“I simply like to give back, and when I find an organization that’s doing great things, I feel it’s my responsibility to join in the effort,” says Jared Thomas. He’s a husband, father, volunteer and owner of Stratus Building Solutions of Salt Lake City Metro. The business, much like every other aspect of his life, is a family affair. Thomas’ wife Emily is Chief Financial Officer, daughter Sydney serves as a utility player, filling any and all voids as needed.
At 12 years old, Thomas’ son Cedar is still too young to help out at the family-run shop. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s not putting in hard work. In April, Jared and Cedar joined the adoption advocacy organization A Child’s Hope Foundation on an important trip to Mexico. Among its many focuses, the organization builds orphanages. It’s a trip Jared has taken several times in the past, but he was ecstatic his son joined him this time around.
“When I travel to Mexico, the kids are always fantastic, and it’s an excellent opportunity to help out where there’s a great need,” says Thomas. “Last time I was down there, in April, I took my son with me. We mixed a lot of cement and poured cement blocks to help build a new school.”
The trip served as an important lesson for the youngest member of the family, “My son realized that not everyone has the opportunities that he is afforded,” says Thomas. The elder Thomas picked up a few knowledge nuggets. “It reinforced my belief that people and friendship are universal. Despite a language barrier and the inability to communicate with many of the children, we were still able to be friends.”
Thomas believes creating friendships is the key to a successful business. “I’m all about relationships,” he says. “I enjoy going out and meeting customers and becoming good friends with them whether I get their business or not. Good business relationships arise from great friendships.”
As he enters his ninth year with Stratus, Thomas is proof you don’t have to have a background in sales or marketing to find success as an owner of Stratus Building Solutions. “I spent the majority of my professional career as a facilities maintenance manager,” says Thomas.
That experience proved to be beneficial as he and his wife began discussions about their future. Thomas says his wife, with a background in business, was actually leading the charge to take control of their lives, personally and professionally by going the entrepreneur route.
“Emily was working non-stop and wasn’t at home with the kids as much as she wanted to be,” he says. “As she worked with different business owners, she could see the freedom they had with their time, fueling her desire to become an entrepreneur.”
The couple determined that going in the direction of a franchise fit their plans best. “We knew the percentages were in our favor if we invested in a prepackaged program, versus creating something of our own,” says Thomas. “We looked at a slew of franchise-based businesses. With my background, I was comfortable and familiar with the janitorial services industry.”
One franchise stood out among all others, according to Thomas — Stratus Building Solutions. “During our courtship, I felt really comfortable after speaking with them, and I was impressed with their integrity and the way they operated their business.”
Days after Thomas signed the paperwork and sent the check to join the ranks as one of America’s small-business owners, life threw him in the deep end. Two days after mailing the check, Thomas received a shocking discovery — he had cancer. Thomas flew out to corporate for training. What was supposed to be a two- to three-week process, was whittled down to one. When he returned home from training, Thomas underwent surgery.
“There was an air of uncertainty during those moments,” Thomas recalls. “There was an attitude of, this business opportunity can’t fail. The level of stress at the moment was astronomically high. I just took the financial future of my family and invested it in a business. I was going to do everything in my power to make sure I was successful.”
Thomas certainly wasn’t alone in his battle. His family was right there by his side, most notably his wife. “Emily is the most amazing and understanding person you’ll ever meet on this planet. Without her, I wouldn’t be half the person I am today.”
Being a partner in life and business isn’t for everyone, according to Thomas. However, it has worked out well for his family. “The first couple of years we worked hard to grow the business. We knew what we wanted and hit the ground running to achieve our goals.”
The lack of sales experience could cause hesitancy in many new business owners. Thomas had no such apprehension. “My background prepared me for this business opportunity,” he says. “Sales was easy because I knew what I was talking about. I wasn’t speaking from a pre-canned script that I never experienced. I know exactly how a company should maintain their floors. That perspective of actually doing the work made sales naturally easier.”
Life as a whole is a lot easier for the Thomas family. Both Jared and Emily are happy with the financial aspect. More importantly, Stratus Building Solutions is giving them a better grip on their time together with one another and their two children. “If my kids have a play at school during the day or an extracurricular activity, it’s never an issue for Emily or myself to leave work and give them our support.”
Together, they’ve grown a successful business in the Salt Lake City metro area. The business they started under trying circumstances nearly a decade ago is now responsible for creating 160 new business ownership opportunities. Additionally, his regional office employs more than a dozen people.
“We have two franchise owners who worked really hard, and recently purchased their first house,” says Thomas. “I was over the moon excited when I received that news. That’s what I live for. I’m helping people change their lives.”