The Chattanooga Charm

Situated along the meandering Tennessee River, Chattanooga is rated as one of the top 45 places to go by the New York Times. As tourists pour in, Pete Phillips, and his team at Clean Sweep, keep those shopping centers picture-perfect.

As the ‘go-to’ guy for many property managers, Phillips and his 12 employees at Clean Sweep provide all services needed for successful property management: sealcoating, striping, asphalt maintenance, landscaping, mowing, big debris removal, and more. “My goal is to be a one-stop shop for these guys,” says Phillips. “More and more, they want one vendor so they don’t have to worry about it and it’s done. If the job is more than what we typically handle, then I sub it out. It helps us to retain our properties.”

When Phillips bought the company from his dad almost 20 years ago, they primarily swept parking lots. “My mom was a property manager and couldn’t find a decent sweeper,” says Phillips. “My dad, an electrician and handyman, said that he could do it. So, he bought a sweeper and the driver wrecked it six months later. We rented one to keep our centers looking good, repaired the truck and have never looked back.”

“In 1984, there weren’t as many parking lots as there are now,” says Phillips. “We were fortunate during the 1990s boom of shopping centers with Best Buy, Target, and other big name stores. We serviced most of those customers and got first dibs on the shopping centers. A lot of them we’ve swept from construction through today. We went in for the contractors to clean up and never left. We’ve had slow, steady growth. We just started asking customers what they needed and filled those needs. First they needed pressure washing, then window washing. I saw a need for a broom truck, so we bought one last year.”

Known to smile for any occasion that will garner him free press, Phillips has secured coverage in the local paper many times with his savvy use of the press release. “If we hire someone, I put out a press release,” says Phillips. “When we were re-certified, I put out a press release, and when we had a big ribbon-cutting for our re-designed offices, I put out a press release.” These and other marketing tactics have helped his company to become one of the biggest in the area. “Now, obviously, the paper doesn’t print them all, but I’m all about free advertising.

“Back in the day, to get new customers, we used the yellow pages and word-of-mouth,” says Phillips. “We still use word-of-mouth, in fact we have a property manager that we call our raving fan, because of all of the referrals we get from her. But now, we also use Google, search engine optimization, and pay-per-click. We also letter our trucks and have uniforms for our employees. Our newest employee saw our guys and wanted to come work for us. We strive for professionalism. You won’t be embarrassed by my equipment pulling onto your lot.”

As a member of 1-800-Sweeper, Phillips attracts new business through the nationwide alliance, and utilizes his member discounts through them and NAPSA. “I used to get my brooms through Keystone, but now I use United Rotary because of the member discount,” says Phillips. “I get a lot of my supplies through 1-800-Sweeper now.”

When it comes to replacement parts, Phillips relies on his full-time, in-house mechanic to manufacture what they can. “I try to keep more than one of the same sweeper trucks to cut down on my inventory of spare parts,” says Phillips. “But, when we have to replace it, then we try to fabricate our own parts. If it’s an OEM part, then we try third parties. If you have the part number, sometimes an online hunt is the best deal. I found a part online, new in the box, for $5,200. My third party dealer had it for $8,400.”

Occasionally, Phillips doesn’t get to pick his sweeper from a line up. “I’ve bought some from other companies that I’ve acquired,” says Phillips. “I currently have seven sweepers, six air and one broom from Schwarze, Tymco, Victory, and Elgin. But, most of them I try to buy the same model year so that I only have one starter or one alternator on hand. I have spare rims mounted and ready to go when tires get low. We will change out the whole set.”

Before purchasing another sweeper, Phillips would like to see which way the industry is going to go when it comes to alternative fuels. “The thought process now is that stainless steel is the way to go,” says Phillips. “But they are talking about CNG, LPG, LNG. I just don’t know which way they are going to go. It’s confusing. So for now, I plan to refurbish what I have until the industry takes a direction.”

Until that decision is made, Clean Sweep will keep building steam like the Chattanooga Choo Choo, keeping the city’s scenic venues clean.

Story by Jennifer Taylor

Resources

For more information:
—Clean Sweep, at www.41cleansweep.com
—Elgin, at www.elginsweeper.com
—NAPSA, at www.powersweeping.org
—Schwarze, at www.schwarze.com
—Tymco, at www.tymco.com
—Victory, at www.victorysweepers.com
—1-800-Sweeper, at www.1800sweeper.com

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