Mister Kleen was founded by Ernest and Mary Ann Clark. The company began as a small business operating from the family home. From the start, Mister Kleen was a “family affair”, with the entire family pitching in to clean the very first contracts during the evenings while the Clark’s continued with their day jobs. Ernest and Mary Ann’s son, Ernest, Jr. (“Ernie”), and daughters Dianna and Cindy worked alongside their parents. They would all pile into their old Ford Grand Torino station wagon with mops, brooms, and the household vacuum cleaner, and worked around the clock. Evenings were occupied with cleaning the Ford Motor Company District Office and the J.W. Bateson Construction Company—they also would maintain the grounds of these facilities on the weekends. The Mister Kleen office consisted of a vintage 1940′s typewriter that Mary Ann’s father had given her and a desk constructed from an unfinished door on two saw horses.
Sadly, Ernest Sr. was diagnosed with a rare form of meningitis as a direct result of the environment in which he worked with windows and roofs. As a result of his illness, he was forced to retire at the young age of 42. This was a tough blow for the family and they struggled with how to proceed and whether to continue on with building the company. They were approached by a national company interested in buying Mister Kleen, but ultimately, they decided to keep the company going. They had worked too hard and sacrificed so much that they wanted to continue and work even harder to build upon what their parents had established.
Fresh out of high school, Ernie Clark, Jr. took over the leadership role at Mister Kleen. He had ten years of on-the-job training under his belt and made the difficult choice to stay and run the business instead of going off to college. Ernie knew the importance of education; he took business classes at Northern Virginia Community College and attended workshops and conventions sponsored by BSCAI (Building Service Contractors Association International). He didn’t shy away from hard work and built a strong foundation for the company that would lead to future success. It took some time to establish himself, but he soon became a respected leader in the commercial cleaning industry. Ernie was determined to continue the dream of his parents
Ernie and Dianna decided to create a residential division at Mister Kleen. Dianna developed and successfully ran the residential division that would eventually service more than 100 households. Along with this new division came growth for Mister Kleen’s infrastructure. They added some new technology support with a professional copier and a computer. They also decided to build a new addition onto the family home that would serve as a conference and storage room. It would be another nine years before they would move their headquarters out of the family home.
Mister Kleen celebrates its 20th anniversary! Also, the first edition of The Kleen Sweep, Mister Kleen’s bi-annual newsletter is released. Today, Mister Kleen continues to publish the Kleen Sweep twice per year. While this communication medium has evolved over the years, the main message of a “Professional yet Personalized service” continues to be portrayed with a ‘Customer Spotlight’, ‘Employee of the Quarter’, ‘Employee Training Update’, and our ‘Clients Say it Best’ sections.
A dream came true for Mister Kleen with the purchase of an 8,000 square foot office and warehouse facility centrally located in Alexandria, Virginia. There was now space under one roof for all aspects of the company, which also included an onsite repair shop where Ernest, Sr. would repair company equipment until his passing in 2009. To this day, Mary Ann continues to stay involved with the family business, brightening the halls of Mister Kleen as she greets visitors, answers phones and helps out around the office.
After the terrorist attacks on 9/11, Ernie realized that with stricter security requirements there would be a need for a new kind of commercial cleaning company. Ernie acted quickly to develop a new division of Mister Kleen that would meet the requirements necessary to work within this secure environment. He developed systems, special training and unique hiring strategies to develop a new team for high security facilities. Years of hard work to obtain the proper credentials necessary to service secure facilities paid off as Mister Kleen received its first high security facility contract in 2005.
Mister Kleen celebrates 30 years and decides to sell the residential cleaning division to focus on their core clientele. While the residential janitorial industry continued to experience rapid change, the commitment and return on effort did not properly match the long term strategy for Mister Kleen’s operations. Mister Kleen made a strategic business decision to streamline their service and change their business focus solely on High Security, Commercial, and Specialty and Restoration cleaning services.
Ernie realized early on the importance of surrounding himself with successful business leaders in the same industry, to share business ideas and help each other solve critical business needs. In 2008, Ernie served as President of the Building Service Contractors Association International (BSCAI), and continues to be active in many associations while receiving several industry awards, including the James E. Purcell Leadership Award, and The Walter L. Cook Award for Distinguished Service.
In our continued commitment to adapting and enhancing technology systems, Mister Kleen introduced eHub, a web-based self-service portal for employees and supervisors. eHub gives Mister Kleen employees easy access to benefits and payroll information. This new self-service system, coupled with our direct deposit initiative for payroll, promotes Mister Kleen’s green agenda and our goals of creating a paperless work environment. eHub reduces our carbon footprint and streamlines our business processes by providing timely information to our employees.
When Ernie took the reins in 1986, Mister Kleen had approximately 40 employees and annual revenue was close to $400,000. Today with the growth and expansion of Mister Kleen’s work into commercial and high security business and a focus on quality and excellent service, Ernie and his sister, Dianna, have successfully built the business to become a multi-million dollar enterprise with more than 400 employees. Throughout the years, Ernie and Dianna have built a solid infrastructure in an effort to stay ahead of constantly changing times. They have invested significantly in technology and people. You will often hear Ernie recite, Mister Kleen is a family owned business and a professionally managed company.