On this episode of Veteran Led podcast, John chats with Army Veteran and Entrepreneur Jerry Flanagan to hear the inspiring story of how he and his wife, Tracy, created an incredible business from a desperate situation. Respect, Integrity, and Trust; these are the foundations of JDog Junk Removal & Hauling. Their mission has provided over 1,000 job opportunities for veterans while supporting their foundation which focuses on suicide prevention and treating PTSD. Hear how the 2008 financial crisis turned into an incredible story of success, with a brand built on resilience and determination!
John Berry: Welcome to the Veteran Led podcast, where we talk with leaders who use their military experiences to develop great organizations and continue to serve their communities. Today’s guest is Jerry Flanagan. Jerry is an Army veteran and entrepreneur who, along with his wife Tracy, created a national veteran brand dedicated to empowering veterans through entrepreneurship rooted in the military values of respect, integrity and trust. That JDog Junk Removal and Hauling and JDog carpet cleaning and floor care franchise systems have become a nationwide movement, creating business and employment opportunities for veterans and veteran family members through Jerry’s vision and leadership. JDog junk removal and hauling service has since grown to hundreds of locations, 90% of which are veteran owned. To date, the company has created more than 1000 job opportunities for veterans across the United States. Jerry also founded the JDog Foundation, whose mission is to support veterans and military veteran related causes with a particular focus on preventing veteran suicide and treating post-traumatic stress disorder. Jerry, how did you start JDog. How did the idea come to you and where did the name come from?
Jerry Flanagan: Well, the name came from my nickname in the Army. I was a wire dog combat signaller. And when my wife and I wanted to start one of our many businesses, JDog was an LLC that I had just tucked away. And when we started junk removal, JDog junk removal kind of went right with it. So it turned out that that was a pretty good name, really catchy. Um, the 2011, um, we, we launched JDog and it was really out of a desperation situation. Um, we had a few different businesses over the ten years. And, um, when the economy crashed in 2008, um, we realized the business that we were in, which was seasonal retail and birthday parties and moon bounces, was a terrible business to be in. Um, people were not going to be paying 4 or $500 for birthday parties. They were not going to go spend $3,000 for swing sets. So that model, even though we had six franchises in 2008, um, it was a really cool model. It was like the anti Chuck E cheese where parents could come in and party and watch TV and watch football with the kids, ran around and kind of like killed themselves, you know, on the Moon Bounces and the playsets.
Jerry Flanagan: We had a really cool concept and we thought that thing was going to go, you know, across the country. Um, again, once the financial crisis hit with the economy, people cannot get loans. They couldn’t they couldn’t buy the franchises. So I found myself scrambling. What do I do next? I don’t have a college degree. And it was very difficult trying to get my foot in the door for any interviews. I just wanted to get something to be stable, um, some medical benefits. And then I was going to do a side hustle. So while I was working, trying to find a job, I started the side hustle. I did some research on the internet, and it turned out that junk removal was really a recession proof type model. Um, a lot of the big companies that were had junk removal, um, did okay. They, you know, sales were down, but they all survived because everybody in the country has junk. And at some point, even though, you know, the economy goes down a little bit, you still have to empty out buildings and empty out homes and retail and all those type of things. So we launched 2011 junk removal in March.
John Berry: And at that point, it’s just you doing the work and your wife Tracy running the back office, is that right?
Jerry Flanagan: Correct. And it’s interesting because, you know, basically when we launched it, my idea was I’m just going to out hustle everybody. Um, I’ll work seven days a week in my neighborhood and be the main junk removal guy in my townhouse development. There’s about 1800 townhomes. So that was like the business plan. There was no military attached to it right away. So I was just going to go out and hustle out hustle everybody. So we’re doing this for about two weeks. And I showed up to the customer’s house and I was, you know, clean cut hair. Um, I was early. And when I got done the job, the guy was like, so where’d you serve? And I had been out of the military so long, I basically just put my military experience in a shoe box, because I’d only served two years of active and two years of, um, National Guard. And basically, you know, when the guy said that to me, I said, you know, you know, I was in the military, but I really don’t use, you know, any of the military today. And he said, well, your work ethic should acts like you’re in the military. So you should tell everyone you’re a military veteran. And that’s when we changed the format of the company to military veteran owned and operated.
John Berry: And I think that’s an important distinction. You said you should tell everybody. And what he meant was beforehand, because I’ve been in the same situation where I was in front of a judge and as I was leaving the bench, he said, uh, what branch are you in, Barry? I said, how did you know I served, your Honor? He said, because I can tell by the way you carry yourself. And there is something special about the way we carry ourselves. And, Jerry, I usually have officers or NCOs talk about leadership, but your your experience, you were, I believe, an E-4. Is that right? That was the highest rank you held.
Jerry Flanagan: Yeah E-4 that’s the highest.
John Berry: And you learned so many, so many lessons that helped you build this amazing company that helps veterans and and helps our communities. And I wanted to go back to some of those, those experiences. What about that helped you in starting off the business? What did you learn in those those years as a enlisted soldier that helped you build this organization that now has over 300 locations, that is nationwide?
Jerry Flanagan: I think the best thing I learned was you can work harder than you really realize. You can put more hours in if you need to. And being a wire dog, I spent a lot of time just running wire, picking up wire whenever they told you to go do it in Fort Stewart, Georgia. And I never had that work ethic before, so I immediately turned my whole personality to, I don’t mind working, I don’t mind working hard. And I applied that when I got out of the service to all the work I ever did, which was mostly retail, um had two failed businesses and each one of those businesses, the work ethic was there. Just some of the experience and knowledge wasn’t there as far as accounting, financing, those type of things that I learned later on. Um, but when I launched J-dawg, um, in 2011, and once that guy told me that you should tell everyone you’re a military veteran, people are going to want to use you. Um, I immediately went to. Seville VA hospital and went to the job fair there and I. I for the first time, I realized veterans needed work. They were hurting. They were coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan and they were struggling. Um, so we hired them. So Tracy and I would would bring the guys into the trucks and we would go out and haul junk. And basically what happened was they got a chance to kind of get back on their feet and realize that they could get back into the workforce to once we saw the unemployment rate for veterans shoot up over 12% coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan, it was Tracy’s idea to say, hey, let’s duplicate this model, turn it into a franchise.
John Berry: You’re making sure that veterans have jobs, you’re hiring veterans, but you’re also providing an entrepreneurial opportunity for veterans who want that opportunity. So tell us how that was born. I mean, I think it sounds like you guys said, hey, we’re we’re helping veterans. And the only way we can do this is to is to franchise. Or was there another thought behind how you’re going to scale this?
Jerry Flanagan: Well, I think the the most important thing is when you launch a national business, you need a lot of resources and a lot of management. If you’re going to keep it as a company owned concept franchising, you can basically put a franchise into the business. They’re their own boss with the support of the franchise. And we had just done this with our swing set moon bounce business. So I had some franchising experience already. And the opportunity for, you know, a former soldier to come in, open up their own business, hire their brothers and sisters, and build a little miniature community in their community around J-dawg. It just took off right away. As soon as these J-dawg started opening up, they became the the focus of J-dawg. They were the veteran owned business. They were the one you want to buy a cup of coffee for or, you know, attend the Veterans Day parade? It was no longer really Jerry and Tracy. It was the J-dawg brand. And we realized that we had something bigger in front of us. We had more of a and more of an opportunity to get the brand extended into all types of things other than just junk removal.
John Berry: So the brand is now bigger than you and Tracy. What how does your role evolve when that happens?
Jerry Flanagan: Well, you know, we have a structure here at the office that we have to support our franchisees in all types of formats, whether it’s marketing operations. We need to put people through the process to sell them. And, you know, make sure that they’re approved to go through the system as far as opening up a JDog. Um, but just doing things like the podcast and getting the word out and then introducing, like, the grunge style foundation, Stop Soldier Suicide, Irreverent Warriors, all the things we’ve been able to find that we have a voice, that we can get the word out to help out other veterans in different areas. So the brand to me has become so much bigger. Um, and that’s why, you know, you talked about earlier, you know, what’s next or what happens with the carpet cleaning those type of things. I can get into some of those and why we’ve made some of those decisions. But to me, we’re sitting on something that a brand can be recognized anywhere in the country when a veteran opens up a business and if they open it up under our camo and our dog, um, it gets recognized really fast.
John Berry: Right. And yeah, great logo, great, great artwork there. And as you mentioned, uh, your wife Tracy runs the Tactical Treasures podcast, and it sounds like she really started the back office, but now she’s taking more of a front stage role as she’s she’s running the podcast and doing some of those things. Uh, how do you manage those roles, deciding who’s going to do what?
Jerry Flanagan: Well, you got to see who’s good at what. They’re what they’re really good at. You take, you know, one of the employees. And if you see their strengths, you you put it around the strength as opposed to writing a job description and putting somebody in there. Um, you know, like our president, Kevin Cope, has been with us over seven years and his role has changed 3 or 4 times. You know, we promote within and we just kind of roll the staff into areas where we see we can get the most out of them. Um, as far as Tracy and I go, we we started from scratch. We started with an index card on our kitchen table, begging for the phone to ring while I’m running around at five in the morning, putting lawn signs up all around Home Depot and the shopping centers waiting for that phone call. So, um, the fact that we were able to go through this whole thing from from the ground up to where we are now, I think it’s we’re more like more teaching, like now these days and more mentoring. I think that’s really what you want to say. Um, but as far as the marketing of the brand, Tracy, Mrs. JDog has become very popular out there in the milspouse space. Um, you know, she’s a veteran spouse, not a military spouse, but she’s associated with that veteran community. And as far as I go, you know, I’ve done 6 or 7 interviews on Fox and Friends, Good Morning America. You know, all the stations. They want to hear about what we’re doing and how they can help.
John Berry: Yeah. And usually in businesses you see that someone’s front stage, someone’s backstage. But it seems that you and Tracy are both front stage and it’s working well.
Jerry Flanagan: Yeah. I think that, um, what I recommend is if someone buys a JDog franchise, get the family involved, you know, get the wife on board, get the husband on board and get the kids involved because it builds that family unity. And it really teaches some things about what you’re doing with your, you know, with your family. If you’re going to be an entrepreneur, if you want to be an entrepreneur, you want to take the road of starting it for yourself. You can do that. Very risky. There’s a lot of lessons learned there. Um, or you could buy into a franchise system where the franchise owners, Tracy and I, had already gone through a lot of those, um, made a lot of those mistakes.
John Berry: And great point. The family is one of the stakeholders or the family members are stakeholders in the business. Because you’re right, there’s a lot of risk. There’s a lot of time and sacrifice that go into any business. And you’re absolutely right. It’s it’s the stakeholders. So in reading about the growth of your company, it seems about 2017 is when things just took off. Tell us about that.
Jerry Flanagan: Yeah, I think we started to really get on a roll with people wanting to know what this job thing was. And we were booking so much media. Um, you know, Fox and Friends have been really good to us because every time there’s a Veterans Day, something going on or hiring our heroes, you know, they typically invite us to go on there and talk about what we’re doing. And I think what happens is, once you see one of these trucks running around one part of the country and someone sees it, they go, that’s cool. They go up and talk to them, and before you know it, you’ve got another veteran that’s right next door that wants to open up as well. And that’s kind of what has happened over the years, is that it kind of caught wildfire once, um, once they started popping up all over the country. And I think it was really cool. You kind of pinch yourself, you know, in 2018, someone said, hey, yeah, I was in the Dallas airport and I saw one of your trucks parked right outside the airport. I didn’t know you were in Dallas. I’m like, yeah, we’re in Dallas. And you know, we’re in Seattle. And you know, we’re in San Diego. And just look at me like I was crazy. Like, they didn’t realize they thought we were a local little JDog here in our back yard. And they realize that this is just one of so of so many locations that are out there.
John Berry: As this started to happen, how did you how did you scale the organization? What was going through your mind as as you saw the massive growth happening?
Jerry Flanagan: Well, we put the money right back into the company as far as our training center, um, our training techniques, um, just a lot of research. We added staff. Um, it just it’s it’s weird. It’s like there’s not one thing we did. We just realized after we sold 10 or 20 more, we know we needed to improve this, improve our social media, improve our software. We use a format called Workkeys. We’ve changed those booking, you know, softwares. 3 or 4 times. We had a disaster. I’m not going to name the company with a disaster. We spent 20 or $30,000 on this software system. We just couldn’t get it to work. So, you know, that’s behind the scenes, things that people don’t realize that what it takes to to build a company, you know, you hit three out of ten. You’re you’re a good baseball hitter, right? So you’re going to have seven losses and three wins. And, you know, you should be pretty happy with that, especially in business. Yeah.
John Berry: And I think there does come a point where you realize that the losses are just going to keep coming. But you have to you probably learned this in the military improve your fighting position. You know, the more wins you have, the more opportunities is to improve that fighting position. Dig in deeper, put in the overhead cover, camouflage. You really start working through building. But I think people think that it happens. You know, just like when you’re improving your fighting position, that you just go from one thing to the next and you build on it. But the reality is there’s a lot of ups and downs along the way. And I, I’ve been sold vaporware, too. You buy a software, you think it’s going to work. And then, you know, I talked to a two star general who’s in the space now, and he, uh, he, he left and he said, you know, John, uh, it’s not what you think it is. He said, some of these companies haven’t even built it yet. They’re selling you a concept, and they’re going to use your money to do the research and development. And I was I was kind of blown away by that. But, you know, that’s just one example of, I think the setbacks that that we deal with and a lot of people just don’t see behind the scenes, you know, when when you’re trying to grow this organization and as the growth picks up, those things at scale become such a huge problem because there are. So at that point, there are so many other franchisees that are depending on you to get the right answer.
Jerry Flanagan: Yeah. And I think one of the biggest lessons we learned here through that growth period is we were allowing franchises to come in and sign franchise agreements, not pay for them yet, but sign for their future thinking. I’m going to be able to do this very easily in 2 or 3 years. I’m going to expand their expand their, expand their. And what happened was we were signing up people where they should have been focusing on the one, you know, ones and twos, that’s it. And then not worrying about, well, someday I want to grow into that territory and that territory. So we’ve pulled that back. We don’t allow that anymore. Um, because we realize people are too busy worrying about the future instead of taking care of today. You know, when you’re a small business owner, you need to work. You know, in my mind, seven days a week, um, you’ve got to be on it. You got to answer the phone. You got you can’t just shut it off. Um, that’s part of being an entrepreneur. So I think that we realize that the small little ones and two owners right here, I think that’s the that’s the best formula. So that’s one of the lessons we learned. We got carried away. Um, we let people just, you know, sign up territories and block territories for other, you know, veterans that may have want to open these areas. They were all blocked up at one point. Um, but we pulled that back.
John Berry: So it’s it’s the methodology of before you tell me you’re going to run ten franchises, show me you can run one.
Jerry Flanagan: It’s exactly right. And I think that that can apply to any business owner, any entrepreneur. You better make sure that your house is in order for a couple of years. You need at least three years to make sure that it’s not a fluke. You know, when the recession hit, um, uh, you know, corona. Virus. We kind of exploded because people are renovating their houses all day. They were home. They had that extra money. And then coming into it, now we’ve gone down with a slow, slow growth because you can’t get an SBA loan for under 14.5%. But coronavirus hit. It was like 3 to 5%. So you have to as a business owner, especially as a franchisor, you have to really think five, 4 or 5 years out like I’m already in 2026 right now. And unfortunately you have to do that as a CEO. You have to kind of be out there and be prepared for what if this happens? What if this happens? What if this happens?
John Berry: Yeah. And I think when when the crises hit, especially businesses the strong survive and the weaker kill neaton. And if you’re if you’re planning out that far ahead, you’ve obviously thought through all the contingencies. Well, you don’t think through all of them, but you thought you’ve seen the obvious ones and you’re and you’re and you’re and you’re living in the future understanding you have enough cash to sustain you in the present. And that’s what gives us the the cash confidence for the future, because we’ve we’ve done the right things to ensure survivability right now, but it allows us that allows us then to get really visualize what that future is going to be. And so, as you know, you’re living in 2026 now, I like that because now I want to ask you the the tough question that a lot of us struggle with, which is the line extension. So, you know, you’re doing the the junk removal and hauling J-dawg is the brand. And I mean, you’re you’re one of the top ones nationwide, and you’ve spent a lot of time and effort to build that brand. And then you decide to go into the line extension of carpet cleaning and floor and floor cleaning now. Every time I think of a new line extension, I worry about brand dilution, right? I’m going to dilute that brand if I add another line extension. But you did it and did it successfully. I believe you have about 30 carpet cleaning locations and floor cleaning locations right now. So how did you make that decision and did it affect any of your branding?
Jerry Flanagan: Actually, the customer kind of told me, you know, that I should do this because let me give you an example. When a job goes to someone’s home, the first thing they do is they thank you for your military service. You walk around the house, they show you the junk, and they basically say, give me a quote, let’s go. And it’s such a nice relationship. You talk about their son or daughter that served or their grandpa served. It’s such a different contracting relationship with the customer. They started asking me, do you do handyman work? Do you do painting? I only want to use j-dawg. So this went on for a couple of years when I was doing it. And then I realized that once we opened up a market with junk and we sold out, we had other veterans that wanted that same opportunity, but we were sold. So I decided to add a second layer on, and it’s so similar from a work standpoint, the hours it takes to do, you know, one single cleaning room, like a one item pickup? Um, the commercial side of the business is very similar to the commercial side of junk. Um, and it’s a natural fit. People want their house cleaned. What? The military. Let’s come in and clean it. The military come in and haul away the junk. It’s a very, very similar business model economically as well. So our franchise agreements are extremely, you know, like very like wise. And, um, when you look at one guy goes in with junk, leaves a coupon for a carpet cleaning or floor care service, carpet guy goes in, leaves a junk coupon. It’s. I mean, you can’t make this up. I mean, it’s just like the customer acquisition cost drops because everyone wants to use j-dawg. You know, they just they just do. When you’re given a choice, whether you use Stanley Steamer to clean your carpets or this this man or woman that just served the country, you know, what are you what are you going to do? And that’s that’s the brand. Yeah.
John Berry: It seems you would trust the person who served their country. The veteran. I’d rather have them in my home with my children around, uh, than than than some stranger. And there is that feeling of instant trust, especially with a fellow veteran.
Jerry Flanagan: Sure. Absolutely. That’s that’s broken down right away. And you see that they they thank you before you even start working. Usually contractors go in. They may like come off a lunch break and they just got done at the bar. And you don’t know if they’re going to finish the job and you that you’re a little worried about having them in your home. Look at the calendar on your refrigerator. Yet with J-dawg, when I was doing it, people would leave me a blank check and say, just fill it out and take a picture of it for me. I don’t know what the amount is going to be like. Who does that? You know? So it’s pretty cool.
John Berry: Yeah, I can, I can only imagine. And I’ve, you know, I’ve had carpets cleaned before and it seems to get a reliable service. It seems like pretty low hanging fruit. Um, it just you don’t have that. And look, if you’ve come from a military background and you expect people to show up looking like professionals, show up on time and do the job to standard, there’s not a lot of competition for that. Probably not in carpet cleaning, probably not anywhere.
Jerry Flanagan: Exactly. And I think that, you know, again, my vision and it’s going to take time to get there. My vision would be that J-dawg would become like an Angie’s List, where we’d have thousands of these locations across the country offering painting, you know, a military veterans in the company house and paint. Um, it’s about that customer service. It’s about showing up on time, being there 15 minutes early, saying, yes, sir, yes, ma’am. How often do people do that these days? Do you get a yes or yes ma’am when you have a service guy in your house? A lot of times you don’t. So, um, I think that’s I think that’s duplicatable all across the country, um, because veterans are getting out 200,000 every year. Um, and there’s millions of veterans that serve that miss that, you know, the camaraderie. And that’s what we’re finding. We’re finding people are sick of the 9 to 5 job, corporate America. They want to be in business for themselves. And they see that if I get involved with this military company, I can get that feeling back a little bit, you know, and then I can give back to my veteran causes as well and just get back involved in the community. And I think that’s what we’re seeing.
John Berry: Yeah. And I think the big misconception out there is that while there are only 1.4 million service members, active service members right now, there are over 19 million veterans in the United States. So this is a huge pool of talent from which we can draw. And a lot of I think a lot of companies overlook that. Obviously, you have made it. The centerpiece of your hiring strategy is to find those veterans, bring them in. And whether you’re going to hire them as as team members, uh, as coworkers or as franchisees or bring them on as franchise owners, you’ve provided that opportunity. As you look at, I think that Angie’s List type model of painting and all these other, other services, uh, what does that do to the J-dawg brand in terms of even more line extensions, even more expansion? Do you do you think you can expand to that size and, and keep the same brand, or will things change?
Jerry Flanagan: I think it’ll enhance the brand. But you got to make sure that you you have to do the model right. Like our carpet cleaning. We got to get it to over 100 units before I’m even going to considering taking that painter that says, hey, Jerry, I’d like to do JDog painting and be your, you know, your president and run that division. Because I have painting experience. I need the expert to do it. Like that’s not my thing. My thing is the branding. You know, I could, you know, get the financing and get the branding going. But I want these, you know, these veterans that have an expertise to come in and say, I can be the moving guy. Let me do the moving. Let’s put a couple hundred veterans into the moving business. You know, I can be a landscaping guy. So I’m going to let it kind of come to me as force instead of me chasing it. But right now, we’re really focused on getting that junk removal all across the country, and we’re moving towards that. And then having carpet kind of follow along right with it.
John Berry: And I know your goal is to have J, the JDog brand in every single zip code. Now are we talking about for the junk removal and hauling. Are we talking all services?
Jerry Flanagan: I’m talking all services. Because, you know, again it’s going to take years. This is like we’re one of those companies that you know, it’s going to grow for 2030 years and it’s going to take time. But I think that if you’re a veteran and you’re in the smallest zip code in the country, you’re going to have a lot of respect from that community. Why not put them into work? Like why not give them a business ownership opportunity? So like I said, the brand is very duplicatable all across the country. Um, so to me, when we have tier systems, by the way, so our franchise agreements tier way down, when you’re a very small community, that way you can afford it. So it’s not a it’s a flat royalty. It’s not percentage wise. So this thing can really work for. Somebody in a very small market.
John Berry: How do you plan to achieve that goal?
Jerry Flanagan: I’m going to do it the way you eat an elephant, right? One bite at a time. I mean, to me, I’m not. We got here really fast. I’m ready to kind of just ground myself, ground the company and layer it on and layer it on. And like I said, if someone comes to me with a with a plan, with finances and a way to say, hey, we can put 1000 veterans in the business, here’s what I want to do. I’ll certainly listen. But, um, you know, I don’t need to do that overnight. You know, we’re we’re 12 years into this now. We’re pretty comfortable, like you said, in the name another veteran franchise system out there that’s anywhere close to, you know, what we’ve been able to accomplish? Um, but I just think we got to keep learning from our mistakes. Keep learning from the mistakes. But but keep swinging the bat so it’s not a one word answer. It’s something you just it’s a gut feel. You know, you get up in the morning and you feel like, you know what? I think I need to do it this way, and you may fail, but that doesn’t stop me. You know, I’ll get up and do it again, and then. Then I’ll hit one and. Well, you look like a genius. Well, you didn’t see the other 200 things I did wrong, you know?
John Berry: But you’re getting a hit one out of three times. You’re in the Hall of Fame, right? You’re hitting that 3333 batting average. And of course, we haven’t seen a 400 batting average since the famous veteran Ted Williams. But that consistent one third is yeah, people don’t. They don’t see it. They don’t see you swinging. They miss. They don’t see you strike out. They don’t see the failures. Uh, but but we all we all know they’re there. And I wanted to ask you in terms of understanding beyond that failure point we’ve talked about, you learn that work ethic as an E-4 that, hey, you’re going to go out there, you’re going to lay wire whenever, wherever they tell you to do. That’s your job. That’s what your JDog, the wire dog. But beyond that, what lessons have you learned that have helped you scale or helped you connect with your either team members or, uh, military franchisees? How veteran franchisees? What are some of those other lessons that you learned in your short time in the military that has helped you grow the organization and and treat your people right, because you have a great reputation for treating your veterans, right?
Jerry Flanagan: Yeah. I think the, um, what I learned the most was the personal responsibility. And I also loved the guys, you know, I loved, you know, doing the work with them. And then when you’re done, you’re hanging out with them. You’re going to the gym. You’re you’re really build a bond with these guys. You know, when you’re in. And it creates a little bit of a trust. Like when I was growing up, you know, low income family, you know, a lot of other people did much better than I did in school. And, you know, I didn’t trust a whole lot of people. But I think the military, you start learning to trust people because you realize there’s a lot of people that are that are similar to you in your experience. And then when you get out, I think what I learned in business is if it looks really good and it’s pretty, if there’s probably a problem, you know, I got excited a couple times thinking, I’ve got the mother lode here, I’ve got this. This is going to be a home run. And, you know, not very responsibly. Take some chances and not put money aside in case that day comes to the day where 2008 hit us.
Jerry Flanagan: I wasn’t ready for it. So we filed a personal bankruptcy and I was in my early 40s. Daughters were in middle school, so we literally had nothing. My credit score dropped to 500, and the only way we made it was I had to go out and hustle and haul junk. And I told Tracy in the morning, you won’t see me until I have $500 in my pocket, so I don’t know what I’m going to see. And that was that’s how it started, you know? And eventually, once people started hearing about us and they got excited about us, about the veteran status, then things changed. But, you know, no matter what business you’re in, you got to answer that phone before anybody else or they’re going to call the next guy. And if you think you need to take off on Saturday and Sunday, you don’t have a ton of money in the bank. You need to be working on Saturday and Sundays. That’s just the way I’ve been. That’s what I’ve learned and realized through, uh, through my journey at least.
John Berry: Yeah, sometimes the attitude is not, do I have to work on Saturday and Sunday? It’s do I get to work on Saturday and Sunday? Because I’m building something. And I understand that every day I put in matters, every hour matters. Every customer matters. And you’re absolutely right. If you don’t answer the phone, they’re calling somebody else. So you better have the systems in place. You better have the people who can answer the phone and treat your customers with respect, but also with a sense of urgency. You remember the sense of urgency from the military. You ran everywhere to the chow hall. Uh, it’s it’s the same. It doesn’t change. And in today’s society, we’re dealing with a lot of, uh, impatience. And we have to be able to move quickly, adjust fire, solve the customer’s problem, and and leave with a smile on our face. Even if, even if things didn’t go well. Because we want the customer to perceive that they are valued. Even if you may have taken the job, I’m sure you’ve taken some hauling jobs where you ended up charging where you lost money on the job, right? You charged way less because you didn’t understand how to value the job. You ever you ever done that?
Jerry Flanagan: Oh yeah. This is my wife’s favorite story. So I think I’m into the business maybe 2 or 3 weeks. And, um, I see a bunch of, like, branches and trees in the back yard of this guy’s house, and I’m like, that’s that’s nothing. And like I just looked at it, so I said, 75 bucks. I’m just getting started. So I really don’t even know what to charge. So I charge $75. It took me four hours because underneath the trees was piles of leaves that were all wet, you know? And the moral of the story is it like I didn’t pay attention, like I didn’t go in and really look at it, and I just thought this was going to be easy. Like a lot of times we do this in business. We take it for granted. Lesson learned there took me four hours. The guy still tipped me 100 bucks because he saw how hard I worked, and I wound up doing like 8 to 10 jobs for him over the over the couple years that I was doing the work. So I think, you know, it’s not as easy as it looks. And I think in my position here, J-dawg, we have these veterans that come through and they think it’s going to be easy and we stress it’s not easy.
Jerry Flanagan: You’ve got to sit down at the BNP meetings. You’ve got to have a cup of coffee with the realtor. You’ve got to take that phone call at 7:00 on a Friday night, and if your kids got to play, I understand there’s there’s two things to this. Go get a regular job. If you’re going to make every game to your kid, if you’re going to be an entrepreneur or a franchise owner, things got to give. And my daughter Cora used to go on the jobs with me all the time. You know, she’s in middle school now. She’s a graduate from Coastal Carolina, and she’s our marketing coordinator for all of our franchises. So moral of the story there, if you’re going to be in the entrepreneurial space and and you know this, you got to answer the phone and you got you got to pay attention every single day. Like I said, I’ve been doing this 12 years. I’m still learning every day of things. I’m things I’m not doing right. Um, and it’s exhausting. But, um, you know, the climbs worth of you.
John Berry: Yeah. The climb. The climb is worth a view. And sometimes it’s the view we give to our kids. As you know, you’re not going to be there for every game, for every play, for every recital. But when we can drag them along with us to events through our work, they get to see how hard we work, but they also get to see the reward. And I think there’s some real value in that and teaching our kids real life lessons. And yes, it’s it’s sad when we can’t be there for all of their events. But you know what? Same was true when we were in the military. You know, multiple deployments. You’re not going to be there for everything. And, uh, you make sacrifices and we learn that and we and we and we learn that the hard way. But in business, sometimes, you know, telling your kid, well, I couldn’t make it to your soccer game. I’m gonna make it up to you by dragging you along to work with me, you know? But but they learn. And they learn more than they’re ever going to learn in school. Because they’re learning real life skills. They’re seeing what’s happening and they’re seeing what’s happening to you, and they’re seeing how you react to it, which for me, it’s great to drag my son and my daughter along because it makes me more resilient.
John Berry: Like, oh, I’m setting the example here. I gotta, you know, I have to take these hits in stride, but they get to see some of what I do and and hopefully, hopefully learn from it. But they also understand that that that work ethic is important and that, you know, sometimes life is tough. And as a parent, you know, we want to protect our kids and and give them this great future. But the reality is, the best way to prepare them for it is to show them reality, to say, you know, it isn’t this easy. It’s not just about school and soccer games. It’s also doing what’s necessary to feed the family. And that means making sacrifices. But let me show you how I do this. And hopefully, you know, the kids take interest. Sometimes they won’t. But I want to go back to some of the other lessons that you learned, Jerry. Uh, you know, uh, when you talked about some of your earlier businesses, it kind of reminded me of the E3 or E4 at the car lot right outside of base where someone’s selling you something good. It looks good, but you just don’t have the sophistication to make the right the right decision. Uh, you know what I’m talking about.
Jerry Flanagan: I know exactly what you’re talking about. I mean, I remember some of the guys in the military were driving those cars. You know? They couldn’t afford them. There was more than their checks, but I don’t know how they did it with the no interest for a year, no payments for a year. And you know, that is a that is a lesson because, you know, my first business, I went I wound up working for a guy who did these Halloween stores. I worked for him for seven years. And I grew up that chain, you know, from working in the warehouse all the way up to operations manager, facilities director, all these good stuff. Never got any a piece of the equity, never had any ownership. And I always wanted it. And I never could get it by working for him. And I watched him going from a couple million dollars to like, $20 million in sales. Well, I wound up leaving saying I could do this on my own, and I stayed friends with them. So I went out on my own, went to Chicago, lived in a hotel, opened up my own three Halloween stores. I thought I did great, the numbers were awesome, sales were great, but I didn’t realize that the majority of the money that was left over was tied up in product and fixtures that were sitting in a storage unit, that I had to wait till the following year to capitalize on. So I ran out of money. So I’m like, God, I thought it was easier.
Jerry Flanagan: And I used to look at him thinking, look at all the money he’s making. Well, he learned how to do it, so I learned it the hard way. So I had to go back to him. My tail between my legs, sold him all my product back, worked for him for another 4 or 5 years. Yeah, it was tough. And then I still had that entrepreneurial bug. So Tracy and I went out and started our own little moon bounce swing set birthday party concept. So we tried that on our own, but we were doing really well. We drove Escalades, things were going well, we were traveling. I saw the writing on the wall as far as we were going to be this big Chuck E cheese concept, not realizing that the economy is getting ready to crash with the recession. So that took our legs out. So that was our second failure. Turn the Escalades in to repo! I had to turn them in and bought us a couple of cars that were pieces of crap. And that’s when our kids said, dad, are we broke? Because we lived in a good neighborhood, you know, and we had nice things. We had nice cars, and all a sudden we weren’t going on a trip that year. You know, we had to kind of explain to the kids that we’re kind of revamping things. So you’re right, life experiences, even at a young age, they were 12, 13. I think it matters.
John Berry: Yeah. We worry so much about scarring our kids or traumatizing them, but it is that we have to toughen them up because we can’t make them safe. But we can make them smart. We can make them strong, and we can, we can we can help them build character through some of our experiences. And I think it’s worth sharing that. And I think, you know, early on, I would try not to have those discussions with the kids, right? That, hey, we’re struggling because I didn’t want them to worry, but I think they’re going to see the struggle anyway. So you might as well have the conversation and say, look, this is part of business. This is part of what we do. We’re going to be fine. We’re going to be absolutely fine. But this is just sometimes you go through cycles of life or seasons of life where things are are difficult and we’re in a difficult season, but you will always be taken care of. You’ll always eat, you’ll always have food. You’re going to be fine. And I think, you know, sometimes when we get stressed out, we forget that our kids can hear, they know what’s going on. And we have to, you know, we have to have those conversations from, from, from time to time. But it sounds like now that you have at least one of your kids in the business. Uh, no, both.
Jerry Flanagan: The other one. Yeah. So my other daughter, the older daughter, um, she has her MBA, her degree, and, um, she’s wound up, worked her way back into the family business as well. She’s our corporate services, so they’ve got degrees. You know, I didn’t get a degree. My goal in life was get our kids degrees, right? We did that so they can work anywhere, but they work here. So I know that’s paid off over the years. Them watching us with all these different businesses, you know, and, um, they like the family business.
John Berry: People nepotism has earned a bad, bad name and rightfully so. But the reality was I was my dad’s retirement plan, that I continued the business so he could he could retire it. And hopefully you and Tracy, uh, you know, have this similar aspirations. And at first it was something I didn’t want to do, but I’m glad I did it, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to work alongside my father. And I’m sure your kids, seeing how hard you and Tracy worked and all the sacrifices you make, it’s nice to be able to now share some of that success with them and watch them grow.
Jerry Flanagan: Super cool. I mean, my daughter, uh, Cora, like, she’s the marketing coordinator. She’s on the phone with all these franchisees all day long. She knows their personality. She knows their you know their history and knows more about them than I do. Because, you know, I’m I’m working in a different department. So she understands what we’re doing as a, as a company. And, you know, at the end of the day, if we can put a veteran into a business and they can be successful and they can hire a couple more veterans, that unemployment rate for for veterans can get under 1%. That’s the, you know, the end state here is to get as many of these little businesses out there and let them hire their brothers and sisters. And all of a sudden you have this, no pun intended, this massive army of joggers running around the country serving the community.
John Berry: Yeah, absolutely and there’s nothing wrong with building building an army. It’s built because really, that’s building a community, right? At the end of the day, you’re building a community of veterans. Now, one other thing that you did extremely well, and I failed to capitalize on this, and it’s kind of shameful, uh, having had multiple commands and multiple deployments. But, you know, we always had the family support groups and they were there and we would feed them information. And it was, you know, just part of part of a deployment. But you have j-dawg spouses. So you have actually, I would say mobilized or, uh, turn the spouses into an asset that actually help the veteran and help of the organization. So tell us about J-dawg spouses.
Jerry Flanagan: Yeah, that was really Tracy. Tracy put that together and she realized that, you know, to have a strong support for that business owner, um, is critical because, you know, if you’re working hard, long days and you come home and your spouse is not into it and she’s upset that you did this or that, um, you want that spouse right side by side, just like Tracy was with me, like we did every single thing together. I remember, you know, doing those lawn signs, you know, 5 or 6:00 in the morning, you know, with a cup of coffee. She’d be helping me put the steaks in. You know what I’m talking about. The little plastic lawn signs we do those in the morning. That was kind of like a cute thing. And then she would run around with me and pick them back up on Sunday nights, like, I drive and she’s around and grab them, you know, because the townships. So, um, but yeah, when she put this spouse thing together, it’s really powerful. She actually has a private spouse page. They share stories, they, um, they support each other. They the highs and lows of the business. I mean, everyone goes through it, and, uh, she’s built herself a really, really strong community there. She has. She’s very well respected.
John Berry: Well, yeah, she’s done an amazing work there. And I have to. As you know, Jerry, sometimes we think that everybody is is like us, that everybody is cut out to be an entrepreneur or everybody is cut out to to run a franchise because we’ve done it. We’ve seen other people do it. We hang around with people who do it all the time, who are who are successful, and those are the people we generally tend to gravitate toward. But I would ask you this who should not be an entrepreneur, who should not be a franchisee? What are the traits that you see where someone may think, oh, this is a great idea. It’s like, you know, the person who almost joined the army, they think it’s a great idea until, oh yeah, maybe this isn’t such a good idea, but I mean, it’s the same thing, right? Where someone’s thinking, this is a great opportunity for me. You can say it’s a great opportunity for a lot of people, but it’s not a great opportunity for you because why would that be?
Jerry Flanagan: You need to follow a system if you think you’re going to come in and reinvent the brand and do it on you, do it your way. And we’ve seen this, you know, in our system, um, this is not for you. You should not be, you know, you should not be a franchise number one. And number two, if you’re going to be an entrepreneur, you need to be able to take risks and you need to be available. Like I said, it comes back down to, you know, are you do you want to be a 9 to 5 or do you want to be off on the weekends? Like, do you want to shut it off? Oh, I you know, I did my service in the military. I hear this all the time. I did all those years and I was told what to do for 25 years. Well, you’re in a franchise. We’re going to tell you what to do. Like don’t buy into this thing if you’re going to come in and reinvent this whole thing because you’re not going to succeed. And, you know, some of the mistakes we’ve made is this thing is such a simple system, like you literally go page by page, we’ve built this monster operations manual. If you follow it, your success rate is so high. But some people come in and they forget. They forget to do this, do that. They don’t want to do it anymore. So I would say that, you know, if you’re not going to have the diligence and patience to build your own business as an entrepreneur, don’t do it because it’s not going to happen in a year. You’d be lucky to happen if it happens in 3 to 4 years, because and you need to be able to look back at the year before and adjust fire. Like what did I do? Just because I’m I want to do this? I may be uncomfortable talking to people at a marketing meeting, but I have to because that’s what the business requires. So you need to be able to make like adjustments and changes. I think that’s a good point.
John Berry: When we in the military, you know, we always talked about big army in terms of it was a big bureaucracy. And the systemization slowed us down at the unit level. But now, you know, running an organization, I can see the brilliance in Big Army and how they systematized everything and why you can’t do it your way, why you have to do things a certain way. And if you do them a certain way, that doesn’t mean that it takes away from your creativity. Just the opposite. The Army mission statement tells us the who, what, when, where and why, but never tells us how. And so while there is a structure and a framework for everything we do in the military, ingenuity is part of survival and it’s part of accomplishing the mission. And I mean, I think you’ve really hit the nail on the head that, hey, if you want to come in and do things your own way, it’s like, well, if the drill sergeant would tell me that, I’d punch them in the face. Sure you would have. Right. Well, if they’re going to come in here and tell me how to run my franchise, I’m right. That’s not that’s not the person that’s not.
Jerry Flanagan: And as far as being creative, like, for example, in the carpet business, we have a guy, a wife, they have a business down in the South and they’ve added some cleaning services where they’ve kind of changed the model just a little bit, but they’re wiping down after construction and they’re killing it like they are the brand down there for a new construction post cleanup. So we kind of added that to our our list of things to work on. So there someone brought in an idea we were doing demolition, um, with J-dawg now like years ago, we never did demolition, but some people figured out how to add demolition and big money. Very profitable. So now we do demolition. We add it to our our pitch deck. So, you know, that’s why our franchise to me is not like a McDonald’s or chick fil A, where you got to do everything perfectly or you get thrown out. Ours is more like, here’s the brand, you’re a veteran. Take what we’ve taught you and then go put a little spice on it for yourself. How you do things. Do you like to do more residential than commercial or more commercial? Residential? We don’t really care as long as you’re making money paying your bills. So I think that, um, there’s a there’s something about the franchise system that can control things. So we don’t want people driving around with, uh, changing the logo and doing those kind of things. But at least we can give an entrepreneur an opportunity to come into a franchise system and kind of do it a little bit their way. But once you get out of that, you’re trying to do your way. You should be your own. You should be doing things yourself. You should not be part of a franchise.
John Berry: Yeah. And I think that’s a great distinction. It’s like the range fan. You have your left and right limit, and if you operate within the left and right limit, you’re more likely to be successful and you’re going to be in compliance if you go outside the range fan, uh, you’re taking more risks. And, and, you know, it’s just it’s just outside the systemization of the organization. And once again, I thought I hated systemization until you really start running a business, then you realize how valuable it is because your time is your most valuable commodity. And when you’re spending the time reinventing the wheel or doing the same task over and over again, when there’s already a system in place, you’re just, you know, you’re just burning the candle at both ends and you’ll never be successful because you’ll be too tired.
Jerry Flanagan: And you can’t scale. I mean, you you need systems to scale, period. Because again, that’s why when we first started, you know, we had gone through a bankruptcy and I was like, I really don’t want to get too risky here with this franchise. I push back a little bit at first and Tracy said, you know what this is? You know, it’s more important to put these veterans, give them an opportunity. Look what we’re watching on the television right now. Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are coming back in droves and they need help. And that was really that came from her. Like she was really the driving force, um, behind that, you know, going national. And, you know, to me, I was like, look, I just want 5 or 6 trucks and I want to I want to secure my life here, you know, and try to hold on to my little nest egg. I don’t want to go through what I went through. But, you know, sometimes you gotta gotta listen to the boss and just and make it work. And and then thankfully, that’s what we did. So, you know, the climb is definitely worth of you, even though there’s been some struggles. Um, you know, we just sold a franchise last weekend to a team in Tampa, Air force veterans, a couple guys, and it’s it’s puts a smile on my face like I it’s it’s crazy. Like it’s it’s Christmas Eve every time. You know we get another veteran that takes that step. Um, so yeah, it’s pretty cool.
John Berry: Yeah. I mean, every day is Veterans Day because you live by that mission, that purpose. And I know you do a lot with, uh, nonprofits and you do a lot to, to help the community just outside of, of J-dawg. But for, for a lot of people, what I try to explain to them is, but if there was no JDog, the opportunities wouldn’t be there. And so for a lot of people, they want to help. How can I help? How can I help? I want to do this. I want to do that. And and they start a small nonprofit. They really can’t grow. And my answer is usually, you know, start a successful business because that’s going to allow you to give back in ways you never imagined possible. You agree?
Jerry Flanagan: That’s a that’s a great point, John, because a lot of people come in to our system and they want to start these nonprofits right away while they’re getting launched in their business. And it’s typically like medics, I’m being serious. Like that personality is like, they got to get back. They got to get back. They got to discount. And they want to start nonprofits right away because that was their dream. And like to your point, build your business first. Get it up 3 to 5 years, take that extra income and donate. And you know we’ve been able to do that at J-dawg here at HQ. You know, we’re we’re involved with Reverend Warriors. We’re involved with stop soldier suicide worth it hollow. And I’m I sit on the board of the Grunstein Foundation as the vice president over there. They just acquired I.w. Making yourself available for that stuff, too, is one thing. But taking the profits before you are stable and trying to start your own nonprofit is something I see that happens a lot, and it’s a mistake. You got to make sure you’re solid. You got to make sure, you know it’s the whole airplane. You know, make sure you put your mask on first before you start saving everybody. You’ll die in the process. So you got to put that mask on first, which is securing your business, securing your funds. And then you can write checks to whoever you want to.
John Berry: Yeah. It really is like assessing the casualty because cash is the lifeblood of the organization and cash is what allows you to give back. And if you’re bleeding out and you’re running out of cash, you’re not going to be able to support the organizations that you want to support. And so in some ways, I feel like every day I’m either triaging or assessing the casualty. Is this a really, you know, is this going to be a catastrophic problem? Is this a serious problem, or is this just a routine problem that that someone else can handle? But it’s it’s understanding that we have to put that if we can put that that business in a position where we’re doing everything we can to have a healthy business, then the amount that we can give back and the things that we can do for our community continues to grow and scale as the business scales.
Jerry Flanagan: Yeah, I have a little Excel spreadsheet on my computer. It’s my little doomsday. Like, what if you know, what if we don’t sell a franchise this year? What if we lose so many franchises? Where are we going to be with dollars? And I literally play with that every single day. Now I have my optimistic one, two, which is, you know, this side. And then I have one right in the middle. And. I can live with all three. I’d be really happy if it’s this one over here. But if it’s unfortunate, this one over here, then there’s certain cuts you have to make and there’s certain things you have to adjust. Um, I think the one and the three can sometimes usually land right in the middle at two. And that’s a that’s just a tip for any entrepreneur out there, you know, build a doomsday plan. And what happens if X. That’s what you need to figure out.
John Berry: Yeah. And in the military they gave us this resiliency training. And they talk about you know what is the worst thing that could happen. And then what would happen if it did happen. Then you know. And then what’s the best thing and then what’s the most likely thing. But as Andy Grove said, only the paranoid survive. And in the military we learned about having contingency plans. We know that no plan survives first contact, and we know that when we go to the field, Murphy’s Law applies, which is if it can go wrong, it will go wrong. Now, that’s not to say we won’t have some great successes along the way, but we have to plan for those things. And I like the fact that you have kind of the doomsday calendar, where you can look through it and say, okay, this is where the world ends. And I know that sounds negative, but it’s actually a very positive thing because you can’t look at the risks and deal with them, then you can’t assess and mitigate the risk when it comes. Right. You have to be forward looking, looking to the future. Like I said, you’re planning for 2026 right now. You already know the risks. And I think that’s been the advantage for me with mentors is like, John, um, your business is right here, right now at this next level. Let me tell you the five things that are going to break in your business. And let me tell you about the five biggest threats. And how do these people know? Because they’ve been where I’m going. And there’s such value in that when we can share that. And I know that you do a lot of giving back as well, um, teaching and helping other entrepreneurs see the things. And once again, probably the biggest value is they get the cheap lessons. They get to learn from your mistakes.
Jerry Flanagan: Yeah, like I do the boost of business class. I’ve been doing it a few years and, um, it’s it’s kind of a crappy story in the beginning. It’s not all, you know, bells and whistles, I explain, you know, the couple of times we failed and, you know, following bankruptcy, how embarrassing it was as a as an adult male with children, um, and failing to my failing my wife at the same time because, you know, she was part of the business. But I’m, you know, I’m the breadwinner here. I’m supposed to make all the right decisions. And, you know, when we ran through that bankruptcy there, you know, I it’s the best thing that ever happened to me, obviously, because of where I am today. But at the time, I was not prepared, you know, so when I go to these classes and do some of the teaching, um, I talk more about the failures than I do the success. You can see the success go on Fox News, and you can see I spend more time with those people on, you know, what to look out for as you’re as you’re becoming a successful in your mind. Whereas the reality is you could be getting ready to step on a landmine. You don’t even know it yet. I spent a lot of time on with those stories.
John Berry: You know, I hung out with less successful people. Everyone would brag about their successes. But once I started hanging out with really successful people, all they talked about was their failures and they’d want to share the stories and get lessons. You know, you don’t learn from someone bragging. And when we brag, it’s about us. But when we share our our failures, it’s about helping somebody else learn that lesson. And so the conversation is much different when you’re hanging out with winners. Winners are comfortable talking about their losses. In fact, they seem to enjoy talking about their losses because they enjoy the lesson and they enjoy sharing the lesson. Now that we’re into less, and I want to hear about who you learn from, who are your mentors, then we’ll get to the after action review. So who were who are your mentors? Who taught you those things that you the cheap, the cheap lessons, the ones you didn’t have to pay for because someone else made the mistake?
Jerry Flanagan: Well, I think, again, you know, that seasonal company I worked for, I watched, um, him expand so big and so fast that, um, he put all his eggs in one basket, and he had one terrible year, and it took the knees out. We had to relocate. We had a there’s a lot of layoffs. And I think watching that, I think I’ve been able to keep my, my, my risk minimized. Um, so I would say, you know, some of the people that I worked for have been mentors from that standpoint, whether they, you know, realize they were doing it or not. I was just paying attention to what was working for them and what wasn’t working for them. And I think that once I got into, um, the junk removal, I just became like a maniac of, of of education, like I studied every single junk removal company out there. And I think that’s one thing entrepreneurs need to do, like know your competition. Like, I know a coupon’s going on, you know, next week with these with my competitors. I know how they started. I know how many stores they had or how many locations they lost. I think that you become an expert in your industry, don’t just, you know, sign on and be, you know, a junk removal guy or a carpet cleaning guy. You should know everything about that business. The trends when it was most successful, what years went well? Did it? Was it related to the economy going up and down, which succeeded, which didn’t? And I think that if you can spend a lot of your time doing that, I think that’s going to it’s going to help you be a. Business owner.
John Berry: So then you’ve obviously studied one 800. Got junk.
Jerry Flanagan: Of course.
John Berry: So yeah, one of my, one of my, uh, former coaches and friend, Cameron Harold was the CEO from when they went up to about 100 million. And he wrote a book. He wrote his recent book is called The Second in Command. Uh, and, you know, there’s some lessons learned there, but it looks like, uh, you guys are hot on their heels, so, uh, that’s that’s impressive.
Jerry Flanagan: Yeah, I think that, um, you know, I think our goal is a little different. Like, they want to be the junk company. You know, you point your finger and it disappears, and that’s their gig. You know, our gig is. Is there a military veteran in your community that you want to hire? And if you think that way, that community is never going to let you go. You’ll have business. They’ll find. I had people used to call me 4 or 5 times a year to pick up junk, and I’d be like, I can get all this in one trip. No, Jerry, we love seeing you coming around. Here’s here’s another $50 tip. We’ll see you in a few months. Come back. You get that swing set later. I’m like, well, I’m here anyway. I mean, I could cut it down. I’m like, no, no, we love seeing your face. We love when the truck gets here. The kids love coming out and seeing the truck and the and it’s it’s just a nice experience. So I realize that the competitors, they’re like price conscious and they’re just trying to drive and get as many sales.
Jerry Flanagan: Well, we’re going into a community. We’re actually developing relationships that we don’t do that anymore. You don’t see that relationship building. And I see our dogs around the country. And when I see a picture of them, you know, at a Veterans Day parade or doing a volunteering somewhere, it is just so cool to see everyone hanging on our truck and the logo and everyone’s taking pictures of it. Like, you know, you kind of hit something there. When everyone and a good friend of mine, Joe Griffies, he always says that, um, JDog, when they pull up to someone’s street, there’s not people aren’t getting robbed. People are going to be, uh, feel a little safer in their homes. So he likes to look at as a security side of this, you know, the military showing up to, to haul your junk or clean your car, but they’re also secure in that neighborhood. People aren’t stealing Amazon packages that day, you know, when we’re on the streets. So, uh, it was pretty cool.
John Berry: No, that that’s great. And I think the other important lesson that you bring out here is that, you know, you should always understand what other people in your industry are doing. That’s your that’s your Intel. That’s your that’s your G2. Right. Coming in. You got it. You got to understand what’s going on in your environment, in your operating environment. But that doesn’t mean that you’re trying to compete with everybody head on and do what they are doing. In fact, you usually want to do something unique, something different. Look for a space where there is not that competition, because that changes the game. When you are not competing with others in your industry, you’re doing your own thing. You’re J-dawg apparently is only competing with j-dawg to get to where you want to be.
Jerry Flanagan: Yeah, and we like we have the television series that’s on Tubi right now. That’s pretty cool. Um, we’re just trying to put the military veterans out there in every way we can. And by doing that, we’ve separated ourselves because we’re not a hauling service. We’re not a carpet company. We are a brand. J-dawg brands is is the military veteran brand. And after that, there’s all kinds of stuff because we’re not hauling junk. You know, we may be volunteering somewhere. We may be on a silkies hike. Um, the Grunt Style Foundation donates tons of food, um, to our existing military. There’s all kinds of things you can do under the brand. It doesn’t have to be a franchise. So Tracy does a great job of we see applications come over. She’ll forward that to other companies that are looking to hire veterans. So we have that too. We’re trying to just continue the mission.
John Berry: Got it. And you’ve done and you’ve done such a great job continuing the mission and and giving back to our veteran community. Now it’s time for the ah, the after action review. You probably remember from the military where you talk about what was the mission, what was supposed to happen, what happened. And then there’s usually three up, three down, three sustains, three improves. So let’s do that from a leadership perspective from a as a leader, what are the three top lessons you’ve learned along the JDog journey? Either either from your own, uh, good leadership or good leaders that you experienced. And it could have even going back to something you learned in the military. But along this journey, what are the three great examples of leadership you’ve seen or demonstrated?
Jerry Flanagan: I think the ability to, um, lead from the front, make sure that I’ve done all these things that we’re asking our franchisees to do, um, instead of just drawing it up on the on a whiteboard and then saying, here’s the job, execute it. Um, Tracy and I went through it. We did almost 2000 jobs ourselves, so we kind of been there and done that, broke my physical body’s broken up with surgeries and things from the junk removal. So I think that just being able to stand tall and say, you know, I’ve been there, I’ve done that. I’ve had the refrigerator at the bottom of the basement steps, and I figured out a way to get it up, you know, by myself. So I think that’s that’s one important thing. Um, you know, just being a strong leader in the community, you know, not saying no all the time. I mean, the one thing is, you know, my chairman tells me say no a thousand times because everyone’s going to ask you for stuff. But I think there’s a there’s a mix there. I do think that you do need to say yes once in a while and take that LinkedIn message and see what this person’s really looking for, because sometimes it doesn’t look good in the front. But then when you open it up, you know. So I think having your eyes open to other opportunities is really important. Instead of being too laser focused. I don’t know if that makes sense for you. Um, and mostly, you know, really empowering your teams like we do a lot of, um, team building here. We do the axe throwing mission barbecue, you know, get people involved. I think that’s really important. If you’re running a company, you know, people should want to come to work and not, you know, dread coming to work.
John Berry: And now the three bad examples of leadership, either from the military or what you’ve learned along the way on your business journey.
Jerry Flanagan: Yeah, I think trust. I think that sometimes you trust people and they they let you down. Um, I think that that’s one thing that I’ve learned. I think the hard way, you know, we’ve had some investment groups come into J-dawg and, you know, promising this, this and this and really shaking things up. And you rely on that, you know, that strategic partner and then that partner pulls out. So, you know, there you go. Lessons learned. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. You got to be prepared again to take a step back. Even though this thing looks like it’s locked solid. And if it’s like I said, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true. So you got to be really careful who’s selling you on. You know, everything from insurance and you know all the the things that you deal with. At the same time, everybody promises the world, you know, but who’s really going to be there at the end of the day? That’s that’s the key. And trying to you really read people. Um, I think I’ve done a very good job of reading people and surrounding myself, you know, with my investment partners, they’re phenomenal. You know, julep run capital. They’ve been there since day one, you know. So, um, home run there. I, I picked a good group there that really cares about what we’re doing every day. Um, I’m not going to say I picked it, but I fell in love with a phenomenal wife who, uh. Who? Obviously, I wouldn’t be here with, you know, doing this without her. Um, and I think we’ve got some good people that, uh, there that are all on the same vision of the J-dawg brand.
John Berry: Awesome. Well, Jerry, thanks so much for your time today for sharing with all of us on Veteran Lead Podcast. But most importantly, thanks for all you do to give back and the lessons that you continue to teach and for hiring veterans and taking care of their families. Thank you so much, Jerry.
Jerry Flanagan: Thanks for having me. Take care.
John Berry: Thank you for joining us today on Veteran Led, where we pursue our mission of promoting veteran leadership in business, strengthening the veteran community, and getting veterans all of the benefits that they earn. If you know a leader who should be on the Veteran Led podcast, report to our online community by searching at Veteran Led on your favorite social channels and posting in the comments, we want to hear how your military challenges prepared you to lead your industry or community, and we will let the world know. And of course, hit subscribe and join me next time on Veteran Led.
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