Moreno Clean

A 30 Year Reflection

By Founder & CEO, J. Ernesto Moreno

How I Got Here

I was first introduced to the industry in 1985 by a gentleman who already had a very successful Building Service Maintenance business. His proposal to join his company seemed intriguing and I grabbed it. I started as a custodian and was trained from the ground floor up.

Let me backup a little…

My parents were both big believers in education. They gave my sister and myself every opportunity through our educational path. I graduated from Bellarmine College Preparatory in 1978 and Santa Clara University with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology in 1982. My parents owned a restaurant from the mid 1970s through the time I graduated from University. My first job out of college was in the restaurant business. That’s where I met the man who launched me in my career. Upon announcing to my mom and dad that I was going to learn how to be a janitor, my father said, “Well son, if you are going to be a janitor, be a damn good one.”

Ernesto during his senior year of varsity golf at Bellarmine College Preparatory.

My first shift was 10:00 p.m. to 8:30 a.m. It was a bit of a shock at first as I was not used to a true “grave yard” shift. That’s when most of our work got done. I learned the essentials of cleaning restrooms, break rooms, offices, conference rooms and all the nightly requirements of turning a building over to a client ready for their next day of business. Over the next several months, I learned the basics of stripping and waxing floors, shampooing carpets, washing windows and other utility services for building maintenance needs. I really wanted to learn the sales part of our industry but the position was not available at that company.

Well son, if you are going to be a janitor, be a damn good one.

Armando Moreno

I learned of another company in our industry looking for a sales associate. I interviewed and landed a sales job. Again I strived to learn the bidding processes and in time had the opportunity to run my own division. However, that division was in Texas. Being single and anxious, I grabbed at the opportunity. Within the next 18 months, I built the Texas division to a successful enterprise. I learned the essentials of maintaining particle free environments (Clean Rooms). Being proud of myself, I awaited a much needed promotion, but hit a brick wall. I soon after was offered and accepted the position of on-site BSC Manager with the enterprise I discussed earlier. I ran 24 buildings managing the services which included, operations, sales, and human resources. 18 months later, I was offered a partnership with a new and upcoming company. I worked as a partner for 5 years helping build from a small enterprise to a successful venture. In 1993 it was time to move on. 

In Our First Decade (1993-2003)

May 15th, 1993 was the day Moreno & Associates, Inc. was founded. We started in a one room office at 356 Race Street, rented to me very inexpensively by my dear friend Richard Saso. I had gathered a few loyal clients, and a plan on how to forge my path as a commercial building maintenance owner…or somewhat of a plan…

Moreno and Associates entered into business to provide building maintenance services to the small, medium and large corporations. We offered all the services I had learned over the prior eight years in the industry. We were a small boutique business offering: stripping and waxing, carpet care, windows, clean room maintenance, handyman services, and of course, night custodians and day porters. 

I learned a lot about this industry in my first eight years prior to starting Moreno. What I didn’t know was the accounting portion. I couldn’t even balance a checkbook. I also didn’t have a built-in operations team. 

I met our current CFO, Stacy Hacker, through my good friend Phil. Phil and I worked together in the restaurant business prior to my entrance into this industry. Stacy had her own bookkeeping service, and I needed a bookkeeper. At least a part time one for now. Stacy agreed to take me on as a client. When I was learning my trade I had also worked side by side with a young man who was one of the hardest working individuals I had ever met. Years later he started his own business providing custodial services. I asked if he wanted to take on more business and he accepted. In the early days, I used his team as my operations group as I had already made commitments from clients the day I opened Moreno & Associates doors.

Old photo of ernesto sitting at his office desk smiling at the camera
Me sitting in my office at one of our old office buildings in 2000!
old photo of stacy looking over paperwork inside of an office room
Stacy Hacker busy answering calls and sorting paper back in 2000.

It was official, Moreno & Associates, Inc. was in business. 

What I really wanted to focus on was providing first class operations and customer service at a fair price. I believed that if I could provide these things, I could sell more business. This industry will reward you if you – Say what you are going to do and do what you say. Seems easy. Yet, we also say… if it were easy, everybody would do it.

This industry will reward you if you say what you are going to do and do what you say. Seems easy. Yet, we also say… if it were easy, everybody would do it.

J. Ernesto Moreno

That belief holds true today thirty years later.

During the early years, I acted as: Salesman, Operations Manager, Supervisor and Chief Executive. I was single, energetic, confident and inspired by the support of my family and friends.

Early in our development, sometime in 1996, we assumed full employment of my subcontractors great team. Most notably, Salvador Minero. Sal had started as a custodian working for my subcontractor. 25 years later, he now runs Moreno & Associates crews as our Manager of Operations. An accomplishment I feel holds a testament to the loyalty and support the people around me have provided.

Salvador posing for the camera to post on our website back in 2000.

Although I had started to achieve growth through sales, we experienced typical growing pains. We were far from perfect. We would strip and wax a floor…. but the wax wasn’t quite dry before the customers started coming in. That’s a problem! We would occasionally throw away something that shouldn’t have been thrown away. Dumpster diving became an occasional event… At times we set the customers expectations too high and failed to meet them. However, we never ran away from those problems. We learned from our mistakes and committed to improve at all levels. We were fortunate to continue to grow.

Eventually, I needed more of Stacy’s time, so she came on board full-time. I soon expanded my operations team and hired an account manager. One great fortune in our early years was having a small client that was also growing. Scaling was new to the both of our corporations. We grew and scaled right along with them. We are blessed to still have this client over two decades later.

We added a few supervisors, field operations, utility teams and eventually a sales associate. I was still selling, but found myself working on cash flow, insurance quotes, rate increases, and general management.

Life was also changing for me.

May 15th 1993, I started a business. August of 1995 I married my bride, Stacie Hendrickson. March 1996, Kyleigh made me a Father. September 1997, Kennedy blessed our Family. March 1999 our son, Kolbey was born. Soon thereafter, in January of 2003, we completed our Nuclear Family with the birth of our baby Kassidy.

The day Kassidy Moreno was born.
From left to right: Kolbey, Kyleigh, Kassidy, Stacie, Kennedy, Ernesto.

One dream living within me was to share my company with my family, not only economically, but also through legacy. When our kids were little, Stacie, my bride and I would take them to one of our smaller clients’ offices. Moreno & Associates was donating once a week services to the Special Olympics regional office. A skilled custodian would have taken about a half an hour to clean the office. However, the six of us spent about two hours going through the hard chore of training four kids between the ages of 3-11. Truth be known, the time I spent with my family in that building was not about training but about family bonding. They also got to learn a little bit about the “Value” of the person who keeps a building clean. 

In the meantime, a decade passed and our start-up company was now 10 years old. We had grown to a substantial enterprise. Family, friends and Angels on earth helped me keep this Moreno boat afloat.

Our growth also was aided by the Silicon Valley Dot-Com bubble. With the bubble soon came the bust. Many clients who were spending like the money would never stop coming in, soon had to cut back on their services, if not cease operations altogether. We seemed to do whatever it took to zig and zag with the ups and downs and in the long run diversified our services enough to survive the bust.

I sit at my desk today, March 28th, 2023 at the request of my Director of Marketing, Kennedy Moreno. 

In 1993, e-mail was a growing fancy, Google didn’t exist. I wasn’t married, I didn’t have my lifetime’s best friend and my future bride, Stacie. 

Excuse me for a second… Our first born Kyleigh, who is Moreno & Associates, Inc., Director of Sales, just walked down the hall and spoke to me about a few pressing issues on her plate.

Now where was I…

In Our Second Decade (2003-2013)

We continued to grow. We moved around like nomads. Expanding our offices as we grew internally. After our office on Race Street, came the building on Charcot, then a bigger building on Berger because we needed a secured parking lot for our utility vehicles. Then Virginia Street. These rental locations grew in size for our growing team. As a goldfish grows to the size of its bowl, so were we growing to the capacity of our buildings. 

In 2006, we were finally blessed to buy what we thought would be our “forever location”, 904 Stockton Avenue. In my mind, Moreno & Associates was in a facility that would sustain all the growth I could ever imagine.

We started offering expanded services like graffiti abatement. Phil Hacker, who introduced me to his wife Stacy’s accounting services, came on board to run the paint and coatings division. We earned a C33 painting and decorating license.  Our general building maintenance services allowed us to secure larger clients and thus we scaled with all of our teams adding to our employee count. We brought onboard a larger supervisory team, more help in accounting, a warehouse manager and a human resource assistant. We partnered with electrical sub-contractors, high rise window washers, and actually secured our own C36 plumbing license. 

Having the entrepreneurial spirit within me, my mind started thinking more closely about the janitorial supply side of our industry. BSC’s typically purchase janitorial supplies for their clients and resell them for a modest profit. We had changed vendors a few too many times for my liking. With some blind confidence, I announced, ”let’s go into the janitorial supply business!”. So off we went. In 2009, right at the beginnings of the mortgage crisis! 

Greenside Janitorial Supply Logo circa 2009.

We rented a space on 10th Street and opened Greenside Janitorial Supply. We officially started the janitorial supply business and made our first sale at the end of 2011. The business was growing and I was confident it would scale much like the growing maintenance division. The toll of having two offices was getting great on Stacy and myself- going back and forth from one location to the next. We were running two enterprises and spending too much time in a car. Soon our lease ran out on 10th street and we needed to make the decision to end the supply enterprise or find another location.  We made the decision to find a building that could house both companies on the same lot.

To pivot slightly, as you might be able to tell, my family has always played a key role in my business. In my case, I leaned on them for more than just emotional support. Stacie had made our house a home and was raising our family. She was and still is my island in a deep sea. 

My father, who had retired from 4 decades in the academia world, spent time assisting with Moreno’s growth. He offered English classes to our team, he helped in operations, and he brought general levity to the office as a whole. He and my mom even worked as custodians at a few buildings for me.

From left to right: Cristina Moreno (sister), Armando Moreno (father), Ernesto Moreno, Celia Moreno (mother)

While this decade may have been the most important years in my business life, it also took me into the most difficult reality I had ever faced. In 2006, my biggest fan, my guardian on earth, my mentor and my inspiration, died. Armando Morales Moreno, my father, left my touch. As many of you have been in my same shoes, you know how hard that can be. I found it my duty to be the best at what I do and strive every day to honor his legacy by my actions.

My father loved fruit. In his honor, we planted a dwarf orange tree in the front yard of our Stockton Ave. building. That tree has yielded much delicious fruit of which I pick and gladly share with the Moreno Team as my father would have done (more on the tree later).

When the decision was finally made to move from our Stockton Ave. building into our Birchwood building (as I will discuss later), what I wouldn’t leave behind is my dad’s tree. Phil Hacker helped me replant the tree into a large pot and we transported it to Birchwood, where we re-planted it at the front of the building. After much nurturing, fertilizing and guardian care by Phil and the team, my dad’s tree yielded another glorious cache of oranges. Of course we shared. 

Our Third Decade (2013-2023)

In 2015 we purchased 1260 Birchwood Ave, in Sunnyvale. For certain, now we had found our “forever” home. We left our Stockton facility behind and moved both enterprises in one facility.

Our previous building located in Sunnyvale. This building housed both the janitorial supply company and Moreno.

Two enterprises were growing. Both Moreno & Associates, Inc. and the fledgling Greenside Janitorial Supply were both bustling under one roof. Of course I was very proud. Busy, but proud. Time passed and Greenside Supply was growing. But as much as revenue grew, so too did the expenses. We made the decision to let go of the supply company when we were presented the opportunity to merge Greenside Janitorial Supply with Waxie Sanitary Supply. Moreno & Associates, Inc. was also still growing and cash flow was very tight. 

With the large warehouse space for supply inventory no longer needed, we made the decision to sell our “forever” building number two. While I was not happy about it, I learned that everything happens for a reason. March 6, 2020, the Birchwood building sold. March 12, 2020, we emptied our warehouse and completed the merger with Waxie. 

Moreno & Associates has been successful for many reasons. Luck, timing, and hard work have all played a key role. In this instance all three reasons came into play. 

The Moreno family standing infront of the Moreno office building. From left to right, Kennedy, Kolbey holding their dog, bronco, then Ernesto, Stacie, Kassidy, and Kyleigh
Our current office building located at 782 Auzerais Ave. in the heart of San Jose. From left to right: Kennedy, Kolbey (holding Bronco), Ernesto, Stacie, Kassidy, Kyleigh

March 20th we had scheduled an “open house” of our newly rented space on Auzerais Ave., but on March 16th, 2020, The world as we knew it stopped. COVID. Now what?

That day, we closed the doors and went home. We left our facility as a building maintenance company, and a few days later we went back to the office as “Essential Workers”. The cleaning business would never be the same. Our industry became the primary focus on mitigating this deadly unknown virus. We as an industry have always educated ourselves and our clients in bacterial and viral control. It’s not as if we were starting from scratch. However, it seemed that people started listening to us and looking to us to be their champion and to maintain their facilities health & safety. The Moreno Team rose to the challenge and within days we were prepared to serve this “New World”.  Thankfully, we as a team made it through safely. We were blessed to not lose anyone to this horrible virus. We came out stronger than we came in and are better for it today. 

Thirty years of challenges, opportunities, successes and failures seem to blend together and sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night thinking of something that happened way back when. However, when I reflect on the thirty years, I mostly remember the good we have done and the difference we may have made  to our employees, our community, and our industry as a whole. 

During this decade, one of the most uplifting experiences I remember fondly, was sending truck loads of toilet paper and cleaning supplies into the flood damaged San Jose neighborhoods in 2017. I am very proud of my team who volunteered their time to our community to ease the disaster. 

In 2018, to honor my father, The Armando Moreno Scholarship Fund was founded. Having devoted his entire career to education and administration, and graduating Suma Cum Laude from San Jose State University in 1968, my father strongly believed that higher education was crucial for personal, social, and economic growth of an individual. He dedicated his life to not only provide for his own children, but also to create opportunities for the next generation of Latino students through education. This fund was created to provide a small educational grant to our employees’ children who are of high school and college age. I hope to be able to grow this fund in the future to make an even bigger impact within our community.

Past recipients of the AMSF award with their parents/ family members who work with Moreno.

Where Do We Go From Here?

I write this reflection of 30 years and what I find most interesting is that I am not penning my thoughts as mechanical nor operational issues. I am not thinking of spreadsheets, platforms, specifications, compliance requirements or deadlines. What has mattered most to me are the people.

Back at the beginning I wore many hats. As the years progress we continue to add key personnel to support our growth. 

Today, I am proud to have our oldest daughter Kyleigh Moreno as Director of Sales and our second daughter Kennedy Moreno as director of Marketing on my team. I am blessed to see a dream come true. 

Additionally on our current team, my son, Kolbey Moreno, who, as he works himself through University, lends a hand wherever and whenever he is needed. Our daughter, Kassidy Moreno, also assists when she is home from University. 

We have also been lucky to associate ourselves with incredible individuals who have since retired from their roles at Moreno. Most notably, Patti Swigart, who came on board in 2000 to help in accounting. Patti retired in 2019. Tom Zipse came on board as sales manager in 2001 and retired in 2018. Phil Hacker, the previous director of the paint and coatings department was hired in 1999 and retired after 20 years.

Armando Moreno sitting at a desk teaching a Moreno employee English
Armando teaching English to a Moreno Employee

A very special thank you to Stacy Hacker who will be retiring after 2023 is complete. Sticking by my side for 30 years of business, Stacy allowed me to be both an entrepreneur and a father. The loyalty and dedication is something I will cherish deeply.

My greatest mentors have always been my mother and father. My mother has blessed me with her presence my entire life and still remains a strong influence today.

My Father lives forever in my heart and has left me with a number of “Armando-isms”

  • “If you sew, you too shall reap”.
  • “If you cut the fruit to share, allow your guest to select their own slice”. 
  • “If you grow it, share it”. 
  • “Do unto others”
  • “It is better to give than to receive”
  • “I cried and cried because I had no shoes… Until I saw a boy who had no feet”.

Finally, thank you to my forever rock, Stacie Moreno.

One of the things I have learned over the years is to surround myself with people who are smarter than me and only then, I might have a chance. All I have ever asked for is a chance. These individuals who represent Moreno have all made me better at what I do and there is no doubt about that.

Thank you to each and every one of you. 

My dream for the next 30 years is to leave my legacy in the hands of my Family and loyal team. I hope I can still be here to assist in any way. I pray they have angels as I have had, guiding them through good times and bad. And I hope they keep harvesting oranges and share them along the way. 

I dedicate this 30 years of reflection to those who have touched my life and my business and are no longer with us: Armando Moreno, Norma Vierra, Dean Hendrickson, Jack Hacker, Jean and Dan Peters, Patti Swigart, Dick, Sue and of course my dear friend Richard Saso. 

J. Ernesto Moreno

Who Is Moreno & Associates?

Moreno is a full-service building maintenance company in the Greater Bay Area. We are family owned & operated and have been servicing the Silicon Valley for over 30 years. Our team works with a wide range of commercial enterprises, including hospitals, schools, financial institutions, offices, dealerships, and more. We are prepared to take on any project and are qualified, insured, and licensed.

Scroll to Top