I’m the founder and CEO of Environmental Service Solutions. ESS helps our clients by identifying, eradicating, and eliminating airborne and surface pathogens – including viruses such as COVID-19 – on-site through electrostatic removal. ESS disinfects sites with our Pro Oxide® chlorine dioxide-based antimicrobial protectant coating, which kills pathogens such as viruses and bacteria to stop the spread of COVID and save lives. We work closely with clients such as Rensselaer County, NY, for long-term, cost-effective environmental safety protocol to ensure public venues such as schools, jails, and retirement homes are kept safe.
When it came time to resume in-person learning in the Schodack Central School District in Rensselaer County, ESS technicians sanitized and disinfected the high school and elementary school buildings to safely welcome back students and staff. All our clients are like family to me and in this case, I have children in the district, so I wanted to make sure that the community is environmentally safe and that parents, students, and teachers would be confident that ESS did everything we could to make sure that they are safe. Currently, we’re working with Rensselaer County on our extended partnership, which will allow ESS to deploy our solution in more places and save more lives.
What's your backstory and how did you get into entrepreneurship?
I started working in my family’s sports flooring business when I was quite young. I worked weekends, nights, and summers in that business. I am now the founder and CEO of Creative Sports Concepts (CSC), which brings the highest standard of safety and performance to client facilities through the installation of hardwood and synthetic athletic flooring, outdoor tracks, playgrounds, and athletic equipment. CSC worked with Nike, Adidas, Monster Energy, Michael Jordan, Steph Curry’s foundation, and other professional sports teams to protect staff and team members. In working closely with those athletic facility clients, I learned about the need for effective antimicrobial solutions to eliminate athletic-acquired infections, such as staph infections, MRSA, mold, and mildew ─ which led me to develop ESS. I am also a part-owner and partner in Aeras Fog Electrostatic Technology, which has developed a revolutionary, charged electrostatic solution for the delivery of disinfectant, which we use at ESS to apply our protocol.
It’s not about the money. It’s about doing something good for people (and it’s okay to make money while doing said good things).
I have been an entrepreneur my entire career. I was raised to build. I have learned to listen to clients and never say no to their needs. I’ve been doing antimicrobial and disinfecting work since 2011, so ESS has the proven experience it needs and is not a newcomer in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Take us through your entrepreneurial journey. How did you go from day 1 to today?
Everything we’ve been doing, from our company’s start to how we treat all of our clients like family, is relationship-driven. In 1978 I interned under my brother and brother-in-law by installing gym floors, including hardwood and synthetic athletic flooring, outdoor tracks, playgrounds, and athletic equipment. In 1988, I opened my own sports flooring business - which eventually opened the door for us to move into antimicrobials and launch ESS.
There are three ways for an entrepreneur to grow a business: (1) sell a wider variety of goods, (2) increase the number of clients, and/or (3) upsell more offerings to existing clients. ESS has always tried to bring more offerings to the same clients because the barrier to entry is lower where relationships already exist. Once your business is trusted and integral to a facility or client, they tend to lean on you and will confide in you when they face a challenge - regardless of the issue. I never say “no” to a client, I focus on how to solve their problem. It is always best to listen closely to clients instead of trying to guess what it is you think they need. Creative Sports Concepts was able to evolve from placing basketball hoops, courts, paddings, seating, recoating, repainting, and resurfacing floors to antimicrobials because we listened to our clients’ needs. This listening, learning, and the evolving cycle continues to this day, and beyond.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
ESS is doing great. Whether it’s a restaurant, a clinic, hospital, sports facility, school, or a location type in between, we create protocols for total environmental safety to protect against harmful pathogens. Unlike a “one-off” visit from an exterminator, working with ESS is a long-term, far more cost-effective solution for maintaining hygiene standards and total recontamination from harmful pathogens.
During the current pandemic, ESS is helping businesses reopen safely, by both eliminating viruses within a facility but also establishing protocols to prevent future contamination or virus spread. It is impossible to protect people from spreading a virus such as COVID-19 from person-to-person contact. However, ESS has been field-tested to reduce the spread of viruses by killing them on surfaces and in the air. Knowing a COVID-19 outbreak can be devastating to any business and community, ESS works and will continue to work closely with its partners and clients to ensure venues are safe.
In the future, ESS will expand to serve businesses nationally and eventually on a global basis to bring the gold standard of clean to a greater number of facilities. We will continue being proactive and developing protocols to meet our clients’ needs.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Yes, the one rule of thumb I always adhere to and have taught my team to follow is to proactively pay very close attention to the needs of current and prospective clients, rather than arrive at each job with our own agendas. Doing the latter turns our clientele into customers of an off-the-shelf product, rather than respected partners of the brand and business.
We approach each client intending to provide exactly the right solution for their unique business challenges and desired outcomes. We never use a steamroller or cookie-cutter approach. We change our approach for every client, according to their needs and desired outcomes. Our mission is to help clients have the assurance they need that their location and that on-premise are as safe as they can be.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We use our website and have a newsletter and blog. We’ve also started to use Instagram. We also focus heavily on PR and traditional marketing as awareness-driving tools.
In terms of our collusion, we use Aeras Fog Company’s electrostatic spray technology and disinfectant solutions to deliver our “gold standard of clean.” With Aeras’ electrostatic technology, particles are charged at a higher voltage than any other electrostatic technology available, enabling the spray to seek out, land on, and wrap around surfaces - ensuring more coverage than other spraying techniques.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
More so than books or podcasts, I rely on the advice and findings of chemists, manufacturers, and lab professionals within the chemical world. It is particularly useful to connect with people who aren’t like-minded to me but share the same goals. Who will challenge me and offer a different perspective?
My growth comes from being uncomfortable and being challenged to change and evolve. The people who challenge us daily help us grow in the best ways possible.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
My best advice is to let the clients set the tone for the relationship figure out what you can offer them to meaningfully grow your relationship while making them a part of the experience. I would also tell budding entrepreneurs to be sure they are passionate about their business and/or product(s). If you cannot be passionate about both, entrepreneurship might not be the right path for you. You also want your clients to be as passionate about the product and services received as you and your team are in providing them.
Lastly, I would tell them to remember: it’s not about the money. It’s about doing something good for people (and it’s okay to make money while doing said good things). At ESS, we make money and grow our business by doing no harm, just good, for all involved.
Where can we go to learn more?
Hey! 👋I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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