2021 Industry Leaders Review: Louie’s Cleaning & Disaster Restoration
By Amanda Hosey
Anthony Edelen’s journey to success with the now 55-year-old Louie’s Cleaning & Disaster Restoration in Vermillion, South Dakota, has been a busy one, full of learning from other ventures. He has built a company and a life he loves by looking for chances to grow and learn whenever possible.
Forging a path
Anthony started working for a local cleaning company in his hometown at just 14 years old. By the time he was 20 and a sophomore in college, he had started his first cleaning company. He reached out to the owner of the company he worked for in high school for advice, bought the equipment he needed, and created Miracle Detailing, an automotive detailing clinic he used to pay for his travels.
After graduating, Anthony worked in a corporate position in Aspen, Colorado, but he found the corporate mindset unfulfilling and returned to the entrepreneurial life. He started an ATM vending company, brought Miracle Detailing to the area, and opened The Carpet Cleaning Company of Aspen, all by age 23.
Anthony decided to move back to his hometown where he adapted his carpet cleaning business into The Carpet Cleaning Company of Vermillion. At age 28, he was approached with an offer to buy Louie’s Carpet Cleaning Service, and on January 1, 2003, Anthony became Louie’s official owner.
Making it his own
Anthony worked from the start to form Louie’s into his own vision of a successful company. He changed the name to Louie’s Cleaning and Disaster Restoration and began growing it into the successful, one-stop shop it is today. Louie’s covers a large swath of surrounding areas, including all of South Dakota, central and northeast Nebraska, northwest Iowa, and southwest Minnesota with eight associates and five trucks and offers disaster restoration and mitigation with an emphasis on hazardous materials and abatement in addition to carpet cleaning, trauma and crime scene abatement and mitigation, environmental consulting, indoor air quality air assessment and testing, and janitorial services.
Anthony loves the work he does. “Taking homeowners from a precipitous and precarious situation to putting their lives back together,” he says, “it’s these situations that arise where clients find themselves not knowing what to do, and they call Louie’s Cleaning and Disaster Restoration for local expertise with the understanding that we will put them back together [that I like most about the work].”
Communicating for success
Since Anthony bought it, the company has seen tremendous growth. This year, Louie’s is on track to reach 10 times the revenue it was making when he took over. That growth and success comes down to how the company treats its customers.
“I feel providing professional, one-on-one, honest direction to our clients has given us a competitive advantage” that results in significant professional referrals for Louie’s, Anthony explains. He says referrals are by far their best marketing tool.
The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t changed that; in fact, it has only increased referrals. Anthony says despite this uptick in client needs, scaling a company, which is always difficult, is especially so in the midst of an extremely tight labor market. Since the pandemic began, associates at Louie’s have rarely worked less than a 40-hour week, and Anthony has rarely worked less than a 100-hour week.
“During these trying times, we have found that people look to us as professionals,” reports Anthony. “This is where Louie’s excels, providing a level of one-on-one professional service and communication.”
Becoming a strong leader
The most difficult part of being an owner to Anthony has been learning not to micromanage. He finds empowering his associates to make their own decisions an essential part of being a good leader. He has also struggled against perception of the industry. Anthony says, “People feel like the jobs and positions we offer are low paying, but actually Louie’s offers one of the highest starting wages in our area.”
To help with leadership challenges, Anthony recommends owners find a mentor early on who can “help a small-town entrepreneur deliver on his mindset of ‘there are big things to come’” as well as listen to others “who will help make your small business grow.” He stresses the importance of creating a strong business plan as a living document and relying on those close allies to read, evaluate, and provide feedback—and using that feedback to foster your company growth.
“Track all of your dollars. Manage your expectations. Create a marketing route,” Anthony lists as other important things to focus on. But, most importantly, he says, “Don’t let your business overwhelm you, and when you do become overwhelmed, take a step back and look at your business plan as a whole. It should be a living, working, ever-changing document.”
Well known in the industry for his exciting family vacations, Anthony adds in closing, “Enjoy your business and all its attributes, but remember there are more important things in life.”