…the guru of over a million of those who hate housework—men and women.
Don Aslett, owner and founder of Varsity Contractors, Inc.–one of the nation’s most successful cleaning companies–and self-made millionaire, has revolutionized both the home and the workplace with his popular cleaning services, products, and books. His media-genic personality, business savvy, and unique housekeeping philosophy prove a winning combination–whether he’s sharing decluttering secrets on Oprah, demonstrating his Time Saver cleaning products on QVC, or designing the Clean Green World building to house his Museum of Clean.
His blogs will cover the whole compendium of Aslett interests–we’re just starting and still learning, so check back often.
Got a minute? Here is the rest of the story…
There is nothing typical about Don Aslett, who parlayed determination, hard work, and the willingness to do a job no one else would touch into great success.
“Join Don as he turns what is often thought of as a low-end job into a multimillion dollar corporation,” from the back cover of his autobiography. Of course the low-end job is janitorial work. Aslett started Varsity Contractors as a way to support himself while earning a degree at Idaho State University.
Since Aslett’s personal philosophy was key in his turning that low-end job into a successful building service contractor, Varsity Contractors, Inc., that now operates in all 50 states and Canada, it can be invaluable to anyone seeking success in virtually any kind of endeavor.
Hardly a newcomer to authoring books, Aslett says his real passing is writing. With 40 books published, seven with collaborators, many of which hit the best-seller lists, and more than 3 million copies sold, he is very good at it.
But don’t take our word for it. Noted Irish novelist and newspaper columnist Maeve Binchy, wrote about “The Secret of How to Win Freedom from Clutter” in the London Daily Mail, “No matter what else I look at, I am always reading a magnificent book about how to win freedom from clutter,” Binchy penned. “It is written by an American called Don Aslett who should win a Pulitzer, a Booker, and a Nobel Prize, as well as being canonized in his own lifetime.”
Aslett grew up on a 3,000-acre cattle ranch and farm in Dietrich, Idaho, near the slopes of Sun Valley, the eldest of five children born to Opal and Duane Aslett.
In 1953, he and two friends enrolled at Idaho State College. After doing some part-time work for others, he decided to start his own business, The College Cleanup and Repair Team. That same year, he met his future wife, Barbara Morris of Shoshone, Idaho, became a practicing member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and was soon called to serve a Church Mission in Hawaii.
Aslett returned to ISC in 1957 after completing his mission, enrolled as an education major and resumed his cleaning business. On Oct. 18, Varsity Housecleaners had its first job, washing a private residence’s windows.
During Varsity’s first few years, many who became the business’ supervisors and officers joined up, including Arlo Luke and Mark Browning.
1958 was an important year for Varsity Contractors. In the spring, while cleaning the Pocatello Chamber of Commerce office, Aslett was introduced to the manager of the Hotel Bannock, Pocatello’s ritziest eatery and lodgings, who hired him at $525 per month to clean the hotel’s public areas. It was Varsity’s first janitorial contract.
It was also the first of many profitable years contracting to the Bell System, for whom Varsity would do millions of dollars of work. It started with a $75 per week contract, but Pocatello Bell manager Les Hodge teamed with Aslett to save the company hundreds of millions of maintenance dollars while operating within Bell’s policy parameters.
The Pocatello office was the first of some 30,000 Bell buildings that Varsity contract-cleaned. Hodge saved Bell so much money, he had contacts across the nation asking how he did it. And it was Aslett’s group of college students doing the work.
Aslett took on an ambitious project in 1968, contracting to provide maintenance at Sun Valley for five years.
“…our presence in Sun Valley went beyond being the kings of clean,” he writes. “We were the demons of dirt, the cure for manure. We got a reputation with our big accounts (Sun Valley and the Bell System) that we would try anything, do anything, especially if no one else could do it.”
The Aslett family was comprised of multi-taskers. They accepted their first placement child, a Sioux girl from North Dakota, in a church-sponsored foster care program to help often-parentless Native American children be educated in a solid home environment. There were now two adults and seven children ages 6-14 living in a trailer house. Others, including touring orchestra and actors, missionaries and cleaning crew employees, were often house guests.
Obviously needing a larger home, the Asletts built one in 16 months of mostly after-hours and Saturday time, in Sun Valley. It had only built-in furniture. Forty people could sit in a living room that featured an enormous conversation pit and stone fireplace.
Varsity soon expanded to Denver, earning more than $35,000 per month to clean the Mountain States Telephone headquarters, which at a million square feet had more space than all the other buildings cleaned by Varsity put together. Luke, an LDS Church bishop who played violin and sang in the civic symphony in Pocatello, listed his new home and moved to Denver to manage the project. It was his turn–Aslett had moved to Sun Valley.
This expansion “was the one I feel weaned us from a ‘farm boy company’ and put us up with the big boys.” Aslett says.
With the company expanding and leadership in good hands, Aslett began to indulge in his passion for writing and make public presentations on cleaning. He also introduced his line of cleaning products.
It started in 1978, when “my wife was the president of our church’s women’s auxiliary and one morning she informed me that they were planning a lesson on home care and cleaning. Since I was the local expert … it would be my privilege to do the presentation,” he writes.
It was his first of thousands of high-energy, humorous cleaning presentations spread over some 30 years and most of the United States, and led to his first book, “Is There Life After Housework?” Self-published and later picked up by Writer’s Digest Books, it was the first of his many bestsellers.
Disillusioned by large publishing companies, he later started Marsh Creek Press, which published his autobiography.
His cleaning presentations have been made in a wide variety of arenas, including (but not limited to) the television networks, QVC Channel, large conventions and home and business expos. At one point in his career, he toured to both big cities and small towns.
Aslett has strong opinions on a variety of issues. He doesn’t use profanity or drink soda, dislikes corporate dinners and waiting in airports. Here is a smattering of his philosophy:
*(Confidence): Most people don’t have half the direction or confidence you do, but if you start looking at or listening to their success stories (we never learn all the facts between the lines), you will start wondering why your life is lacking. Many people (even basically honest ones) will fib about their kids’ grades, their sex lives, gas mileage, their weight, and how much money they make. If you have doubts in any of these areas and listen to others long enough, self-doubt will ripple in.
* (Women): “One thing exposure to all the ladies of the media did teach me is that I’m definitely not a showgirl man. I really dislike candy-wrapper women parading around in glittering clothes or lack of same. Good mothers, on the other hand, I find attractive anywhere and anytime.”
*(Hiring): “We had learned … that our future depended on hiring good people, not just people who needed a job.”
*(The family): “Outsiders can scarcely believe how we (Varsity) cater to, help, and include family whenever possible in our activities. Whenever possible, people and their needs have come first, before profit. As a company, we’ve donated time and money to the city and county, schools, scholarships, and churches. Community, civic, and other organizations like the Boy Scouts and Big Brothers/Big Sisters use our facilities regularly.”
*(Big cities): “Going to big cities is always a good reminder that I don’t want to go to hell.”
When asked what he feels best about in his life, Aslett answered in part, “… from the very beginning of my business, right up to today, I never took more salary than I needed to live providently. Even as chairman of the board and majority owner of Varsity, and sole owner of other companies, I took less salary than my top managers, and left or put back most of my profits into the business, with total faith that someday the value and investment would be returned to me. And it has been.”
Do you think the employees of Enron would have appreciated a chief executive officer with that attitude?