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Profiles in Parking Area Sweeping

Karen Billings

A Total Commitment being San Diego's finest sweeping company

by Ranger Kidwell-Ross

Day and Night Power Sweeping is both the name and the philosophy of her business, says owner Karen Billings. "We run a fully computerized, 24-hour-a-day operation that truly works around the clock to provide service that is fast, efficient and convenient. Our customers know that they can count on us without question. We stagger our routes and have a back-up sweeper in our shop at all times. Downtime is virtually non-existent and our commitment to doing a great job every project is something we do our best to make a reality. We even promise turn bids around within 24 hours, if not sooner."

Billings took over the company only a year ago, but brought with her 15 years of experience as co-owner of a large plumbing contracting and service shop in the Bay area. She credits her change in management style for already contributing to a 25% increase in revenue. "Being a certified minority [woman-owned] business no doubt helps us. Anyone who hasn't done it wouldn't believe the paperwork involved! That aside, however, I have been surprised at the number of female property managers who have told me how glad they are to contract for services with a woman-owned sweeper company. There is a perception that the job done will be more detail-oriented. Because of that I would certainly encourage any woman to go into this business. Make no mistake, however: the certification process for woman-owned designation is designed to make sure that the woman is actually calling the shots.

"Although I am head of the organization, my philosophy of employees is Teamwork, Teamwork, Teamwork. I don't see how any business can run under a total dictatorship. I want people who will think, both for themselves and on behalf of the company. I recognize that the input and co-operation of all of my employees, from the helper who pushes a broom to a driver to a receptionist in the office is critical to the daily operating success of the business. Because of that [philosophy] we have a real team, and the difference shows."

Innovative is another word for Billings' style. To provide experience for high school students in the area, she put together a crew of workers from nearby Torrey Pines High School to haul away the large items that 'appear' on customers' lots. Her son, Tony, was a senior there last year, and he also gained experience as the crew manager.

"I make the kids go through the hiring process exactly as if they were going out into the work field to get a job. They interviewed with me and I did the hiring. We got a flatbed truck that they use to pick up the stuff, and they also make the decisions about where to take it, to the dump or to the recyclers. Tony graduated last year, so my son Tim, who is a sophomore, has taken over the project.

"Along the same lines, we came up with another idea for the Christmas season that our customers loved. It was to haul away trees after the holiday. We did it for substantially less than the cost of bringing in a dumpster for the job and the kids got some extra work, too. The response was much higher than I expected. Even for those who didn't sign on it was good for us, however, because it gave us another opportunity to show customers that we are a 'do everything' company."

Part of Billings' mission is to convey to her service area, San Diego county, that she is a "full service maintenance company. Besides our 12 sweepers, our steam cleaning and pressure washing crew, especially, is a complement to our total service concept.

We also have a 24-hour janitorial crew, and I am currently bidding landscape maintenance as well. Our 'We can do it for you!' concept is very well received, and I expect to see at least a 50% increase in revenues in the fairly near term because of it. Many property managers want to make one phone call and have what they need taken care of. My goal is to be the person they call."

This article is reprinted from American Sweeper magazine, v4 n1.

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