Clean Sweep Inc., An Interview With President/Owner/Head Salesman, Pete Phillips

Tell me about how your company started out?
Our company was started in 1984 by my father. My mother was a rental property manager and couldn’t find a sweeper to clean around her lots. Dad was a laid-off electrician at the time, so he bought a truck and three weeks later started the company. It was the perfect solution. Dad saw an issue and came up with the company. We used the original equipment for ten years.

So, how did you eventually become involved?
At the time I was about a year out of high school, so it was natural for me to get involved in my dad’s business. Eventually once we expanded and my dad retired, I took over as President and Head of Sales. I wear a lot of hats in this company! We serve most of Tennessee and parts of northern Georgia, so there are a lot of areas to cover with our contracts.

How is your business set up? Speak to me about the number employees you have and how many sweeping trucks you use.
We have about fourteen total employees. We actually need about sixteen. Labor is eleven workers and we have three people in office that manage day-to-day operations. My goal is to get the day sweepers and night earners at a 50/50 split. Right now we have seven sweeping trucks that are parking lot sweepers and three “broom” or mechanical sweepers.

How has your company fared over the years with the ups and downs of the economy?
When the economy tanked we stayed flat, but now we’re growing about sixteen percent from the last two to three years. It’s been a phenomenal period of growth that we’re very excited about.

You mentioned you are Head of Sales. How do you find new customers?
My best results have been through the web and our “1-800” number. Our NAPSA (North American Power Sweeping Association) affiliation sure helps too. Promotion on the web is the new way to go. Google Ad words, and social media even seems to work well. Our Facebook page is a good tool to have. Plus we also just revamped our website. The new one is and it’s on soft launch right now, so we’re just working the bugs out of it, but we’ll use it as our major website once it’s finished. It’s a better business model for other markets we’re getting into.

How many contracts do you work on each week?
Weekly for number of stops it’s 468 per night and it takes four trucks running to get to all that. Overall it’s about 210 customers that we service.

Have you added on any new services lately that have helped your business grow?
Actually, it’s just the opposite, we’re really trying to sub out and stick to what we do the best. The highest profit margin for us is sweeping. That’s what I know best and where I make the most money. If you haul dirt, we just sweep. If you mill roads, we sweep. So our big ticket item is sweeping. We subcontract out to other companies certain services because we just need to focus on the sweeping.

How is your company different from every other sweeping company out there?
Well, we offer a unique value proposition. We are a family- based business with a specific culture. They are my brothers. We are family through and through. Our employees have a say in the company. Even though I’m the head and owner of the company, we have a great teamwork culture. That’s what we strive for…teamwork, excellence, and integrity always.

Did you develop the brand’s identity or was that something your dad had established?
I really developed that in the past sixteen years after I bought the truck from my dad.

Tell me a little bit about the daily operations. Give me the rundown on what your workers do.
Waking up screaming in terror! No, just kidding. We come in and the general manager takes care of most of the office stuff. We do the hiring and firing. We do a weekly focus goals sheet, and the whole management team gets involved so that we can map out the coming weeks. We’re always working the business. Right now we are budgeting for next year with the marketing calendar. Scheduling software and those are thing on my focus sheet for today. It does vary a bit everyday, but planning is everything. As far as the sweeping labor crew goes, it’s four people at night and two during the day that work ten-hour shifts.

How do you inspire efficiency in your labor workers?
I’d like them to work fourteen hours! They are paid off a percentage basis, so that keeps them motivated. You have to track their hours, so that sets up their hourly rate, and we pay overtime anything over 40 hours. They make good money when we bid it right. They go on their route so it’s basically “what they kill they eat.” We are all linked to the same yolk, so it’s 20 percent profit, 20 percent labor, and 60 percent running it. It all works.

What sweeper trucks and machinery tech do you use?
Mostly diesel and twin engines. Nighthawks and propane’s or litter routes, A 4000 in industrials. We’re are looking to overhaul the equipment. I don’t like the diesel emissions, so we’re going to go gas and propane with a swap in the near future.

How does the whole disposal process work in Tennessee and Georgia?
It’s just sweeping bins, shaking out the dirt, and rolling off the cans. We bring it the shop and it’s been a big challenge. There are a lot of haulers in the TN and GA areas.

Do you have any environmental aspects that you are concerned about?
Well, we wash our trucks out and there is an oil and water separator, so that the sanitary systems don’t get clogged. We do our part right.

How much are you aware of new technology that might help your business work in a more effective manner?
Driverless trucks would help a whole lot! With the alternative fuels, shaking out our waste, and the seven tons of debris we aren’t putting into landfills each week, this does help the environment. It’s just dirt that we’re picking up and it gets transported to Delaware. No hazardous chemical at least.

Story by Katherine Nolan