AC Sweepers & Maintenance

For this month’s issue we shine a spotlight on Ms. Latasha Crenshaw, owner of AC Sweepers and Maintenance, whose operations are located in the Atlanta, GA area.

Q: Can you us a little bit about your background? Can you say a few words about your education and training? How did you into the business? Why did you get into the power sweeping and other related businesses and services? What did you do before you started your own business?
I graduated from Purdue University in 1999 with a degree in business administration. Directly after graduation I started working at IBM, which offered a very comprehensive sales training program. After IBM I began working in the pharmaceutical industry where I remained for 8 years. Like many others, my career was brought to a halt after the financial debacle of 2008, when I was laid off. Given my knowledge of business administration, I thought it would be helpful to provide needed assistance to my parents, who at the time owned and operated a commercial sweeping company based in Chicago. During that time I became certified through the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). Some time had passed and since I was unable to convince my parents to move to Atlanta and, given my now growing knowledge of at least the business and financial side of the commercial sweeping industry, a wonderful opportunity arose and I decided to start my own sweeping company in Atlanta. We began our operation in 2012. In honor of my parents I decided to call my company “AC,” which stands technically for “all Chicago.” We decided to market ourselves and I have a professional design a our logo which is on all of our trucks. My parents have since retired and sold their company but they still manage to lend a helping hand with AC Sweepers and Maintenance.

Q: Can you tell me about when you first started out in the Commercial Sweeping Industry?
When my parents retired I bought my first sweeper truck from them. It was a Schwarze 337. The second truck purchased was a Victory Mark II. Both of these trucks served me well in the first few years of being in business. I soon purchased another, then another, and now I own and operate 15 sweeper trucks that I put to use on a regular basis. We also started small as far as the office staff is concerned. Now we have function with a full time staff.

Q: What is your business model? What are the most important aspects of the business did you learn becoming the proud owner of a commercial sweeping company?
Our basis business model begins and ends with customer service. Our primary responsibility is to our clients, how to acquire them, manage them properly, and provide the best, and customer-friendly service as possible. At first I thought I would only be interested in the financial and managerial side of the business but when my father, who knows the sweeper business and knows about sweeper truck and operators, recommended that I also learned the field I realized her was right. The first five months I remained mainly in the office, first learning the ins and outs of operational procedures, accounts management, which I had a lot of experience with already, and other day-to-day office business. Then for the next six months I resigned to learn everything I could about field operations and so I assigned myself to be the second shot-gun on one of our sweeper trucks during the evening runs. This way, I got a sense of what sweeping a large space like a commercial lot entails, like how long it takes and why it takes the time that it does. Now, I have an excellent understanding of making estimates and better able to price our services. At the time my children were small and once school resumed, I realized couldn’t be riding the trucks all evening, with all the children’s’ events, and sports, etc. and so that is when I resumed running the office and purely business and financial aspects of the company. I immediately hired a second driver/technician and so fortunately we did not have to slow down our operation at all.
When we first started we pretty much worked exclusively with the commercial side of the business. Then, as we started to expand we landed a lucrative contract with Hartsfield-Atlanta International Airport, the largest in the country and one of the largest international airports worldwide. We have maintained that contract for years and now you can see our trucks on their runways day after day clearing the runway of all debris, included foreign object debris (FOD), unfortunately an contributing to causes of many of the takeoff and some landing accidents. All a large jet engine needs is some large foil wrapper, or shrapnel or even small hand tools such as screwdrivers. We like the fact that we do not only maintain the cleanliness and aesthetics of the runways, but we contribute our small part to the overall safety of air flights coming in and out of Atlanta International.
One aspect of our business that is different than most the competition is we are a truly 24/7 operation. A customer or new client can reach someone on the phone anytime of the day or night with any emergencies or other problems or questions they may have. I have heard other customers complain that they can never seem to get someone to actually be on the other end of a phone call. From my experience, I find that customers really appreciate this kind of customer service.

Q: What is the breakdown in percentage of each of your divisions.
When we first started out we were strictly working in commercial enterprises, and developed many contracts for commercial parking lots. We then started servicing airports, large and small. Once we secured a solid client base, we expanded into the industrial side of the business and started developing numerous contracts with some of the largest construction firms in the Atlanta areas. This keeps us plenty busy. I would say now 25% client base in commercial, a good 60% servicing airports, and the remaining 15 is industrial and large-scale construction projects. In fact, we have been witnessing a solid double-digit growth each year we have been in business.

Q: Tell us a little bit about the day-to-day operations? How many sites are you servicing on any given day?
We have at least 5-6 trucks out doing parking lots at night all over city and the greater Atlanta area. Each truck averages 10-12 lots per night. Our commercial division is in operation four days a week, three-hundred and sixty days a year. Airport work is more or less seasonal, with a good six months duration of time, from March to November. Our industrial division I still consider in its infancy and so we still in the process of working out the particulars, problems, and trends, but I can say that the industrial division is the largest growing out of the three, and it is only ramping up as the weather gets warmer. Of course, like with everyone else, weather is a big determining factor about how much work we do in any given month. Airports must be kept spotless for safety reasons and so if it rained during the day we are there at night sweeping the runway. We collect over 20 yards of debris that we bring back to our base and it is all dumped in roll-off dumpster. We hire a qualified removal company that knows all of the rules and regulations about waste disposal and are in full compliance with all local ordinances as well as storm water regulations set by the EPA. When the roll-offs are full, they simply come and remove them. We have researching different re-cycling methods and companies; sorting the debris from the soil and extract all undesirables such as metals, etc. can be returned clean and safe. During the fall of course there are a ton of leaves that we remove from streets and sites and so we also looking into different ways to compost. And then there are those companies that specialize in processing and repurposing all of the broken asphalt we remove.

Q: Can you tell us about some of the employees working for you?
We employ 2 night manager who alternate every other week. They go from site to site, airport to airport, making sure the drivers and technicians are doing everything runs smoothly correctly, performing post-checks and all aspects of quality and safety assurance and making sure the customers are totally satisfied with the work we do. There is also a full-time office manager who also does invoicing, route scheduling, coordinating drivers and routes, and assuring that the drivers and technicians have everything they need, all of the necessary supplies and equipment so that they can do the job efficiently and thoroughly. We were the first to have women drivers at the airports we service. There is also a full-time mechanic at our home-base garage to fix or repair the trucks for optimum servicing. All in all, we employ 15 full-time workers. That is very different than when we first started with one technician/driver and me working shot-gun for the first six months. Everyone takes it as their prime responsibility to be in constant communication with one another as well as the clients. We accomplish this with fleet management software, GPS tracking devices on all of the trucks and everyone also has a smartphone, we prefer Android technology, so everybody has all the appropriate access at the tip of their finger. In fact, we are in communication with our neighbor a few shops down from where we are located in an industrial park start collaborating with on recycling, composting, etc.

Q: Tell us a little about your shop/garage.
We actually own and use two different sites. Our original site is in an industrial park that is 2400 square feet and a site on the south side of the city near the international airport which is 9600 square feet. We do most of our vehicle and machinery repair and maintenance in house.

Q: Tell us about your fleet of vehicles.
For our commercial and parking lot jobs we use Tymco models 210 and Schwarze 330s. For the airports we use Schwarze 348s, Tymco 600 regenerative air sweepers, and a few Victory Mark 2 sweepers. At the industrial construction sites we employ a few Steward Amos S4s and the Schwarze M6000. All together we own and operate 14 different sweepers, each unique for the particular kind of work that needs to be done. We are presently looking into alternative fuel-driven and propane-fueled sweepers. Most of our trucks at present are operating on a dual-motor system but we are also looking into single-engine technologies. Please visit AC Sweepers Maintenance at their website for more information: www.acsweepers.com.

Story by Mark Joseph Manion

RESOURCES:
www.schwarze.com
www.tymco.com
www.victorysweepers.com
www.stewart-amos.com

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