Pandemic Pivot Leads to Dynamic Business Growth

Pandemic Pivot Leads to Dynamic Business Growth

FGK Services, Inc. – Northbrook Business of the Year

Frank Karkazis, owner of FGK Services Inc., built his business by focusing on essential cleaning and maintenance services for his commercial clients. “I felt that I will always be in business if I provide services that people need, instead of want,” he notes. In 2020, he took that philosophy to the next level by introducing comprehensive COVID disinfection services. The resulting dramatic growth of his company, along with enthusiastic endorsements from a variety of clients, led to FGK’s recognition as Northbrook Chamber Business of the Year.

FGK’s pivot to specialized disinfection began in the spring, when Karkazis saw an urgent theme emerging in conversations within industry discussion groups: janitorial company owners on the east coast were desperately dealing with quickly-rising infection occurrences at their clients. He started looking for strategies that would enable his clients to safely stay open.  “I really was motivated by fear;” says Karkazis — fear of the devastating effects of the pandemic on both his clients’ businesses and, by extension, his own.

By May, Karkazis had completed a certification course in COVID disinfection and invested in specialized spraying equipment, EPA-approved cleaning products, and specialized PPE for his employees.  FGK began offering COVID disinfection to supplement the regular nightly anti-virus cleaning protocols. Demand for the service exploded with both existing and new clients.

“Everyone wants to show their customers that they’re doing everything they can to keep their businesses safe,” says Karkazis.  “I created a Certificate of Disinfection that they can display, which has been a really great tool for them.”

In 2020, FGK’s customer base and revenue doubled and the company’s workforce increased from 19 to 48 employees.  While emergency disinfections are an ongoing part of the business, the recurring revenue of regularly-scheduled cleaning has also grown.  FGK also offers window cleaning, carpet cleaning/disinfection, and repairs to asphalt, concrete and brick pavers.

Karkazis’s professional journey includes some significant pivots in the past as well.  After graduating from Arizona State University’s Carey School of Business, he spent more than 20 years working as a broker/trader at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. In 2009, as computerization transformed the trading profession, he left the financial industry in search of a business “that couldn’t be taken over by computers.”

That search led him to purchase National Building Resource Group, a Chicago janitorial company with 100+ employees servicing six million square feet of client space nightly.  The success of that business culminated in a buyout by Seacrest Services of West Palm Beach.  Following a two-year non-compete agreement, Karkazis launched his current Northbrook-based company in 2013.  With the surge in demand caused by the pandemic, FGK Services now works with clients all over the north side of Chicago and the northern suburbs, and has been called for disinfection at facilities as far away as Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Hammond, Indiana.

Among his most appreciative clients are local non-profit organizations, many of which have specialized service needs. “FGK and Frank’s personal commitment to keeping our Y safe should be applauded,” commented Kathy Fielding, CEO of the North Suburban YMCA.  “We worked with FGK to enhance our facility sanitation, especially during camp this summer. We are proud to say that our Y has been open since June without any cases of COVID-19 and we believe that is in part due to Frank’s commitment to keeping our facility safe.  There wasn’t a day during the shut-down and the summer that Frank didn’t come out to our Y, check in with our staff and help with our increased cleaning demands.”

Karkazis has also been commended for his dedicated support of community organizations and people in need.  FGK proudly sponsors fundraisers for the YMCA, Glenkirk, the Northfield Township Food Pantry, and Wesley Child Care Center, and has hired individuals with disabilities through Glenkirk’s employment referral program.  During the pandemic, the company performed disinfection services at no charge for groups and families who could not afford to pay.

Craig Solomon, Executive Director at Wesley, summed up the feelings of many when nominating FGK as Business of the Year.  “Frank’s support is not only financial. He is the first to roll up his sleeves and offer to lend a hand,” said Craig. “When COVID hit, FGK Services made a conscious decision to respond to a higher community need. They have been a lifesaver to those countless businesses in need of a trusted provider and also helping those in need at no cost or reduced pricing.”

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  • The Northbrook Chamber will celebrate its Business Award Winners and recognize new Board members at its 2021 Annual Meeting on Thursday, February 25 , Noon.  The yearly event will be adapted for the Zoom format, with special tributes and an interactive Town Hall segment.  Complimentary for members.