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Cocky Franchisor Goes to Jail, Emerges with Altered Outlook

Pat Swisher founded Swisher Hygiene back in 1983, a company that specialized in hygiene for commercial restrooms. The franchise chain thrived, as did Swisher's self-described big ego. But he was in for a fall, brought about by running afoul of the IRS. In 2002 he was sentenced to a two-and-a-half-year stretch in prison.

“I’ll never forget walking into the dorm,” he says. The first person he met was a huge, heavily muscled inmate with gold teeth. Swisher is a former college football player, but he’s not an intimidating man -- about 5-foot-9, with a carefully combed coif of reddish-gold hair. As the inmate approached, Swisher remembers thinking, This guy’s going to beat the hell out of me.

Instead, “he put his arm around me and said, ‘I got you, man. If anybody messes with you, tell ’em to come see me.’” Swisher chokes up at the memory. “It turned out that this was the most genuine, sweetest man I ever met. To this day, I love that man. He didn’t have a dime. All he wanted to do was get out so he could see his son play basketball. Excuse me.” Swisher reaches for a tissue. “So, yeah,” he says, composing himself. “That’s how you learn who you’re dealing with.”

That moment altered the way Swisher, 62, conducts business. — Greg Lacour, Entrepreneur

Once out of jail and with a new, more humble attitude and greater appreciation of his fellow human beings, Swisher went right back to his old company and former role as a franchisor, he says. Shortly thereafter he sold the firm.

A few years after the sale he founded another company, Enviro-Master, which, like the first, also dealt with hygiene for commercial restrooms. A couple of years after that it began franchising and he revealed to potential business associates that he had done time. While some people avoided working with him, enough were willing to do business with him that he was given a second chance at success. The chain brought in $10.2 million in revenue for the parent company in 2016. [Entrepreneur]

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