By Sheena Awad
2020 has been quite a year for many families, including ours. In addition to dealing with a global pandemic, a roller coaster of an economy, and just handling the day to day, Justin Awad, my husband, started Game Changer Business Consultation. I had the opportunity to sit down with him and pick his brain for a minute about why this triple master with over 30 years in the field decided to change directions within his industry. After a deeper look, I came to have a better appreciation for the passion Justin has for the cleaning and restoration industry.
Sheena Awad: What’s the name of your company and what do you do?
Justin Awad: The company’s name is Game Changer Consulting Services and it’s based here in Southeast Michigan. First, I help people in our industry to solve their customers’ problems and get paid to do it! I advise my clients on how to solve the problem, as well as talk to the customer to educate them and help secure the sale or contract. Second, I provide practical business and industry education in simple ways so that everyone can understand it. And third and sometimes the biggest elephant in the room is business and administration consultation. How to find and KEEP a technician seems to be a big problem for some. For others it might be coming up with a fair price for the customer or a fair wage for the technician. Most of us have heard the phrase, “Charge what the market will bear,” but I teach my clients how to charge what their service is worth. This helps businesses go from struggling to succeeding.
SA: Since you are working with owner/operators, do you have any previous experience as an owner/ operator yourself?
JA: You have to. That’s a necessary requirement to help my clients. I started as a carpet cleaning technician in my father’s business, Maize & Blue Carpet and Furniture Cleaning located in Ann Arbor, Mich. He has had a home-based business since I was very young. I was able to listen to how he would communicate with customers, book jobs, and handle challenges. I remember setting up a portable machine and pretending to clean carpet for fun. About 10 years ago, I started Maize & Blue Water Restoration where I was able to apply my triple master education. This time, I was able to start training my own kids and even see my daughter get into the field. That’s been a lot of fun.
SA: What else did you do prior to starting Game Changer?
JA: I was an inside sales representative at Aramsco in Detroit. There, I repeatedly set sales records, turning negative margins into positive ones. I had a record number of truckmount sales. I found that this position gave me a great opportunity to find out what our local cleaners and restorers needed. I put workshops and various educational video presentations together. I worked to develop a reputation of helping my clients to solve their customers’ problems. I also developed a reputation of putting my clients’ interests over my profit margin.
SA: It sounds like you really enjoyed working with your clients at Aramsco. Why did you decide to go back to working for yourself?
JA: There were many contributing factors, but my focus has always been my family. While I had always looked for a bigger role working with social media within the Aramsco family, ultimately, I found I could better meet my family responsibilities by working from home.
SA: Game Changer is an interesting name for a consultation company. How did you come up with it, and how does that name encapsulate what you do?
JA: The Cobra! Doug “The Cobra” Heiferman gave me that nickname when we first met at Aramsco, so I started naming my events “Game Changing” events. People were also realizing that I was helping them to change their businesses for the better. I was showing some how to turn a hobby into a company. For others, it was helping them to take that next step in growing their business, helping them through the stress and anxiety of that. Ultimately, this is what Game Changer does.
SA: You mentioned your experience as both a carpet cleaner and a water restorer. Why the change in direction? Why not go back to restoring?
JA: I’ve been there, done that. It was fun, but I have a lot of hats that I wear. And besides, there are plenty of cleaners and restorers out there, many of whom are my friends! So instead of being in competition with them, I’d rather help them succeed.
SA: There’s a lot of technicians out there that would love to start their own business but might be afraid of taking that first leap. How did you know that it was the right time?
JA: Communication is key. You don’t want to just up and go for it. You might miss opportunities you didn’t know were there. When it became clear that Aramsco’s goals and my goals were going down different paths, I started my business plan. I saved, invested, and planned for my family’s long-term needs for several months. The beginning of the year just made sense to put it all into action. I used the slow season to get my name out there and, financially, it’s just easier to start a business at the beginning of the tax year.
SA: I don’t think there could’ve been a worse year to start a business. What strategies connect with your customers and keep your services relevant?
JA: Well, I certainly didn’t expect something like COVID-19 to happen. Did anybody? But that’s why I am the Game Changer. I solve problems. Some are bigger than others. I’ve taken cues from successful companies on how to be flexible and listen to my clients’ needs. Sometimes this means being a listening ear or sharing an encouraging thought while their doors were closed. As we’ve opened back up, I’ve instituted live virtual consultations as well as remote location education where my clients learn to use, price, and sell their product. So, if you (the client) think your customers won’t pay a certain price or buy a certain service, that’s where I come in to consult, all while doing it safely.
SA: Why does our industry need a service like yours?
JA: We live in a society that wants rules and continuity, but our field is driven by principles set forth by the IICRC. That’s very broad. Taking a class and passing a test is one thing, but understanding the chemistry, the science behind why something does what it does, is something else. Knowing this information can take a technician from succeeding by accident to having consistent results. So, I’m not just marketing. I’m not just putting your face on social media. I’m teaching you HOW to be worth the price you charge. And I do this with remote location education. I’m literally right there in your back pocket, a phone call or video chat away.
SA: What advice can you give to the owner/operators out there in our industry?
JA: Don’t be afraid to ask for help before it’s too late. You have a lot to offer. You don’t have to have 10 trucks to be successful. Work smarter, not harder. Invest in your education and know your worth.