One Clean Sweep: Making Northwest Arkansas a Cleaner, More Inviting Place to Live

For this month’s Spotlight, we interviewed Mr. M. Todd Wood, owner of One Clean Sweep, Inc. based in Springdale Arkansas

Can you tell me a little bit about your personal background? Your educational background and how you got into the business. What you did before you started your own business?

I graduated from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Law School in 1991. I practiced law in Little Rock from 1991. My father and I bought the business from some friends of my father’s in June 1994, and my father ran it for a year while I was still practicing law in Little Rock. My wife and I moved to northwest Arkansas from Little Rock in 1995 and I took a one-year leave of absence from the firm to get my mind around the business. After that, I continued to practice law at the firm on an of-counsel basis and ran One Clean Sweep, Inc. as well. I enjoyed the small business component of my life because I like being part of a team that has to make something operate effectively. I enjoy tinkering with companies to maximize efficiencies and I really like being involved in the lives of our employees. Our mission is to make northwest Arkansas a cleaner, more inviting place. We have a role to play in making northwest Arkansas a great place to live or visit.
Please tell us a little bit about the history of your company

Our predecessor company started in 1979. We have doubled our customer base and revenues since 1994. That is due in large part to the fact that northwest Arkansas has grown significantly since 1994 as well.

Who works at the company? How many employees? What are their titles (managers, administrative, drivers, truck mechanics, technicians, etc.)

We have four employees – and they are our most valuable assets. The least amount of time any of our employees have been with the company is five years, and he is the son-in-law of an employee who has been with us 19 years. The other two have been with us 18 years and 15 years. Given that we have a service business, it is only as good as those who execute the service and our employees are just terrific. We service approximately 125 to 150 customers each month. We have an independent mechanic. Our drivers perform pre-run and post-run checks on the trucks and report any issues directly to him. In addition, our mechanic checks the trucks weekly. We have no other employees. I take care of all of the administrative work and sales responsibilities.
How do you boost efficiency and morale in your workers? What do you expect of them? Who trains them?

My job is to hire good employees, train those employees and retain those employees. If I’ve done my job well, my employees will not want to work anywhere else and I will not want to lose an employee. I tell them, “I want you to be content enough with your job that if you won the lottery tomorrow – you just might stay.” Hopefully, the job is much more than a salary to them. We really focus on work-life balance. I want them to be content – at home and at work. When issues arise as they always do in life, I want to be of assistance if I can. They make extra effort regularly for the company. If I can reciprocate, I certainly want to do so.

What is your business model? How have you structured your business, how do you secure new customers?

Our growth model has been to secure the retail hubs and office hubs in the northwest Arkansas corridor (Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers and Bentonville). As we acquired the principal shopping centers, we grew in concentric circles to include the primary office complexes. We do not do a lot of advertising. I have testimonials I use from some of our high profile customers that everyone knows and use those to help secure new business. Anyone can pay for advertising, but when someone in the business says this company does a good job, you have an excellent opportunity to use that to acquire new business. This also plays into our model of controlled growth.
Another way we’ve grown has been to be the sweeper of choice for local companies that provide a one-stop shop for property managers. A number of local companies solicit sweeping services from property managers along with their full panoply of services. However, most of those companies don’t actually have sweepers. We do a good bit of business as a sub-contractor for those companies. We have doubled in revenue in the last 15 years, averaging almost 7% growth year-over-year.

What are the products and technologies that you use?

We have three Schwarze Industries 347-I twin diesel engine, chassis mounted sweepers (with the auxiliary unit being a Perkins diesel) all three mounted on a GMC/Isuzu chassis. They are all three equipped with 51hp Perkins auxiliary engines, Double-Draggin skids, WhisperWheeltm sm blowers, and a 3.1 cubic yard hopper. Our 347-1 trucks sweep in both forward and reverse directions that provide easy maneuverability in tighter spaces.

What services does One Clean Sweep offer?

We are a full-service Sweeping Company. As an owner, I had to make a decision between control and growth. Given the different things that I do, I wanted to focus on control – do one thing and do as well as we can. Most of our business is parking lot sweeping. However, we do sweep the downtown shopping area for several small towns including, Farmington, Prairie Grove and Huntsville, Arkansas. We do not do municipal street sweeping per se. Some of our long-term core clients are the Northwest Arkansas Mall, Wal-Mart Stores, Target, Lowe’s, Wal-Mart Neighborhood Markets, Harp’s Food Stores, Kohl’s, Old Navy, Bed Bath & Beyond, Best Buy and Shoe Carnival.

What kind of strategies and policies do you have when it comes to environmental issues? For example, what “green” processes/technologies/policies do you follow? Why those?

Our environmental strategy is simple: Ignorance of the law is no excuse. We know the rules and regulations and we follow them. We use suppression systems in order to minimize small particulates and we follow all regulations regarding waste removal. Currently, we just use regenerative air sweepers with water dust suppression. The newer models, which we are looking into purchasing, are frankly higher efficiency models that not only remove a high level of accumulated material of all sizes, but are also designed to control fugitive dust better than our current models.

What are the most challenging aspects of your business and industry? What hurdles do you confront and how do you handle them? What strategies do you have in place to successfully find solutions to these challenges?

I think the biggest challenge facing the sweeping industry at this time is the impact of third-party aggregators. We have a very good relationship with a number of aggregators that are good partners. Unfortunately, however, there are a number of aggregators who are unscrupulous in their business practices – looking only for the low cost provider with no other factors entering into the calculus. The contractors who are willing to work under those conditions are the aggregators’ lawful prey. In my mind, this has become a poison pill in the industry.

What is your advertising strategy?

Within our market we don’t advertise much. We are active locally in the Chamber of Commerce and with the schools, but we don’t advertise a great deal. Our belief has been that if we provide excellent service at a competitive price and build relationships with our customers, we will continue to see manageable growth. So far that philosophy has served us well.

Tell me about your Community Services, how you participate in community issues. Why is that important to you?

I am involved with the Springdale Chamber of Commerce. I served as chairman of the board in 2013 and currently serve on the entrepreneurial committee of Ignite Springdale. Ignite Springdale is a multi-million dollar, four-year comprehensive initiative of the Chamber designed to support business growth, job growth, workforce development and small business outreach, with the common goal of making Springdale a great place to live and work.

Story by Mark Joseph Manion