Written by Barak Hernandez
Sixty years ago my father started a small janitorial company, and it grew and grew. I was raised doing janitorial services from the age of 10. We also did carpet cleaning and flood restoration services. I made a decision early on that this was not the career for me. My father had high hopes that out of having four sons, at least one of them would take over the business, but none of us did.
By the time I was 19 I had cleaned countless homes, carpets and toilets. I remember vividly being on my hands and knees and watching while a well dressed couple was leaving for dinner, telling me to lock the doors when I was finished cleaning. Always with professional gratitude, I said, “yes sir, will do.” Now at age 24, and one working day in particular, I remember entering the house of a wealthy attorney who was Hispanic like me.
I was there to clean his carpets after his home had water damage. I slowly walked into the great room where he sat with his back to me, in a gorgeous mahogany colored leather chair. As he was reading the paper, I announced my presence and told him I needed to clean the room where he was reading and relaxing. He was very kind, yet serious, and left the room. I remember being especially cautious while cleaning. The last thing I wanted was to break something valuable in an attorney’s home.
After I was finished, he told me to follow him into the next room. I thought to myself, “holy crap! What did I do?” He told me he was going to pay me for cleaning the carpet and that I did a great job. I was so relieved. After writing the check out to my father’s company name, he paused and looked at me and asked, “how old are you?” I told him 24 years old. He then told me how before graduating from college he worked in the fields with his father since he was 8 years old. I couldn’t believe it. This man who sat in the leather chair, with a huge home in Old Fig Garden, used to pick fruit?
He then told me that if I wanted a home like this, I needed to go to college, and that I was at a good age to do so. He was really open and encouraging, and even gave me a nice tip. That was all I needed. I decided on the drive back to the warehouse I was going to college. For the next decade, I would complete my Bachelor’s and then my Master’s degree while working full-time in mental health. I was married and had a nice house in north Fresno. I finally had achieved success and was no longer cleaning. In fact, now I was the one who had his home professionally cleaned by someone else. This was truly the happiest time of my life.
The new reality
In 2008, President George W. Bush announced that the United States was in an economic recession. I was working full-time and was attending college working on my Doctorate degree. I was laid off without warning due to downsizing, and my wife and I had just purchased our first home. I spent the first year of being unemployed frantically searching for work, but the only positions open were entry level or sales, and I was overeducated and over qualified for most of these. At first, being told I was overqualified was a good feeling, but as the months passed on, that feeling went away.
My father called me one day asking me to have coffee. I accepted his invitation. We had lost contact for several years because I had been in the world of college and full-time work, and having a blast in a field that was miles away from the cleaning industry. He suggested to me that I should start my own cleaning company and work with him as a sub-contractor. He said I would be able to charge his company more for my services. I decided to take him up on his offer and I started my own company.
Since 2009 I have had the privilege of working closely with my father, enjoying the moments on projects that I had long forgotten, and may have even taken for granted. My father has since passed away and the son he thought was least likely to take over his company finally did. I have two employees and multiple projects that keep us busy and allow company growth. I also have a commercial running and advertising campaigns for the future. I have even acquired new skills in the flood remediation industry, which is what my company primarily offers.
I have three children, and my wife and I managed to keep our home despite the economic changes and turmoil that occurred. This was due to my returning to the original trade I was taught. I feel I have come to know and love the city of Fresno and Clovis more than ever and am proud to live here. How is success defined? Success is more than just surviving; it is thriving and attaining real personal joy and satisfaction. It’s to shape the environment around you instead of the environment shaping you. It’s seeing the value in people. It’s extending a helping hand, and it’s being honest in business practices.
Will I ever return to college and finish my Doctorate degree? Will my two sons take over the company their grandfather started 60 years ago, and that their father is now running? I will have to wait and see what the next decade will bring, but for now I do have the answer to the question, “can a person go home again?” The answer is yes.
Barak Hernandez is the owner of Clean Master since 2018 and has 30 years experience in providing all cleaning and water restoration services. Born and raised in Fresno California Barak is the youngest of nine children. Barak attended Norseman elementary, Easterby elementary, Kings Canyon Middle school, and finally Mclane High school. Barak was raised to work at a young age without pay. Coming from a large Hispanic family it was always expected that every family member contributed by doing chores and helping out with the family business. Both of Barak’s parents are currently deceased but live forever in his memory.