- Jan 28, 2020
The Chamber is pleased to announce the winners of the Annual Business Awards, honoring members who have excelled in the areas of business practices, corporate citizenship, and service to the Chamber. The award winners, profiled below, will be recognized at the Annual Meeting and Dinner on Monday, March 2.
Unique Upholstery, Carpet & Rug Cleaning, Inc.
Northbrook Business of the Year
The Northbrook Business of the Year is honored for excellent business practice.
In 2003, Larry Rosenthal returned to his home on the North Shore after years of living and working in northern Virginia. Newly divorced and short on cash, he took out a loan to buy a van and launched a carpet cleaning business with a determination to provide the best possible cleaning process combined with the ultimate in customer service. Seventeen years later, Unique Upholstery, Carpet & Rug Cleaning enjoys an outstanding reputation throughout the North Shore and “Unique Larry” is instantly recognizable as an ambassador of his brand. The Business of the Year Award recognizes Larry’s success as an entrepreneur, and his dedication to his customers and community.
Larry says that he always knew he wanted to have his own business. A brief taste of corporate life after college graduation proved the point, and he moved on to managing two health food stores where he learned the nuts and bolts of running a small business and print marketing. Those skills were crucial when he started a carpet cleaning business in Virginia, followed by the creation of Unique.
“At that point, it was the only way I knew to develop business,” recalls Larry. “All my money went into my equipment and advertising in the Pioneer Press.”
From the beginning, he emphasized building relationships with customers, patiently answering questions to ensure that customers would hire him with confidence. He hired and trained cleaning specialists, most of whom have now worked for him for 14 years or more.
The company’s cleaning process also stands apart from the competition. Unique’s specialists thoroughly shampoo and fully rinse surfaces, ensuring that the results will be long lasting. The company’s vans each hold two sets of cleaning equipment to allow a full house to be done in half the time.
“We aren’t trying to compete on price,” explains Larry. “Our customers stay with us because of the amazing results of our process, and because they trust us to come into their home.”
As the business grew, he turned over the customer visits to his team so he could focus on managing the business’s operations. It was challenging for him, because he had little to no experience beyond basic bookkeeping and print marketing. A turning point in the business came when he joined the Northbrook Chamber in 2006 and discovered a wealth of professional resources. A self-described networking novice, Larry was pleasantly surprised to make connections who shared their expertise in website development, Quickbooks, CRM software and other areas.
He also developed great referral sources that valued his attention to customer satisfaction. One especially strong relationship has been with Steve Lewis, Lewis Floor & Home, who frequently recommends Unique to clients. Unique also provides Lewis’s customers with complimentary spot-cleaning service for the first year following a carpet purchase.
“My business has been based on referrals since 1954,” says Lewis. “Not only getting referrals but giving them. Customers are always looking for people that they can trust to do good work and referring Larry is a no brainer. His people take pride in their work and I know that the customer is going to be taken care of the way I expect. ”
Another boost to the business came when Unique began marketing to pet owners. While the general public might procrastinate and shop around for periodic carpet cleaning, pet owners frequently need immediate attention and expert advice. Unique’s marketing addresses that need by using the tagline “Pet Problems? No Problem” and a whimsical picture of his dog Willy with a big grin — an expression that mirrors Larry’s own trademark smile.
Today, Unique serves up to 1400 customers each year, a comfortable figure that has held roughly steady over the past five years. Improving efficiency by enhancing customer relationship management and cutting waste has added to the company’s profitability. His consistent commitment to providing excellent service has delivered a track record of long-term success, and earned his company its recognition as Northbrook’s Business of the Year.