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40 Under 40 - Class of 2020
Business Observer Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020 1 year ago

Steven Pajevic, 39

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Crystal Clean Green Cleaning, CEO
by: Grier Ferguson Sarasota-Manatee Editor

Steven Pajevic and his wife, Kristina, did a good job cleaning their own home, so they thought, what if they did it for other people too?

A business analyst at the time, Pajevic thought a residential cleaning service could be a good side hustle. The couple took a $100 gift card and bought equipment at Walmart. The business was born.

That was 2012. Now Sarasota-based Crystal Clean Green Cleaning has grown into a company with eight employees and clients throughout Sarasota and Manatee counties. “I remember the excitement and electricity I felt going from operating in the garage to a 1,700-square-foot warehouse,” Pajevic says.

From the beginning, the “Green” part of the name meant something. Crystal Clean uses cleaning products that are eco-friendly or organic, which helps it stand out. “We’re going to be a sustainable business and do what’s right for the environment and community,” he says.

Courtesy. Steven Pajevic’s company, Crystal Clean Green Cleaning, has grown into a firm with eight employees and clients throughout Sarasota and Manatee counties.

For Crystal Clean, the pandemic led to more attention on cleaning, but it also meant big business fluctuations. At the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, Crystal Clean lost 75% of its recurring clients because people decided they didn’t want anyone inside their homes. Since then, most have returned.

To address a new demand during the pandemic, Crystal Clean started a disinfecting service. The company also shifted to offer virtual walk-throughs and estimates. Pajevic and his team did so many that they set up a studio in the office to improve the quality of the experience for potential clients.

After coming through challenges brought on by the pandemic, Crystal Clean plans to bring on another team of two people. Pajevic says, “The goal is to broaden our service area and to open satellite offices in Charlotte County and Hillsborough County and have a home base in Sarasota.”

Pajevic likes to display key business goals like that in the office, telling his employees to ask him how the goals are progressing. “That’s just to hold myself accountable,” he says. “I’ve had people previously in my lifetime promise me things when I worked for them and tell me plans and nothing came to fruition. I said, ‘I don’t want to be that guy.’”

Pajevic is focused on his goals for Crystal Clean, but he also has his sights on the bigger picture. “We help our customers,” he says. “Cleaning is almost a byproduct of all of this. It’s having the relationship, being part of people’s homes and enriching people’s lives, both our customers and our employees.”

 

GAME STATS

Age

39

City of Residence

Sarasota

Employer

Crystal Clean Green Cleaning

Title

Chief executive officer

Birthplace

Cleveland, Ohio

Years on the Gulf Coast

21

Marital Status/Children

Married and with two children and two puppies.

Alma Mater/Degree

BBA (started college with a dual major: business and pre-med)

What community group or organization are you most involved with?

Manatee Chamber of Commerce, LWRBA and The Sustany Foundation.

What's the weirdest job you've ever had?

I had delivered newspapers and phone books in addition to working retail in high school. However, in college, I moonlighted as a florist and floral arranger.

What's your top tip for being productive?

Idea, goals and, most importantly, accountability. I started using paper lists, goals, and trackers. Over time those have all been digitized, and I use a handful of planning and project solutions that works between my phone and computer (i.e., Asana, nTask and Todoist). I still like to start planning sessions on paper. However, having lists only means you have lists and nothing more; actually working on the content within them leads to productivity. I ask for assistance and reminders from family and co-workers. I have a tendency to display a few important business goals and timelines in an active area of the office, and I kindly ask that team members ask me how "XYZ" is coming along. I do similar actions with my fellow Goldman Sachs Scholars, and we have mutually agreed to help one another in this area, with planning, coaching, goals, timelines and accountability.

If you could have a side hustle, what would it be?

I would love to have a food truck and have pictured myself working in one. I love to cook (and eat) great food. It would make sense to me to really focus on a few things, execute them amazingly and make people and taste buds happy.

What's your favorite off-hours activity?

I love spending time with family, exploring parks, local businesses and eateries in Sarasota, Manatee and surrounding counties. I do love hunting at Manasota Goodwills for some collectibles and treasures, which always raises my spirits.

What's your favorite board game, game show or video game?

Last video game I played was Halo and Guitar Hero, which, to say, was a while ago. My favorite game is from Serbia, titled "Covece, ne ljuti se," and closest to popular Trouble game. It is fun, family time and brain candy for me.

What’s your go-to delivery service? (DoorDash, Uber Eats, GrubHub, Bite Squad, etc.)

This is not something I normally use. I welcome the occasional break and go on a run to the bank or pick up dinner. As far as deliveries go, does being on a first name basis with my Amazon Delivery family mean anything?

What do you use most — Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams or Google Meetings?

Zoom has been my go-to for all things meeting. At CCGC we have started conducting virtual estimates and walk-throughs. With classes, chamber events, sales, meetings and mentor sessions, I would say it has been close to 500 Zoom meetings this year.

What’s the best binge-worthy show you have enjoyed during the pandemic?

Mid-April, as a family, we decided to limit our time watching shows and movies. We started watching "America's Got Talent," but Kristina, my spouse, and I are anxiously awaiting the return of "The Black List."

What’s the longest virtual meeting you’ve been on since mid-March?

Six hours. I had a flashback and tremors just thinking about it.

How many times had you used video for a work meeting prior to the pandemic?

Short of a few educational sessions, none for work, networking, sales, etc. We have definitely adapted quickly (as most others have) and have even set up a studio in the office to make things look better and more professional.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned during the pandemic?

The most important lesson for me during this time was to stay humble and be able to pivot. Just a few months ago, the store shelves were bare, something I have not seen in my lifetime. I suppose my lesson in "humble and pivot" is more a recipe. I had to trust myself, my family, my employees, clients and information. I had to acknowledge the fact that I knew very little, so I surrounded myself will like-minded professionals, small business owners from different backgrounds and specialties, and we helped one another navigate through hardships. I needed to speak and communicate to our office what was happening, and I also had to sharpen my listening skills to their worries and concerns. We needed to explain the situation, to set expectations, to adapt and change our service and methods of communication, and promise we will do what it would take to prevent job cuts and to maintain a functioning business. We had to prioritize those ideas, plan them out and execute — together. As a leader, I do my best to take care of others and coach through a regular day, let alone time such as this pandemic. I truly believed if we take care of our teams, clients, community and adapt the business to survive, they would take care of us, and they did. Survival had nothing to do with me alone. It was about our great employees, wonderful customers, our sustainability initiative and the promise made to them. We celebrated both our small victories and took our large ones with a grain of salt.

What do you miss most about the world pre-pandemic?

Handshakes, high-fives, hugs and networking events. Because we are in the residential cleaning business, I have to admit, I do miss the pre-pandemic prices and availability of cleaning products, supplies, gloves and shoe covers. A majority have nearly doubled in price.

What have you been spending more time doing during the pandemic?

Worrying about the health and safety of our families, staff, and clients. We have been a Sarasota Healthy County Worksite for six years, and the wellness of our employees, their families, our customers and the community at large was always important to us. We have been using gloves, shoe covers, sustainable/green products and procedures all to ensure health. We worked off of a CDC and OSHA checklist long before the pandemic struck. There was a part of us that said we are ready for this, we know how to handle it, and we will be fine. Although true, it doesn't mean anything if the other parties did not have that knowledge, understanding and trust. I was always very proud to be a Healthy County Worksite but realized my passion and excitement did not mean anything if our clients did not know or understand what it meant. We have taken a look at simplifying our information, to stand out as leaders and educators in our field, share ideas and share our passion in an inclusive, fun and energetic way. Ultimately trying to be better and stronger and more prepared for the future.

Do you prefer working from home or working from an office?

I prefer to work at the office; however, I currently alternate days. You will see me at the office, even if it is a five-minute visit, at least once a day.

How have you kept up camaraderie with colleagues during the pandemic?

This is tough. I have used Facebook and Zoom for the occasional check-in. Email is my current favorite because I know that most people are very busy no matter where they are working from. Figuring they will see my message and reply as time permits. I am glad the Manatee Chamber and LWRBA have pivoted to the Zoom meetings. Even if I see some familiar faces in those little squares, it still makes me smile.

What’s the first thing you’ll do after the pandemic?

Currently, my family and I often pack into the car and go to the park, go for walks, enjoy the beach and explore in our area. We do this to get out and center ourselves away from work, the computer and the ongoing list of to-dos. It has been so nice to meet people, see new gems for the first time, try new foods, etc. When things settle after the pandemic I would love to make a few stops to networking events, take the family to a movie, have the children enjoy some time at the playground and check out the sample areas at Costco.

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