By SCOTT McCLOSKEY – Staff Writer , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

Robert Contraguerro Sr. understands what it takes to make a small business work. After all, he got his start in 1977 walking door-to-door selling carpet cleaning services and products.

Robert Contraguerro Sr., president of Panhandle Cleaning & Restoration, center, knows what it takes to operate a successful multi-generational family businesses in the Upper Ohio Valley as his business currently employs nearly a hundred people. Contraguerro is pictured with his two sons, Tom Contraguerro, vice president of operations, left, and Bob Contraguerro Jr., vice president.

Today, Contraguerro, president of Panhandle Cleaning & Restoration, employs nearly 100 people including his wife and three sons. So what’s his key to operating a successful multi-generational family businesses in the Upper Ohio Valley?

“You have to have a good business model to be successful in any business,” said Contraguerro, whose wife Jody and sons Bob Jr. and Tom work with him in the business he started more than three decades ago in the Wheeling area. Son Josh, a college student, works at the business part time when he is on break.

Contraguerro said he started out by just cleaning carpets in the local community. In 2011, his company, which now offers many facets of cleaning and restoration work, had a record year of business and worked in nearly every state along the East Coast including Oklahoma.

Contraguerro said he believes one of the most important aspects about operating and sustaining a family business is showing your children how everything operates while they are at a young age – not necessarily to have them actually work at the business, but at least to see how things operate and see the hard work and dedication it takes to get things done.

“They have to see the long hours that it takes and the kind of work that you get to do and the kind of decisions that you have to make … and let them understand that you have to provide a level of service to your customers to be successful like none other,” said Contraguerro.

He said displaying a good work ethic and teaching your children by example are vital elements to keeping a family business successful.

“We are very community minded. We believe that we need to participate in the communities that we work in – we need to give back to the communities that we work in,” he added.

He said he believes being a “community player” is a crucial element in sustaining a successful business. Contraguerro said no matter which community their company is working in, whether it be local or out-of-state, they always try to keep that mindset.

Bob Contraguerro Jr. is vice president for Panhandle, while Tom Contraguerro is vice president of operations. His wife works in their finance and business office.

Some of the many services Panhandle Cleaning & Restoration offers include: cleaning carpet, furniture and walls, pressure washing, janitorial services and disaster restoration services.

The restoration services can range from boarding up a structure to repairing a structure completely.

Their employees are certified in their fields to handle any type of property disaster. They regularly attend seminars and schools to remain on the cutting edge of damage restoration technology.