Interview with James Roy of PAM Sweeping Industrial Cleaning Services

An interview with PAM Sweeping Services operating in and around the NYC area.
PAM Sweeping Industrial Cleaning Services operates in and around the NYC area with over 50 years of experience in the industry. We were lucky enough to speak with James Roy of PAM Sweeping Industrial Cleaning Services to see how their business began, where it stands, and what’s planned for the future.

So tell us a little bit about yourself and your background in the business. Was there a moment that wanted you to get involved in the world of street sweeping and what were some of the roots of PAM Sweeping Services.
James: In the mid 60’s my father was doing a real estate deal with a local prominent retail landlord. The landlord mentioned that he had purchased a sweeper and was having a hard time keeping it running with his maintenance men. He asked if my father knew anyone who would want to buy it and service his account. My father and uncle happened to have a small septic business at the time and were familiar with route business. They decided to get involved and our family became part of the business. Over the years my two brothers and I expanded the core business to what it is today.

What kind of models, organizations, plans, and configurations did you have before you entered the business, and how does your business model function?
James: For many years we were a tight-knit, family-owned and managed business. We worked primarily on Long Island and in the boroughs of New York. We have recently partnered with a private equity investor Dubin Clark and expanded our business model into the New Jersey and Connecticut markets. We are currently acquiring multiple companies as our growth continues. We had to adjust our management to a more corporate structure, yet we’ve managed to maintain a mom-and-pop type customer service attitude after the new partnership.

How much growth has your business experienced over the years? Do you have any patterns? Has there ever been a serious situation on the job and how was it resolved?
James: We had explosive growth throughout the 80’s and 90’s. However, various trade magazines educated new competitors quickly. The magazines made it easier to learn trade secrets so the market got very competitive. In addition to this, the advent of smaller sweeping machines from Schwarz and Tymco made it easier for smaller owner- operators to operate from home-based locations. The nearly 20 Tymco 600’s we had working daily began to dwindle as the competition grew and low ball pricing took hold. We started to diversify heavily into the pavement maintenance sector to recover lost revenues. This ultimately played a large role in our long-term growth and stability.

How do you keep new customers coming in and what do you do to keep them coming back for more? How large are your contracts?
James: Obtaining new customers is difficult these days as many are driven by price, rather than the quality of service. Our strategy for growth is through the acquisition of our competitors. We look for opportunities when others wish to retire or simplify their responsibilities through joint partnerships.

On a regular basis, how many customers do you deal with? If the number is inconsistent, how many are you serving per month?
James: We are serving hundreds of customers per day throughout our various divisions. The sweeping sector is, of course fairly consistent week to week, as the pavement maintenance sector varies much more. Annually, we touch on everyone at least several times.

Since you’ve started business, have you added any perks or products that come along with your service?
James: Many of our competitors focus on a one-visit combined sweep and perimeter cleaning model for litter routes. Although this often has a cheaper service cost, we are offering a separate nighttime sweep and day time perimeter service. This yields quality service and twice as many visits to customer sites. This is the biggest perk when working with us – you get a cleaner site.

How do you make your business stand out from the competition?
James: We haven’t found that to be very hard. With immediate response to all customer complaints, backup machinery for break downs, constant field quality control and the most reliable service possible, we feel we maintain a strong lead.

What is a typical day like at PAM Sweeping? How do you schedule vehicles and what do your employees do?
James: We run a night shift starting around 9pm and then a day shift starting at 5am. We keep a mechanic on call 24/7. Our dispatch department starts at 7am and solidifies the next night and days routes by 4pm daily.

How many people are in your staff, and what titles do they have?
James: As combined companies from our sweeping and pavement maintenance divisions, we are nearing 100 employees. We have a fairly typical corporate structure with a CEO, CFO and various division vice presidents. This team is leading a strong middle management team of day and night managers, superintendents and a job foreman.

What equipment are you using aside from sweeper trucks?
James: In our sweeping division, we also have snow plow equipment and power washing equipment, as well as indoor floor scrubbing and sweeping equipment. Of course, in our pavement maintenance division (Powerhouse Paving), we have many diverse pieces of heavy equipment.

For environmental issues, what kind of strategies have been deployed?
James: Our strategy is to not have environmental issues (James laughs out loud). Conformance in New York is not as difficult as in some of our neighboring states. Maintaining a proper wash out and disposal system is important. We try to legally dump out on routes as much as possible to reduce waste handling.

In terms of the industry, what are some of the most difficult aspects?
James: Competing with companies with illegal labor forces, which leads to landscaper issues. Bidding against companies that have non-functioning sweepers and representing them as functional, yet doing the work by hand. It’s a complex issue to deal with.
Customer education needs to be forefront in this area. National providers have also fairly well screwed up the pricing and quality of service nationwide. We have found them to be a plague to the industry. Our stance is to not participate with them so that it will be difficult for them to secure good subcontractors.

For the benefit of your business, how often are you looking out for new technology on the market?
James: The search for a technology advantage is constant in our industry, although it is few and far between. We are currently investing in new software for daily operations and route management, as we feel this technology will be well worth the investment.