The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


April 4, 2009

Learning the ropes: Franchise owner relied on husband, past experiences

If she had her druthers, Nancy Critchfield would rather be skiing.

It was on the slopes of a local ski resort where the Somerset businesswoman met her husband, Richard. And she continues to be a member of the ski patrol at Seven Springs.

But Critchfield, owner of a multimillion dollar ServiceMaster franchise, which provides disaster restoration services, is just as passionate about her business as her skiing. That zeal became evident as she shared her experiences recently with students at Allegany College of Maryland as part of the Upstarts and Innovators Series, sponsored by Johnstown Area Regional Industries, the Greater Johnstown Keystone Innovation Zone and The Tribune-Democrat.

She got into the business in 1999 based upon her background in management. Prior to taking the lead at the ServiceMaster franchise in Somerset – which also maintains an office in Altoona and serves eight counties – her career included significant time in upper management and executive roles in corporate America.

But her knowledge of the disaster restoration business was, by her own admission, limited. Her husband, owner of Critchfield Construction, provided her only insights into the industry.

“The only thing I knew about the nature of the work was what I learned from my husband during dinner conversations about construction,” Critchfield said.

“But I knew how to implement the proper systems and run a business. If you know how to do those things, you can walk into any business in the country and run it successfully.”

She’s learned the ropes along the way and learned how to let go of those ropes at the same time.

When she joined the business, with a handful of employees, she was more hands-on – performing many of the duties herself.

But over time, she learned to delegate, hiring people with skills more applicable to specific duties, she said.

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Tackling the area's drug problem.
Controlling folks moving into city housing.
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