CROWN SWEEPING An Interview With Paul Murphy

Crown SweepingHow did your company start out in the sweeping industry?
I was 15 years old and the youngest of seven kids in 1970, when my dad suggested that the Murphy kids should buy a small sweeping business. At a price-point of 6:1 (6 x monthly gross), we purchased a list of accounts that included Alpha Beta’s, Market Baskets, Zody’s, and other retail sites that no longer exist. Average price-per-sweep in those days was $7. The $40,000 deal included three very used Tymco 300’s.
Why did you decide to get into the power sweeping business?
One of my five brothers had returned from a stint within the Navy and was having trouble finding employment. Dad thought that a family-owned business would guarantee sustainable work for his middle son.
What does your business model look like? The number of your total employees and office locations?
The business model that we employ uses subcontractors to perform most of the field work. However, as opposed to most third-party contractors, we pay the subs an average of 85 percent of the monthly gross. With just three full-time employees, our office is centrally located in Seal Beach, CA. This puts us in the center of our coverage area of the surrounding counties including Ventura, Los Angeles, San Diego and the Inland Empire.
How much growth has your business had in the past few years with the improvement in the economy?
Incredibly, our monthly gross increased by 40 percent since 2012. We have balanced our dependence on retail and industrial accounts to cover swings in both sectors.
How do you get new customers to use your services?
For many years, cold-calling and letter-writing were the drivers of new business. However, the web site that we established around 2012 has created the most requests for bids in the company history. We take each request seriously by either providing a timely submittal, or referring callers to a trustworthy provider for their needs.
How many contracts do you work on per week?
Our current list of accounts totals just above 100 individual sites.
Have you added on any new services that have helped your business thrive?
Because we are comfortable with the subcontracting model, we now offer steam-cleaning/pressure washing, landscape, and window maintenance.
How did you arrive at building a brand for your company that lets you stand out from your competitors?
Our branding is not unique, however, our trim management and debt-free position allows the 85 percent pay-scale, which is considered outrageous by our competitors. We have found that treating the owner/operators (subs) with respect pays-off with allegiance and dedication. Our customers receive consistent quality work and our office manages very few complaints.
What sweeper trucks, industrial equipment, and machinery tech do you utilize most often?
I keep a Masco 1600 to service neighborhood accounts and to provide demonstrations or special-requests. A mix of Masco, Scavenger, Tymco and Schwarze units populate our field coverage.
How does disposal work for sweeping in your state of California?
For sweeping, local landfills accommodate our needs. We have to maintain more rigorous oversight with concrete-cleaning operations, mainly in the collection of run-off. I am glad to live in a state that takes this seriously.
What kind of strategies and policies do you have when it comes to environmental problems your business encounters?
It’s pretty simple, comply with state law and local ordinance when performing any job. Even if my personal beliefs in respecting our environment weren’t solid, fines associated with non-compliance are compelling.
How much do new technologies make a difference into your business?
New tech plays its largest role within the office. Billing and receivable methods make accounting smooth and nearly paper-free. Also, phone apps make bidding and communications a breeze. Outside the office, I’m not convinced that tracking field units with GPS is worth the investment. If I need to provide a customer with “print-outs” as proof of performance, we’ve already screwed up. A clean lot is our calling-card.