Crystal chandeliers. Marble floors. Brand new cars. These luxuries surround George Bertin night and day. But his life wasn't always this cushy.
In 1985, 20 years after working his way up from an entry-level job to a managerial position at a company in St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Bertin was laid off.
"I was 35 years old. I didn't want to be laid off again, so I thought I'd better find something more secure," Bertin said. "With Ted Turner, Atlanta was an upcoming city for entrepreneurs, so I moved here. For two weeks, I lived in an Atlanta hotel. I realized I couldn't afford to do this for long, so I looked for someone to room with.
"I found that someone in the heart of Norcross. His name was Rod Cea. He was recently divorced. He welcomed me into his home and it was like I'd known him forever."
Living expenses drastically decreased, but Bertin still had to find a way to make money.
"I took an entry-level job with a janitorial service. After a while I thought, I don't need to be working here. I'm smart enough to do this myself," he said.
Bertin studied the business and wrote a game plan for himself. In August of 1987, he purchased a bucket, a mop and a vacuum cleaner and started cleaning a few offices in Norcross. Before he knew it, he was president of Bertin Enterprises, Inc. (www.bertinenterprises.com), based in Lawrenceville. He started with 27 accounts, many of which are still on his ledger.
Twenty years later, he has 27 employees who clean and care for hundreds of Gwinnett County's most elite country clubs, restaurants, car dealerships and historic buildings. But the luxury of Bertin Enterprises' service, which uses only environmentally friendly products, matches the luxury of the facilities being cleaned.
"We manage each client with the goal of building a long-term business relationship. Our clients are demanding and our service is superior. We over deliver each and every time so that our clients get the service they deserve and expect," Bertin said.
Though he appreciates his posh working environments, Bertin said, "The beautiful people I work with are much more valuable than any of these luxuries. We've got some really good people in this world."
Bertin said he attributes his success to the people in Gwinnett County - not only those who use his services, but also those who have encouraged him along the way.
"I want to thank Gwinnett County for being so good to me for 20 years. And I especially want to thank the people of the Gwinnett County justice system in the division of business licenses," Bertin said. "They were always helpful, always encouraged me. They are a remarkable group of people. My life has been very good here. I just want to say thank you."
Susan Larson is a Lilburn resident. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.