Bringing Leverage Back to Contractors

If you haven’t heard of 1-800-Sweeper yet, you probably will soon. It is a co-op of independently-owned sweeper companies throughout the U.S. that gives local companies the buying power and commercial visibility of a nationwide company, and it’s growing fast.

“With 1-800-Sweeper, we have the resources to take any size company to that next level of success,” says Mike Lucht, owner of ProSweep and one of the founding members of 1-800-Sweeper. “You have a great opportunity to grow your business with very little effort.”

Launched in late 2011, 1-800-Sweeper helps contractors get larger accounts, many of whom have switched to working with service consolidator broker companies to simplify their payables and administration by allowing them to write one check.

“The concept was an evolution of events,” says Lucht. “There was a lot of unrest among contractors on the way regional and national accounts were awarding work. Years ago, we could walk into our local big box national retailer and arrange services with the manager. But in the last 6 to 8 years that changed, and it has reduced the amount of vendors a large company has, as well as business opportunities for local guys. Many large retailers began working with brokers that are not only unfamiliar with the delivery of the service but also misrepresent the scope of service as a result. So, several of us started wondering, ‘Why don’t we represent ourselves?’”

Lucht had obtained the 1-800-Sweeper phone number many years ago and used it for his local business until 1-800-Sweeper was officially launched in July 2011. He began formulating the business model and plan in July 2010 after securing the related URLs and discussing the idea with a few close associates.

“The ability of independently-owned self performing power sweeping companies having an opportunity to compete directly for national and regional accounts certainly is what started all of this, but we have discovered that an even bigger benefit of the group is our buying power,” says Lucht. “By leveraging our purchasing power as a group and developing a culture of consolidation amongst the membership, we’ve been able to align ourselves with our vendors to create an atmosphere of mutual benefit.”

“On brooms alone, we are seeing a 30 percent savings,” says Rich Katz, President of Operations at TKG Sweeping & Services, LLC and one of the first companies to join 1-800-Sweeper. “We’ve also seen savings for day-to-day things like trashcan liners.”

The focus is on getting discounts on fuel, industrial supplies, backpack blowers, vanity details, promotional items, brooms, etc. “We either have vendor relationships or are in the process of putting those together,” says Lucht. “It takes time to bring those together. We are aligning ourselves with vendors that have products where we have a need and where the vendor sees that they can grow their business through 1-800-Sweeper. We negotiate pricing, usually a price that is less than what a contractor can normally get. Then we get paid a commission, or rebate, to 1-800-Sweeper that is distributed back to the members.”

Each area is represented by one member of the co-op who is licensed to use the vanity number exclusively in his market as defined by the area codes retained. “They get to use 1-800-Sweeper on their vehicles, promotional materials and local advertising directing calls to our call center,” says Lucht. “The member also is represented on the largest and most powerful website in the industry.”

Google likes websites such as 1800SWEEPER.com because of the relative content, key words and the amount of traffic generated. Because of that, members get even more visibility since 1800SWEEPER.com will come up as one of the top search returns for sweepers. “With 1800SWEEPER.com, you get search engine optimization (SEO) as part of your membership,” says Katz. “You don’t have to pay for it on your own for your own site, which can be a huge savings, and has generated a lot of calls.”

Currently, the co-op has 25 members and growing. The goal is to have a sweeper in every area code, which is how they assign calls. “If we get a call from a 847 area code, then it goes to TKG in the Chicago area,” says Lucht.

If you are interested in joining, then your first step should be to check their website for your city. Their business model only allows for one member per area code, so you need to make sure there isn’t a member already in your area. If there isn’t, then you can call 1-800-Sweeper to schedule a presentation. They will walk you through the whole model. Final membership is subject to board approval.

“What sets 1-800-Sweeper apart is that we are looking to grow the organization, but maintaining quality is a top priority,” says Katz. “Because the calls go to the independent sweeper company and the customer works with them directly, we maintain that level of quality service.”

Since they launched the website five months ago, they have generated $200,000 in revenue for the 25 members through click-throughs and calls. Katz adds, “We’ve been getting a lot of calls, probably 3 to 4 per week, and are able to convert about 90 percent of them into regular customers.”

“The amount of business has been surprising,” says Lucht. “It’s amazing to see how much business we have created just from Internet searches. The website has become very prominent in a short time.”

There is a cost to the membership, but Lucht says that the benefits far outweigh them. “We offer a three dimensional competitive advantage to each member company that cannot possibly be achieved individually and each could individually be justified by the cost of membership,” he says. “1-800-Sweeper is an economical salesman representing your business in ways owners are unable to represent themselves due to lack of time or lack of resources.”

Katz adds, “We’ve paid for a whole year’s worth of dues in just two months. So, if you are looking to grow your business, you should join.”

1-800-Sweeper is member-owned and every member gets one vote. “So, it doesn’t matter if you are a one-man shop or someone 10 times larger, you gain the same benefits proportionate to your size,” says Lucht. “Anyone who gets involved will have the same infrastructure and resources that you wouldn’t normally be able to obtain.”

Story by Jennifer Taylor

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