Nicole Mastrangelo a 33-year-old small business owner and budding entrepreneur. Four years ago, Nicole left her career on the fast track in luxury fashion, to take over her family’s pest control business.
Pause for reaction… yes you read that right- Pest Control!
Four years ago, Nick Felicione Pest Control was 27 years old, and 2 generations deep. Mastrangelo family were planning for retirement and without a child to take over the business, their only other option would be to sell the company. Nicole has seen Nick Felicione Pest Control from the moment her grandparents started the company from their kitchen table to the point they wanted to sell it.
She not only watched but lived, the phases of growth- from helping to stuff and seal envelopes as a kid, to booking appointments and data entry as a summer job during high school. Nicole felt an enormous responsibility, a sense of obligation, to continue the legacy. And she felt ready. Nicole had received some of the top corporate management and sales
The take over is a success!
Four years ago, Nick Felicione Pest Control had a team of 10, with roughly 1,300 clients, grossing $1.6 million in sales annually. Today, thanks to Nicole the team grew with 27, with roughly 2,000 clients, grossing $2.2 million in sales at the close of 2018.
These 4 years of the journey have been an education in self-awareness, courage, tenacity, and love. And it inspired Nicole to launch a business coaching practice, to help other local small business owners navigate the waters of entrepreneurship.
Your proudest achievement?
My proudest achievement has been earning the respect of my team and effectively shifting the culture of Nick Felicione Pest Control. When you take over a family business, the deck is stacked against you. People believe you’re in that role because of who you are, not what you can do. And their reservations about your capabilities translate into fear about how their job will change. People naturally fear change. And this small business was about to have a complete overhaul in order to improve efficiency, increase sales, and prepare for growth. And even though the changes would most benefit the employees, perception is reality.
Understanding this tried and true concept is the first step in successfully leading a team. Company culture was my first priority because the success of every change and every investment would hinge on their complete support and total buy-in. I spent the first 3 months getting to know the team and letting them get to know me. Believe it or not, I was able to find commonalities with middle-aged tradesman- thank God for sports! I learned their beliefs about their job- what was difficult and what they enjoyed. I asked for suggestions for improvement and shared my own thoughts and plans. Once they got to know and like me, the next step was earning their trust.
I started implementing the changes that they were a part of creating. We streamlined the process, clearly defined roles, and responsibilities, and set realistic expectations that they were confident in achieving. With less frustration on the job, the team began to bond, and dare I say, have fun at work- which led to more openness and participation during company meetings and
And that was pivotal in shifting their mindset. The trust really solidified, and the buy-in became contagious when the results started rolling in. The team was earning commission payouts they had never seen before. In fact, that year our average technician salary increased by 11% due to the spike in commission earnings. Before we knew it, month after month, the company was achieving record-breaking, double-digit sales increases, and our client base grew by 10% due to customer referrals alone.
What have been some of your failures, and what have you learned from them?
During my third year with Nick Felicione Pest Control, I went through an unexpected divorce. Like any divorce, it was emotionally draining and the stress was tolling. In order to feel some sense of control, and to maintain the momentum I had worked so hard to build, I occupied myself with work. I did a great job of staying busy, and a terrible job of being effective. I rarely motivated or celebrated with my team- actually, I rarely engaged with them at all outside of a meeting. My patience was thin, and I was easily frustrated.
Performing routine tasks took me twice as long- I couldn’t even finish reading an email without getting distracted by a paralyzing thought and having to start all over, which only frustrated me more. Anyone could see, my body was there but my mind wasn’t. And it showed in the results- morale was down, sales were down, people were quitting. I tried so hard to remain stoic, but the worse the results were, the angrier and more ashamed I became. Until one day, I was having a meeting with one of my team members, who stopped and asked me genuinely, “how are you doing?” I broke down crying. He started to tell me all about his divorce, how he felt, how he coped, and at the end, we hugged each other. It was my first “good day at work” since my divorce.
Leadership is just like any other relationship. It’s all about connecting with your team, and they are a team of humans who experience all of life’s ups and downs, just like you.
In that moment, I realized I wasn’t being an effective leader because I wasn’t willing to be human. Leadership is just like any other relationship. It’s all about connecting with your team, and they are a team of humans who experience all of life’s ups and downs, just like you. We connect through emotion, and avoiding or internalizing emotion causes disconnection, no matter the relationship. That day, I gave myself permission to lower the bar. I accepted that I wasn’t able to operate at the level I was once accustomed to, and that it was a normal response.
I recognized I needed to take the time to heal in order to get back to the high-performance level my position required. With that shift in mindset, healing became a priority deserving of my attention. I reset expectations for myself at work and started delegating more. I slowly began to remove the elephant in the room and started opening up to my team about my situation. I was afraid to lose the respect of the team, but the more honest and vulnerable I was, the more they stepped up. They surprised me in so many ways. They motivated and encouraged me, they made me laugh, and they helped me get my groove back!
What steps would you advise and give our ladies who are taking over a family business?
First and foremost, communication is key! Start the process by getting everyone on the same page. What are each family member’s personal and professional goals, and what are the expected timelines for them? What is the vision and mission
Don’t be too prideful to ask for help or admit when you are wrong
Secondly, I would highly recommend conducting weekly meetings to hold yourselves accountable
What fulfillment does being a business owner give you?
“Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art.”- Andy Warhol
One of my favorite quotes because it’s so true. Business is an intricate, complex, delicate balance that requires a tremendous amount of courage. If it was easy, everyone would do it. Being a business owner is almost like being in some sort of elite club- there aren’t many members but when you come across one, you know it. There is a level of understanding that only comes from doing this work. Besides, there’s nothing more thrilling than the process of building a successful business.
Have you always been entrepreneurial?
I grew up in a large family of small business owners. It’s in my blood! I can’t enjoy anything or have an idea without thinking of ways to monetize it… I have an ongoing list of business concepts. One day, I hope to have a diverse portfolio that gives Marcus Lemonis a run for his money!
Being a mompreneur, what are the cons and pros?
Let me start by saying, being a full-time working mother, no matter what the work is, is an absolute triumph. Having been on both sides of the fence,“mompreneur” does have a few nuances. Scheduling flexibility is probably my favorite feature of entrepreneurship. I can schedule my work day around my toddler’s schedule, a luxury I would not have in the corporate world. This has allowed me to be a more hands-on mother, and you can’t put a price on that.
In business, every decision you make has an immediate effect
With regards to fulfillment, I always maintained a strong desire to excel, both in my corporate and entrepreneurial life- I like to win. But in the corporate world, those wins were for me- my achievements, my recognition, my advancements, my reputation, my career. Building a successful career is very different from building a successful business. In business, every decision you make has an immediate effect, and significantly impacts the future of the business and the livelihood for you and everyone you employ. And that’s a huge weight to carry around while potty training! But it is an extremely humbling and rewarding responsibility.
Who or what influences you?
I’m so fortunate to have an incredible family, amazing friends, and supportive mentors who love me and encourage me every day. But there is one person in particular, who has a unique ability to influence my mindset, and that’s my brother, Anthony. His optimism takes on new meaning. He has an unequivocal belief that anything is possible- it’s a matter of choice. Are you willing to do what it takes? Are you willing to learn, research, ask for help, step out of your comfort zone, do something you’ve never done, sacrifice, get back up after you fall? If not, then you are choosing not to have it. He continually inspires me to re-evaluate the bar, and then set it a little higher.
Do you believe in destiny or do you think you can control your fate?
If life has taught me anything, it has taught me that everything happens for a reason. I’ve always considered myself to be spiritual, but recently, I have learned to stop praying for what I think I need. I’ve learned to let go, enjoy the process, learn the lesson, and have faith in destiny. And so far, I’ve been pleasantly surprised. I’ve learned a lot about myself and my purpose, and it’s led me to my next venture- my blog: Leading Between The Lines.
What are your goals currently? What problem are you trying to solve?
Leading Between The Lines is a blog intended to motivate and inspire the leader at home, at work, and in the community. In both my corporate and entrepreneurial experience, I have seen first hand the impact of dynamic leadership on turn over, productivity, sales, and customer service. The more research shows its impact on results, the more the business world has identified leadership as a high valued
In this blog, I candidly discuss the delicate balance of work and life, the importance of self-awareness and emotional intelligence in leadership, real-world communication strategies that strengthen relationships, and the importance of culture and team dynamics on an organization. In documenting my escapades, I hope to create a community of entrepreneurs, executives, managers, activists, board members, volunteers, coaches, teachers, and parents, who are inspired to lead with their heart.