Bill’s Sweeping Service’s Brilliance

With 60 years under their belt, Bill’s Sweeping Service in California shines like a diamond with three generations actively involved in the business.

Bob and Deanna Carter purchased Bill’s Sweeping Service in 1962. With their sons Mark and Mike growing up at the company, the sons were well trained when Bob and Deanna retired 20 years ago. Recently, their grandson, Grayson Carter, joined as operations manager.

“Our industry is particularly suited to family,” says Mark, president of Bill’s Sweeping Service. “The subjective nature of our services are hard to duplicate on the corporate level. Having family members specialize in what they enjoy and are good at, while having the other areas handled, is clearly a strength. It’s also a way of life—Bob and Deanna are still involved. We keep Bob’s coveralls ready whenever he visits. Owning a sweeping company changes you. You always want to dive in and help out or make it better.”

Many of the things they do and the way they approach sweeping has not changed since the 1960’s. “However, we have systemized and implemented procedures to make sure every new operator we bring onboard has the foundation needed to do things our way. Since all the Carter men have put in thousands of hours behind the wheel of a sweeper, even if it was many years ago, this allows us to relate true experiences to our operators. Training for us is clearly not theory. We still rely on a constantly evolving 100+ page outline to ensure that all areas are covered. While our customers may not be able to point them out, they just know the experience is the same regardless of which operator we send.”

Those procedures and trainings help to set Bill’s Sweeping apart. “We focus on safety, technology, systems and participations,” says Mark.

Safety

“It’s a cultural thing and my focus is keeping it top-of-mind in our employees,” says Mark. “We do lots of the easy items such as payroll stuffers, safety signs around the yard and reminders on virtually every piece of paper employees touch like fuel logs and time cards. We show our commitment with custom safety vests and hats. We have collected more than 200 safety videos. All employees are required to watch one a week, and then be tested on it.”

Around the office, he posts color pictures of every sweeper or truck accident they can find online so that drivers internalize the picture and cause them to pause. “Using pictures and video can’t be overstated,” says Mark. “We all learn differently. Some of us are visual learners while some are auditory learners. Since guys make up the majority of our work force and they are predominantly visual learners, training should be delivered with pictures and video. The safety posters we get as NAPSA members also help create variety.”

Technology

Around 1980, Mark graduated from college and they began using a pre-IBM PC computer the Commodore PET. “We even had real-time GPS before cell phones,” he says.

All office work stations have at least two monitors, even in the shop. “I have three,” says Mark. “Giselle Chapman, a frequent speaker at NPE quoted a study that dual monitors increased productivity by 35 percent. Sold! We also have large flat screens in our office, one showing traffic, the other our GPS system. Our operators can check weather and traffic from a shared computer before heading out.

“One of the most exciting developments is a new sweeper specific software application called BirdDog Lead. Our operators are all beta testers, which keeps them interested and engaged.

“Not all of our technology is computer based. Our shop has four independent lifts that can put the largest truck six feet in the air. If we were to start a new location, this is the first item we would purchase. The things you can see and do standing under a truck are so much more than from a creeper or in a pit.

“Our rebuilding and customization program is run by Mike.

We rebuild and update on a constant basis. Getting an older broom truck to sweep like a new one is pretty easy. Keeping them sweeping with hard-to-find parts is a challenge. Keep in mind we don’t suffer the rust issues as other parts of the country might.

“While being leading edge in some areas is great, being ‘Old School’ has it’s benefits. There are only three things that touch the ground on a broom sweeper: rubber, poly and carbide (four if you count the gutter broom). This has not changed in 60 years. Delivering those three at the proper speed and pattern is all about the operator.

“While our business model focuses on the simplicity of older machines and rebuilding, hats off to the manufactures of sweepers. We all get sticker shock but the processes, science, technology and regulations involved with building a sweeper now is unprecedented.

“We can all repair sweepers, but there is true value in attending the schools put on by the sweeper manufactures. The factory tour is worth the price of the trip. Most schools by the way are free, you just need to get there.”

When Grayson graduated from college, they took a huge step forward with their internet presence and usage. Much of what he does can be found at Blacktoptolaptop.com. “Grayson created our website,” says Mark. “Blogging helps to drive traffic to the site and is done as we have time and have interesting things to write about. It can be very fun when there is an interesting topic to write a keyword-rich article about.”

Systems

“Based on the E-Myth by Michael Gerber there are no such things as bad employees, just bad systems,” says Mark. “It is
not to say we have not all made hiring mistakes, but having a system to release them back to industry so they can be successful is important. One of our hiring systems can be found at www.sweeperjobs.com.

“While the web page and setup we use at sweeperjobs.com might be beyond in the in-house skill set of many contractors, we also use https://ziprecruiter.com/r/25f6ccfa. They can post a job to 40+ job boards with one click. Even better, they pull the info from resumes and give you tools to sort and manage the entire process.

“The best systems run on autopilot, however they are always being tested and improved.

“As you might have noticed we tend to share our systems. Either including some in an article like this or doing a seminar or webinar for NAPSA or National Pavement Expo. In fact our entire rate sheet is on our web page for all to see, including direct competitors. Perhaps a little crazy to give things away like that. However, we always get back so much more. The conversations we have with vendors, customers and fellow sweepers help us constantly evolve.

Participation

“As most people know, our national sweeper trade association NAPSA was preceded by NCSA, NCSI and others,” says Mark. “We have been involved since the beginning in 1979. I have worked with every president since our first one Kerry Armstrong. Almost all have become great friends and a huge resource—and that is just the tip of the iceberg. All the board members and members over the years have so much information and experience.

“In 35 years we have only missed one or two events. With each event there is time away from the office, plane tickets, hotels and registration. However, in all that time we have never once had an ROI that did not exceed the cost of the trip. We have to go now, because I know it will cost us money if we don’t.

“The lobbying NAPSA-CA did in California with CARB, while not very successful, did result in some changes to the law. It also created some pretty good friendships with other contractors.

“Being a Certified Sweeping Contractor (CSC) for 10 years has been a bonus as well. The private lunch at NPE allows us to have candid conversations with the leaders of our industry. It’s too bad we don’t have more CSC’s. It works in our marketing and we have had several no-bid opportunities as we were the only CSC in our market for a while. Even the smallest one truck contractor can be a CSC if they follow some basic BMPs, so its baffling why more don’t take advantage of it. It’s only $8.33 a month.

“We also participate heavily in 1-800-SWEEPER. The key here like everything else: we participate! We save money on every program and get new customers. The ROI just works, but you have to use it.

“The Sweeper Summit last November was unbelievable. During the first Sweeper Summit at the bench marking session, one member had significantly lower turnover. He was not paying any more in wages or had any special perks. It turns out he was using a not very well known pre-employment testing system to pre-determine success in the position. It works for him and now it’s working for us.

“It’s funny we were almost not invited to the first 1-800-SWEEPER meeting. Our company did not meet the demographic. It was only being at the NAPSA event where a public invitation was made that we even knew about it. Who knew that missing that event could have been so costly?”

Pressure

Like a diamond, Bill’s Sweeping Service will continue to shine under the increasing pressure from regulations. “Our biggest challenges are all the result of regulations. It’s no secret that California is on top of the heap when it comes to business-killing laws and regulations. It is a moving target with thousands of anti-business laws passed each year in our state.”

To help meet one of California’s annual requirements of diesel trucks, Bill’s Sweeping has added Diesel Smoke testing as one of their services.

“Many of our customers are going to be shocked by the price increases caused by the air quality regulations,” says Mark. “It’s sad that the natural decrease in sweeping caused by higher prices will result in more air and water pollution. It already has.

“On the positive side of the industry, I’m seeing more collaboration and sharing of BMPs than ever before. Even a 60-year-old company can still learn new tricks. Thankfully there are lots of very good and smart people in our industry willing to share.”

Not only will that sharing enable Bill’s Sweeping Service to shine, but also the entire industry.

Story by Jennifer Taylor

RESOURCES
For more information, visit:
■ Bill’s Sweeping Service at www.streetsweeper.com
■ Sweeper Jobs at www.sweeperjobs.com
■ NAPSA at www.powersweeping.org
■ 1-800-SWEEPER at www.1800sweeper.com

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