The Sweeper Preacher

Gale Holsman started driving a trash truck when he was 17, but he wanted to be in control of his success. He eventually struck out on his own and continued improving and growing until his company, American Sweeping Inc., was one of the largest sweeping companies in the country. Now, Holsman has scaled back his business to be the ”go-to” company in Kansas City.

“I left a management position at a national waste management company because I had a desire to be in business for myself,” says Holsman. He bought his first vacuum from Delta sweeping. “Jim Haston, owner of Delta Sweeping, told me he had a sweeper truck he would sell me for $10,000. He also gave me my first sweeping job—a Michael Jackson concert at Arrowhead Stadium. I paid for my truck that first weekend in business.”

Holsman soon sold the Royals on the idea to sweep the parking lots after the games. This was in 1985 when the Royals won the World Series. Needing a second truck, Holsman recruited his attorney, Sandy Krigel. They became partners with the agreement Krigel would do the billing while Holsman did the work. It was a great partnership until 1996 when Holsman bought out the partnership. Krigel remains his attorney today. “The business grew until we had offices all over the country and investments in other companies. I bought a plane and had a pilot that flew me around and it was quite a hoot.

“I was pretty good at making money. Being Donald Trump was fun for about nine years, but I decided that it was time to slow down.”

Holsman sold many of his out-of-town businesses and reduced his sweeping company offices to one in Kansas City, Missouri. He kept several sister companies in the city such as Total Venue, American Waste Systems Inc., American Labor Source Inc. and a 187-acre horse ranch. American Sweeping Inc. will sweep anywhere and employs approximately 150 employees.

Knowing where you stand

“The key to owning one or several businesses is knowing exactly what your payables and receivables are,” says Holsman. “Mine are kept up on a daily basis and sent to me on my smartphone. I know a lot of guys that just want to work and not worry about that revenue, but if you aren’t careful, you can work yourself out of a job.

“I have the desire, wherewithal and energy to be successful. You have to have a plan for tomorrow and keep an eye on today. You have to be trained to be successful and know what to do and what not to do.”

Diversity

Holsman is a strong believer in diversification, which allows you to weather the bumps when one industry is down and another is up. Although his services cross over and he can provide them all to one vendor, he isn’t limited to just one service or industry. He can provide sweeping, special events, powering washing, pavement maintenance or any of his other services.

Street sweepers and roll offs are evenly tied to make up the bulk of Holsman’s business. Toilets are about to catch them. You just have to look at your percentages. Numbers are great but you need to compare your percentage of profit from month to month and year to year. That’s when you know if you are making money and where to invest your money.

“You might say, ‘I made $1.2 million this month,’ but you need to know how much labor, fuel, insurance premiums, maintenance, etc. costs and what your percentage of profit is. I know at any given time where I’m making money and losing money.

“Because I know my percentages, I sold my parking lot sweeping business. The percentages just weren’t there. I reinvested that money into areas where those percentages were higher. I had also been in parking lot sweeping for 25 years and gotten burned out. When you get tired of doing something, it’s time to do something different. You always want to sell something on the upside too.”

“That is another reason I decided to come back to Kansas City and sell the other businesses. You end up running all over the country and your business ends up owning you. Back when I started out, I didn’t have much money. I just went out and worked. I stepped forward and made money. Now that I have assets, the challenges are greater and bring more tension.”

Associations

Holsman is a big proponent of joining associations as a great way to improve the overall knowledge and professionalism of an industry. It’s also a great way to network and gain business.

As a founding member of NAPSA, he wanted to create a place for new guys to go and get educated. “A few of us put $2,000 in to get it started because we felt that education is important.”

This past year, Holsman joined the newly-formed World Sweeper Association. “This organization was formed by Ranger Kidwell Ross in January 2013 and allows members access to more than 250 articles, and more than 65 audio podcasts. Another member-only benefit is a full-lines insurance carrier which offers a premium payment program split into 50 weeks with no interest.”

Judging

Years ago, The Learning Channel’s show Junkyard Wars wanted to pit two teams against each other. Led by Schwarze’s Jim Adair, one team of guys built an air sweeper. Elgin’s Brian Giles led the mechanical sweeper team. It took five days to build the sweepers. Holsman served as a judge. “It was great!” says Holsman. “I was a celebrity for a week. We filmed down the street from The Tonight Show in Burbank and got to meet a lot of folks. At the end of the five days, the two machines faced off on different material and the air machine won!”

Advantages

“My advantage is my staff,” says Holsman. “Our follow up and follow through is what sets us apart from our competitors. We take great pride in making our customers look good. If we are doing your event, your people will have a place to go to the bathroom that smells and looks good. We will make sure the venue is cleaner than you found it. We are well-trained and well-staffed and put a great plan together that make our customers successful.

“I’m in business to do business and will be here for the long run. I’m big on surveys and want to know what my customers think. We keep the lines of communication open.”

Equipment

“We use just about every type of equipment because not one sweeper will do it all,” says Holsman. “We have Elgin, Victory, Tennant and Schwarze to name just a few.”

“We also do crack filling and sealcoating. Our new infrared machine, built by Kasi lets us fix pot holes on site.”

Holsman’s business sense and drive has taken him from trash truck driver to successful businessman. His route included homes in upscale neighborhoods where he only dreamed of living. Now he is living that dream in that neighborhood.

Story by Jennifer Taylor

RESOURCES
For more information, visit:
■ American Sweeping Inc., www.americansweepingkc.com
■ Elgin, www.elginsweeper.com
■ Kasi, www.kasiinfrared.com
■ Schwarze, www.schwarze.com
■ Tennant, www.tennantco.com
■ Victory, www.victorysweepers.com

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