by Ranger Kidwell-Ross, editor
From Here to Eternity: Change at a Snail's Pace and the Speed of Life
As I write this, tomorrow morning I will be leaving for Memphis, site of the 2012 National Pavement Expo. As I worked through the weekend in order to get the February newsletter out before I left, my thoughts kept turning to the snowmobile accident that last week suddenly ended the career and life of my longtime friend, Michigan sweeping contractor, Russ Barker. His loss was as sad as it was unexpected.
Earlier last week I spoke to a glass contractor I have known casually for over 20 years. When I went to his glass shop to place an order I found the doors locked, the lights off. Ahh, I thought to myself, Bill finally got to retire. However, just at that moment he happened to pull in and I learned what had actually occurred.
"For the last three years I have hung on to the business against all odds," Bill told me, "losing money virtually every month as a result of the housing market downturn. However, in spite of that I kept on all my employees out of regard for their families. Now, not only are they all gone, but after 35 years in business I'm having to start over from scratch with me as the only employee. It's going to be very hard."
Those individual examples are just two of the many ways in which a business can change. Though both tragic, they are on either ends of the spectrum from immediate to long drawn out. Both circumstances – and the myriad of situations in between – underscore the importance of paying attention to every detail of one's business and personal life in order to keep 'bad things' from happening.
However, since this editorial is supposed to be about power sweeping, here's the positive upside you can potentially look forward to if you can manage to keep your ducks all in a tidy row.
Read the rest of the editorial.
February Newsletter Contents
(Scroll down to read stories or click on links.)
- Johnston Sweepers, Ltd. Establishes a Foothold in the USA
- Service Channel: What's Your Experience?
- Getting Referrals: Are You Leveraging Your 'Unpaid Sales Force?'
- Madvac LR50 Cleans Up Amidst Pedestrians at Superbowl 2012
- Some 'Road Sweepers' Employ a Broom and a Barrow
- Specialists Providing the Best Sweeping – In a Rainbow of Colors
Johnston Sweepers, Ltd. Establishes a Foothold in the USA
Worldwide, Johnston Sweepers, Ltd. is the largest manufacturer of road sweepers. With the 2011 bankruptcy and liquidation of Allianz Sweeper Co., which sold Johnston air sweepers as a licensee, there was a vacuum in the US marketplace. The Allianz broom sweeper and Madvac compact sweeper lines were sold off. However, in early 2011 the company established a subsidiary, Johnston North America, which is in a facility located in Mooresville, North Carolina.
Johnston Sweepers, Ltd. has an interesting and colorful history. The company was started in 1904 by three brothers named Johnston. Initially, they imported and resold Rhenish Basalt stone from Germany. Street sweepers didn't become part of the company until 1924, when Johnston Brothers took over the assets of 'Road Plant Construction Company Limited.'
In addition to a historical overview on the company, we offer a recent audio interview with Bill Ackendorf, the acting general manager of the US affiliate, Johnston North America.
Read the story.
Service Channel: What's Your Experience?
In August of 2011 we reported that WalMart had started requiring exterior maintenance contractors, including sweeping contractors, to use the ServiceChannel reporting system.
The initial experience contractors reported to us with doing so were primarily negative. Difficulties included having a hard time learning the system, as well as not being able to get through when needed and/or required. Across the board, reactions were either mixed or negative.
More recently, not only have the complaints dwindled but we've started to receive reports about contractors preferring the system. Included is that they report getting paid consistently within the timeframe specified in their agreement.
This led us to wonder how widespread the satisfaction level is now, about six months after the changeover. So, if you are using ServiceMaster for one or more of your accounts, please take our brief survey on the topic. We'll report the results in our next issue.
Check out/take the survey.
You've honed your technical expertise, you've established your business and got your team in place, but why was it no one told you you'd also have to develop marketing and sales skills?
That's not what you were expecting when you established your business as a power sweeping contractor, right? In fact the idea of selling may even leave you cold.
Referrals are often the most powerful way to expand your business requiring little marketing spend and providing you with immediate credibility through the reputation of the person referring you.
Take a look.
It's a big job getting a city ready for an event like the Superbowl. There's no question that Indianapolis was very presentable for this year's event. One of the lesser known stories about the sweeping before and after this year's event was the debris collected by a compact-class sweeper, the Madvac LR50.
There are a number of reasons to consider a compact sweeper for some of the cleaning needs of any medium-to-large city, especially in the downtown core and for event handling. In our interview with Hisham El-Sharif, VP of Sales and Marketing for Exprolink, maker of the Madvac compact sweeper line, we discuss the Madvac LR50's cleanup before and after the event as well the value brought to the table by compact sweepers. See the details.
Recently I received an email from a gentleman named Steve who works for a street cleansing department in an inner borough of London, England. He included a link to a web page he'd put together about those individuals who are called 'Road Sweepers.' These are employees who still clean some of the areas in England with a broom and a wheelbarrow.
"There wasn't much about road sweepers (as in manually sweeping with broom) on the web," said Steve. "I hoped the page might change some people's perceptions about road sweepers and also give road sweepers something that's interesting."
We thought it was interesting, as well. The page we link to below starts out: "The Road Sweeper pushing his single barrow is a common sight in cities and towns around the UK, not noticed as he quietly makes his way around his 'barrow beat.' The tools of this trade having changed little since Victorian times, the barrows are lighter with the use of plastic and alloys, the addition of the 'litter-picker' being the latest tool in his arsenal."
If the operator on your oldest, most beat-up sweeper won't stop complaining about how tough his or her job is, this is just the article to reference...
Take a look.
Although Tim Skinner has operated his sweeping company for over two decades, his first ride in the sweeper occurred almost twenty years previously. After dropping out of college and spending time at home, his stepmother gave him three choices: go back to school, get a job or join the Army during the Vietnam conflict.
One night soon after that Skinner filled out an employment application with a company that swept the Chicago expressways. Half an hour later he had been hired as a labor and found himself bouncing down the Dan Ryan Expressway riding shotgun in an Elgin Pelican.
How he got to where he is today – at the head of a successful sweeping company – involves a series of even better stories. These include the day Roger Parsons, then president of Elgin Sweeper Company, called to offer him a toy sweeper; how he managed to offload a hopper of horse poop at an Amish bake sale; and, why his sweeper fleet is known far and wide for its myriad of rainbow colors.
Read about Best Sweeping Specialists.