Jack Davenport of Jack Davenport Sweeping Services

An interview with Eric Sunderland of Jack Davenport Sweeping Services in Bakersfield, CA.

Being in business since 1979, Jack Davenport Sweeping Services has remained a powerful street sweeping force throughout California. They’ve provided quality day porter, power washing, parking lot sweeping, and street sweeping services for construction clients, property management companies, and counties. They offer dependable and dedicated 24/7 service that adheres to the strict guidelines created by the California Air Resources Board. We were lucky enough to chat with Eric Sunderland (Jack Davenport Sweeping Services Director of Operations) for our Spotlight and see what makes their business stand out in the competitive California market.

So tell us about yourself. We would love to know more about your background. What motivated you to immerse yourself in the world of street sweeping and what were the roots of Jack Davenport Sweeping Services?
Eric: Jack Davenport Sweeping Services, Inc. started out of necessity more than thirty five years ago. Fresh off of relocating from to Bakersfield to assist in opening a new Sears store, Jack Davenport needed to find a way to bring in more income. Jack perused the business section of the local paper and saw an ad for a street sweeper for sale. Having spent years in the US Army reserves in an engineering battalion, and with affections for big machines and playing in the dirt, Jack took a chance and bought the sweeper and the few accounts that came with it. Over time, through hard work, perseverance, integrity, and a dogged devotion to customer service, that one street sweeper was transformed into one of the largest and most successful sweeping services companies in California.

How does your business model operate? What kind of configurations, organizations, models, and plans did you have when you entered the street sweeping business?

Eric: Jack Davenport Sweeping Services started out with one truck and a handful of accounts, and is now a diversified corporation with three regional offices and multifaceted services. We have our executive team that oversees all operations, regional managers responsible for their areas, and field supervisors that manage our various departments in both their daytime and nighttime operations. We maintain our fleet of machines in house to the extent possible, and perform all of our job functions without the use of subcontractors. We strive to be the go to contractor for all street sweeping needs within our areas of operation. We provide diversified services to our retail and commercial clients so that in many cases we are the only contractor needed to maintain their facilities.

What kind of growth has your business seen over the years? Have you noticed any patterns in your work? Have you had to handle a serious issue on the job? If so, how was the problem solved?

Eric: Our company is a classic American success story. We started with one truck and one employee, the owner. Over the years we have steadily grown to a fleet of 29 machines and 25 employees. A key factor in our growth has been our devotion to customer service. We make sure that all of our clients are happy. Diversification of services has played a key role in our growth as well. In addition to street sweeping we also provide parking lot sweeping, day porter services, pressure washing and steam cleaning service, large debris removal, and landscape maintenance.

When it comes to new customers, what do you do to make sure they’ll continue using your service? Also, what are the size of the contracts you deal with?

Eric: Once we gain a new customer, whether it be from a referral, our website, or one of our many marketing strategies, our focus is on making sure they understand what we are providing for them, we are answering all of their questions and alleviating any of their concerns regarding our services, and communicating before during and after our first service. We know that we have the best equipment and the most talented and well trained operators on hand, and when we couple that with excellent communication and customer service our clients are happy. Our contracts range from single facilities to military installations, small cities, and large industrial organizations.

How many customers do you serve on a regular basis? If it varies, how many contracts do you serve a month?

Eric: We service several hundred customers on a regular basis. We also provide services to many others, whether it be on a one time basis or work that covers several months at a time.

Have you added any more products or perks with your service?

Eric: We have expanded from simply street sweeping to parking lot sweeping, pressure washing and steam cleaning, day porter service, and debris removal. On the retail side we try to bundle as many services as possible on one property and often discount service when this occurs.

What sets your business apart from other street sweeping businesses in the area?

Eric: Simply put, our employees. We have a loyal group of hard-working operators and employees that have been with us for many years. Several of our employees have been with the company for over thirty years! Our staff takes pride in their work and goes the extra mile to do the job right. Additionally we have worked hard to establish ourselves as a professional organization from the top down. We have instituted organizational structure that allows our corporation to run efficiently and effectively. We are an industry leader in in our areas of operation. Our equipment is well maintained and meets all federal and state environmental standards. We also ensure that our employees are well trained and receive the support necessary to be successful.

How does a typical day go at Jack Davenport Sweeping Services? What do your workers do and how do you schedule your vehicles?

Eric: Each day actually starts the previous day with a meeting to go over the schedule for the next day and making sure all equipment will be ready to go. Our employees start each day well prepared for their assigned duties. Our mechanics work on machines that need regularly scheduled maintenance or repairs, and examine any machines with maintenance issues from the night before. Our office staff goes through completed work orders, takes new job orders, and handles all of the regular duties of payables, receivables, invoicing, etc. Our service areas are divided into quadrants and routes are created geographically to enable jobs to be completed in a timely and efficient manner. Our jobs are scheduled by location and existing regular work so that the wear and tear is minimized and vehicles are shouldering an equal work load. Once the day time operations are completed the sweepers return to the office and address any issues that arose while sweeping. Our night crew arrives and goes through the same process of preparing vehicles and job assignments before heading out to complete their assigned jobs. We are running equipment twenty four hours a day, seven days per week.

How many employees do you have and what are their titles?

Eric: We currently have a staff of 25 employees. We have our executive team, day foremen, night foremen, office manager, street sweeper operators, parking lot sweeper operators, pressure washers, day porters, and office personnel.

Aside from sweeper trucks, what other kind of equipment do you use?

Eric: In addition to street sweepers, we utilize parking lot sweepers, debris removal trucks, pressure washing trucks and trailers, and pickup trucks.

What kind of strategies do you have laid out for environmental issues?

Eric: We face a multitude of environmental issues and regulations in the State of California. We have to have PM10 certified and AQ1186 certified sweepers for dust suppression as well as complying with CARB diesel emission mandates. Given our current drought in California, we have to be responsible with our water usage, especially while pressure washing. We abide by all regulations pertaining to these environmental issues, at great expense to our company. Our services have been retained by many major contractors to do track out work under the SWPP program (Storm Water Pollution Prevention program).

What are some of the most difficult aspects of the industry?

Eric: Doing business in the state of California is extremely difficult and expensive. We operate under an amalgamation of regulations, the most oppressive being CARB diesel emission mandates. In order to stay in operation each company has to be in compliance with CARB guidelines. This means retrofitting older machines at a cost of nearly $20,000 per machine, or replacing older machines with newer ones that now can cost as much as a quarter of a million dollars or more. This extreme expense is a huge obstacle to profitability. Many of the standards are seemingly ambiguous and enforcement is not uniform so some in our industry simply do not comply. As a result they can offer lower pricing since they are not shouldering the same expense. Another difficulty we face is the growing number of national facility maintenance service providers operating in our industry. These service providers sign contracts with major retailers for scores of locations at low prices, and then tell us what they will pay us to do the work. This eliminates our ability to set our own prices based on the time it takes to do the work, and the customer is the one that suffers most. Working with these service providers has added a layer of difficulty to our day to day operations. Though we face many challenges, our company continues to be successful as a result of our integrity, our honest approach, and our good work environment. Though we have grown to be a corporation of many people, we are at our core still a family business with everyone playing their part in our success.

How often do you keep your eyes peeled for new technology on the market when it comes to the benefit of your business?

Eric: We are constantly looking for innovation and ways to provide better service for our customers. We were among the first sweeping companies to install GPS on all of our machines to better account for our work. We utilize the internet to expand the reach of our marketing. We are upgrading our fleet of machines to new technology machines that are more efficient and environmentally friendly. Technology is rapidly changing and we are always looking for ways to innovate our services to benefit our customers.