Laura Johnson knew her career goal ever since her childhood: She wanted to work for her parents’ Servpro franchise, which provides fire and water cleanup and restoration services to residential and commercial real estate properties across Orange, Sullivan and southern Ulster counties.
“I’ve always wanted to work for Servpro,” she recalled. “Most kids played house growing up, but I played Servpro office. When I did my eighth-grade home-and-careers project, my little dioramas were of a Servpro office.”
But Laura’s sister, Brittany Johnson, had other career goals.
“I took a little bit of a different path — I didn’t want to definitely work for Servpro, like Laura did,” Brittany said. “I wanted to be a teacher. I went to school for business education. But once I was going through school, I kept catching myself calling my dad or Laura and being like, ‘Hey, how’s the business going?’ And more or less, I decided, ‘Okay, maybe this is really where I need to be.’”
Brittany entered the family business eight years ago via the human resources side of operations, but things changed when the marketing manager quit two months later.
“That’s when my dad turned to me and goes, ‘Okay, here’s the marketing department. Good luck.’”
The siblings’ parents, Brad and Barbara Johnson, stepped down from their business two months ago, with the Johnson sisters bringing the franchise into a second generation of ownership. For Brittany, this became a natural next chapter in a very strong family bond.
“We are a very close family,” she said. “We’ve done a lot of trips together — we’ve stayed in motorhomes for 45 days together, so we were always used to being together and we’re very good at that. Even when we have a fight or anything, it’s very quick to get over it because we communicate so well.”
The elder Johnsons first became Servpro franchisees 35 years ago and the sisters praised the parent company for being supportive of its franchise network. During the transition period when the elder Johnsons began preparing to hand off the business, the family found itself pivoting dramatically as the Covid-19 pandemic abruptly changed their focus.
“We started to notice that we weren’t getting fire and water damage calls because people were at their house to catch the problem that might happen,” said Brittany. “And then people didn’t want us at their house for a while.”
Instead, the office began getting requests for disinfecting services during the height of the pandemic. In view of the growing need to offer disinfecting services, the Johnsons decided in April 2020 to show their support to frontline workers by offering them disinfecting services for free.
“That was our way of giving back to the community last year,” Brittany said.
As the pandemic begins to recede and some degree of normalcy returns to the region, the sisters are looking to grow the business. The franchise has a 30-person workforce and the sisters are recognizing more opportunities as the Hudson Valley’s population continues its pandemic-era expansion.
One area that they are now focusing on is emergency preparedness.
“Things happen and nobody knows who to call,” said Laura. “So, we are trying to get in and make people understand that they need to have a plan before something happens, so people know who to call when it does and you’re not sitting there trying to Google in your office while water is pouring on your head.”
“We’ve gotten calls where we literally hear the water gushing in the background,” said Brittany. “We’re like, ‘Where’s the shut off valve?’ And they’re like, ‘We don’t know’ — and that’s really why we want to get people more prepared before the disaster happens.”