David Heitner would rather scrub tile grout than work for Merrill Lynch.
He quit his job as a retail broker in 2002 to start a janitorial company called Heits Building Service Inc. in Hasbrouck Heights, N.J.
It was a move his
Merrill colleagues could not understand.
"There were some guys who said, "hey, congratulations,'" Heitner
recalled, "but most guys were laughing. .. They'd say how "bout you come by and clean my toilets?"
Heitner, 41, grew up the son of a radiologist in Woodcliff Lake, N.J.
To make matters worse, his
brother is a cardiologist.
"My brother thought I was crazy, too," Heitner
"But after I joined Merrill Lynch
, I realized there was more money in the cleaning business than there was in being a broker."
Heitner got his start as a business analyst at Dun & Bradstreet.
He'd sometimes have lunch at a Pizza Hut.
got to know the manager.
The manager needed someone to clean the floors at night.
offered to give it a try.
quickly built up a portfolio of clients at Merrill, working in Fort Lee, N.J.
Instead of cleaning floors, he
nights studying for tests to get the credentials needed to sell securities, insurance and financial planning services.
Then came the tech bust and with it, a dramatic drop in commissions.
Heitner's big idea was to take the financial, marketing and management savvy he
gained at Dun & Bradstreet
and Merrill Lynch
and apply it to a highly fragmented industry that isn't always so well-organized or thoughtful.
company (www.heits.com) sells master franchises for as much as $205,000 to business operators.
Master franchisees in turn sell sub-franchises to people who are trained to properly clean everything from offices to dialysis centers.
Despite a struggling real estate market, Heitner
benefited from demand for "green cleaning" and unending concerns about swine flu, MRSA and other infectious diseases.
What's the difference? asks Heitner
former employer, Merrill Lynch
, has disappeared into Bank of America Corp.
"You put yourself in an environment where there's money to be made and try to rise to the top," Heitner