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Profiles in Parking Area Sweeping

Wiley's Sweeping Success Is 'All in the Family'

photo of Tom by Shelley M. Ross

In 1988, Tom Wiley started out in New Jersey with a brand-new Schwarze S343-I and a passionate commitment to provide excellent service. He was twenty-two years old. Today, Wiley has a fleet of ten vehicles and firm plans to expand into Florida.

Tom Wiley runs a business dedicated to parking area sweeping for shopping malls, apartments, condos and office buildings. His company does no work for municipalities and has no interest in construction sweeping. Wiley prefers to concentrate on this one area and then also offer allied services like power washing and striping. He loves providing superior service and being right at hand when customers phone with questions or concerns. But he doesn't do it alone.

Cliff Curran and Kevin Conk

'All in the Family' could easily be the motto for Wiley's Sweeping and Striping. Right out front is Tom's grandmother, called "Granny" by customers and universally praised for her niceness and professional service. Susan, his wife of two years, handles all administrative matters and billing and is now by his side for all planning. His father heads a maintenance division to help the customers with their non-sweeping maintenance needs. Manager Cliff Curran is de facto family too, having been best man at Tom and Susan's wedding. Tom's mother is never too far off to offer moral support.

Wiley relies on Curran to help manage the company's growth. When new accounts come in, Cliff sets up the routes and drivers, and also trains and oversees new operators. More family: Cliff's brother-in-law, Kevin Conk, is assistant manager, policing the accounts to make sure they are done right. Wiley's Sweeping proudly offers this follow-up service at no extra cost to his customers. Everyone in the company has the same goal, that of keeping the customers satisfied.

"One thing we do here when we get a new account is that I personally go to meet the customer," said Tom. "We always have one new Schwarze S348-I that sits and I use it for my visit. I do not wear a shirt and tie. I wear a nice shirt with Wiley's Sweeping on it because I want them to know that I, too, am a worker. Whenever any of us go to visit a property during the day we drive one of the sweepers, which we keep clean and in good condition. I think it's good to let people see that we are there, that we do care about their property and giving them a clean, safe site." As a result of this personal attention, Wiley still has customers he started with, and has continued with properties sometimes through several managers. "There is no reason for them to even think about making a change. We give them service.

At left is Susan, Tom's wife, and his grandmother, Irene Davidson. Above, the Wiley's sweeper fleet.

"I think it is very important to visit with the customers regularly, to update them on our services, our equipment, our aims and aspirations. I'll take one of our newer sweepers out to do a demonstration, and tell them about what it can do, let them know about the sweeper's features and that sort of thing.

In addition to personal meetings and equipment demos, Wiley makes certain he is always available to talk to customers via cell phone. Although the technology was new when he was starting out, he now finds cellular to be invaluable in helping him offer the kind of total service he wants to provide. Tom says you won't find him on the golf course for several afternoons in a row, or even behind a desk. He's going to be out there working because he wants to know the properties, the customers, the sweepers.

Wiley recently had occasion to help a new friend who he met at Schwarze's Roundup last year. Page Thomson, now owner of A.T.D. [Attention to Detail] Power Sweeping, was interested in getting into the sweeping business. Tom said Page accepted his offer to come up to stay for a few days, and he and his father spent the time showing Page how things are run in the Wiley operation, from route-building to billing protocol. Thomson returned home to St. Petersburg, Florida, and put the advice to good use his company is now growing fast. "Every time I talk to him, Page keeps saying, 'you are my hero.' Well, I told him, I'm not your hero. I'm just telling you what it took me 12 years of good times and bad to learn, and teaching you not to do some of the things I did. I didn't have anybody to lean on. I had to learn it all myself."

When asked to speak more about the lessons he learned the hard way from his early years, Wiley is quick to name the biggest one: using older sweepers. As he built more routes, he reminisced that he grew by acquiring older sweepers, on average with 90 to 100,000 miles on them. Although he rebuilt and refurbished them, they still caused two major problems. The high cost of ongoing repairs ate up his time and profits, and the older sweepers simply couldn't match the performance of newer ones. The latter problem resulted in customer complaints. When he changed to running new machines, Tom said, his incidence of complaints dropped to absolute zero. Gone were dirty curb lines, gone was grit, gone was negative feedback.

Another key to success Tom sees is assembling and maintaining a competent and cooperative work force. Wiley makes extra effort to make sure any prospective employees really want to work nights, and that they want to have a long-term commitment to the company. He, in turn, promises to reward their commitment. He's proud that in the past six months they've been able to add health care for the staff. He credits that philosophy as being the reason he has assembled a crew that works together as a team.

If someone can't make his shift, Tom allows him to search on his own for another of the operators who is willing to work out a trade. That's stopped the cycle of having employees call in sick and making people in the office scramble to fill the gap. That, in turn, makes life easier for Tom, Cliff, and Susan. Tom says they have a tremendous crew as a result.

"Pretty much what we specialize in is taking over accounts that haven't been being serviced the way they could be and making them right. Even if we get customers that offer us a number of accounts all at once that are like that, we know not to take them all over at once. Instead, we'll take a few on and clean them up right so the customer can be happy again. Then, we'll add some more of their accounts. What we won't do is take on something we can't handle; we know that could end up hurting us in the long run.

"We want to be the best sweeping company there is, and not just in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, which is where we currently operate. What we want is to be the best sweeping company in the nation, wherever it is we sweep. The important thing to me is that with whatever sweepers we have, servicing whatever accounts we have, I want the customers to say 'Wiley's is the best sweeping company we've ever used.' That's what we want. That's our goal. We'll grow if we can help our customers do the same. If you can do that, the rest just works out."

Tom Wiley is a man with a passion to produce business. He wants people across the nation to know Wiley's Sweeping. He is currently in the process of starting an operation in Florida, a direct result of happy customers in New Jersey who know they will be more satisfied with a Wiley-run company maintaining their properties in Florida. "I really think that someday down the road we are going to be a large company operating in many states. That's because I love it. No matter where I go on vacation, I'm always looking at shopping centers and I'm looking at sweepers. This is a business that's just right for me."

Tom invites you to visit Wiley's Sweeping at their website,

This article is reprinted from American Sweeper magazine, Volume 8 Number 1, 2000.

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