In 2013, Nasutsa Mabwa was looking for a career change. Wanting to spend more time with her two young children, Mabwa and her husband Sam began exploring new career opportunities. It led them to purchase a ServiceMaster franchise including a large territory for greater Chicago, Oak Park and the NorthShore. Now with a career that provides her with the home life she desires, Mabwa and her business are leading the cleanup and restoration of Chicago.
Moving into the restoration industry wasn’t Mabwa’s first major career shift. After graduating from Miami University of Ohio, she worked as a social worker. She later gained her MBA and worked for the mayor’s office in Chicago. Mabwa’s career took another turn in 2006 when she moved to McCaffery Interests a major real estate development company. Now running her own business, Mabwa has found life to be different and just as rewarding — if not more so.
Mabwa’s successes have come on the back of tragedy. As a child, she experienced the loss of her mother and father. She spent time in foster care, and the experiences of her youth spurred her on to build a successful career.
She recently spoke with Totalprestige Magazine about her career, company, and life.
Nasutsa, tell us about ServiceMaster By Simons and how it helps people rebound after a disaster?
We are in the business of restoring homes and businesses after disasters from water, flooding, fire and smoke damage. We are a woman-owned and family-run business. Unexpected water or fire damage is stressful, frustrating, and time consuming. We provide emergency services to restore properties to pre-loss condition. Throughout the entire process, we are in communication with the customer, explaining the process and providing updates. We are the calm during a trying and disruptive experience.
You and your husband Sam own ServiceMaster. What is it like to own and run a business with your husband?
Working with my husband Sam is a great joy. While he manages operations for disaster restoration projects, I focus on growing the specialty cleaning division, business development, marketing, HR and finance. We are a good team – each bringing a different skill set to the business. He is a wonderful partner and a very creative individual. Because we’ve teamed up, we are able to spend a lot of time together and with our two children.
As a company that works with buildings, houses, and other projects that have been affected by disasters, what is the worst restoration job ServiceMaster has undertaken?
Over the years we have witnessed many levels of disaster while performing disaster restoration and specialty cleaning work. Some restoration projects are more difficult than others. Several years ago, we were called in for water damage from a sewer backup after heavy rains at a large customer’s home. When the crews arrived at the jobsite, they discovered the customer was a hoarder and there was literally loads of content piled up to the ceiling with standing water below. Before any emergency water damage restoration services could be performed, the crews had to remove all of the years of content into multiple dumpsters, including furniture, wet boxes, clothing, papers, keepsakes, etc. While we were successful in completing the job, it was complicated, taking several days to complete, and had to be planned out in phases.
Nasutsa, ServiceMaster is located in the Chicagoland area. How extensive is the restoration work in a major city like Chicago?
The restoration industry was conceived in the 1950s by ServiceMaster founder Marion Wade in the Chicago area. As a result, Chicago is one of the most competitive restoration markets in the U.S. While there is continued demand for our services, the key is to develop a diverse marketing strategy to obtain consistent viable business leads.
In a previous interview, you stated the most challenging part of your job is, “working on the business not in the business”. What did you mean by this statement?
I’m a “hands on” kind of person, so I like to jump in wherever needed with the team. This tendency to jump in, however, distracts me from strategic focus and assessing the business at a 10,000 foot view required to successfully steer the business. Getting bogged down with the micro level details, can be distracting as a leader. I’m working on delegating more often!
You gained a Bachelor of Liberal Arts degree from Miami University of Ohio, an MA at the University of Illinois at Chicago and an MBA at Roosevelt University. What led you into your current position with ServiceMaster?
For nearly nine years, I worked for a local real estate development company in Chicago managing a transformative 600-acre redevelopment project. The one problem was balancing family duties and my work responsibilities. While I was fully committed to my career, I struggled being absent so many hours per week with two small children at home. My husband and I searched for an opportunity to run our own business locally, and purchased a ServiceMaster franchise in late 2012. I gave McCaffery a long resignation period, six months, so I could train a replacement before leaving.
Before joining ServiceMaster, you worked for the city of Chicago and in the mayor’s office. What was the transition like leaving a government position for a commercial one?
Working for municipal government is a 360 from the private sector. While are countless invaluable civil servants committed to making Chicago a better city, the public sector culture is does not fit everyone. I adapted to the private sector easily by jumping in and rolling up my sleeves.
Has owning your own business led to a better work-life relationship?
When you run your own business you are in charge of everything: the team, the clients, service delivery model, revenues, and more importantly, your own time. This aspect has been really eye-opening for me as a business woman and mother. For example, I can work at the office until the children get out of school in the late afternoon, handle pick-up, dinner, and then work for another several hours after bedtime. This flexibility allows me to be present in the children’s lives during a time when they really need me most.
Volunteer work is something near and dear to you. Why is it important to give back to the community and do you find local businesses doing enough to help the local community?
Volunteer work is near and dear to me because philanthropy makes communities thrive. Businesses that are committed to local organizations and causes where they operate are typically more vested, and their employees more dedicated to the company in turn. Our company is involved in various local causes.
Nasutsa, you have experienced personal tragedy in your life along with great success. How do you feel your youth led you to such success in your life today?
The tragedy I experienced when I was young prepared me for big challenges and difficulties. I do not back away from problems or give up on anything without a fight. My ordeal as a youth made me tough, and for that I am grateful.
What is a day in your life like?
My typical day is first checking the company calendar for the day and the news and weather. Then, I get my two elementary children off to school, head to the office and work straight through until it is time to pick up the children, chauffeur them to after school activities, fit in some exercise when possible, prepare dinner, and then catch up on some additional work in the evening.
What makes you smile?
Two things: being with my family, and also completing a complicated restoration clean up job successfully and the customer is 100% satisfied.
What scares you?
I am most frightened of not being able to achieve my own goals in the schedule I’ve set for myself. I am a very driven person and when I self-evaluate I can be very hard on myself.
What is your secret talent?
Multi-tasking. I am able to hyper focus on a couple things at the same time.
Which historical figure do you most admire?
I admire strong leaders that have been able to overcome difficult obstacles despite their circumstances. There are too many to name all, because I do not admire just one – several historical figures are Nelson Mandela, Harriet Tubman, Nina Simone, and Eleanor Roosevelt.
Nasutsa, do you have any hobbies?
Landscape garden design, interior design, reading and travel.
What are you never without?
I am never without a personal emergency kit in my car and in my purse. I believe it is important to be prepared!
Can you share two of your favorite quotes with us?
“There are no problems, only solutions.” – Me
“It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.” – Theodore Roosevelt
Instinct versus expertise: Which is more important and why?
I think that instinct is more important because a person’s raw instinct kicks in when necessary. You can have all of the technical training in the world and know-how, but immediate troubleshooting on the spot, should not be underemphasized. We’ve had situations that required just this sort of instinct during national hurricane recovery efforts and local major restoration projects.
If you had the power to change just one thing in the world what would it be?
I would like to rid the world of violence.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Everyone should try to be kinder in this world.
For more information on Nasutsa Mabwa and ServiceMaster, please visit https://servicemaster-restorationbysimons.com.