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Starting at the bottom at Anago Cleaning Systems

Monday, March 14th, 2016  |  Family Business

When David Povlitz’s children started working at his company, Anago Cleaning Systems in Pompano Beach, Fla., their first assignments were at the low end of the totem pole.

As David’s son, Adam Povlitz, scrubbed toilets at a local daycare center in 2009, he wondered if he had made the right decision when he left his job in the finance department at IBM’s North America sales and distribution division to work for Anago.

“It was definitely a shot to the pride and a humbling experience, going from corporate finance to my first role,” Adam says.

In the span of five years, Adam, now 31, would become president of Anago, which his father had founded in 1989. But it wasn’t smooth sailing to the top of the company hierarchy. David Povlitz made sure that Adam and his sister, Lisa Ritenour, 38, understood every aspect of the business, even if that meant getting dirty.

Working their way up

David, the company chairman, says he wanted Adam and Lisa to receive no preferential treatment as the boss’s children. They started at the bottom and then rotated through a variety of positions in the company.

“Nothing was given to them,” David says. “I didn’t start them in posh positions; I started them cleaning buildings. They were on their hands and knees cleaning. I started them out getting their hands dirty. Then I turned them into telemarketers. Subsequently they had to go out and clean the facility they had just sold, buy their own supplies and turn around and make sure the bill got out and collected.”

“We’re practically executives in the company and going in and cleaning dirty diapers, coming out smelling like bologna,” recalls Lisa, now Anago’s vice president of internal operations. But she says the experience of doing those jobs, which are “the foundation of our business,” gave them a better appreciation of the work performed by the company’s more than 1,400 janitorial franchisees.

Adam says he understands the wisdom of the career path his father established for him and his sister. “We didn’t want to make it appear that there was any kind of nepotism, being the founder’s son,” he says.

Releasing the reins

Before his children rose to the executive ranks, David had to be sure that they were ready. It was easy to get them started by cleaning facilities, but could they handle prominent roles in the business?

“My challenge in all of this was releasing the reins,” David says. “When I saw that their personal commitment was [meshing] with their organizational and managerial skills, a siren went off in my head and I knew it was the next generation of talent to evolve.”

“It’s just an honor to continue what my father started,” Lisa says. “It’s amazing to be able to work with my family every day. That also can be challenging, but it’s rewarding on most days.”