See how far Dennis Jarrett will go to get customers to do business

Dennis Jarrett, Co-founder and CEO, Stratus Building Solutions

How far are you willing to go to sell your brand? Dennis Jarrett is willing to go pretty far to get people to do business with Stratus Building Solutions.

“I often think my partner and I are more tenacious than we are talented,” Jarrett says. “We don’t take no for an answer. I don’t mean in an obtrusive way. If one door shuts, we go to another one or we get in through the window, whatever the case may be.”

While he was joking about climbing through the windows of prospective clients, Jarrett says relentlessness is the name of the game when it comes to building awareness of your brand.

“I know it’s difficult, especially when times aren’t going well,” says Jarrett, co-founder and CEO of the commercial cleaning franchise company. “You get frustrated and you think you’re doing everything. But there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel. There’s always an opportunity.”

Jarrett is an optimist, but he’s also a realist. If you work hard, you can be successful, but you may be pretty worn out when you finally get there. If you’re not willing to put in that effort, it’s probably not going to happen for you.

“It took us a long time to become newsworthy in St. Louis,” Jarrett says. “In the beginning, we were constantly told, ‘Well, we have a lot of stories like that,’ or, ‘It’s not relevant,’ or, ‘We’ll call you.’ What I would do is meet with these people face to face and constantly tell them my story. Take them to lunch, whatever the case may be.”

Jarrett and his partner, Pete Frese, who is a co-founder and president of Stratus, split duties to get their company where they wanted it. Frese handled the internal operations while Jarrett hit the road to drive new business.

“Get a key person, it could be an employee, it could be somebody else, who can help you with some of the key areas that are still big picture,” Jarrett says. “You can’t be in all places at once.”

While that person is monitoring things at home, you need to be out there selling your business.

“Don’t be bashful,” Jarrett says. “The key is diplomatic tenacity. That’s where people fall just short and they are really just around the corner from success.”

The difference maker is often the story you tell when you’re out there working hard to grow your business.

“Everybody has a good story to tell,” Jarrett says. “You just have to prepared to tell it many, many times repetitively to anyone who will listen. You don’t need a large advertising or marketing firm. These are the times where you build relationships with writers and people in the local community that are looking for a story or human interest that is public relations worthy. People look at our press and our brand and think we have this big agency behind us. We’ve never worked with an agency. It’s all been internal. We don’t have a big marketing department. It’s myself and one other person. It’s all grassroots, and if we can do that, anyone can do it.”

Stratus has grown to more than 5,000 franchisees, 60 master licensees and 11 employees who helped the company yield $63 million in 2010 revenue.

“Psychology is a big part of an entrepreneur who makes it,” Jarrett says. “You have to be optimistic, almost blindly. The key is to know there are going to be good days and bad days and you just have to stay at it and on course.”

Once you start to gather supporters and get some good feedback, make sure you share it to help generate even more business.

“That goes back to the perseverance, the patience and the tenacity to build your substance, even if it’s one brick at a time and it seems like it’s taking forever,” Jarrett says. “There will come a pay day.”

How to reach: Stratus Building Solutions, (877) 731-2020 or

Reach out

You can’t be afraid to reach out for guidance when your business is struggling. It’s not a sign of weakness, rather, it’s a sign of strength that you’re willing to admit when you need help.

“Everybody has a mentor or an adviser,” says Jarrett, co-founder and CEO at Stratus Building Solutions. “Sometimes, the best clarity comes from somebody who is not knee deep into the business. Someone who has done it before and can take a clear, objective look at the business. Listen to people. It doesn’t mean you always take 100 percent of what they say. But there is great feedback out there.”

You need to be strong enough to admit that an idea, maybe even your idea, is not working and it’s time to try something else. Humility is one reason Stratus has grown to $63 million in 2010 revenue.

“You have to have an appropriate mix of ego, because you have to have confidence in your decision making,” Jarrett says. “You can’t be wishy-washy. But you also have to be pragmatic enough to know when you’ve got to change.”

It’s a tough thing for leaders to admit sometimes.

“They believe with all their heart and all their conviction that they are doing the right things,” Jarrett says. “That’s why sometimes, you need to take a look at somebody outside. Sometimes it’s a board, a mentor or a banker. The key is to have some outside clarity.”