On the Job with Jud Savelle

Jud Savelle is the president of Bishop Clean Care, Inc. a family-run business.

Jud Savelle is the president of Bishop Clean Care, Inc. a family-run business.

Jud Savelle is the youthful president of one of Albany’s most widely known businesses.

Despite his youth, the company got its start long before Savelle was born.

Founded in 1952 by Jud’s grandfather, Lanier Bishop, and Lanier’s brother, Eustace, the business split in the 1960’s to form Bishop Clean Care, now in Leesburg, and Bishop Cleaners on Slappey and Gillionville.

Jud and his wife, Jenny, bought Bishop Clean Care from his mother, Patti, in 2010 with Jenny serving as CEO.

Savelle recently sit down for a Q-and-A session with Herald reporter Jim West.

Q. What was your first job?

A. It was right here, working for my mother, back when she had this operation down on Roosevelt Avenue in downtown Albany. At that time I was probably too young to be employed anywhere else, but she could get away with it because I was her son. I doubt she even paid minimum wage but I learned some valuable lessons working at a young age and seeing what the family business was all about. I think I got my first pay check when I was 12 or 13.

Q. What did you your money on when you received your first ever paycheck?

A. I’m pretty sure it was a Nintendo game. Probably the second thing was a tithe to First Methodist Church. Should have been the first thing, but I wasn’t quite old enough to understand that.

Q. What’s the single most effective technique you’ve found over the past two years for keeping employees motivated?

A. Communicating success has been the most effective thing. Letting them know, especially since we’ve been going through this recession, to continue communicating the successes of individual employees, letting others know when they’ve done well and communicating the success of the business. I think everyone wants to be part of an organization that’s headed in the right direction.

Q. What led you to your current position? Why did you want to operate your own business?

A. When I look at my family tree, I see so many entrepreneurs. Some of them that have thrived, some that may have fallen from the tree. Either way, it inspired me to want to work for my self.

Q. Is your mom the role model for your career?

A. She is. I was fortunate to learn a lot when I was away at school and working for other companies, but I think she taught me a lot of things they couldn’t teach me. I learned endurance from her, to see her struggle with the business when it was failing — to grow it into what it is today. She’s used patience. She’s used consistency. For someone young like me, it’s easy to come in and want to just go go go.

Q. What is the biggest lesson you as a business leader learned from the recent recession?

A. I’ve learned to continue with business as usual. Don’t let speculation cause you to change the way you do things. Of course it’s wise to make adjustments when it’s necessary but we can collectively fail if we all stop doing business — if we stop spending money just because we’re afraid. Keep with the advertising dollars. Keep spending the money where you need to.

Q. If you could turn the clock back on one aspect of technology – examples e-mail, automated phone systems, cell phones, PDAs, etc. – what would you most like to see go away?

A. I would really like to see our social mannerisms change. I think our manners have degraded as technology improved. We’ve gotten more and more one-touch access to information at social sites and things like that. We’re all guilty of it. We go to restaurants and look at our phones every couple of minutes. We text while we drive.

Q. What is your favorite work-related gadget?

A. A black (ultraviolet) light, actually. We have indicted more puppies and dogs with the black light than criminals on “Law and Order.” It gets us a job every time if we have to pull out that light. It finds the stains most customers say aren’t there.

Q. What is your favorite tradition?

A. Christmas. The time of family, Christmas Eve service, the meal, just that quality of time together.

Q. What was the last book you read? Do you have things you read daily or regularly?

A. The last book I read is entitled “Brimstone.” It’s about a detective, sort of a modern-era Sherlock Holmes. I really enjoyed all the Sherlock Holmes stories and this I can relate to because of that. Daily, I read my Kindle. I read Albanyceo.com.

Q. I’m up and going by? And what is your morning routine?

A. Generally 6:40 a.m. I try to give myself as little time as possible to get ready and get to work. The thing I try to do is cook breakfast for myself and my family.

Q. What famous person would you like to meet, and Why?

A. I heard a story once about Sam Walton — that he got arrested in Brazil crawling around on a grocery store isle. That really inspired me that someone is so dedicated to their work and the idea they have in their head that they’re willing to do something that seems absurd to the rest of us. But it makes perfect sense in hindsight. That really inspired me to want to meet someone like him who’s willing to take that risk.

Q. Favorite hobbies or activity outside work?

A. I enjoy running — more so in the summer than in the winter, but I enjoy the 5K events we have around Albany. I really enjoy running with my son. He’s only 18 months old but I push him in a jogging stroller.

Q. If you could take back one business decision you made in your career, what would it be?

A. My first job offer when I graduated college was at Disney World. I turned it down to stay in Atlanta. I had another good offer which I took. Sometimes I wonder what types of experiences I may have missed out on at Disney World. I wonder if maybe I should have tried that out for a little while.

Q. Best thing about your job?

A. Being responsible for my success and my failure. It’s something that’s really important to me. I really enjoy that if I’m successful it’s because of what I’ve done and what we’ve done as a company and what my employees have done. If I fail I don’t get to point the finger at anyone else.

Q. Worst thing about your job?

A. Making the decisions. The buck stops here when you’re the owner. When people bring me the decisions they don’t want to make, I don’t want to make them either, but I have to.

Q. The most beneficial course I took in school was?

A. That was probably statistics. Sounds strange but I learned a lot about business processes. Statistics describe a lot about the way people think, behave and react. It also helps me interpret all the crazy statistics here every day in life.

Q. What would be your dream job if you were able to pick a position outside your current career path?

A. I’d really like to own a manufacturing company — to see things created and sold as a product.

Q. Finish this thought; “on the first anniversary of my retirement, I see myself…

A. I’d like to be doing what my mom is doing, which is working for my children. I hope that I can build something successful enough to continue or that I can instill in them an entrepreneurial spirit that they’ll want to build something on their own.

Q. What is the one trait a strong business leader cannot afford to be without?

A. I would say trust. You have to trust your employees. A lot of business owners get caught up in worrying about whether their employees have the best interest of the company in mind, but employees are just people like me. They want the best for themselves and I trust that they want the best for the company they’re working at while they’re there. I think it’s very important we trust our customers as well. We’re all here to work together.

Q. Crystal ball time: What’s your call on when the economic recovery for our area will be in full swing?

A. I think it’s going to be so gradual we’re not going to know until it’s really passed.

Q. What kind of music might I find on your list of most played on your iPod?

A. A lot of 90’s rock and roll and grunge music. Bands like Pearl Jam and Red Hot Chile Peppers. Probably some Guns ‘N Roses. Also some music prior to my time — a little bit of Rod Stewart and Eric Clapton.

Q. What do you think is the biggest change Albany will see in the next 10 years?

A. I think we’ll see the population continue to decline. I hope it will be from the nay-sayers, who say they don’t like Albany. I hope they’re the ones who will be leaving and then we’ll be left with the people who really care about it. Then we’ll start to see some growth.

Q. What was the best vacation you’ve ever taken? Why?

A. My wife, Jenny, and I spent seven weeks in China prior to moving back to Albany and that was the best vacation. I didn’t feel like a tourist. I’d been there before and that time I really got to go and try to submerse ourselves in the life there.

Q. What are the biggest changes you have seen in your specific line of business over the past few years?

A. The biggest change has been in our restoration — that’s our fire and water damage business. I’ve seen a decline in the choice consumers have in who does their restoration work. The insurance companies — it’s been in their best interest because they’re so competitive — to lead customers to their product based on trust. You trust your insurance agent to take care of everything for you. Sometimes they’re not inclined to pick up the phone and call me. They’re rather have their agent take care of it.