From Army man to businessman

Military training lends to local veteran’s business acumen in carpet cleaning business.

Justin Willard joined the Army in 1999 and served in the Special Operations Branch.

Now, he’s a businessman.

“The structure that you learn in the military is priceless when it comes to running and organizing a business, especially just organizing your own day,” said Willard of how the Army has helped him in his business career. “And then the discipline you get from the military is key. You don’t wake up motivated everyday and if you’re not motivated to go to work when you’re working for yourself, you better be disciplined enough to still get after it. I would say those things are the biggest factors and I think they’re a huge, huge help.”

When Willard was in the Army, he was stationed at Fort Lewis in the Second Ranger Battalion for about five years. From there, he moved about the United States and took a couple of tours overseas to Iraq and Afghanistan. He finished his time in the Army in Fort Sill, Oklahoma in 2010.

He explained transitioning to civilian life wasn’t as much of a struggle as it could have been.

“I did all right for myself as far as what other people struggle with and I think it was because I went into a business in my family, and I was at an ownership level so I kind of got to ease my way back into things if you will,” Willard said.

The family business he went into was a construction company that they ended up selling, but now Willard and his family own an auto body shop in Burien.

One of the reasons why Willard wanted to get out of the construction industry is because he wanted to focus more on customer service.

“I find customer service to be one of the most satisfying things you can do. It’s great that you can make money in business and that you can make somebody else’s day better at the same time,” he said.

But Willard wanted to do more in the business world and with customer service.

That’s when he purchased a couple of locations of Oxi Fresh in December 2018.

Oxi Fresh is a carpet cleaning company that, according to Willard, is recognized as the greenest cleaning company.

“That’s due to our low water consumption when we clean a house. Typically a Stanley Steamer or whatever, they’re going to use 40 to 50 gallons of water to clean your house and it’s going to take 24-36 hours for it to dry,” he explained. “We use two to three gallons of water because of the Oxi Fresh cleaning package that we have. We only need to use two to three gallons of water and your carpet will be dry within two hours.”

One of the locations of Oxi Fresh that Willard owns is in the southern Kent, Covington, Maple Valley region and the other one is in the Bellevue, Mercer Island area, which covers a slice of Seattle as well.

Willard took over those two branches officially in January and so far he said he has received great responses to what he is doing.

With success comes patience – something that’s been really hard for Willard with this business. But that doesn’t get in the Army veteran’s way.

“Waiting for everything to get going. I was fortunate in my previous business experiences to be involved in larger companies, this is more of a startup. So I have a lot of energy, I have a lot of ‘I’m ready to go and tackle this.’”

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