Management Services Northwest

Tool 4: Be Bold

June 10, 2015

Tool 4_small

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Management Services Northwest (MSNW). Taking a small cleaning and landscaping company from the living room of my home to a multi-state facility management firm has been an exciting journey with many lessons learned along the way. Over this year, I would like to share with you 10 tools that greatly influenced our success, and took our company from ordinary to extraordinary.

Be Bold.

To be bold means showing an ability to take risks; confident and courageous. Looking back over the last 20 years, one of the reasons for our success was being bold, and not letting fear paralyze our company when we were called to be courageous.

One of the most challenging times of our business was during the great recession. Overnight, our world changed drastically. I observed several clients struggle financially, and one client partner of over 13 years shut down by the FDIC. There was a spirit of fear around us. Many of my own staff had family members who had lost jobs or businesses, and our own project division dropped 30% overnight. It was a scary time to be a business owner, and admittedly I had sleepless nights worrying about providing for all of the families who called MSNW home.

I remember one moment when it seemed tough economic times were crashing down around us, that I too, allowed myself to become paralyzed by fear. One of my managers pulled me aside and said to me, “Janelle, you are always the one that puts the wind in our sails, but you can also take it out.” That was a wakeup call.

I made the fundamental decision that day to do whatever it took to thrive in the down economy, to learn whatever lessons we could as a company and use them to prepare for a great future. It was 2009 and we were in an office space we had outgrown. Our HR Manager didn’t even have a door. But everyone was saying – hunker down, wait for everything to blow over, hold on to your money. Instead, I began seeking larger office space and purchased a new building for our company twice the size of the one we were in. This bold move helped to position ourselves for further growth.

Be Bold. Don’t allow fear to paralyze you. Choosing a mindset of boldness over the last 20 years has propelled MSNW through challenging times and made our company extraordinary.

Boldness: Seeing and seizing the opportunistic moments in life – timidity has never produced a proud moment, only a could-have-been.

“What you are afraid of is never as bad as what you imagine. The fear you let build up in your mind is worse than the situation that actually exists.”
― Spencer Johnson, Who Moved My Cheese


Janelle Bruland, CBSE President, CEO

Janelle Bruland, CBSE
President, CEO

Tool 3: Watch the Wallet

May 19, 2015

Tool 3b

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Management Services Northwest (MSNW). Taking a small cleaning and landscaping company from the living room of my home to a multi-state facility management firm has been an exciting journey with many lessons learned along the way. Over this year, I am sharing with you 10 tools that greatly influenced our success, and took our company from ordinary to extraordinary.

Tool #3 Watch the Wallet

One of the top reasons that businesses fail, frankly individuals as well, is the inability to live within their means.

I was very frugal starting out, holding down another job for the first two years until confident the business could support our family. I remember purchasing our very first work truck, a little red ranger for $1,000 cash. That truck got a lot of miles on it before we put it to rest. As the company grew and had need for larger purchases, each one was planned, budgeted, and paid for with cash.

Years later I consulted a new business and shared my conservative approach. I urged the owner not to be distracted by the shiny new trucks and equipment he wanted to purchase but couldn’t yet afford. He didn’t listen to my advice and had the most beautiful fleet on the road. When times got tough his business went under.

The conservative financial approach really paid off during our recent recession. Companies felt the pressure of lost business and reduced margins, and those with high debt load found they suddenly couldn’t pay payroll. Many went out of business as they had no bridge of cash to carry them through. When our construction division dropped 30 percent over night and we had a fleet of vehicles in the yard, we had no debt on them, allowing us to carry the business forward without concern.

Watch the Wallet. Spending wisely and conserving cash over the last 20 years has brought us through the worst of times and made our company extraordinary. MSNW is well beyond our little red truck, and now has a professional fleet of vehicles and equipment that billboards our brand all over the region.

Nothing happens without focus. Don’t try to do everything at once. Take it one step at a time. — Dave Ramsey


Janelle Bruland, CBSE President, CEO

Janelle Bruland, CBSE
President, CEO

Tool 2: Culture is Critical

April 23, 2015


This year marks the 20th anniversary of Management Services Northwest (MSNW). Taking a small cleaning and landscaping company from the living room of my home to a multi state facility management firm has been an exciting journey with many lessons learned along the way.  Over this year, I am sharing with you 10 tools that greatly influenced our success, and took our company from ordinary to extraordinary.


Tool #2. Culture is Critical

One of my most important jobs as CEO of MSNW is to create, enable and sustain our culture. When starting out in 1995 I admit not giving a thought to our company culture. Our culture just was, influenced by my vision and values and lived out through the small team I employed. It wasn’t until 2008, after our company had experienced exponential growth, doubling in size in three years and going from 50 to 100 people that I realized it could no longer be about me. Where I used to know every person on my team I suddenly found myself not knowing everyone’s name.  It was time to be intentional about creating a company culture.


With the assistance of a branding consultant, we asked ourselves the questions:

Who are we?

Who do we want to be for our clients?

Why do we exist?

What do we value?

How will we differentiate in the marketplace?


In naming our core values and the MSNW way of doing things, we created the culture that would allow us to provide the same customer experience throughout the Northwest Region we serve, from Bellingham to Boise.  We hire by these values, recognize when they are lived, and part ways when they are not. It has helped us in our decision making, what paths we will choose or avoid.


Culture is Critical.  Enabling an authentic and sustainable culture has made our company extraordinary.  Focus on bringing people alongside that value what you value, and live and breathe your company’s mission, and watch the amazing results.


“If you get the culture right, most of the other stuff will just take care of itself.”
– Tony Hsieh, CEO of

“Culture can become a ‘secret weapon’ that makes extraordinary things happen. ”
–  Jon Katzenbach, Booz&Co

Janelle Bruland, CBSE President, CEO

Janelle Bruland, CBSE
President, CEO

Tool 1: People Matter

March 16, 2015

JW Marriott Quote

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Management Services Northwest (MSNW). Taking a small cleaning and landscaping company from the living room of my home to a multi-state facility management firm has been an exciting journey with many lessons learned along the way. Over this year, I would like to share with you 10 tools that greatly influenced our success, and took our company from ordinary to extraordinary.

Tool #1. People Matter

From the early beginnings I realized the company’s success would rise or fall based on the quality of the team that was out in front of our clients every day. I will always remember the first staff meeting I held in the living room of our home in Ferndale, Washington. My words to 10 team members that day went something like this: “I don’t know much about taking care of buildings, but you will teach me. I do however know something about business and I will teach you; and together we will take great care of our clients, they will tell others, and we will grow.”

Over the years, we did just that. I found whenever I clearly defined roles, involved the team in decision making, and everyone understood their valuable part to play, we had success. Alternatively when I took the focus off of the team, we struggled.

I also found that people have very different things that motivate them, and will do their best when you take the time to know them, find out what matters to them, and remove the barriers in their way. If you have someone that loves to work with people, make sure they are in a customer service role with lots of interaction as they will shrivel up working by themselves. Someone else will shine brightest when working independently.

People matter. A focus on caring about the individuals that call MSNW home has made our company extraordinary. Bring out the best in your team members, and they will bring out the best in your company.


Janelle Bruland, CBSE President, CEO

Janelle Bruland, CBSE
President, CEO

Management Musings – New Year/Fresh Start

January 8, 2015

I have always liked the start of something new-a new project, a new book, and yes, a new year. A New Year is a new beginning, and an opportunity for all of us to make a fresh start.

We have a tradition in my family of taking time to pause at the beginning of each year to reflect back on what we accomplished the year before, and to set goals for the year ahead. This time we asked each other three simple questions:

What do I want more of?
What do I want less of?
What is just right?

These are important questions to reflect on as how can we change if we don’t first know what we want to change?  Our family agreed on wanting to have more fun together, less worry.  After all of the holiday parties you can relate to this one: more exercise, less sweets.  From these thoughts we developed individual and family goals which varied from keeping a daily budget to finding a new job; starting yoga to qualifying for the New York marathon.

I appreciate the “just right” question which asks us what we want to stay the same. Sometimes this may be the question to start with as we often take for granted the many things going well in our lives.  I am grateful for the time I get to spend with my spouse, at my job, and chasing after those crazy kids.  Our daughter stated she wanted her values to stay the same with every decision. (Yes! Keep up the coaching parents-it does pay off.)

So what about you? Take time to reflect on and then write down what you want more of, less of, and what should stay the same. Then use this list to set goals with your first step of action. Share with someone who can help hold you accountable. Find ways to celebrate the wins.

A New Year is a new beginning and a great time for a fresh start. Make 2015 your best year yet!


Management Musings – Count Your Blessings

November 17, 2014

Blog Post Image 11-17-2014
Remember learning the song as a child, “Count your many blessings, name them one by one….”? If you are like me, you will now be humming this song and will have it in your head for the rest of the day.

In this Season of Thanksgiving, it is a great time for us all to be reminded to count our many blessings. My daughter spent time this summer serving in a local orphanage in Guatemala, and came back with an entirely new outlook on her own life and the world. Children who have been sheltered may not understand how good we have it here in the United States, however as adults we have no excuse. Even so, don’t we still find ourselves complaining at time about things that are insignificant?

Take a review of the last 24 hours. How often did you speak with an attitude of complaint versus an attitude of gratitude? Were you looking back with regret or forward with eager anticipation for positive things in your future? Let’s face it, we are human and can be prone to be negative, so it is important to check ourselves from time to time and self- correct as needed.

Here is some further perspective:

“If you have food in your fridge, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep you are richer than 75% of the world. If you have money in the bank, your wallet, and some spare change you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy. If you woke up this morning with more health than illness you are more blessed than the million people who will not survive this week. If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the agony of imprisonment or torture, or the horrible pangs of starvation you are luckier than 500 million people alive and suffering. If you can read this message you are more fortunate than 3 billion people in the world who cannot read it at all.”

Author unknown

This season, choose to live gratefully. It requires active practice each day to focus on your blessings instead of your troubles. This is not always easy in this difficult world we live in. When things don’t always go your way, evaluate and take action where possible, and let go of what you can’t control. Trust that everything will work together for good.

Count your many blessings, name them one by one.

Management Musings – Continuous Improvement

October 9, 2014

Maple Tree

My office window looks out on a beautiful maple tree changing into vibrant fall colors of red, yellow and orange.  I am enjoying our crisp fall weather, but have to admit mourning the change of season a bit.  What a beautiful summer season we had in the Northwest this year, and I hope you found time to take a break from work with family and friends to enjoy our great outdoors.

Many of us have kids and are just getting back into the routine of the school year.  Though it is hard to say goodbye to the long, warm days of summer, there is something to be said about the benefits of routine and structure in our lives.  It can be a good thing for our children and for us too.

At Management Services Northwest (MSNW) we are beginning our focus on 4th quarter, ending the year strong and looking ahead to our plans for 2015.  We are evaluating our systems and what we can do to improve our efficiency and reliability at MSNW, as well as how we make our company a better place to work.

With one of our core values being continuous improvement, I wanted to share Three Impactful Words from a great business coach, Gino Wickman, and ask you to think about them and how to apply them for yourself and your organization.

People who value being real are people who are authentic and surround themselves with people who are also genuine and authentic. They lower their guards, are comfortable being themselves with no facades, are capable of being vulnerable, and admit their weaknesses. This typically leads to an environment that is more open and honest, where things move faster.

The opposite are people who subscribe to the philosophy of “never let ’em see you sweat.” They pretend that they are bulletproof, their guards are always up, and they feel that they always must have the answers. This typically leads to a more artificial environment, where things are bureaucratic and political.

Are you being real?

People who value simplicity are people that believe less is more, love reducing things to their bare essentials, and love rooting out and eliminating complexity. They believe in the 20/80 rule, subscribing to a philosophy of only doing the high-gain 20 percent activity that achieves 80 percent of the results and saying “no” more than they say “yes.” This typically leads to getting more done in less time with less effort and higher profits.

The opposite are people who are highly intellectual, love hyper-analyzing everything, love trying everything, love complexity, and are offended by simplicity. This can lead to organizational indigestion and analysis paralysis.

Are you keeping it simple?

People who value results are people who don’t waste time. All of their actions are in alignment with their goals. They make sure that everything they are doing (meetings, conversations, action items, and projects) are in sync with the objective. This typically leads to a high level of achievement and satisfaction.

The opposite are people who are afraid to measure, fear accountability, and tend to go through the motions. This typically leads to finger pointing, mediocrity, and “everyone gets a trophy” environments.

Are you focused on results?

This month think about being real, keeping things simple, and focusing on results in your work.  Continuous improvement only occurs with intention and action.

“Focus on the critical few, not the insignificant many.”

Author unknown


“Remember, people will judge you by your actions, not by your intentions.  You may have a heart of gold, but so does a hard-boiled egg.”

Author unknown

Management Musings – Who do you see in the mirror?

July 31, 2014

Kitty vs Lion I like this picture of a small kitten who looks at its reflection in the mirror and sees a mighty lion. How we see ourselves is directly related to how we portray ourselves to the outside world. If we feel small with not much to offer, we won’t invest in ourselves and will limit what we can accomplish. On the other hand, if we see ourselves as strong and capable the possibilities are exponential.

Why do so many people fail to grow and reach their potential? I’ve concluded that one of the main reasons is a low self-image. When we have a low self-image we feel poorly about ourselves, and usually make the situation worse through negative thoughts and critical self-talk. If we don’t feel worth the effort, the image we have of ourselves will remain low without chance to improve.

Unfortunately negative, critical self-talk can be ingrained in us from childhood. In their book The Answer, businessmen-authors John Assaraf and Murray Smith speak to the negative messages children receive growing up. “By the time you’re seventeen years old, you’ve heard “No, you can’t,” an average of 150,000 times. You’ve heard “Yes, you can,” about 5,000 times. That’s 30 nos for every yes. That makes for a powerful belief of “I can’t.”

One way to build your self-image is by guarding your self-talk. If you think about it, you will realize you talk to yourself several times a day. Is that self-talk positive or negative? When faced with a problem do you tell yourself, “I’ve got this – I will figure it out” or instead say, “I’ve messed up again – I never get it right.” It can be helpful to log your thoughts to determine how you are doing. When you find yourself with a negative thought, change it to a positive one.

By choosing to have positive thoughts about yourself, you can begin to change and improve your self-image. If this is difficult for you, ask someone who cares about you and knows you well to help create a list of positive, affirming words. Be ready to pull this list out when the negative thoughts creep in. You have the choice and the power to believe in yourself and the value you bring.

When you realize your own special value, you will see yourself as strong and capable. You will believe you are worth investing in. The result will be your own growth and development, and living up to your full potential.

Who do you see in the mirror?

“Personal development is the belief that you are worth the effort, time and energy needed to develop yourself.” Denis Waitley


Management Musings – Take Time for Summertime

June 30, 2014

“It’s a smile, it’s a kiss, it’s a sip of wine…it’s summertime!” Kenny Chesney has it right – summer days are here and it seems to brighten everyone’s mood.

Living in the Pacific Northwest, we look forward to summer when the days get warm and long, and we can end our evenings with unmatched sunsets.  Through the winter we wait so long for summer to come and then it goes far too quickly.  How can we use our time wisely and make the most of our precious summer months?  Here are five easy ways I have found to make the most of every day:

1. Wake up on the right side of the bed.  A morning routine that starts your day in a positive way will impact your entire day.  Your routine will look different from mine, but what is important is to create an effective start that works for you.  You may enjoy a cup of coffee with the morning news, a quiet time, or exercise class.

2. Make a list and check it twice.  Either the night before or at the beginning of each day, set 3-5 goals to accomplish. If you are working on a large project, break it into a task or two you can finish today.  Now review your list and prioritize to get the most important items at the top, and do them first.

3. Keep it simple.  Many of us pack far too much into our day and end up feeling unproductive and worn out.  What meetings are on your calendar that are unnecessary?  What project should be delegated to a team member?  What process is too complicated or even unnecessary?  Simplify, simplify, simplify.

4. Do something nice.  Find the time each day to bring value to someone else.  Treat a team member to coffee; make a phone call to the friend who needs an ear; write a love note to your spouse.

5. Take time to play.  If you really like your work, you may have formed the bad habit of not taking time out for play.  With the long summer days there is no excuse for not getting out.  What is the hobby you have stopped making time for – photography, biking, golf? If necessary, schedule time in your calendar to make it happen.  Have the beach party or backyard BBQ.  Better yet, book the week of vacation you have been putting off.

We all have 24 hours in every day and it is our choice how we will use them.  Follow these steps and start your day right, accomplish more, and make time for fun.  Summer is short, so let’s make the most of this special time.

Sweet Summertime

Management Musings – Am I Ready to Take Responsibility?

May 22, 2014

I am currently a student in the SmithBucklin Leadership Institute led by Henry Givray, CEO of SmithBucklin where we are studying the qualities and characteristics of effective leadership.  Henry speaks of earning leadership’s invitation as it must be invited not forced.  When we have earned it, it is a high honor and great obligation we cannot take lightly.  It is a great responsibility.

Webster defines responsibility as:

1.  The state, quality or fact of being responsible
2.  Something for which one is responsible; a duty, obligation, or burden

Those of us who are in positions of leadership in our organizations have many responsibilities to our company, our clients, and the individuals that work with us.  This can be daunting at times as we face the pressures around us and the need to make decisions that can have major impact.  Realizing that my leadership behaviors and actions deeply affect others can be a heavy burden at times.  In the book Questions of Character, author Joseph Badaracco claims responsibilities are not a mantle thrown lightly over our shoulders, but a sizable weight that we feel much of the time.  I can relate to this as there have been many times when I have wrestled with a difficult decision that has woken me in the wee hours of the night.  Though it weighs heavy, may I always pause over the decisions where the results will impact the lives of team members I care about.

With the call of responsibility comes accountability, and ultimately the “buck stops” with us.  Though deeply challenging at times, it is the tough decisions thoughtfully considered that can change outcomes, help people to rise, and make good companies great.

“Answering for ones self is a fundamental aspect of taking responsibility.  Leaders have a deep conviction that they must make something happen and they devote themselves to making it happen – despite obstacles, frustrations, failures, and very steep costs.” Questions of Character

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