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Do Right Services Company: Improving Stability and Upward Mobility While Maintaining Dignity



Julian Posada

CEO

LiftUp Enterprises


A true social entrepreneur, Julian Posada has launched Do Right Services, a company that is creating a culture of dignity and an accelerated path toward stability and upward mobility for their employees. Working in tandem with LiftUp Communities, a related nonprofit organization, Do Right Services not only offers rewarding employment, but also provides wraparound services that extend to family members and friends. Read on to learn about how a small business can make a large impact on the lives of its employees and community.


Tell me about your early career path and what your progression has looked like? 


The first time I ever worked for pay was at 13 years old, delivering newspapers in my neighborhood. My father was a medical doctor and paved the way for me to continue on the path to higher education. I attended Michigan State University and began working at a non-profit organization called the Campus Outreach Opportunity immediately after graduation. Since that time, I have built multiple companies in various industries including banking, media, sports, and the nonprofit sector.  


What is your role and what organizations do you lead now?


I am Julian Posada, founder, president, and CEO of LiftUp Enterprises. 


LiftUp Enterprises is a for profit, MBE certified, social enterprise grounded by dignity-based operating principles. We create opportunities for employees to grow and stabilize their lives. 


We operate Do Right Services Company, a commercial cleaning, painting, landscaping, pest control, and vehicle wrapping provider, committed to delivering the highest standards in facilities services throughout the Chicagoland area. 


Our holistic approach is to create livable jobs that offer basic benefits, professional development, and a fair and engaging workplace to ensure our employees feel respected and valued. Through our non-profit organization, LiftUp Communities, we leverage external partnerships to provide wraparound services to support the overall well-being of our employees.

I am driven by the idea that you can build businesses that are scalable and profitable while bridging the wage gap for your employees, supporting them holistically, and ultimately providing opportunities for low-wage workers to build wealth. 

Tell me more about these organizations. How did you decide to build them, and what were the things you considered as you did so?


Five years ago, I asked the question: How can a business lower turnover and accelerate stability and mobility for its employees? Answering that question became a guiding principle for me. I am driven by the idea that you can build businesses that are scalable and profitable while bridging the wage gap for your employees, supporting them holistically, and ultimately providing opportunities for low-wage workers to build wealth. 


I decided to start a cleaning company because I understood that with this business, I could attract employees who are facing mobility challenges. Sixty percent of our staff have two jobs and 10% have three. They are often living paycheck to paycheck and encounter a host of other issues in their lives. I saw an opportunity to create a business structure that could confront these challenges as part of our organizational strategy. I specifically chose commercial cleaning, painting, landscaping, pest control, and vehicle wrapping because these industries have low barriers to entry.


What are some practices that you have in place that help you achieve your mission?


Our business processes and systems are designed for our staff to accelerate their stability and improve their social and economic mobility. We operate in a way that reduces the cognitive burden on the employee. 


We have decided to take a dignity based approach to managing our team. When we problem solve and make decisions, we use dignity as our foundation to develop a solution. When we are communicating with our team, we ensure that we are exuding dignity in our communications. Dignity is a common thread that is weaved into all of the work that we do. 


We’ve also decided to take a human-centric approach. Our goal is to retain employees, so we focus on the impact to the human being over compliance. Whether it’s onboarding or scheduling, we are considering the employee first and determining solutions that will benefit the individual. 


What specific benefits do you offer to your employees that help to accelerate stability and mobility? 


We’ve collaborated with partners and identified key solutions from research institutions like the Human Flourishing Program at Harvard University and the Good Jobs Institute that we are testing in real time for effectiveness. 


For example, we pay our employees once a week, because research has demonstrated that when a person is living paycheck to paycheck and is being paid every two weeks, they experience high levels of stress. Being paid once a week doesn’t completely eliminate that stress, but it does reduce it, and lowers the cognitive load on the employee. We have the capacity to pay weekly, so we do because we know it will help. 


We know that a high percentage of households lack savings for an emergency situation and that if an emergency occurs, it can send a family into a financial tailspin. To alleviate that, we have programs like our company sponsored employee loan. That's also an example of how we’ve developed a dignity based solution to a common problem. 

It’s nice to have a profitable company, but in my opinion, that is not as great as having low turnover. 

We offer a number of other benefits, such as transportation vouchers, 529 seed investment funds for employees, and even fun benefits like our spot bonus, which is a nominal voucher or gift card that is given to someone for simply smiling or being nice. 

I’ve mentioned existing benefits, but we are always developing new solutions that we can test with our staff. Based on a recommendation from the Macarthur Foundation, we are looking into a new benefit for our supervisors and coordinators that assists with housing. We are looking to provide a loan that covers the cost of the first and last month’s rent. Receiving this loan would allow an employee to move into a new place of their own, and making their payments to us on-time will help them to build their credit. Our tiered and tailored approach to benefits incentivizes our workers to stay with our organization.


Have you encountered challenges running a social enterprise that are different from running other small businesses? 


Many of the challenges that we face are systemic and impact any business. For instance, getting access to capital is tough whether you're a social entrepreneur or just a small business. When you're a for-profit social enterprise, it can be even harder. 


Operating a social enterprise is not for the faint of heart. As a team, we don’t take any of the gains that we’ve achieved for granted. Creating a dignity-based management approach is important, but it is not easy. You have to balance profitability with dignity-based decisions. There’s not a day without a challenge, but this work is certainly worthwhile. 


What is Do Right Services hoping to achieve in the next few years? 


We’ve achieved revenue growth of more than 30% year over year for the past three years. We are now on track to continue that this year. The goal is, and has always been, to be profitable by the end of 2025. We will achieve this by consistently focusing on the fundamentals of the business. As a service-based company, that means we grow gross revenue margins and reduce turnover by increasing employee retention. 


At the same time, we are hoping to increase the mobility and stability of our workforce. For some people that will mean that they don’t stay with us, because now they are able to find a higher paying job, or pursue educational opportunities or spend more time with their family. In those cases, our goals will still have been reached and we would count that as a success. 


Tell me more about the nonprofit organization, LiftUp Communities.


When I initially launched Do Right Services, we operated for two years intending to accelerate mobility and stability for employees, but we were not seeing results. It became clear that we cannot address a systemic wage gap without supporting an individual’s entire social network. LiftUp Communities was founded in 2021 to support our employees and their family and friends, which allows us to address the entire social fabric of an individual. We received funding from Crown Family Philanthropies, the Chicago Community Trust and several other donors, including a $250,000 anonymous donation. 


It’s nice to have a profitable company, but in my opinion, that is not as great as having low turnover. To do that, we’ve found that you have to look at an employee’s entire life and factor in circumstances that have nothing to do with the job. If someone is dealing with an issue that impacts their sister, mother, uncle, or child, for instance, that is going to affect the worker. If I have a landscaper whose wife isn't working, that will affect my employee. We are considering a person’s whole life situation and providing many avenues of support for that person and those in their network.  

 

What specific programs does LiftUp Communities offer to support Do Right Services employees? 


While the programs that we offer on the for-profit side of the business focus mainly on the employee, through LiftUp Communities we are able to expand our purview and provide wraparound services that improve the lives of our employees and their network. We use a case management system that connects employees with existing social services providers. 


The needs of each individual may vary, but we advocate for our staff and connect them with the resources that bring them toward stability and mobility. If someone has immigration needs, we may refer them to the Resurrection Project.; if there are food insecurity issues, the Greater Chicago Food Depository. For mental health support, we connect staff to Thresholds. We work with many organizations across Chicagoland to ensure that all of the areas that could affect a worker are considered. 


We also identify gaps in the services that are available, and through LiftUp Communities’ programs, we provide our own support services. For emergency cash assistance we have our Barrier Reduction Fund, where we swiftly deploy financial resources to those who are experiencing unexpected expenses. Through our Confidence Program, we help our employees increase their technology and English literacy skills. To support the children of our employees, we offer a paid internship program that provides first-generation college students with career readiness skills. To support other children within their social network, we offer seed investments to start a 529 education savings account. 


These programs are just a snapshot of the services that our staff provide. We dive deeply into the issues impacting an employee and deploy additional resources as needed. 


Is there anything you wish that either a government agency or some other player in the workforce development ecosystem should be doing that is not currently being addressed?


I strive to engage with my employees holistically which means considering the full extent of the social and political barriers that they and their families face. I hope that all key stakeholders within the workforce development ecosystem will have the capacity to engage with their clients with equivalent cultural competency. Historically, funding streams from donors and the government have been rigid in their implementation. We must empower those on the frontlines of workforce development to improve worker retention in more adept ways. 


Specifically, low wage workers are often caught in a poverty trap where they are forced to decline promotions or increased hours because it would drastically reduce their welfare benefits- which is a reduction in their real earnings and stability. This is antithetical to the intended impact of a promotion. Workers should never be in a position to decline career advancements at risk of their basic needs. Workarounds like experimental benefits and one on one financial concierge services help me navigate this challenge with my employees; I hope to see flexible funding for other organizations to do the same. 


How do you believe Chicagoland employers should contribute to addressing poverty and inequality in Chicago neighborhoods?


If you have the privilege of being a CEO, the lives of your employees should be of consequence to you. You have a responsibility to them. I know that many people don’t see value in this type of work, but I am encouraged when I speak to small business owners, because often they are interested. The issues that employees are facing outside of the workplace are complex. We have reached a point where the cost of not supporting staff in resolving these issues is high. I don’t minimize the difficulty in figuring out the best ways to support employees. However, it starts with having the will to do it. The companies that embrace this ethos will ultimately have a competitive advantage, because they will be able to adapt faster to changes in the labor market. 


Why is building this business and creating career paths for the populations that you're working with important to you personally?


I believe that when you have privilege, you should contribute to society. This work is important to me because it allows me to demonstrate to my kids that you can do financially well and do good in this world. You don't have to give up living a nice life in order to do good for others. In fact, you don’t have to give up anything. You have to work harder - that's true. Choosing to live this way will not necessarily lead you to the easy path, but there is a way to have both a good life and to give back.





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