Professional Cleaning Company’s quality people lead way to success

From its earliest days in the 1980s, when the business carried another name and offered only janitorial services, Professional Cleaning Company’s competitive edge has derived from a focus on the superior quality its people deliver rather than on expensive marketing, fancy equipment, or the latest technology. In fact, the people-dependent janitorial services are conducted primarily inside a building that led PCC into the exterior work that dramatically expanded its capabilities.

“In the ’80s, while we were doing the interior cleaning at a small shopping mall,” recalls Jim Weinberg, President of the Rolling Meadows, Illinois, firm, “the manager asked us to come in and do the parking lot sweeping. The company he had doing it wasn’t providing the level of detail that we were with our inside cleaning.”

It was a smart move on the manager’s part—to see the connection and take advantage of it. But it was an even smarter move for PCC to grab the opportunity and run with it, deftly tapping its core competency for managing a labor force that delivers exceptional results.

“They were using a guy with a truck and a guy with a blower, going from place to place at night to work in the dark,” explains Weinberg. “Coming from our janitorial experience with equipment and labor, we’ve chosen to send a sweeper in at night to clean the parking lot, then a person early in the morning to do the grounds keeping—garbage containers, rear of property, sidewalks, and landscaping. That way, once the morning person finishes up and leaves, he sees it all completed in daylight. The property is the cleanest of the day as customers arrive.”

Added Value
PCC has had steady growth since about 2004—about $5.7 million in revenues last year, and they expect $5.8 million in 2010. The privately held company has 115 to 120 direct employees, plus others added through an employee-leasing program that allows it to expand its staffing ranks to as many as 200 on a seasonal or as-needed basis.

PCC provides complete interior janitorial services and parking lot sweeping, as well as sign installations and maintenance, pressure washing, painting, window cleaning, roof inspection and cleaning, asphalt repair and lot striping, property inspections
and reports, landscape maintenance, and seasonal maintenance
and oversight. It operates in an area that is marked by Peoria to the west, Milwaukee to the north, Champaign to the south, and northwestern Indiana to the east.

Weinberg expands on what he thinks are PCC’s strengths:
“The strip centers where we apply our labor-intensive janitorial experience to the parking lot sweeping often don’t have onsite managers. Since snow removal and landscaping are seasonal, that means the person sweeping is the only one out there on a consistent basis, twelve months of the year. We become the managers’ eyes and ears, filing a report when we see something that needs to be attended to. We also have three site supervisors who go out to properties every seven to ten days to make sure the services we provide are up to our standards.

“We can take digital photos and attach them to our site reports. Some property managers are even located out of state, so we are extremely valuable.”

Having a person on the ground who knows what to look for and can report to management quickly and accurately—it’s priceless.

“One thing that really stands out is the diversity we provide our customers: the cleaning services, the inspections, the emergency services. Some customers who have several properties in their portfolios have even given our number to their tenants, so that in an emergency, the tenants can contact us directly to either provide the service or put them in contact with a service provider, such as a roofer.

“Coming into the cold-weather period, we are moving into our ‘heat check.’ If the center has vacant spaces, we need to monitor the temperatures. We’re so diligent because we need to respond immediately.”

Sometimes, Weinberg says, the electric company will turn off power to a unit without notifying the Property Manager. If the temperatures drop in a vacant unit, chances are no one would know that pipes have frozen until the thaw, when it’s too late to reverse almost-certain damage. PCC has procedures in place to monitor temperatures, weather forecasts, and the systems operating at their clients’ facilities.

Getting Here was Half the Fun
When Weinberg was in college and needed a job, he worked for two summers at the local race track for PCC’s former company, Diversified Service Systems.

“The owner called me when I was finishing school and asked me to be his Operations Manager. I came on full time in 1983; then, after a few years, I became a minority owner. In twelve years, I bought him out.

“As we moved into the transfer of ownership, I was leery about the owner stepping aside. I wondered whether the customers—with whom he’d built very solid relationships for 20 years—would move on.”

Instead of letting anyone down, Weinberg has grown the business and built on the reputation that was left to him. “When I first came on, I was doing a lot of things myself,” he says of his business. “But I learned to bring on quality people and let them do their jobs, and I’ve implemented systems to make this work.
I like the fact that the company has now evolved into a running machine, and if I step aside, it keeps running.
“We don’t have a [dedicated] sales staff; a lot of our work has come from referral[s]. If you’re successful with the property managers, as they move from company to company, they will take you with them.”

Waiting Out the Recession
As the economy slowed, PCC noticed less demand for its extra services and more postponements on maintenance, though the company has managed to keep that from affecting its bottom line.

“Fortunately, we’ve done some different things—such as new revenue streams like the employee leasing that came on in 2009. Everyone’s pencils had to be sharpened, and we’ve been asked to shrink our margins.

“I think everybody is looking ahead toward Christmas and on into 2011. Will the unemployment rate drop? Will people get back to work, the registers ring, and managers be doing more maintenance? We’re trying to stretch our equipment. Over the next six to twelve months, we’re all trying to see how it’s going to go so we can poise ourselves to be ready to staff and equip accordingly.” 

For more on Professional Cleaning Company: www.procleaningco.com or 847.259.3998.

Story by Anne Biggs

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