Charlie is looking ahead to the company’s plan to open an Omaha office in late 2021 or early 2022. He plans to deploy salespeople, online marketing, and cold calls to introduce Christenson Cleaning and Restoration to customers in Omaha and intends to continue the company’s expansion across the state.
For those just starting out in the industry, Charlie’s advice goes back to his company’s core value of customer service and his ability to see a bright future even in tough times: “Creating happy customers will be instrumental to your success. Staying positive through ups and downs is also essential as there will be slow times and extremely busy times during the year.”