Joe Hadeed on how he kept his employees working during the slow months his first year as owner ~
“. . .the first January that came up, he kept telling me . . . we don’t have any business at that time. We usually lay everybody off and I said I’m not gonna do that. So . . .I put on a suit and tie and went to Cameron Mills Road, one of the exclusive areas in Alexandria . . .and I started knocking on doors. I went door to door for the next three months. . . We stayed busy ever since. Everybody who opened the door gave me rugs and took me in their house and gave me coffee and showed me around.”
Andy Ockershausen: This Andy Ockershausen and this is, Our Town, the third season. We’re so delighted. We tried to get this man in the first and second season – and didn’t – to be a guest on our podcast, but he’s a friend, an entrepreneur, a smart guy, who I admire for his involvement in the community, and his business sense. You’ve seen and heard him on countless radio and TV commercials. He gives the carpet cleaning in Washington. Janice and I can attest to that. Welcome Joe Hadeed, to Our Town.
Joe Hadeed: Thank you Andy.
Andy Ockershausen: Do you realize that Alexandria’s Our Town, Vienna’s Our Town, Warrenton’s Our Town, Annapolis. This is how big we are, and this is Our Town. That’s probably mirrors your client base, doesn’t it?
Joe Hadeed: Yes indeed.
Andy Ockershausen: You do work all over?
Joe Hadeed: Oh yeah. This is Our Town.
Andy Ockershausen: It is really.
Joe Hadeed: Our community.
Andy Ockershausen: The name Hadeed, has been in my mind for years, and years, and years. I was so interested to talk to you about your family, and to know about them, and how this business started, and that you were born in New Jersey, and came down here with your family, with your dad.
Joe Hadeed: Oh, excuse me. My father was born in New Jersey. I was born in Arlington Hospital.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh that’s right. That’s right. They had moved down here by then, huh?
Joe Hadeed: Yes Sir.
The Family Business – Hadeed Carpet and Rug – An American Success Story
Andy Ockershausen: So, you grew up in Our Town, and your dad opened a business.
Joe Hadeed: Yes Sir.
Andy Ockershausen: In Alexandria.
Joe Hadeed: Yes Sir. Would you like me to elaborate?
Andy Ockershausen: Absolutely.
Joe Hadeed: Okay.
Andy Ockershausen: Get your plug in.
Joe Hadeed: Yeah. My father . . .
Andy Ockershausen: But he wasn’t a road man, right?
Joe Hadeed: No. He …
Andy Ockershausen: He was a Korean war veteran.
Joe Hadeed: Yes Sir. He finished up his term in the army, in Germany, and came back in 54. Started working for Henkel Rug Cleaning company. His brother was working for another rug cleaning company. They both decided to start their own business, out of their house.
Andy Ockershausen: But there was nothing in their background. They weren’t in the rug business before. Correct?
Joe Hadeed: No.
Andy Ockershausen: I mean, they didn’t bring it from another world …
Joe Hadeed: No, they just learned it. They just learned it.
Andy Ockershausen: By working it?
Joe Hadeed: Yes sir.
Andy Ockershausen: They bought a place on Mt. Vernon Ave?
Joe Hadeed: They bought a little house and moved in with their mother and they lived in the back and had a store front in the front and washed the rugs on the driveway and in the winter, in the basement and stored peoples summer rugs and switched them every six months and slowly added on and built little buildings next to it and …
Andy Ockershausen: So, America’s success story. Started small and a little place. But they did all the work themselves initially, correct?
Joe Hadeed: Yes.
Andy Ockershausen: I liked it when you talked about that, Joe. About how people in my generation, when we grew up, we had summer rugs and winter rugs.
Joe Hadeed: Yes sir.
Andy Ockershausen: That’s the way it was. I didn’t know what wall to wall was. We didn’t have anything like that.
Joe Hadeed: No. Wall to wall carpet came out and that’s what put all the big guys out of business. It was rug cleaning business was controlled by big companies and when wall to wall carpet hit and it was inexpensive when the new technology came out, it put those big guys out of business and allowed for little places to start up, so …
Andy Ockershausen: Like a boutique, your business was. By that time your father and uncle had established some degree of acceptance in the community ’cause they were working.
Joe Hadeed: Yes sir.
Andy Ockershausen: They were washing rugs, correct?
Joe Hadeed: Yes sir. My father was just given some honor by the American Legion. 62 years. He’s the twelfth person since George Washington. Gadsby’s Tavern down on Alexandria.
Andy Ockershausen: I know Gadsby. Right.
Joe Hadeed: Yeah. He was …
Andy Ockershausen: I had a big party at Gadsby’s years ago. That was owned by … Was it the legion or the veterans of some war. Someone owned it. Right? The VFW. Somebody owned Gatsby’s.
Joe Hadeed: I have no idea who owned it, but …
Andy Ockershausen: 62 years. Wow.
Joe Hadeed: Yeah. He got that a couple of years ago. He was the twelfth person to get that and they also … He was nominated for the Living Legends of Alexandria, ’cause he was you know …
Andy Ockershausen: I believe it. Absolutely.
Joe Hadeed: Big staple in …
Andy Ockershausen: So, in the mean time, they’re doing all the work themselves and working hard and building their business, and I guess they wanted to expand and started adding people. Is that the way it goes?
Joe Hadeed: 1960 they hired the first employee through the unemployment office at DC, for a dollar an hour, and he stayed with us till 2002. So when I bought the company from my father in 1990, he was still with me for another twelve years.
Andy Ockershausen: That’s incredible. You were probably still paying him a dollar an hour, Joe.
Joe Hadeed: No. But, yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: That’s great to keep an employee that long. He came right up the line.
So, Joe. Tell me about … Your father sold you the business. He didn’t leave it to you?
Joe Hadeed: No sir.
Andy Ockershausen: He wanted you to pay your way into the business. We’re gonna talk about that, but right now we’re going take a break, then we’ll come back. I’m talking to Joe Hadeed and how he got and made his business so huge.
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Announcer: You’re listening to Our Town.
A Ockershausen This is Andy Ockershausen and Our Town and one of my favorites in Our Town … We’re talking to him about his growing up here in Washington Joe Hadeed grew up in Northern Virginia and has some idea of what he wanted to do in life, but I think his father decided. He wanted to get an education first, correct?
Joe Hadeed: Yes sir.
Andy Ockershausen: So what’d your father do.
Randolph Macon Academy Education
Joe Hadeed: Well, at junior high school, my mother was at work at the two to eleven shift at Highs …
Andy Ockershausen: Working hard.
Joe Hadeed: Kind of like a seven eleven, and my dad was working all day and going to meeting at night, so there was not too much structure when I got home, when I got off school, so they …
Andy Ockershausen: You were the only child?
Joe Hadeed: No, my brother was eight years older. He was already in Virginia Tech.
Andy Ockershausen: He moved. Right.
Joe Hadeed: My sister was seven years older and she had moved out. So, anyrate, they introduced me to Randolph Macon Academy in Front Royal, Virginia.
Andy Ockershausen: Because you had too much time on your hands in the neighborhood.
Joe Hadeed: Yes sir. I had too much time to get in trouble and hang out with the wrong crowds.
Andy Ockershausen: Where is that? Randolph Macon. In Front Royal?
Joe Hadeed: It’s in Front Royal, Virginia. Yes sir.
Andy Ockershausen: How big was the school then? It’s never been real big, right?
Joe Hadeed: When I … My first year it was 250 students. There was about 308 right now.
Andy Ockershausen: So, it’s a school that really is intense for the students that go there. Correct?
Joe Hadeed: Yes sir.
Andy Ockershausen: They get a lot of attention from the faculty?
Joe Hadeed: Oh, yes sir. The school guarantees college … For a child to get into college. Does not accept a child unless they want to go there themselves.
Andy Ockershausen: I got you.
Joe Hadeed: They have to write essays to tell why they want to go there.
Andy Ockershausen: So, you inspected it and liked it. You saw the campus and saw the school and said this is where I want to go.
Joe Hadeed: Yes. But at that time it wasn’t like that. You know. It was little bit different. They’d let anybody in.
Andy Ockershausen: You’re on the Board now right? You’re a Trustee?
Joe Hadeed: Yes sir. I’m a new Trustee there.
Andy Ockershausen: The grade school.
Joe Hadeed: Yes.
Andy Ockershausen: I understand students from all over the world go to Randolph Macon over the years correct?
Joe Hadeed: Oh, yes sir. 25-30% …
Andy Ockershausen: Offshore. That’s what I heard.
So, Joe, that gave you a good idea of life and to getting involved, and then how in the world did you get into the rug business?
I know how you did it, but you’re out of school and wanting to start a life?
Learning the Sales Business at Sheehy Ford
Joe Hadeed: Yes sir. Well, after living in a boys dorm for four years, I was not wanting to really go to VMI or any of those places just because … I wanted to go to a school that had a lot of girls. So, I went to Radford University and after a couple years I just said “well, I’m gonna be working the rest of my life as a sales person” I kinda knew that. So, I started selling cars for Sheehy Ford …
Andy Ockershausen: Oh, my. Sheehy.
Joe Hadeed: Oh, yeah. I know Vince Jr pretty good. He was the President of the location I worked at, at the time.
Andy Ockershausen: And you learned the business?
Joe Hadeed: I learned the sales business.
Andy Ockershausen: I learned the sales business by working for something called McKee Pontiac that doesn’t exist anymore. Neither does Pontiac right? But I learned so much in the automobile business about selling. It was a great experience.
Joe Hadeed: Thank you. That’s exactly … Yes sir.
Andy Ockershausen: I found out it’s so much like every business, Joe. It was a people business. It was easier to sell somebody you got along with and you had repore with …than going in cold.
Joe Hadeed: Sure.
Andy Ockershausen: I learned that in the automobile business.
Joe Hadeed: Sure, and, mostly it’s not … I don’t like to be a pushy salesman or anything like that. What I like to do is give people information and offer information and help educate them and understand things and if I have something that works good for them, then I want to help them.
Andy Ockershausen: Right. So, a good helping relationship. That’s what I said. A good salesperson’s in a business relationship. You’re helping them.
Joe Hadeed: Yes sir.
Andy Ockershausen: And helping yourself. But that’s what the world is all about. Helping each other.
Buying the Family Business and Making it Through the First Winter
Joe Hadeed: So, I was selling cars for Ford and in 1990 I was on the phone with my father and he was telling me that he was selling the business. There was a company that was almost at a final deal with them. Another rug company that wanted to buy it. But, he was struggling because they wanted to buy the property too and he just wanted to sell them the business and I said “well, how about you sell it to me, dad” and he said “I will” and I said “how am I gonna pay for it. I don’t have …” He said “You can make payments. I don’t care. Just make payments.”
Andy Ockershausen: Still on Mt. Vernon Avenue?
Joe Hadeed: Still on Mt. Vernon Avenue. He had two full time employees and then it was seasonal. There was four others that they would hire during Spring and Fall. The busy seasons. Winter and Summer then only had the two. I just said okay. I bought it from him.
Andy Ockershausen: Well, you got out of the automobile business, obviously.
Joe Hadeed: Yes sir.
Andy Ockershausen: Here I am.I’m running the business.
Joe Hadeed: Yes sir.
Andy Ockershausen: Had you been in the business? You didn’t understand it completely …
Joe Hadeed: Yeah. I had been all my life.
Andy Ockershausen: You had been ’cause of your family, of course.
Joe Hadeed: Yeah. That was part of being in the … I mean, it was in me. I loved that business. My brother didn’t work there much. But …
Andy Ockershausen: What made you want to expand, Joe? People demand got so great, you had to get a bigger facility?
Joe Hadeed: Well, I …
Andy Ockershausen: Which came first? The chicken or the egg?
Going Door to Door For Three Months to Bolster Business During First Winter as Owner
Joe Hadeed: Well, first I … The payments to my dad were a lot and I had to figure out how to produce more to be able to make them and be able to live and I had employees and the first January that came up, he kept telling me that we’re dead. We don’t have any business at that time. We usually lay everybody off and I said I’m not gonna do that. So, what I did was, I put on a suit and tie and went to the Cameron Mills Road, one of the exclusive areas in Alexandria, about a mile away, and I started knocking on doors. I went door to door for the next three months.
Andy Ockershausen: Wow.
Joe Hadeed: Everybody who opened the door, I explained “hey, we’re a small family business and we’ll give you a discount if you want your rugs cleaned. It’s a good time to take advantage of it.”
Andy Ockershausen: And you did that yourself?
Joe Hadeed: I did that for three or four months and I never looked back. We stayed busy ever since then. Everybody who opened the door gave me rugs and took me in their house and gave me coffee and showed me around. They showed me all the rugs and …
Andy Ockershausen: That started the business to expand because they knew you and they knew you were a person. You were Joe Hadeed, but not as famous as you are now. You were just Joe Hadeed, boy salesman at the time. Young salesman, correct?
Joe Hadeed: Yes sir.
Andy Ockershausen: You hadn’t been married yet, so you’re hustling.
Joe Hadeed: Yes sir. Hadn’t been married. I was 23 years old.
Andy Ockershausen: That what I said. You were hustling.
Joe Hadeed: Yes sir.
Andy Ockershausen: Exactly.
Well, this has been a wonderful conversation with Joe Hadeed and this is Andy Ockershausen and this is Our Town and we’re going to continue about the expansion of the Hadeed name and the person. Worldwide now. Joe Hadeed.
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Announcer: You’re listening to Our Town with Andy Ockershausen. Brought to you by Best Bark Communications.
Andy Ockershausen: This is Our Town, Andy Ockershausen. A very illuminating conversation with Joe Hadeed. He’s worldwide recognized now. But he started small and he’s grown the business and I’ve seen it from afar and I’ve seen it up close. But it seems to me, what you have established, is a person to person relationship with your customers. You really take care of your customers.
Joe Hadeed: Yes sir. We …
Andy Ockershausen: Hadeed does special.
Every Rug Has Its Own Story
Joe Hadeed: Sure. Well, you know. There’s a saying I like to say to customers who are valuing rugs that have been passed down from their ancestors, if this rug could talk, just imagine the stories it would tell us. A rug that’s been on the floor for the last 80 years in your relatives homes. Your great grandmothers homes down to your grandmother and your mother’s homes and you grew up on it, playing on it.
Andy Ockershausen: It tells a story of course. But then your job is to revitalize that carpet or rug, correct?
Joe Hadeed: Indeed. Yes.
Andy Ockershausen: Indeed it’s Hadeed. We know you for so many reason. One is, not only our personal relationship, but hearing you in broadcast. I’ve heard you on the radio for years. I know what you’ve done in television, ’cause you did something with us at Comcast. But you had promoted and used radio, and we’re very impressed with that. We think radio’s the theater of the mind but you painted a great picture for people.
Using Radio to Grow the Business – Creating the Hadeed Jingle
Joe Hadeed: Yes sir. Thank you for recognizing that. In the early 90’s, three years after I bought the business from my father, we were 32 employees and 4 locations and we were big into carpet sales and rug sales and flooring. Other flooring, which wasn’t as popular back then, and we had all of the slogans over the years. “If you stand on it we stand behind it”, and we wrote them all down one day and with my creative guy that I used at the time, he and I just started putting the words together and we came up with a pretty good lyrics we thought, and then we hired the Washington Symphony Orchestra and another creative man to put the lyrics all together, I mean to put the music to the lyrics and we came up with that jingle and at first I was nauseated with it, but it grew on me after hearing it a couple of times, and I just took advantage of the opportunity back then on the AM stations mostly and a little FM, WGMS and WTOP when it was AM for a few years.
Andy Ockershausen: That’s right the world has changed. AM now is almost a dead medium and everything is FM. You know, we grew up with WMAL was AM and FM. But, we killed the FM by putting the classical music. But, you promoted, Joe. You promoted with radio, and we’re very impressed by that ’cause it worked. Look where you are now. You had 32 people when you first opened?
Joe Hadeed: No. Had two people. When I first bought the business? There was two people. Two full time.
Andy Ockershausen: Right.
Joe Hadeed: And then within three years I had thirty-two people.
Andy Ockershausen: That’s what it is. Yeah. Then you decided to move to bigger quarters.
Respecting the Competition and Understanding What Makes You Tick – Keys to Success
Joe Hadeed: Well, yes I mean, the demand required it for the new plant, because as I was going for the sales business, but something else was happening. As I was opening locations to sell, there was a big, big demand for our cleaning service, and those locations actually became very popular drop off locations and they really spread the word about our cleaning business, and also, I had relationships with other rug dealers and rug guys who sold and carpet dealers, but for the cleaning, and they would recommend people, but then they started feeling a little put off because we also sold. Like it was a conflict of interest, so they didn’t recommend them.
So, I decided to do away with the sales business and just focus on the cleaning.
Andy Ockershausen: The cleaning business.
Joe Hadeed: Made over a 1000 companies my friend immediately and they started recommending.
Andy Ockershausen: You weren’t a competitor anymore.
Joe Hadeed: And within … We kept growing. We had 200 employees in 2012.
Andy Ockershausen: Now you’re in the personnel business.
Joe Hadeed: It’s a little overwhelming for me. I had six people helping me run the company.
Andy Ockershausen: Well, I’ve seen your plant and the facility. It is very impressive. I know that’s part of your sales. Something to say we have our own plant and if you don’t believe me, come and see it. You’ll show people how you wash those rugs.
Joe Hadeed: Yes sir. Yes sir. By the way, we reduced our staff down to under 100 because there was a lot of challenges with 200 employees, that I couldn’t. It was too much, I couldn’t focus on customers and the rugs. I had to be more of a personnel and a business man which I didn’t want to be. I wanted to be in the rug business. I like … I really enjoy being that person. So …
Andy Ockershausen: One of the things you enjoy being, and I simplified and …
Joe Hadeed: I didn’t answer your question. I’m sorry. I don’t mean to cut you off Andy…
The question was about how do we … We do invite everybody to come to our plant. We want people to come there. There’s a virtual tour online, but our plant is only 70 thousand square feet, and it’s one of the … I think probably it’s the largest in the …
Janice Iacona Ockershausen How many rugs do you clean a year?
A Very Busy Business Manages Outstanding Worker Retention
Joe Hadeed: Between 25 and 40 thousand rugs. We’re cleaning two to three thousand rugs a month, and we have over 50 people that have been with us for over a decade.
Andy Ockershausen: That’s a lot of loyalty.
Joe Hadeed: Some of them … Up to thirty and thirty-five years.
Andy Ockershausen: Loyalty, Joe. It means everything. Loyalty. Now, one of the things you’ve done as a business man, you’ve given back to the community, which really comes back to you. But, establishing your Christmas show that you do every year, has been such a great thing in the community …
Joe Hadeed: You mean the toy drive?
Andy Ockershausen: Toy drive.
Community Service – ChildHelp.org
Joe Hadeed: Yes sir. Yes sir. This is for childhelp.org Childhelp.org is a wonderful organization.
Andy Ockershausen: Great charity.
Joe Hadeed: We just passed our ten million mark with children that we helped, and the lady … The two ladies that were co-stars on the Ozzie and Harriet show, who are the founders of the organization are wonderful ladies and just good hearted people. They have four villages in the country. One right here in Fredericksburg, Virginia, where we house up to 65 children. 268 acre village and we have equine, horses, and these children we help keep them up to two years, to help get them back … They’re battered and abused children …
Andy Ockershausen: I did a lot of work in the old WMAL days with childhelp way back and met people from California and there was a guy here, he was involved with the Armory Board and so forth. But Joe, you are a pillar of the community now, and you give back and that’s so important.
Joe Hadeed: We have to give back.
Andy Ockershausen: We have to and a lot of people don’t understand that, and you do.
November is Gratitude Month
Joe Hadeed: We have to give back and November is gratitude month. It’s Thanksgiving month and I look at it and I started calling it gratitude month. Twenty years ago. I just feel so grateful everyday you know, that a higher power has given me another day.
Andy Ockershausen: Joe, you’re an amazing man, because you’re an American success story. You’re family was. You know. You have proved that by hard work and rolling up your sleeves and get to work, you can be a success. You can still do it in our country. There’s nothing holding you back. People can compete with you, but there’s nothing holding them back. Correct? Everybody gets a chance in America.
Joe Hadeed: Nothing holding them back.
Andy Ockershausen: Gotta work hard. It ain’t easy.
Hard Working People Are Scarce Today | Grateful for the Opportunity to Employ Hard Working People
Joe Hadeed: Yeah. Some … I’m seeing something that I didn’t understand in the last twelve years and it really kind of accounted for just my confusion where people are … The new generation just is … It’s hard to find employees these days that want to work.
Andy Ockershausen: There you go.
Joe Hadeed: They want a job, but they want to be hired as an owner. That’s what it feels like anyway. There was a time for the first 15 or 18 years that people were knocking over the door to try to work, and they were hard workers. I didn’t have enough jobs and I felt bad about that. But one of the biggest pleasures of the whole thing is to be able to … I know that the fruits of my labor are feeding over 90 families. Every day, they count on me for a check.
Andy Ockershausen: American success story, Joe. You work hard. Your people work hard. They progress. But you’re right. The times have changed. There’s a whole generation or two that is unaware of that. But maybe they’ll change. But Joe, you’re such a great, great guy and I compliment you on everything you’ve done and I listen to your commercials all the time, we love your service, you know that. WMAL is here for you. Janice is here for you. Janice is here for you. Thank you so much for being with us. You’re a great example of Our Town.
Joe Hadeed: Thank you, sir.
Andy Ockershausen: You can make it here, you can make it anywhere, right. Thank you Joe Hadeed. This is Andy Ockershausen. This has been Our Town and wonderful discussion with an entrepreneur.
Announcer: You’ve been listening to Our Town Season Three, presented by GEICO, our hometown favorite, with your host, Andy Ockershausen. Ne Our Town episodes are released each Tuesday and Thursday. Drop us a line with your comments or suggestions. See us on Facebook, or visit our website at ourtowndc.com. Our special thanks to Ken Hunter, our technical director, and WMAL radio in Washington DC for hosting our podcast, and thanks to GEICO. 15 minutes can save you 15% or more on car insurance.