From the Garage to Greatness
Midwest Maintenance Celebrates 55 years
Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Google and Midwest Maintenance all started with similar roots: the garage. Whether tinkering with circuit boards or mixing up cleaning chemicals, the family garage is often the ideal space to test out genius ideas. Business startups from the garage also fortify one’s entrepreneurial grit.
Back in 1965, Paul and Alice Gutierrez did just that when they turned their home garage into the hub of their new cleaning business. Move over cars, bicycles and stored Christmas decorations. Make room for a cleaning industry success.
Paul and Alice’s business story is really a boy meets girl in fourth-grade story that unfolded into a love story that is still turning the pages. Paul joined the Air Force right out of high school and was stationed at Offutt Air Force Base outside Omaha, Nebraska. Sweetheart Alice remained back home in San Antonia, Texas, and the couple wrote each other letters every day. After a year apart, they married in 1962. Soon they were new parents raising their three children in south Omaha.
Working with Diligence and Integrity
“My mom and dad started cleaning offices for extra money at night. They were in their early twenties and started out of our garage. My brother and I grew up working in the business,” explains daughter Jamie Gutierrez, now CEO and owner of Midwest Maintenance. “Cleaning the ashtrays in a bowling alley was my first job. My dad would get my brother and me up around 5 on Saturday mornings to help him clean. My Dad was big about instilling some work ethics in us. I am grateful that I get my strong work ethics from my parents.”
After Paul left the Air Force, the couple took over a small cleaning business and earned a military cleaning contract at Offutt. “My brother and I would go to the base and I was in charge of cleaning the latrines. My brother called me the Latrine Queen,” Jamie says with a chuckle. “My parents would pay us and I got really good at learning how to handle and save money at a young age.”
Jamie also learned the value of working with diligence and integrity and valuing people first. She honed those skills in college at Kearney State College earning a Bachelor of Arts degree and then continuing with graduate studies in business at Creighton University. In 1989, Jamie started her official career with Midwest Maintenance in the operations department. By 1995, she moved into the role of company president. Two years later she bought the growing business from her parents after first making sure her siblings were on board with the purchase and transition.
“Buying the business is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. You fast forward to today and we’ve got 10 times the business,” Jamie notes, explaining that Midwest Maintenance has faced its share of growing pains along the way. Finding the best-fit leadership team was one challenge. Under Jamie’s direction, the full-service cleaning company has expanded to seven states covering well over 20,000,000 square feet of office, industrial, healthcare and arena space.
“I am a quite confident person, but I’ve had to work really hard to find my voice as a woman. And as a Hispanic woman when there are a number of barriers,” Jamie explains about being CEO of the multimillion-dollar company. “But I am 100% grateful for what we’ve done at Midwest Maintenance.”
Appreciative of her hundreds of employees, Jamie continues to guide the top-rated cleaning company to greatness. Since 1998, Midwest Maintenance has been Nebraska’s largest minority-owned, woman-owned and Hispanic-owned business. Hispanic Business Magazine ranks Midwest Maintenance as one of the top 500 largest U.S. Hispanic-owned companies in the nation.
The company’s motto of “promoting people” undergirds its outstanding reputation as a building service provider with a full-range of professional janitorial services. Training and education of employees and a passion for community involvement are also strengths of the award-winning company.
“Promoting people is really where my heart is,” Jamie says. “When I was younger, my mom would say that I should go into social work. She knew I loved to help people discover their own talents and grow those gifts. That is why I’ve built a leadership team that is passionate about coaching and helping people find their strengths.”
Standing Toe to Toe with COVID-19
In 2019, Jamie and her leadership team narrowed in on strategic planning for the business. “We ended up doubling our company. My entire leadership team stepped it up. We had our best fiscal year for the entire company,” Jamie shares. “And then COVID-19 hit around March 13th.”
The pandemic raced across the country and shifted the way Midwest Maintenance and their clients were doing business. Some companies needed to scale back and others needed a greater degree of disinfecting and sanitizing their buildings.
With its 55 years of dig-deep tenacity and proven business savvy, Midwest Maintenance stepped up to the challenge in the unsettling times. Jamie also sought the counsel of the wise, humble founders of the company.
“I talked it out with my dad. With COVID, we just didn’t know what was going to happen to the business,” Jamie explains. “At the end of the day, my leadership team all stood up to real leadership. We pulled together to really bond. We grew trust and confidence in one another and did not sit back on our laurels.”
With a stellar reputation stretching over five and a half decades, Midwest Maintenance has stood toe to toe with the disinfecting protocols that COVID-19 requires. The company proved an industry leader in implementing innovations in cleaning techniques. The Clorox® Total 360® electrostatic sprayer is now a frontline defender in the company’s cleaning portfolio. Before the pandemic, disinfecting an arena would take dozens of people a whole day but now only takes about three hours.
Reinventing the Business
Jamie and her teams have long said that their sanitizing and disinfecting helps boost productivity for businesses, especially during cold and flu season. Now stopping the spread of communicable diseases has earned Midwest Maintenance greater relevance with clients and the general public. Even when Jamie herself contracted the coronavirus in September and quarantined at home, she took a step back to see her leadership team continue to move forward.
“The year 2020 has been a crazy year of resilience. I feel grateful for my health, my family, my kids. I feel grateful for my team at Midwest Maintenance and I’m really excited about this coming year,” Jamie shares. “In about three to six months our company is going to really start to see the fruit of what we’ve been planting. During COVID we didn’t just stop to put out fires. We made the decision to go forward with our future, with our one-year, three-year and 10-year plans in building business. We reinvented ourselves. That gives me hope. It gives me excitement for the possibilities.”
With the Gutierrez family, excitement for the possibilities no doubt took root back in the family garage and on those early Saturday mornings when Jamie was wiping out ashtrays. Congratulations Paul, Alice and Jamie for modeling a legacy of hard work, exceptional service and the foresight to promote people along the way.