In its simplest terms, ServiceMaster by Stratos is a contract janitorial service business. But at its heart, ServiceMaster by Stratos is a logistical people business. At least that’s how CEO Stacy McCall describes the makeup of the 35-year-old company.
ServiceMaster by Stratos has 200 employees in the Memphis marketplace, including 12 in the 66 N. Main St. office. But while those employees technically are employed by ServiceMaster by Stratos, they become part of the culture of the partner companies.
“People don’t come through our corporate doors. They report straight to the customer’s facility and become part of their team,” McCall said.
ServiceMaster by Stratos works in four service segments: event and venue customers such as FedExForum and AutoZone Park; post-construction services such as the Crosstown Concourse project; traditional office space cleaning; and schools cleaning.
And how the company treats its people who work on those projects is a big part of its success, as well as its impact on the greater Memphis community.
ServiceMaster by Stratos has called Downtown Memphis home since 2009. Its previous Bluff City office was near the Malco Summer Drive-In on Summer Avenue, but McCall said they wanted to be part of the Downtown energy when they chose to move to 66 N. Main St.
“I wanted a place we could feel plugged into the heartbeat of Memphis,” she said. “There was something about Main Street Memphis if we could find a facility that would fit our needs this is where we wanted to be. … We’ve found that it’s become such a part of our culture to be here. We feel like we’re part of the fabric.”
The company’s culture is enhanced by its Downtown location, but more than that, it’s how employees are treated. One of the company’s core philosophies is based on giving back to its employees and the community in ways that make the most sense for an entity in the service industry.
“We’re not a company that has large cash opportunities for giving in the nonprofit arena,” McCall said. “But we do have our people. We’ve developed an in-kind philosophy that I believe works for organizations that are in the service industry.”
McCall said the company finds its own avenue to give back in the community. One example is a sponsorship of the Memphis Blues Ball. ServiceMaster by Stratos employees clean the facility prior to the event, service it during the function and clean it afterwards. The company pays its employees for the work but doesn’t pass on the costs to the nonprofit organization putting on the event.
“It benefits the nonprofit directly, it benefits our people because we’re not taking money out of their pocket or food off their table,” McCall said. “It also benefits our service partners who participate because they get to see and experience potentially things they’d never experience on a daily basis.”
Other ways the company works in the nonprofit sphere is by providing in-kind services to the RiverArtsFest and the Boy Scouts of America Chickasaw Council.
But back to the idea that ServiceMaster by Stratos cares for its employees. It’s more than just providing a friendly culture and caring work environment. In fact, one way the company cares for its own is something not everyone at Stratos even knows exists.
The company has a benevolence fund that is used to address various personal needs of employees. The management team can choose to have money set aside from personal paychecks that then goes into a fund the company matches dollar for dollar. When someone sees an employee who has a need, a request can be made to use the benevolence fund to help that person, with no questions asked.
“We had to develop that culturally internally before we could have the external culture and the in-kind piece,” McCall said. “If we can’t meet the needs of our people internally they can’t meet the needs of our customers.”
There’s a variety of ways the fund is used. It started out as a pay advance to keep people from seeking bad loans or to borrow from their 401(k). The maximum amount an employee can receive is $300.
Terika Foster has been a resource specialist for the company for nearly nine years. She has seen the fund used in many ways, from paying a utility bill or rent to buying medications or car repairs so the employee can get to work.
Employees can’t seek the money, so the fund naturally encourages management to get to know staff in a more personal way to be able to recognize needs.
“We have so many employees with many needs,” Foster said. “It’s usually a result of an employee having a heart-to-heart with management or another employee who then comes to us and says, ‘Ms. Sally is struggling. Her vehicle won’t start.’ Then management can come to us and nominate that person. It doesn’t matter what their need is.”
The program works well in part because it’s not an exuberant amount of money available and there are safeguards to keep anyone from abusing it.
McCall said the program is easy to implement and can be replicated by other companies. For her, it’s rewarding to look back over the 35 years of the company’s history and see how many employees have been impacted at Stratos.
“I wouldn’t have realized the opportunity I’ve had to influence so many lives when we started this journey,” she said. “I like to joke that being an engineer I was a numbers person and I’m not sure I would have ever realized I’d be in a people business.”
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