This year, Marsden is celebrating our 70th anniversary. Marsden’s history is a story of determination, dedication to relationships, and an unparalleled commitment to customer service. Starting with a single account in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1952, Marsden has consistently grown to become one of the nation’s largest privately owned facility services firms. As we celebrate this milestone year, we are reflecting on the legacy of our founder and the lessons we have learned over the past 70 years. The key to our success comes from our founder’s passionate belief in people. Our founder, Adrian “Skip” Marsden, once said, “Our product is really people. If you work hard and treat your employees and customers fairly, you can’t help but be successful.”
The Formative Years
On June 1, 1952, when Skip Marsden was just 23 years old, he opened the back of his old station wagon, borrowed $125, and officially started the Marsden Building Maintenance Company. Skip was undeterred by his youth and lack of business experience. He was confident that he could create a successful business built on the lessons he’d learned in his previous work roles. He’d served as a Merchant Marine during World War II and understood the value of teamwork and hard effort. When he returned to Minnesota after the war, he spent time as a bellhop, where living on tips taught him the essential lessons of customer service. But it was when he took a job cleaning a local Catholic school and church that he knew he’d found his lifelong career. Skip believed there was an opportunity for commercial cleaning as a business. Commercial cleaning was a fledgling industry at the time, but Skip saw its potential while working as a cleaner. By the time he started Marsden Building Maintenance, Skip had learned two key lessons that would define the rest of his career: first, that quality work was the only acceptable work. And second, that customer service was just as important as the cleaning service.
Skip’s first interactions as a business owner didn’t quite go as he’d planned. He was positive he could secure a large local company as his first account. He had faith in the quality of his work and his abilities, but his confidence was tested when the company told him that his price was too high, and they ultimately hired another company. But after the first company failed to perform to expectations, the company sought Skip out and invited him back, provided he would lower his price. Skip’s response set the tone for how the company continues to operate today. Unwilling to cut corners, Skip replied, “I’m sorry….. I’m not going to cut my price on what I feel it will take to do the type of quality you told me you want.” Skip understood that lowering his price meant lowering the level of service he would be able to provide, which would ultimately damage both the quality of the work and his relationship with the client. He was determined to do the job right, even if that meant losing out on a sale because of price. His commitment to quality paid off. Marsden Building Maintenance won the business and kept that account for 46 years, until the client was acquired by another company.
The Development Years
Marsden Building Maintenance continued to grow throughout the 1950s. For the first few years, Skip continued working out of the back of his station wagon and his home. He’d spend the daytime securing new accounts and the evenings cleaning his clients’ facilities. He ran the business with the support of his wife, who managed the bookkeeping and accounting. Within a year, Skip hired his first employee and from there, the company continued to steadily grow.
As Marsden Building Maintenance grew, so did its reputation in the St. Paul and Minneapolis markets. Skip’s work ethic, passion for people, and commitment to ensuring that he and his team delivered on every promise became hallmark traits of the company. As a testament to its performance and quality, Marsden Building Maintenance didn’t lose a single account for the first ten years of its operation.
As the company grew, Skip started to spend more time managing and making sales calls, but he led by example, working side-by-side with his employees. He remained personally dedicated, often working up to 18 hours a day, seven days a week. He prided himself on knowing every team member by name and could often be found pushing a mop, cleaning restrooms, or running a buffing machine. This demonstration of leadership has remained a tradition at Marsden as it has grown. Many members of Marsden’s senior management team started on the front lines and have been promoted from within, learning different aspects of the business along the way.
Skip not only set new standards for work ethic and service, but he also had a talent for improving operating procedures to achieve better results. Skip developed a floor cleaning method called “Spray Buffing.” Skip’s approach allowed his teams to clean and buff floors without scrubbing, resulting in a mirror-like shine. The Spray Buffing method became Marsden’s trademark across Minneapolis and is now an industry standard and used worldwide.
Entering the 1960’s, Marsden Building Maintenance continued to experience slow and steady growth with a regional expansion in 1963, opening operations in Omaha. Despite its growth, Skip continued to focus on building a commitment to people, customer service, quality, and process enhancements. Always ahead of the curve, in 1968, Marsden hired a consulting firm to computerize its operations to help support anticipated growth and drive greater efficiency. The consultant in charge of the process, Richard “Dick” Lubbers, was recruited to join the company to support administration and growth. Dick established sophisticated databases and a 24-hour call center, which have been updated as technology advances but continue to be aspects of Marsden’s business operations. Dick would play an important role in modernizing Marsden’s infrastructure and influencing the vision for Marsden’s future growth.
In addition to setting new standards in processes and operations, Skip was also committed to supporting relationships across the industry. As one of the early movers in the commercial cleaning sector, Marsden Building Maintenance was a charter member in the 1960 formation of the National Association of the Building Services Contractors, now the Building Services Contractors Association International (BSCAI). Over the years, Skip served in numerous officer positions, including a role as President in 1975, and he continued for many years on the Board of Directors.
In the 1970’s, Marsden began adding services in response to customer requests for support. New services included adding a Special Services division with window cleaning, specialized floor cleaning, carpet cleaning, and other periodic work. Marsden Building Maintenance also made its first significant acquisition in 1976, entering the building security service sector with the purchase of American Security Corporation. This acquisition expanded Marsden’s capabilities in facility services, including armored car services and overnight vaults.
Over the 1980s and through the mid-’90s, Marsden Building Maintenance continued to expand through organic growth within the business and additional acquisitions. As the company fully developed, its operations, philosophy, and founder often received recognition for its leadership in the industry. Some examples of this recognition were the President’s Award from the BSCAI (1984), Inclusion in the City of Enterprise, Center of Excellence Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce (1989), acknowledgment as the #1 in overall employer of minorities of the Top 50 private-sector employers in Twin Cities (1990) and recognition in Fortune Magazine in 1990.
The Expansion Years
In 2002, after 50 years at the helm, Skip officially passed the position of CEO to Guy Mingo. Guy had joined the company at the age of 17 as a janitor and worked his way through the management ranks. Skip was confident in Guy as his successor because he knew Guy held similar values: he was dedicated to building relationships, he was committed to quality performance, and he understood and appreciated the industry. Guy’s leadership and contributions to the industry have been recognized by multiple awards. In 2011, Guy was elected to the Twin Cities Business Hall of Fame. In 2020, Guy was awarded the Walter L. Cook Award for Distinguished Service by the Building Service Contractors Association International (BSCAI). This award is given to a BSCAI member who has made outstanding contributions to the industry. And in 2021, Guy was recognized as one of the most admired CEO’s of the year by the St. Paul/Minneapolis Business Journal for his contributions to the industry, his leadership, and his commitment to community.
Guy and Skip worked together closely in the years preceding the transition and even in retirement, Skip was still actively invested in the success of Marsden. Skip, Guy, and Dick Lubbers had established a new vision for Marsden Building Maintenance, which set a course to expand the company from its roots in janitorial services to become a comprehensive facility services solutions provider. The company adopted the name Marsden Services as our national brand and continued to grow exponentially. Since 2002, Marsden has completed over 40 acquisitions, expanding our geographic presence and service offerings. Marsden Services established a unique operating structure, which provides national scope and local dedication from wholly owned operating companies. Combining the strength and efficiency of a national company with the customer investment and personalized service of a local company has become a defining trait of Marsden’s operations.
Today, over 9,000 Marsden associates serve thousands of clients across the country. Marsden operates in 48 states and has over 55 office locations. Marsden has expanded our service capabilities from commercial cleaning to hundreds of unique offerings, which are divided into our five service lines: janitorial, security, mechanical, emergency response, and facility services. In 2011, Marsden partnered with Woodley Building Maintenance to form the joint venture Tier One Property Services, which is a certified Minority Business Enterprise.
Marsden has a longstanding involvement in our industry, supporting its growth and development from its infancy during Skip’s early years to the $72 billion dollar sector it is today. Across the country, Marden’s leaders, managers, and associates serve on committees and boards of crucial industry associations like the BSCAI, IFMA and BOMA. And in 2020, Marsden stepped forward as one of the founding members of the Cleaning Coalition of America (CCA). The CCA was established to represent commercial cleaning companies and their employees, advocating on behalf of essential commercial janitorial workers.
Marsden also has a long history of supporting charitable causes in the communities where our people live and work. Skip established a legacy of generosity that is deeply rooted in Marsden’s identity. Marsden donates 10% of pre-tax profits to local nonprofit organizations. Our mission is to fund projects and programs that enrich and build strong communities.
Our Founder’s Legacy
Skip’s daughter Mary Marsden once said, “My dad had friends. He didn’t have customers, he had friends. He didn’t have employees. He had friends.” Skip’s commitment to relationship-building is still lived out by our organization today. Relationships are at the core of our success. What started as a single cleaning contract in 1952 has grown into company that services 350M square feet of commercial space every single day. It’s because of our commitment to building relationships that Marsden is able to celebrate 70 years in business. And relationships, customer service, and uncompromising quality will continue to define our business as we look to the future.