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Inc. 5000 Update: Dirt Pros

Business lessons from the basketball court.

Jeffery Salter

Marcell Haywood of Dirt Pros


Marcell Haywood, a former point guard for the Florida State Seminoles, says most of what he knows about business came from sports. In particular, Haywood, now 30, stresses teamwork at his 280-person company, Dirt Pros, which provides maintenance services for businesses in South Florida. Dirt Pros brought in $2.6 million in 2008 and captured the No. 232 spot on the 2009 Inc. 500.

I got the idea for Dirt Pros back in 2003, when I was still in school. Before a game against Georgia Tech, I met a gentleman who had just sold a janitorial business for $6 million. As I sat there icing my elbow, I knew I wasn't going to play basketball forever. Starting a business like his seemed like the way to go.

On the court, I was a point guard. My job was to facilitate and distribute and get everyone involved. I use those same skills now as a CEO.

My responsibility is to give the people the resources they need to be successful and then get out of the way.

We made the decision to switch to using only environmentally friendly chemicals and products, because we didn't want our employees exposed to anything that would harm them. We stopped using bleach, for example, because it causes upper respiratory problems. It cost us a mint to make the switch, and we got pushback from some of our customers. But it was the right thing to do, and it has paid off for us since.

One of our missions as a company is to create 1,000 quality jobs in South Florida. Part of that is doing our best to engage our employees as much as possible. Rather than tell them what to do, I ask a lot of questions about what we should be doing. Our turnover rate is one-third of what is typical in the industry. I'm proud of that.

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Last updated: Oct 1, 2010


Darren Dahl is a contributing editor at Inc. magazine, which he has written for since 2004. He also works as a collaborative writer and editor and has partnered with several high-profile authors. Dahl lives in Asheville, North Carolina.

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