Bruland’s business booms

Ferndale service company rated among Puget Sound’s fastest growing

Sitting in Janelle Bruland’s office, you can’t help but notice the leadership awards on the wall and the multiple business magazine covers she has on display around her office.

In person, Bruland is everything the honors would suggest. From across her desk, Bruland projects professionalism grounded in her abilities to clearly communicate her ideas. So it should be no surprise that she is one of the fastest rising stars in the Whatcom County business community.

Bruland’s company, Ferndale-based Management Services Northwest, a complete building service and maintenance company, was the only Whatcom County business listed in the Puget Sound Business Journal’s recently published Top 100 Fastest Growing Businesses — landing at No. 48.

The list was ranked by revenue and employee growth between 2005 and 2007 when Bruland’s company jumped from 74 to 126 employees and from $1.59 million to $3.73 million in operating revenue, according to the Puget Sound Business Journal. But when Bruland started out in 1995, it was a small janitorial company with 10 buildings to clean and 10 employees.

Bringing it in-house

Before buying the company, Bruland had experience in office and property management, and in the first couple of years, as she developed relationships with her core clients, she realized her experience made her extremely sensitive to her clients’ needs.

“I had been a manager myself, so I was able to really relate at their level because I had been in a position in the past, where I had to choose my janitorial services and let’s say there is a leak and you are not sure who to call,” Bruland said. “Is it a plumbing-related leak? Is it a roof leak?”

Bruland said clients began asking if she or someone she knew could handle larger maintenance issues such as landscaping and building repair, and as more requests came in — the more Bruland would look at bringing that service in-house as a permanent service.

“It really was just looking at our clients’ needs and then responding to those needs,” Bruland said. “Over the years, we’ve surrounded ourselves with people who have the skill sets to take care of more and more.”

However, a company can grow too fast. So Bruland and her staff spent countless hours in planning meetings to establish where they wanted to go as a business and how they were going to get there.

“We really wanted to establish measured growth over time to make sure that we had the infrastructure for each level of growth,” Bruland said.

Today, Bruland’s Management Services Northwest is a complete turnkey solution for facilities service and maintenance, from the parking lot to the roof of a business.

“It was really just having a vision of a very solid company that could provide a great place for people to work and provide a great service to our clients,” Bruland said.

Family ties

Her deep roots in the community have helped in forming that commitment to clients and coworkers. Bruland is a native Whatcom County resident. Her father was a member of Lynden Christian School’s first graduating class and subsequently Bruland and her three daughters have all attended the same school.

“I’ve done quite a bit of traveling in my life but I really enjoy the Pacific Northwest and just can’t imagine living anywhere else,” Bruland said. “My family is here so that makes it really nice.”

When Bruland first bought the company, she had been working in management consulting and some property management, so she said running a small janitorial business fit right into her schedule as a working mother.

“My primary focus was to be a mom to my kids, so I just wanted to do this business on the side,” Bruland said. “I actually was nine months pregnant with my second child at the time that I bought this business.”

Bruland said a solid network of family, friends and business relationships built over a lifetime has been a constant source of support.

“I would say staying in the area where I was raised has really helped me because my family is all here,” Bruland said. “That definitely makes all the difference in the world.”

Family-oriented business structure

One of Bruland’s biggest challenges, she said, was striking a balance between work and the rest of her life, but she finally found it when she embraced what was truly important to her: her family.

“I’m keeping the things in life that are the most important as my primary focus, with everything else around it,” Bruland said.

This approach, she said, has allowed her to create a compassionate, family-oriented business environment.

“I have surrounded myself with very talented people who can help build this business, but I respect that they have families that are important to them,” Bruland said. “We are not going to come in here and work tremendous weeks and not have any time with our families.”

Bruland’s oldest daughter, Terell, graduated from Gonzaga University last December with a marketing degree, and now she is working with her mom on business development and marketing.

Bruland said Terell did odd jobs around the office when she was younger, such as answering phones and even managing some accounts, but Bruland never thought Terell would return after college.

“I had no idea that it would become this family business like this, and that is something I am very pleased about,” Bruland said. “If my other girls would like to become a part of it then it can provide careers for them as well.”

Bruland said it is important for her to teach her daughters to be independent and to support themselves.

“I do believe that I have created an example that women can be successful in this business world and respected in a male-dominated profession,” Bruland said.

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