Ivan Royal Translates Military Leadership into Private-Sector Success

by Mary Little 

“Leadership is the process of influencing people by providing purpose, direction and motivation to accomplish the mission and improve the organization.”

For more than two decades, this official U.S. Army doctrine definition of leadership shaped Ivan Royal as he rose through the ranks of the U.S. Army. Today, they have become inextricably linked to him and his approach to leading OMEX, an Arizona-based commercial cleaning company.

While today he is not leading soldiers into often perilous conditions thousands of miles away from home, the former Drill Sergeant is leading a team of highly skilled commercial cleaning professionals as they tackle some of the most urgent workplace challenges in recent times.

Though his mission has changed to providing world-class janitorial services to customers across the state, the core tenets of purpose, direction and motivation continue to be his guideposts.

“As leaders, the single-most powerful tool we have is adapting to situations in ways that make our teams stronger and better,” says Royal. “I don’t want people to do something because I say so. I want my team to believe in our mission, recognize our purpose, embrace and add to direction, and cohesively work towards achieving a positive outcome.”

Encouraging Purpose-Driven Results

Drawing from years of experience, Royal knows that sharing the underlying rationale for a task or project creates greater buy-in among his team and builds confidence in the company’s leadership.

“If our team doesn’t know or understand what we need to accomplish, they can’t be successful in meeting our client’s needs. Providing purpose gives our team a big-picture view of why we are doing what we’re doing,” says Royal. “In the world of commercial cleaning, it’s about much more than wiping down a surface. It’s about knowing that we’re helping bring our clients healthier environments.”

Never was this truer than when COVID-19 entered the world’s vernacular.

Seemingly overnight, OMEX had to educate itself and its employees on this emerging and rapidly changing virus, from understanding dwell times to deploying new cleaning and sanitization methods, and everything in between. 

“We took every opportunity to drive home our purpose of delivering healthier environments to schools, daycares, public facilities, healthcare environments and other critical services,” says Royal. “Knowing that we were on the front lines against this virus helping do what we could to keep environments sanitized and our clients safe created an overwhelming sense of pride among everyone on the team. We became more committed than ever to achieving our mission.”

Leading by Example

Royal holds his employees to a high standard because OMEX’s clients have high expectations. He realized early on that to build a team that meets his benchmarks of excellence, he and his managers need to take a hands-on role in developing their people’s individual talents. 

“It’s easy to give up on an employee because they’re not doing something the way you would do it, but many times managers don’t ask themselves what they’ve done to shape and build that talent,” he says. “All of our leaders, me included, take the time to work with individuals, walk them through buildings, define expectations and not just talk about what needs to be done but physically show them how to do the job.”

It’s a concept that’s especially important now given the challenges that many businesses have in attracting and retaining employees. Royal insists that spending a few hours training an employee is time well spent compared to the three to four weeks it takes to hire an employee.

Be a Motivational Leader

According to Royal, this is perhaps the toughest principle to put into action, but one he knows well. 

“Being a leader who motivates teams calls for being intentional in everything we do,” says Royal. “It means resisting the urge to micromanage and instead inspiring, recognizing successes, showing integrity and providing greater vision.”

Royal makes it a point to not only celebrate successes, but to turn challenges into learning opportunities that recognize the positives, while working to overcome stumbling blocks.

“In the military, some soldiers are highly motivated to complete a mission, while others need reassurance and a more pro-active approach with a guiding hand to get them past the finish line. It’s critical to be in tune with your team’s needs so you can fill in the gaps and give them what they need to be successful,” says Royal.

While some may be quick to point out the stark differences between war rooms and board rooms, the underlying principles that guide a leader’s effectiveness are quite similar. Royal serves as a reminder of the highly refined skills and leadership talents that veterans not only bring to the corporate arena but use to build exceptional teams.

Earning High Honors

While he was an active-duty member of the U.S. Army, Ivan Royal earned the prestigious Sergeant Audie Murphy Award, which recognizes a handful of noncommissioned officers who exemplify leadership characterized by personal concern for the needs, training, development and welfare of soldiers and concern for families of soldiers. It’s these foundational skills that he has brought into the civilian workplace to build one of Arizona’s leading commercial cleaning businesses.

OMEX Phoenix Snapshot

Ivan Royal started his OMEX company in 2017 with just himself; he now employs 78 and has a wide range of clients, including several government contracts, covering nearly 1.5 million square feet across Arizona. Part of a franchise, his company is independently owned and operated, and is the only OMEX company in Arizona.

Did You Know: The U.S. Census Bureau revealed that veteran-owned businesses make up approximately 6% (337,934) of all businesses in the U.S. They bring in an estimated $947.7 billion in revenue, hire approximately 3.9 million employees and pay out about $177.7 billion in annual payroll. 

Speak Your Mind

In Business Dailies

Sign up for a complimentary year of In Business Dailies with a bonus Digital Subscription of In Business Magazine delivered to your inbox each month!

  • Get the day’s Top Stories
  • Relevant In-depth Articles
  • Daily Offers
  • Coming Events