Total Power Sweeping Services Incorporated

This month brings us to a successful and ever-growning company named Total Power Sweeping Services Incorporated, Inc. which operates out of its three locations-Fredericksburg, Richmond, and Manassas, Virginia, but extends its services to the entire state of Virginia, and beyond. I had the wonderful opportunity to speak with Mr. Joe Wright, President and Co-Owner of the company.

Q. Can you tell me a little about your background? How did you get into the business? What you did before you started your new business and how that background prepared you for the Power Sweeping Industry?
Well, I started off as a maintenance engineer. Then I moved on to operating engineer, and was then promoted to chief engineer for a large property management company. I remained as a chief engineer for 11 years.

Q. Please tell me a little about the history of your company—how and when it started? Who are the top management?
My wife Margaret and I started Total Power Sweeping Services on January 4th, 1999. I am the President and co-founder of the company. Margaret is Vice President and also a co-founder of the company. As chief engineer, one of my responsibilities was to be in charge of finding sweeping companies to clean and maintain all of the sites the company managed. I was the go-to guy for all of the power sweeping work my company needed because I had developed a great deal of knowledge of facilities management. I worked with power sweeping companies for years, contracted with this or that company and, in the process, I learned a lot about the sweeping business. I learned all about the sweeper trucks, their contract procedures, all about what sweeping companies do and are responsible for.
Margaret and I always dreamed of owning and operating our own business and, when just the right opportunity arose, we saw a niche in the power sweeping market and seized it full force. With my extensive knowledge of the sweeping business, and with Margaret’s years working as a senior office manager and administrator, we knew we would make a great team. We have a combined total of over 25 years in the personalized service industries. I would be, of course, the field specialist and Margaret would take on the roll of bookkeeping and accounting specialist, as well as being responsible for staffing and managing the office and every administrative task that is necessary as small business owners.

Q. What plans did you put in place, what kind of business model did you devise and develop?
I would have never started a business unless I knew it inside and out. So, I researched the power sweeping industry for a good two years. Being in the property maintenance business and working closely with sweepers, I knew a lot of them and so I talked with as many sweeping company owners as I could, asking them lots of questions about how they run their business, what it takes to run a power sweeping company, what are the challenges and tricks of the trade.etc. I read as many texts about sweeper trucks as I could, operating manuals, etc. and so I would know as much as I could about the mechanical, electrical, and all the other operating systems of these trucks. I talked with workers in the field, watched them, asked questions, etc. So, when I was fully acquainted with the business and the time was right, I knew exactly the kind of power sweeping company I wanted, how I was going to operate it, how I would set my contracts, what makes a good or bad contract, what services we would offer, what the office would be like, and everything else.

Q. Tell me about some of the services that Total Power Sweeping Services Incorporated (TPSSI) offers.
When we first started out, most of our business was industrial site work. As we started to make a name for ourselves, more and more property owners were approaching me and asking about our other services. So we started taking on contracts for large and small shopping centers, home owner association contracts, etc. We soon moved on to large shopping centers and malls. Now I would say that 60 percent of our business is commercial contracts and 40 percent is industrial. As far as our sweeping services are concerned, we offer a wide range of services to fit any client’s needs. Our goal is to be flexible and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If a customer of mine calls and needs a large stretch of highway swept and clean, or a large construction site needs our services, we send out any of our available trucks immediately, no matter what time of the day it is.
Being a true one-stop-shop, we can save the client time and money if they decide to invest in any of the services that we need. We are equipped and staffed to handle any and all types of commercial or industrial power sweeping needs, including shopping centers, office building complexes, malls, commercial garages, municipal and residential roads, construction/milling, etc. You name it we can sweep it. We have a large subcontracting relationship with Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond, and we take care of all of their sweeping power washing needs, and whatever else they request.
As time went on, I kept being approached by our clients asking if we could do power washing, seasonal cleanups, asphalt repairing, parking lot sign installation and repair, general maintenance, porter services, concrete and brick repair, painting and line striping, bollard installation and repair, and commercial landscaping. Nowadays, these are some of the services we are called on to provide on a regular basis, but we also offer other services as well. For example, there can be considerable snowfall during the winter here in Virginia, and so we do a ton of snow removal during the cold seasons.
Slowly but surely, pacing ourselves so we didn’t stretch too far, we eventually diversified and expanded into all of these services we now offer. One of our more recent contracts is servicing an 18-mile stretch of highway hot-lanes, HOV pay lanes. You can see on our website that we list a few dozen of our biggest clients. I would say that on average, we service close to 100 shopping centers and other commercial centers on a regular basis. All of our trucks are operating night and day.

Q. Tell me about what is in your garage. What types of sweeper trucks do you own and operate?
The first sweeper truck I purchased was a Tymco 350, which was a real powerhouse. Over the years, as we expanded and diversified, we purchased an Elgin Crosswind, and 2 Schwarze Updrafts. The Updrafts are mounted on fuel-efficient GMC 1500 chassis and I like the power of the gutter brooms on them. The Crosswind we use especially for heavy duty jobs like asphalt milling clean-up, the HOVs on the highways, etc. We now also own, and use extensively, just like all of our trucks, two DX 200 Nighthawks. We also operate a Stewart Amos Galaxy R6. It has a Cummings engine, 26,000 lb. chassis and mounted on a Freightliner M2 chassis. In addition, our fleet includes 4 1600 RBS Mascos, loaded on-half ton trucks. These are great for small difficult places to get to. For power washing we use a trailer-mounted pressure rig. In the winter, we do a lot of snow removal. For the snow removal I usually end up operating 4 large diesel tractors, and other trucks we use for snow removal, like John Deer tractors, Bobcats, etc. We also have 8 support trucks, four-wheel drive vehicles, etc.

Q. What is the organizational structure of the company? What management positions are there? Who fills them? Who manages what? What types of workers do you employ? What are their main responsibilities?
Margaret and I took the time and patience, along with a well-designed interviewing screening process, and put together the best team we could ever dream for. Everyone who works for us is a great, loyal, diligent and reliable employee. TPSSI truly could not be as successful as it is without the hard work, determination and commitment of our employees to the goals and vision of the company. We are very proud of everyone who works for us.
We are running numerous heavy and light sweeping truck routes each night, operating 10 sweeper trucks and 8 other support trucks, four-wheel drive vehicles, service trucks etc. With up to 18 heavy and light trucks and vehicles on the road daily, responding to just as many worksites, following a complex routing schedule, we must be sure that everything is organized correctly, with all of our trucks, and everybody is where they are supposed to be. To make sure everything is in order, we rely on Kevin Hitt, our maintenance supervisor, the leader of our maintenance team, who is responsible for making sure everything maintenance related gets done right.
Then there is Guy Keith, our night route supervisor. He manages the night routes, drivers, and laborers. He is responsible for making sure the routes get completed properly and that our customer’s sites look their best. To make sure all of our trucks are running in tip-top shape we have Keith Wilson, our senior mechanic. Keith keeps our sweeper trucks in tip-top shape. A daily check of the trucks and his knowledge of auto and truck mechanics helps prevent truck-related issues, so we can sweep every night! Kevin, Guy and Keith have been with us since the beginning so they know everything there is to know about how we like things done and how to do it all correctly with the goal to not only meet our clients’ expectations, but to exceed them.
Almost 95 percent of all maintenance, engine work, repair work, fabrication, etc. is done in house. We maintain a well-stocked garage with state of the art mechanical and electronic equipment. As for our long-term sub-contracting with VCU in Richmond, VA., we rely on Brandon Cook, who works as our college and university supervisor for the night routes. Brandon’s quick thinking and leadership skills aid in his ability to get things done.
Amanda Sumner is our office administrator and is the day-to-day office contact. If there are any questions, Amanda is there to help. She has a real good knowledge of all the kinds of services we offer. She is responsible for coordinating jobs, writing up proposals, estimates, work orders, and much more. Anna Wright works as our payroll administrator. Anna handles everything employee related—from creating employee files to printing the checks. Sabrina Wright assists with daily office operations. All in all, we have around 38 employees working for us. No matter how many power sweeping sites we are servicing, we always operate with 2-person teams.

Find out more about TPPSI from their website:
www.totalsweep.com.

Story by Mark Joseph Manion

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