How does the world define defeat? How do you? In thinking about someone as a failure, would any of the following come to mind? Aggressive risk taker. Mentor. CEO. Diversity coach. Million-dollar company founder. Early retiree. Entrepreneur. None of that fits our concept of an underachiever, yet Ronny Thompson—all those things and more—once “looked at [him]self as a failure.”
Around the time his 29-year old daughter died, he had sold his first business (a multi-million dollar company) and retired. With extra time on his hands and feeling burned out, he started “thinking about what is our real purpose in life. What was the purpose of my being so blessed, to overcome many obstacles, being a small startup and getting past that, and then, right before my eyes, losing that 29-year old? I didn’t look at myself as a success anymore.”
While assessing his life and contemplating its future, Ronny hit several sticking points. One of them was his belief that he “had failed Milwaukee.” He explains, “I failed the city I lived in because I didn’t help people who can’t help themselves through a working environment.” That’s when he decided to found PeachyClean Commercial and Construction Cleaning. He’s currently its CEO. It’s his mindset while fulfilling that role which makes him distinctive. It also makes him perfect for the times.
Complex. Confusing. Convoluted. Chaotic. In the midst of all that life and what the work world belches out, a beacon such as Ronny provides a foundation, direction, and support for not just his staff, but, potentially, his peers, as well. While his employees understand they are being taught some powerful lessons from their boss and that he cares about them, there are some within Ronny’s peer group who probably find it difficult to follow his lead. For instance, it might be hard for them to hear Ronny’s straightforward observations, such as, “Most owners and CEOs don’t take the time out because what we do is we think more about ourselves. We think about our pocketbooks. We don’t think about the people who work for us, because, if we did, we would do things differently.”
PeachyClean differs from other companies in significant ways. For example, “One of the things I’ve always done from the first time I started my business,” says Ronny, “was pay my employees before I pay me. It’s crucial that you make sure you take care of people. So, when minimum wage was $5, I was paying $10. Minimum wage right now is $7 and we’re paying $15 to $20.” Those wages partly explain why Ronny states, “People who work under my leadership have done better in life.”
He introduces another subject—diversity—with, “I changed the culture in ‘my house’ and started bringing a diverse group of people to my office.” Ronny explains that, within PeachyClean, it’s not uncommon to “talk about our race, to talk about our differences, to talk about if we don’t like each other because we’re not the same.” In fact, Ronny says, “We have the conversation every day.”
“Taking this defining moment that we have right now,” he states, “and embracing the uncomfortable moments,” has helped Ronny redefine success for himself. “Success to me now,” he says, “is my legacy whereby people who don’t look like me and people who do get the chance to communicate and work together and know that the philosophy is coming from the person on top and trickling all the way down to the person who’s working part time.”
At some point at PeachyClean, that very same part-time employee will find himself working alongside his boss. Ronny shares, “Yesterday I was working with a crew at a hotel for eight hours. They see me work—and I purposely work—to let them know I’m not expecting them to do anything I wouldn’t do myself.”
He went on to add, “I understand the small business owners who have the mindset that they are their own boss and they want to make money. I get it. But if you need people, you need to think about them first, because they’re the ones who are going to help you sleep at night. They’re the ones who are going to help your business grow. And they are the ones who are going to be your tomorrow.”
Speaking of the future, as well as post-pandemic issues, Ronny says, “My faith is so strong that I know I’m in a good place every day. I have such a great team here that we will figure it out. We just got some very large contracts and we have to fulfill those needs. That’s why I’m in Milwaukee today because I will be in the field to help fulfill those needs. And once I’m out in the field, the people will believe in me.”
Follow Ronny Thompson and PeachyClean Commercial & Construction Cleaning on social media. When you do, consider congratulating them on receiving a $10,000 grant from Fiserv’s Back2Business COVID-19 relief program and the Milwaukee Bucks.