Abundant Growth

Successful entrepreneurs adapt and grow to meet the needs of their market. John Agamalian has done just that with SoCal Sweeping, building and expanding his company to include a variety of services to meet his customers’ demands.

“We do the job right and we stand behind what we do,” says Agamalian. “If you’re the best, you always succeed. It’s important to our customers that we know that we are accountable to them. They trust us and that builds long-term relationships. If there’s a problem, then we want to address it and resolve it. We care, we want them to know we care, and they want to know that we care.”

Planting a Seed

When SoCal Sweeping launched, Agamalian had his own successful trash and recycling company, Trojan Disposal, that he started after college. After growing the company to more than 100 employees and serving as president of the National Solid Waste Management Association, he was asked to be a silent partner in SoCal Sweeping in 1991.

About the same time, Agamalian sold his trash and recycling company to start a medical waste company, which he grew and then sold in 2001. SoCal wasn’t in good shape by then with only $15,000 in monthly revenue, so Agamalian stepped in, turned the company around and began expanding.

Adapting to a Harsh Landscape

“When the economy started crashing in 2008, I noticed that a lot of businesses were hiring landscaping companies to just blow their parking lots instead of paying for a big sweeper,” says Agamalian. “I also saw that some landscaping companies were subcontracting out to other sweepers. So, we got into landscaping.

“From a service level, we just didn’t have much control over the other services when we subbed the jobs out. By doing it ourselves, we have quality control. We also expanded into high-pressure washing and day portering, which helped us retain clients. Those areas have higher margins too. Because my expertise is in trash services, I hired someone that knew what they were doing from an operational standpoint.”

Just Add Water

California has strict storm water laws. So, when Agamalian wanted to get into high-pressure washing, he decided to invest in equipment that would allow his customers to have options.

“We offer a closed system that captures and reuses the water,” says Agamalian. “It can cut down on labor because we don’t have to stop to fill up the tank as often allowing us to work for a longer period of time. The only down-side is since you are working with gray water, it doesn’t always get as clean, but most of the time, it’s great.

“We also offer a portable clarifier which allows us to reclaim and clarify the water to use on landscaping or put down the sewer because it removes the solids from the water.

“Our third option, is that we can haul the water away. It’s the most expensive option.”

Flourishing

“Last year, we grew 25 percent. We were flat from 2008, until last year, but we’ve seen the change. We had to do more work back then to just maintain. Now, people are willing to pay more for good service.”

SoCal began expanding into municipal services last year as well, gaining the Department of Motor Vehicles, San Diego colleges, California Highway Patrol, the University of California Irvine, and others. In each instance, they have multiple locations with each agency.

“I realized there was an opportunity there,” says Agamalian. “Each week we seem to bid something.”
Agamalian believes that one of the reasons his company has been so successful in winning bids is because the process is so cumbersome. “There’s a lot of work that has to be done on the front end. The bidding process is complex and you have to understand how to prepare the bids. After awhile, it becomes easier. But there are other things that you need to do before you even start bidding like registering with the Small Business Administration. If you are a woman or minority-owned business, then you will want to register your company that way. You also want to locate and find all of the different sources to be made aware of when contracts go out for bid.”

SoCal Sweeping also has a lot of commercial clients—property managers and HOAs. “We have a lot of gated communities here in California and they are responsible for their private streets. So, we work with a lot of HOAs to sweep their streets.”

The Right Tools

Whether you’re growing a garden, or building a business, you need the right tools to get the job done. SoCal Sweeping uses their 15 Schwarze, NiteHawk, and Masco sweepers to offer their customers the quality service that they’ve come to expect from them. Each of the sweepers are outfitted with GPS.

When it comes to backpack blowers, they count on Stihl. “We have an electric blower that we use if a city doesn’t allow regular ones because of environmental or noise concerns,” says Agamalian. “The backpack blowers are very powerful and last a long time. We have to maintain them, but it’s important to maintain any piece of equipment if you want it to last.”

Branching Out

Like plants that grow toward the light and multiply, successful companies grow and adapt to changing market forces. To continue to meet customer needs, Agamalian plans to expand into other exterior maintenance areas such as window washing. “I see us acquiring other companies and tucking them into our operations. Further down the road, I see us expanding beyond southern California. We would like to go state-wide.”

Like any expansion, there are lots of things to consider like maintaining quality. “We have to continue to do everything right,” says Agamalian. “If any one service is not up to standard, then we risk losing that account for our other services as well. We have to continue to perform at a high level of competency.”

Performing at a high level has been Agamalian’s standard in each of his companies. Two years ago, he was tapped to turn around a flailing distributor in California. After adapting to a whole different industry, he has accomplished just that, and launched a new vodka company, Blue Ice Vodka.

“It’s always fun to do something different, and to try something different,” says Agamalian.

If his other companies are any indication, then SoCal Sweeping and Blue Ice Vodka will continue to grow and prosper in the years to come.

For more information on SoCal Sweeping, call 800-290-0291 or visit www.socalsweeping.com

Story by Jennifer Taylor

Resources

For more information:
Schwarze: www.schwarze.com
NiteHawk: www.nitehawksweepers.com
Masco: www.mascosweepers.com
Stihl: www.stihlusa.com

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