Student Profile: Joe Walsh
Joe started his Green Clean Maine business with sweat equity and an old Volvo station wagon in 2007, after seven years of wandering geographically and careerwise. He now employs 20 people and the business is growing 50 percent a year.
A friend’s wedding brought Joe from Rhode Island to Maine, with the prospect of enjoying a leisurely summer here before heading to California for grad school in urban planning.
To pay the rent in Portland, Joe got a job selling advertising for a environment-oriented coupon book, The Sunrise Guide.
Working with small businesses, Joe was attracted to that way of life. He also fell in love with Portland – the people, the walkability, the lively activities, the easy access to natural beauty and the sensitivity to the environment.
He wanted to work in a “green” business, and expected to do that in California, where the newly-subsidized solar power industry was booming.
Joe’s “eureka moment” came after he and his colleagues at The Sunrise Guide realized that there were no green cleaning services among their clients. Checking into why, he got a surprise.
The two active green cleaning services in Portland told him they couldn’t advertise because they were too busy already. They were turning away homeowners and business operators who inquired.
By this time, Joe also realized he wanted to work for himself. His informational interviews about urban planning had cooled his interest in that profession.
Another thing: The Sunrise Guide had opened his eyes to a kind of business he had not known existed. “I thought of myself as too idealistic to go into business,” he explained. “I didn’t think of it as a virtuous pursuit.”
Now he knows better. He makes the products used by Green Clean Maine, with ingredients such as baking soda, vinegar, plant-based detergents and essential oils.
As his business prospered and his company grew, Joe learned what every entrepreneur does: There’s more to it than the product or service, and more than the numbers.
“I went from zero to 16 people in four years,” he noted. “I needed to learn how to manage people. I had an assistant manager who would ask me, ‘What do I do?’ I realized that our management challenges had become more complex and I needed help getting answers.”
His college courses in leadership had given him a basic understanding of management, but he needed to bridge the gap between theory and the day-to-day. So he went looking for training.
“I had a background in leadership, so I was a picky consumer.” He settled on the Certificate Program in Supervision presented by USM Professional and Continuing Education, and hasn’t been disappointed. “It absolutely worked,” for Joe and Green Clean Maine’s assistant manager, both of whom completed the series.
Joe Walsh has tended bar in Ireland and led citizens’ protests in Rhode Island. Now he provides clean homes and offices for the environmentally conscious in Portland, and his search for a virtuous occupation has ended.
Student Profile by Jim Milliken, President & Principal Consultant at Jim Milliken, Inc