HOLMDEL - Jeff Mann started Gleem Team, his Holmdel-based office-cleaning business, on his own, but he is hardly the first person in his family to be an entrepreneur.
In the 1980s, Max Mann, Jeff's grandfather, invented a piece of machinery which marked serial numbers on the sides of shipping boxes and the caps of products as they were being manufactured. Max turned that creation into a business.
“My grandfather started the invention and his business in Garfield, New Jersey,” Mann said. “Heinz Ketchup was one of his customers and he pulled in many other brands that took full advantage of that creation. It was a big factory operation that used his marking equipment and he was very successful. … Although I was a little too young to help out my grandfather with that business at the time, I do remember going to the factory and marveling at the entire production process there.”
The entrepreneurship didn't stop there. Mann pitched in with his father’s business, a liquor store in Penn Station in Newark called Penn Station Liquors.
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“I did my part there,” Mann said. “I would help stock the shelves and clean up. They were very minor tasks, but I was glad to be around my dad and I got a taste of what it was like to run a family business. He was an attorney at that time and did well for himself. He afforded us a nice lifestyle with that job, but I think he opened the liquor store just to do something different with his life. He wanted to try something new and he really enjoyed it. He was another entrepreneur in my family that was self-employed and I looked up to him in that way.”
Harsh early lessons
Mann wasn't a great student as a teenager, and his parents were not thrilled about that.
“I just wasn’t mature enough to handle it,” Mann said. “I didn’t take too well to the structure part of it. It just wasn’t very interesting and I couldn’t take direction. It was very boring to me. I did graduate from high school in 1993, and although I was just passing in high school, I went to Chubb Institute afterwards in North Brunswick and took some computer programming classes there for about a year and a half.
“At that time, I also started up a company with a friend called SYS United, which consisted of us importing these infrared receivers for computers in 2000,” Mann said. “These receivers hooked up to computers and acted as a universal remote to control your computer. At the time, none of these big-name companies like Amazon or Spotify were around, so you could use the remotes to change around different types of music. They weren’t expensive or anything like that and we had a good amount of customers to buy them from us.
"Unfortunately, that product fizzled out after a while because I didn’t know anything about distribution or having more than one product," Mann recalled. "That was the end of my first side business.”
Mann graduated from Chubb Institute in 2001 with a degree in computer programming. He worked different jobs related to his computer programming field. Some worked out and some did not, but he never stopped applying himself or trying to figure out what he wanted to do with his life.
“In the beginning, I mainly stuck what I knew,” Mann said. “I got a job in sales, but remained in the computer programming field. I stuck to my guns and, little by little, I tried newer and more interesting positions. As I continued along that path, I progressed and got a taste of success. I got closer and closer to figuring out my career and my life’s journey.”
From one-man operation to multiple employees
After the financial crisis of 2008 put him out of a corporate job, Mann needed to figure out how to support his family.
“That event really set me back,” Mann said. “Just because you lose your job doesn’t mean your spending habits change. It takes a while to get back in the game. My wife and I went through our savings pretty quickly. I had a friend that started a commercial cleaning company and I asked him to go in on it with me, but he declined. I was a little disappointed, but in any event, I started my own company.
“I started out of Freehold in late 2010, at the time where we lived and I just started knocking on doors down Route 9,” Mann said. “I started out with places like doctor’s offices cleaning toilets, among other things and doing everything myself. I did that for years and slowly, I began to add more people to the operation. I trained one person and that person would take on that responsibility to the next. Eventually, we got really great at our job and I made sure to pay my workers well, which helped a lot.”
Just like that, Gleem Team was born and Mann started to get more and more accounts, most of which he still has to this day.
“I didn’t really think about it and we sort of evolved from there,” Mann said. “We do a great job for the customer and we have really grown mainly by referral. I never really had to advertise because we took on so many accounts so quickly. I went from starting out with just me to hiring a couple extra people to now having a full staff. I couldn’t ask for a better turnout than what I have right now.”
Mann and his team specialize in cleaning mostly office buildings, mainly doctor’s offices.
“It’s important to pay your people really well,” Mann said. “That is what is key to get them to do a good job. The quality of the work is based on how well you pay your workers to get them to perform at a high level. As long as my employees have what they need to do work hard and succeed, that is what matters most to me as the employer. I am always there to oversee the entire operation and I make sure that everyone works as a cohesive unit. That is what has kept this business going on for so long.”
Mann wants to see his business grow even faster.
“I am at a level where it is manageable, but I want to kick it into high gear and be a little more aggressive about seeking out more clientele and doubling in size from where we are now," he said. “It is all about conquering your destiny.”
Owner: Jeff Mann
Address: 705 Holmdel Road, Holmdel
This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: Holmdel NJ Gleem Team cleaners part of family business legacy