While working at Burger King, Jason Lee saw a man cleaning the store’s windows. He asked the gentleman some questions.
“I knew I wanted to do something in business,” he said. “I had an entrepreneurial mind. The bigger side of things was I just wanted to be able to do something.”
In 1999 at age 22, Lee started a solo cleaning business by knocking on doors to drum up customers. Today, the Frederick resident is the CEO and founder of Lee Building Maintenance which has north of 90 employees. The company, offering a variety of services including general office cleaning to specialized care of sensitive equipment, began four years ago after Lee parted on good terms from another company he founded Top Quality Janitorial Services.
Every day, he gets to meet and interact with a variety of different personalities from customers, staff and facility managers.
“Although cleaning is what brings us together in most ways, (the interaction) is something different every day,” he said. “… What we do is mundane. It is the same thing but what keeps me going are the different personalities and different folks I get to work with on a daily basis.”
With two decades in the cleaning industry, Lee notes he was able to grow his business by recruiting good employees.
“Without our staff, we would not be here,” he said. “I tell everybody ‘Cleaning is not sexy.’ Everybody doesn’t want to jump in and clean the toilet but it is a necessary piece. We are cleaning for health. We want to make sure the environments we are cleaning are healthy. Finding the right folks and having the right team is so important.”
Lee always tells people that if they are looking for a perfect cleaning company, his is not it.
“We are in the people business and people make mistakes,” he said. “Our goal is how do we correct those as fast as we can and how can we make sure it doesn’t reoccur. That is how I approach our business. … I want people to know that we are real and we are going to do the best job out there that we can perform.”
The economic downturn in the late 2000s was difficult for many companies but Lee found his company had an abundance of people who wanted to go to work.
“Our business is all about labor,” he said. “Even though there was a big economic bust, we were able to find some of our best growth in that time because a lot of companies fell off, they couldn’t make it and we did. We had staff to do it. … We continue to keep plugging away. I think the key was not to give up. We had to figure out ways to make sure we watch every dollar. Make sure we were as productive as possible. Make sure we were value-priced in some sort of way so we could continue on.”
He encourages businesses to get involved with the Governor’s Office of Small, Minority & Women Business Affairs to take advantage of the services they offer.
“I think the key for most business owners is to do your due diligence,” he said. “Use them as best you can as a resource. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.”
In December, the agency presented Lee with a governor’s citation for his work as an entrepreneur and with multiple area nonprofits.
In Lee’s youth, he got into trouble and was incarcerated for a short time. When he got out, many people in his Sagner public housing community (now Lucas Village) rallied around him to help him get on a positive, productive path. “I (was) given an opportunity to change my life,” he said.
Lee is chair of the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce executive committee, a past president of the Rotary Club of Carroll Creek and a member of the Hood College Board of Associates. One of his passion projects is the rotary’s RISE program which aims to reduce unemployment and underemployment in Lucas Village. As a volunteer, he mentors men and women and helps to provide them with career opportunities. The program has helped to drop the unemployment rate in the community from 28 to 13 percent.
“I wanted to see folks that I knew, that I grew up with and the folks I was around to have an opportunity,” he said. “… I think if you pay it forward, a blessing will come your way. Giving back has been important to me and it has opened many doors to me.”
This article is featured in the 2019 edition of The Daily Record’s Expanding Opportunities Resource Guide for Small, Minority and Women Businesses. Published in conjunction with the Governor’s Office of Small, Minority & Women Business Affairs, Expanding Opportunities explores diversity, entrepreneurship and innovation in Maryland’s small business community. Read more from Expanding Opportunities on this website or read the digital edition.