David McKinnon – How good fortune is a critical component of making a good deal

David McKinnon

David McKinnon, co-founder and chairman, Service Brands International

With St. Patrick’s Day quickly approaching, I started to ponder the idea of luck and if it plays a role in our business lives.

Over the years, I have had so many people tell me how lucky I am after hearing about the ups and downs of 30-plus years as an entrepreneur. At times, I’m not sure how to feel about the comment, so I usually just smile and say, “Thank you, I know that I am a blessed man.”

We’ve all heard the great quote from Thomas Jefferson, who said, “I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”

My twist on Jefferson’s wise words would read something like this: “The more we plan our future, the more likely our future will look like how we planned it.”

As business leaders, I believe our role is to plan and implement a preferred future for the business and its employees, customers, suppliers, stakeholders, etc. Though planning for the next year, five years and beyond is part of a leader’s strategic process, there have been occasions where luck became an important part of making a connection or a deal possible.

I remember a time when luck seemingly played an important part in Molly Maid’s survival. I was sitting at a picnic table on a sunny Michigan afternoon in 1989 when I “happened” to meet Lynn Drayton, the former president and COO of Compuware. Before that spring Sunday, I had never met or heard of Lynn before nor could I have predicted how important that meeting would be.

It’s been 24 years since Lynn and I met, and he was the right person at exactly the right time to help me restore prosperity to our troubled company. After sharing the story of Molly Maid’s challenges, we formulated a plan to buy back the company, restore standards for providing great service and re-engage the franchise owners’ trust in the system. As my business partner, mentor and best friend, Lynn’s wisdom, counsel and capital investment was integral to Molly Maid stabilizing and rebuilding.

While long hours, hands-on leadership and open communication are critical parts of growing successful companies, great timing and the ability to remain open to new solutions have certainly been a part of my story as well. Looking back at the day at the picnic table, it’s difficult to imagine any solution other than meeting Lynn and arriving at our “planned preferred future.”

Another part of our history involved adding a second brand to our holdings. By researching the need for home services, we knew there was a demand for a professional home repair and maintenance franchise. By searching trademark records, we discovered David LaValle, the founder of Mr. Handyman.

While the plan to find a partner was intentional, the timing of reaching out to David was serendipitous. If we had reached out to him a year earlier, he would not have been ready to grow. If we had waited too long, another company would surely have captured the opportunity. Perhaps David LaValle’s Irish background had something to do with it or our persuasive request to purchase his concept and grow it with a proven method was too attractive to turn down.

Either way, that partnership created a need for a multiconcept franchisor now known as Service Brands International. The foundation of these two companies paved the way for additional jobs, business ownership opportunities and reliable services to consumers to be possible.

I am a lucky and blessed man to have met such people who have been integral parts of my world, and it started at a picnic table, doing nothing more than watching the world go by.

As you work hard and plan your preferred future, I wish the best of luck to you too!

David McKinnon is the co-founder and chairman of Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Service Brands International, an umbrella organization that oversees home services brands, including Molly Maid, Mr. Handyman and ProTect Painters. To contact McKinnon, send him an email at [email protected]

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