SoCal Property Services An Interview with John Agamalian

How and when did your company start?
I was in the waste and recycling business before and I had an individual who wanted to start a sweeping company, so I invested and thought it would be a good add on. It’s the same decision maker in most cases for commercial buildings. This went on for a few years, and I wasn’t getting any money back, so I wrote it off in my mind. Then the IRS contacted me and said that payroll taxes weren’t being paid. The company was pretty small at the time with only about 15,000 in business per month, so I took over the remaining accounts and paid off the tax bills.
So then shortly after that I sold my waste company and wasn’t doing anything for a few years. My old golf game sure wasn’t getting any better, so my wife said I needed to do something. She said what about the sweeping company? I treated it as a hobby at first until I got a little more obsessed with it and it grew into a full service maintenance company in 2004. 2001 was the year that I took over the company initially and got more involved a few years later.

What services do you provide and how many employees do you have overall?
We have a number of services including pressure washing, sweeping , line swiping, windows, and landscaping. We do it all! For our sweeping division, we do some of the work ourselves and we contract out some of the work. Sweeping is the largest service we provide with about 1000 customers, and a total of 25 employees.
I have a sales person, and I do some sales as well, including for the commercial business. There is one person who does municipal and government contracts. There are many supervisors because we sub-contract a lot of the sweeping. We also need to have people checking the jobs, so there are a number of people out in the field at any given time. We’re in five different counties in southern California.

How much growth has your company seen in recent years with the improvement in the economy?
I think with the economic downturn in 2007, 2008, and 2009 prices got compressed and we lost a lot of accounts, but we also gained at lower margins. Now the margins are increasing by 25 percent per year. We continue to grow at a decent margin.

How do you attract new clients?
A lot of it is referral business. We’re involved in real estate organizations as well. Southern California is very big, but it’s still a pretty small community around property managers. Our internet isn’t as effective as word of mouth, but the fact is that if someone searches the city, our name comes up towards the top, so that gets us some inquiries.

How many contracts do you execute per week?
I would say we probably serve about 600 clients per week roughly.

Have you added on any new services lately?
Windows are our most recent service that we’ve added. We just started the LA County buildings, which is all internal windows. We don’t do high rises, but we go up to three stories. We just bought our first broom truck, so we are going to be doing construction sweeping soon.

How did you arrive at creating a unique brand for your company?
Coming from the waste industry, it’s just service business. We care about our customers. The money comes secondary, because our first goal is to do a good job. In Southern California the quality of sweepers is very low. It’s a different market than other parts of the company. We provide great communication with our customer, we check in with them often, and send them pictures of the work. We follow through to resolve all issues. We always make sure the customer is happy. The most important thing is for customer to know that we care. It’s how you handle the mistakes that matter.

Tell me a little bit about the day-to-day operations and how your shift crews go?
Most the pressure washing work is done at night. The sweeping crews do the majority at night in commercial and industrial buildings, and we do homeowners and trucking companies during the day. We do 80 percent of our work at night, and 20 percent during the day, I would say.” Delete the first sentence of this highlighted section.

What sweeper trucks, equipment, and machinery do you have?
We run Schwarze’s A4000 for our sweeper trucks. We have pressure washing equipment called a “cyclone” which is kind of like a big golf cart with a large pressure washer underneath. It is very high pressure and recycles the water, and has 10-inch scrubbers. We have Landa and Hydro Tek pressure washers. All of our pressure washers recycle the water.

How does disposal work in California?
Most of our competitors don’t do what they say they do. Our contract requires us to process the water and remove it from the site, but we do the right thing. We have clarifiers which we take to the site, and sometimes the facility has a disposal, and sometimes we go off site with the waste.

What kind of strategies and policies do you have when it comes to environmental issues?
Our vehicles are classified for better air filtration, which helps to improve air quality issues. Our state has a higher level of laws that require filtration on the trucks more so than other states.

How much does new tech make a difference in your business?
GPS is a real big part of our quality control system. Our GPS not only provides us with the time our crews are on the job, but we want to make sure they are on the site long enough. We make sure the guys are there to complete the job, and if there is a problem we can look at Google Earth photos to ensure they got the entire property. We’re able to look over complaints to resolve the problem quickly with that technology.

Anything else you’d like us to know about your company?
We are all about our customers. That’s one of the best parts, everything else falls into place. You’ll be profitable, do a good job, and they’ll be happy.