Sweeping South Inc – An Interview With Nicki Knapp, President and Owner

Sweeping South IncHow did your sweeping company start out?

My husband and I purchased the company back in March of 2011. It was smaller back then. The previous owner had two trucks and just one employee before we bought the company.

Why did you get into the power sweeping industry in the first place?

We were friends with the previous owner and he was looking for a buyer. He wanted to move back to his home state. My husband and I were a good fit for this company. He is a master mechanic and could keep the trucks running and I had a business background that applied to running the office and all aspects of a small business that dealt with the administrative side.

What does your business model look like? Also, how many total employees and office locations do you have?

We now have 22 employees and one office location here in Moncks Corner, South Carolina. That’s around the Charleston area.

How much growth has your sweeper business sustained in the past few years with the economy getting better?

We now have 11 street sweepers, six Tri axle dump trucks, two water trucks, two flat bed trucks, one small dump truck, one company pick up truck, and four attenuators. We started out with one employee to drive, my husband fixing the trucks while still working a full time mechanic job and driving when needed. I worked the office and was in general a gopher for whatever came up, but sometimes I drove as well. We have come a long way since the beginning!

How do you find new customers for your client base?

Referrals, networking events, cold calls, DBE network through the SCDOT, our web site, keeping up with all the new construction projects in the area, and contractors associations.

How many contracts do you deal with on average per week?

It really varies. We work mainly in the construction industry, some companies like to use sub-contracts and some don’t. We currently have approx 40 active contracts that we take care of.

Have you added any new service areas recently?

We started out in the sweeping business and then expanded into hauling a few years ago. We work mostly in the construction industry and do a little parking lot work. One of my sweeping customers called me and said they had to cut my sweeper truck short that day and sent it home at midday. He originally had it booked for the whole day cleaning up behind dump trucks hauling dirt in and out of the job site. The reason he cut us loose was because he did not have enough dump trucks show up on that job for the day and he was not making as big of a mess to clean up as he had originally planned. My customer told me that there was a shortage of dump trucks in this area at that time.
We had just bought our first tri-axle to work with our sweeping crew the week before. Back then we did not have enough county work to keep that truck busy all the time and I had intended to look for work for that truck when it was home and not busy working with the sweeper. The truck was hauling dirt the next day! We saw an opportunity and brought five more dump trucks over the next year and half. While the dump truck shortage in this area no longer exists, we managed to build a solid customer base with steady work.

How did you get to create a stand out brand for your company?

We never say no! Some way, somehow we figure out a way to cover every sweeping job that comes our way! Even if it means getting someone out of bed at midnight to go and get in the truck! Our customers depend on that and we don’t let them down.

Tell me a little bit about the daily operations and how working shifts operate?

We work 24/7, but most Saturdays are not very busy. We do a lot of work with road construction and they work night and day. It just depends on traffic. Main roads are at night and neighborhoods are during the day. Our mechanics and office staff are on day shift, but our drivers work all shifts. We make out the schedule at the beginning of the week and adjust everyone’s time as needed to cover the workload as the bookings come in. It’s definitely not a nine-to-five gig.

What sweeping trucks, equipment, and machinery do you use the most?

We use Tymco sweepers, 435, 600 and 500x. Our dump trucks are Kenworth T880’s.

How does disposal work in your state of South Carolina?

Most of our construction customers recycle on the job site. Our county contracts go direct to the landfill.

What kind of strategies and concerns do you have when it comes to environmental issues?

We recycle our used engine oil with the local power company and we strive to minimize and recycle our other waste.

How much do new technologies come into play for your business?

As far as technology, we use GPS tracking systems for each truck and we are looking to install tire pressure monitoring systems next.