Montgomery business owner tells story of unconventional start

2018 Diversity Summit Part 2

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The results of a Forbes study show that 87 percent of the time, better decisions are made in the business world by a team of people with different backgrounds, not just different genders and race, but also different ages, and different ways of thinking.

It’s one of the main drivers behind the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce’s 2018 Diversity Summit next week, and one Montgomery business owner knows first hand how a non-conventional approach can equal success.

“I always have this motto: if I don’t do your work right, don’t pay me,” said Orlando Cannon, owner of Cannon Janitorial Services. “And I ain’t in the business to not get paid."

From the very beginning, Cannon Janitorial Services has been all about hard work.

“When I got started, I used to clean the building myself and I used to cut the grass,” he said.

In the early days, just after college, Cannon had only one client.

“Why don’t you keep cleaning my building, get started in doing this since you’re doing it already,” he said. “So I went and got licensed and got bonded.”

He was his only employee.

“I’d cut the grass in the afternoon, be too tired to go home and change clothes, I’d go on in the building and start cleaning up,” he said.

Sometimes, even among his friends, he was the only one who believed his business would survive.

“You got two strikes against you already: you black and you young,” Cannon said. “I wanted to make him wrong, so that made me work a little bit harder, and it’s the best advice I ever got.”

Now, he has a team of more than 40 people spread out all over Montgomery.

“We do churches, we do window cleaning, we do strip floors, we pressure wash, and we do a lot of construction clean up now,” he said.

It’s less about the jobs he gets and more about what he can give.

“It’s not even about the money,” he said. “I enjoy doing what I do.”

Cannon Janitorial Services played a big role in getting Hayneville Road Elementary School ready for Booker T. Washington High School students to move in last month, and when their work was done, he wrote a check back to the FAME Foundation for $1,000.

The Chambers' Diversity Summit next week will focus on stories like Orlando’s, on building better leaders and how a different approach can get you to your goal.

That diversity summit is set for next Tuesday and Wednesday.

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