A Culture Rooted in Integrity
Employees drive success of Moreno & Associates, Inc.
For Moreno & Associates, Inc., the most important person in the company isn’t the manager, president or CEO. It’s the custodian—the person who works on the front lines each and every day. The family-owned, full-service building maintenance company is structured like an upside-down triangle, according to Founder, CEO and Chief Operating Officer (COO) Ernesto Moreno. “We treat our front-line employees as the leaders of the company. Every supervisor, manager, director and executive team member reports to the needs of that employee.”
That corporate structure is what makes Moreno & Associates successful, Ernesto says. “When clients hand us the keys to their buildings, they are putting their trust in us to deliver quality services and to be transparent, predictable and reliable. Part of how we do that is to make sure employees have the tools and the support they need to provide the best service possible.”
Headquartered in San Jose, California, Moreno & Associates provides custodial, painting and maintenance services to commercial clients throughout the Santa Clara Valley, as well as San Francisco and Salinas. Formed in 1993, the company carries California licenses for painting and decorating, as well as for construction clean-up services.
“We service any commercial business looking for scheduled or periodic building maintenance services—from once-a-month cleaning to daily cleaning of multiple buildings spanning 1 million square feet or more,” Ernesto says. With more than 200 clients, the company serves educational institutions, country clubs, manufacturers, software providers, electronics companies and more. “For 10 years, we cleaned the grounds for the Northern California PGA Tour event. Twenty thousand people would visit each day. We’d work throughout the day and well into the night. By the morning, you couldn’t tell anyone had been there the day before.”
In addition to its janitorial services, the company’s maintenance services include small handyman jobs such as hanging pictures and light repairs, pressure washing, window cleaning, construction site cleanup, clean room care and graffiti abatement. “We are not simply a mop-and-bucket brigade,” Ernesto says. “We provide a whole suite of services.”
One specialty service involves covering surfaces with an eco-friendly antimicrobial coating, which controls the growth of bacteria, fungi and mold. “We can apply this durable coating to walls, floors and even furniture—basically anything horizontal or vertical. The coating helps to reduce stains, odors and surface damage. It holds fast with routine cleaning and disinfecting, and just one application provides protection for 12 months or longer,” Ernesto says. “We’re always looking for new products and services that add value for our customers.”
Moreno & Associates has recently added concierge services. The company works with real estate agents to prepare homes for sale. “We improve the look and feel of homes before they’re put on the market—whether that’s adding a fresh coat of paint, replacing the carpet or changing out lighting fixtures. These improvements increase the value of the home and help to attract buyers,” Ernesto says.
In 2010, the Moreno family partnered with company President and CFO Stacy Hacker to form product supply company Greenside Janitorial Supply, which serves the janitorial industry. “Ten years later, we’re proud to announce that Greenside Janitorial Supply has merged with WAXIE Sanitary Supply, a family-owned company that does business in 22 regions,” Ernesto says.
Proactive Customer Support
Ernesto considers many of his competitors friends. “We may provide similar services, however, I believe we do it just a little better. I won’t share our entire secret sauce, but it starts with doing what we say we’re going to do.”
That commitment stems from the beginning of a client relationship. “We get only one chance to start a new account, and we have a very consistent protocol to make sure we’re adding value from the very beginning,” he says.
With more than 200 employees, Moreno & Associates prides itself on being proactive in its customer support. “Part of that secret sauce is keeping in touch with clients on a regular basis. We don’t wait for them to call us. We go out and meet with them. Clients don’t know us as just a janitorial company. They see us as Paul, Salvador, Jesus, Tomas, Kyleigh, Kennedy, Phil, Marc, Sandra, Gina, Felipe, Rafael, Stacy and Ernesto. They know us, and we know them.”
Knowing each client means understanding each client’s specific needs and goals. “Every client is different, and we treat them as such,” he says.
When clients hand us the keys to their buildings, they are putting their trust in us to deliver quality services and to be transparent, predictable and reliable. Part of how we do that is to make sure employees have the tools and the support they need to provide the best service possible. Ernesto Moreno, Founder, CEO and COO, Moreno & Associates, Inc.
Ernesto recognizes that while mistakes are sometimes made, it’s what you do afterward that defines you. “No one’s perfect. But when there’s a problem, we don’t run away from it. We pick up that phone right away and respond immediately. It’s something we ingrain in all of our employees. Sometimes it’s not comfortable, but we walk through the doors of a client’s office and ask how we can make things right.”
Team members operate with integrity and are empowered to make critical decisions on-site. “You don’t stay in business as long as we have without a culture rooted in integrity,” Ernesto says. “If you’re asked to do something that is illegal, immoral or unsafe, you have the right to say no. Every team member understands this.”
Learning the Trade
Even as a teenager in San Jose, Ernesto was never a stranger to hard work. While in high school and throughout college, he worked at a local country club. There he met several businessmen who would change the trajectory of Ernesto’s career. “I earned a degree in developmental psychology from Santa Clara University, and both of my parents were teachers at one time before starting a restaurant. I knew that those in the educational field are not compensated as they should be and started looking to other career opportunities.”
No stranger to the restaurant industry, Ernesto was first recruited by a country club member to work at a local restaurant, learning the business from the ground up. While still working at the country club, he then attracted the attention of another country club member, who owned a janitorial business. “This man would come by the restaurant at night for a drink before going home. He told me that because I spoke Spanish and was well educated and well spoken, he’d like to hire me.” With the promise of more money and opportunity, Ernesto made the leap.
Though he had visions of leaping directly into sales or management, Ernesto found himself with a mop and bucket, working the front lines. “I’d work from 6 p.m. until 2:30 a.m., cleaning a 40,000-square-foot building.” While the experience wasn’t what Ernesto expected, he is thankful for it. “I remember the restaurant owner telling me that if you open a restaurant, you better know how to cook. The same thing goes with the janitorial industry. The experience taught me the business from the ground up.”
Soon after, at just 24 years old, Ernesto jumped ship to another custodial services company and relocated to Texas, where he started and grew an entire division.
Later opportunities led to a minor partnership in a local company, which is now a multistate facility services enterprise. “I was just 28 years old and running the operations and sales divisions. When I came aboard a year after the company started, it was just three people—my partner, his wife and me. I’d make 100 phone calls a day and eat my bologna sandwich at my desk. At night, I’d supervise the crews, and on the weekends, I’d strip and wax floors with team members.”
Foundation for Success
All that experience gave Ernesto the foundation needed to start Moreno & Associates in 1993. With just a few dollars in his pocket and a few clients that came onboard with the fledgling company, Ernesto began to grow his own business. “We’ve been growing steadily and organically ever since.” In its first year, Moreno & Associates did $150,000 worth of business. Today, the company manages projects that add up to multimillion dollars in value, he says.
Ernesto likes to say that he had two startups in two years—a business and a marriage. “I met Stacie, my wife, a year after starting the company, and we had the first of four children in 1996.” While Ernesto managed the business, Stacie managed the children and household.
Soon after starting the company, Ernesto hired his very first employee, Stacy Hacker, as a part-time bookkeeper. The President and CFO remains with Moreno & Associates today. “My friend, Phil Hacker, recommended his wife, Stacy. Later, I was able to bring Phil on.” Today, Phil serves as Director of Paint & Specialty Coatings.
In the company’s infancy, Ernesto subcontracted custodial services. “I worked with an independent contractor. He’d supervise my labor, and I’d sell business during the daytime. As we grew, we transitioned to hiring our own people so we could better control our corporate culture.” Ernesto hired people he could trust from outside of the janitorial industry. “Because they were from outside of the industry, they didn’t have any set ideas of what a custodial services company should be. I trained them and taught them everything I knew.”
The team of Moreno & Associates is loyal to Ernesto, and the company has low employee turnover. “A sales manager who has been with us for 17 years and an accounting associate who was with us 19 years just retired, and we’re about to retire two other people, who have been with us for more than 20 years. We are surrounded by good people—people I consider family. It’s been an absolute blessing,” he says.
Four Families Under One Roof
Moreno & Associates is filled with people who are like family, as well as those who actually are family. “We have four separate families working here under one roof—the Hackers, Paternitis, Estradas and Morenos,” Ernesto says.
All of Ernesto’s children have worked—or are currently working—at Moreno & Associates. “Our oldest daughter, Kyleigh, joined the company as an Account Manager in 2018, and Kennedy came on board in 2019 after graduating from college. Our son and daughter, Kolbey and Kassidy, have interned during the summer months as well. We encourage all of our children to pursue careers in whatever field interests them. My wife finds it encouraging that at least two of our children have chosen to pursue careers in this field.”
Giving Back Together
When the children were young, the Moreno family would volunteer their time cleaning the Special Olympics Northern California office. “We managed to take an hourlong job and turn it into four hours,” Ernesto muses. “But it was great to do this with the kids.”
Today, Moreno & Associates makes donations to Second Harvest of Silicon Valley food bank and lends a hand to employees in need. “When a situation or crisis arises, we don’t turn our backs on our employees. We’re there for them, whether they need a cash advance or other assistance.” In tribute to his father, who used to teach English classes for employees, Ernesto formed the Armando Moreno Scholarship, which provides $500 educational grants for employees.
“We take good care of our employees because we consider them family. There is nothing at this company that’s done by just me. Our employees are who makes Moreno & Associates what we are.”