Royal Service

When your clients have names like the Kansas City Chiefs and the Country Club Plaza, you know you have to be at the top of your game. American Companies have several sister companies in the Kansas City metropolitan area, which allows them to offer special event planners a variety of services.

Owner Gale Holsman Jr. offers what his competitors can’t: one-stop shopping. “I don’t know anyone that can offer all of these services without using subcontractors. It allows special event planners to have one meeting (one vendor) instead of four or five and to write one check. So, instead of playing phone tag with five people, they get me or my crew.”

Holsman’s crew includes services from American Sweeping Inc., American Waste Systems Inc., Total Venue and American Labor Source Inc. “In addition to cleaning up after the event, we offer our clients portering, trash boxes and liners, roll off dumpsters, portable toilets, stages, lighting, sound, and power washing to help clean up after food vendors,” says Holsman.

Special Events

“What happened in our case was that we were sweeping all over Kansas City and found that our phone was ringing off the hook with people wanting extra cleanup for concerts, bike runs and triathlons,” says Holsman. “They also wanted us to do trash control during the event and it elevated us to do service for special events. As a result, we have grown and worked our local parades to include St. Patrick and the American Royal, numerous races, numerous Chamber of Commerce events, charity events and much more.”

Holsman’s long time girlfriend Gail owns Gail’s Harley Davidson in Kansas City. “We were paying $10,000 for stage and equipment for weekend events at the dealership,” says Holsman. “So, I built a stage to cut costs. When we weren’t using it for the dealership, I decided to rent it out, now the business has grown and we have two stages and will add a third soon.”

This allows American Sweeping’s sister company Total Venue to offer the total package: stage, lighting and sound. “Through my connections, I can also provide entertainment, but it all boils down to their budget. We offer litter control while the event is in progress, can do trash boxes and the roll offs to put the trash in, and power washing in case your popcorn vendor gets oil on the ground. Our porters go through to get the big stuff and then we come back through with our sweepers. We also offer the portable toilets or the nicer trailers with air conditioning and TV’s.

“Budget is a major word. Everything comes down to your client’s budget. I love charities, but you have to remember that no one stays in business doing it for a reduced charge or even free and you can’t provide your services for free.

“For the Kansas City Chiefs, I have a contract to cover their events and games. So, in addition to providing 320 toilets in the parking lot on game days, I also clean up for the events that rent their parking lot. This year, there will be 18 events, which ends up making them an even larger client.”

American Sweeping also works what Holsman calls a special, special event. “I also have permanent special events, like Country Club Plaza. It’s beautiful and one of the oldest shopping districts in the country providing elite shopping. We provide a full crew on site 24 hours 7 days a week. We are responsible for all cleaning service from the front door out to include all garages. We sweep, power wash, porter, etc. It’s a special account unlike any other account and a really good source of consistent monthly income.”

For most events, the city typically requires that the event has a sweeping contractor before issuing the permit to ensure that the city will be clean after the event is over. It’s also good to know that different vendors, and sometimes their host cities, have different definitions of clean.

Do Your Homework

“When you get involved in any new venture, you need to understand what is involved. The difference between a rock concert and a Susan G. Komen race is like the difference between helicopters and airplanes. They both fly, but do so very differently. Some parades, like the St. Patrick’s Day parade, will take 40 of our people to run it, which includes the portable toilets.

“So, you need to find the experts. Read an article like this one. Go to trade shows and attend classes. Call around to other vendors and attend events similar to what services you will be wanting to provide.

“When I decided to expand into portable toilets, I looked online at the equipment and websites that provided that service. Satellite, one of the largest manufacturers, offers a two-day class. It was so good that I went two years in a row. I also went to a trade show in that industry to interview folks. I made sure that

I had my pricing schedule right. You don’t want to take the road of ‘grow, grow, gone’ when the bank comes calling. You also don’t want to get into an industry and undercut yourself and others. You need to know what your equipment and time are worth.

“With toilets, I made an investment. Each unit runs about $800-$1,000 and you need 100 toilets to get a truck load. Then you need a 950 gallon truck to pump everything out which means spending $100,000 for the truck and $80,000 for the units. That’s a pretty good size investment so you want to make sure you’ve done your homework before getting involved.”

Become the expert

“What differentiates our company from my competitors is the one-stop shopping. With one check and one call, we can offer a variety of services without subbing it out. In 30 years of doing business, I’ve been very fortunate. I tell my clients that what they are buying is my team and I. With our experience we can get the job done in a way that will make our customer look great!

“I’ve done this one event for two years, but they have a new girl running it this year. I know that she is going to hand me the check and ask me to do my thing. However, there have been other event planners that have come in and don’t know the city codes. I’ve been asked to put rolls off dumpsters and toilets in places where they aren’t safe and I know that the city will come and fine us. So, we tell them that we can’t put them there. Sometimes, they are insistent and those are the times that you have to walk away from an event because you aren’t going to win.

“Other times, we just get outbid and the event planner is only looking at price. One race wanted a $40 toilet compared to my $90 toilet, so they went with the other guy. She called me afterwards because she was appalled at the difference. You have to buy good equipment and know what you’re worth. Sure, I can sweep for $20 an hour if I run my sweeper at 80 mph, but that isn’t going to do anyone any good.”

To make sure everyone is happy in the end, Holsman has a process. “We talk about their plan and then our plan. Everything circles back to a good plan. The key to success in our business is to “listen.” To get there, I have to understand what their plan is. To do that, I have to listen how they want to do their event. We write it down and develop a service agreement. Once they sign, your scheduled and off and running.”

Market your service

Getting your name out there can be challenging. Holsman says his number one tool is his website. “It brings me more traffic than anyone on the street. You can Google “American Sweeping” and my daughter Shannon pays a lot of attention to ensure that we come up at the top. It’s 24/7 so it brings in a lot of traffic. We made sure that we have good Flash, that it’s bright and nice to look at. We have fun videos which explain what services we offer.

“We also do promotional email blasts, pay for a Dodge report and Google events. Then we have a marketing rep that calls on each company. I spend the first part of each week calling people to follow up and see if they have any questions.

“We are also involved in the associations. I truly believe in getting involved with them. The Chambers are really good and have ended up being some of our number one customers. Meet the president and join them. There are other associations that we get involved with, KCAC and IREM. My brother Scott also likes LinkedIn.
American Companies continues to be at the top of their game providing fabulous service to their customers and scoring touchdowns with each event!

Story by Jennifer Taylor

RESOURCE
For more information, visit:
■ American Companies Inc., www.americansweepingkc.com
■ Satellite, www.satelliteindustries.com

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