An American Dream Come True: Meet Afshin Cangarlu, CEO of Stratus Building Solutions
Afshin Cangarlu is the CEO of Stratus Building Solutions, the nation’s leading commercial cleaning franchise responsible for introducing people in two countries to the world of affordable and scalable business ownership opportunities. In addition to fantastic people skills, Cangarlu also possesses decades of experience in technology and software development. His resume serves as a blueprint of when hard work, tenacity and desire merge at the intersection of intellect and leadership.
Cangarlu’s passion for technology has changed his life for the better, including a fantastic opportunity working as a DreamWorks executive before it became the household name it is today. That love is also propelling Status Building Solutions into uncharted territory. It’s a win-win for a company that was in limbo before Cangarlu and his partners stepped in and implemented operating procedures that has guided his success for more than three decades.
Cangarlu, along with his family left their native country, for America in 1980; when he was 13 years old. Despite an initial language barrier, Cangarlu made quick work of the American education system, graduating from high school at age 15.
“I worked through college to help pay my own way for my degree,” says Cangarlu. “I began working nights at the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority as I was going to school. I was working 60-hour weeks on top of my studies. I knew at an early age that self-sufficiency, independence and diligence work in this country.”
The lesson of discipline and hard work is something that sticks with Cangarlu to this day. That’s why he sees Stratus Building Solutions as the perfect opportunity for like-minded individuals looking to take control of their lives through entrepreneurship.
“I relate extremely well with unit franchisees who are eager to build their own version of the American Dream,” he says. “I came here, spoke zero English… it was a complete culture shock. It’s the same experience many unit franchisees experience. These folks are guarded because they’ve been burned in the States.”
With a computer science degree in hand, Cangarlu’s burning desire to succeed landed him a full-time job with the MTA as a computer programmer. After moving up the corporate ladder at the MTA, and a brief stint at a software consulting company, Cangarlu joined DreamWorks. He made the move right when Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen founded the new film production studio. He started there as head of custom software development. Within two years, Cangarlu was the Co-CIO for DreamWorks, implementing 50 different applications.
Cangarlu left DreamWorks in May 2000 to join a software company that had just gone public. After seven years with that company, Cangarlu took a year off and to consider a significant career change. He and his close friend and fellow programming extraordinaire, Foad Rekabi, began exploring business opportunities. Through the help of a franchise broker, the pair discovered Stratus Building Solutions, becoming master franchisees in the LA territory in 2008.
It was a risky proposition at the time. The country was in the grip of the Great Recession — a period of economic decline in between 2007 and 2009, the longest recession since World War II. Ultimately, Cangarlu was rewarded for his decision to invest in Stratus Building Solutions.
“2008 was about the worst time you could start a business,” Cangarlu says. “However, Stratus Building Solutions ended up validating the recession-resistant model of commercial cleaning. Clients still need cleaning services, even in down economic times.”
With Rekabi at his side, the pair started implementing process and procedures they crafted during their previous professional experiences. “The model at Stratus Building Solutions mirrors a software model,” says Cangarlu. “There’s a license fee on software similar to a franchisee fee on franchise sales. The recurring revenue model for maintenance and management fees are very similar as well. Once I discovered the similarities, I was in my comfort zone.”
In 2015, with the company in limbo due to class-action legal issues, Cangarlu and Rekabi, along with a third partner, Channen Smith, stepped up to take over the reins at Stratus Building Solutions. The trio revamped Stratus Building Solutions’ entire system in a way that helped them build successful careers. Cangarlu and Rekabi’s experience as a master franchisee and a software expert played a pivotal role in the rekindling of master relationships with the corporate office. “We rolled out the Opus CRM software solution system to all masters,” Cangarlu says.
Cangarlu’s brilliance, plus his dedication to achieving no matter the odds, shows up every day as CEO. His insights and software solutions have helped the company expand locations into the double digits since 2015. One of the biggest achievements for Cangarlu is the fact there are 1700+ unit franchisees — from all different cultural backgrounds – in 44 metropolitan markets in the US and Canada.
“This opportunity could mean putting their entire life savings into this franchise business,” says Cangarlu. “All of their eggs are in the Stratus Building Solutions basket. And they’re able to build a full-scale, family enterprise. Next thing you know they’re growing and hiring folks to work for their business. It’s a beautiful thing!”
Afshin Cangarlu is the living embodiment of the American Dream. As CEO of Status Building Solutions, he’s helping countless others live out their dreams as well.