CAM South Sweeping- An Interview with Andy Coolidge

How did your journey with CAM South begin?
CAM South originally started in 2007. I acquired the operating assets in May of 2014, which included 1 1/2 cabover sweepers. Both were very old, one required a new chassis engine (that’s the 1/2 unit), and neither were regularly serviced. If I wasn’t so eager to build a business, every mechanic I know would have told me to run the other direction.

Why did you get into the power sweeping industry?
Entrepreneurial bug got me a few years ago. I looked at a couple different opportunities, but the sweeping business was a natural fit. I’ve been in the parking lot management industry for almost 20 years, worked for a national provider and now a private operator. Both industries have a strong focus on operations management and parking deck cleaning has been one of my responsibilities.

What does your business model look like, including all employees and office locations?
We prefer to be the one phone call for all parking lot, asphalt, and common area maintenance. Our portfolio includes national accounts, regional and local property management firms, a few small private holdings, and anywhere we can provide value. Sweeping is our primary focus and we’ve expanded our day porter service to support that operation. Power washing is a nice complimentary service, we’ve also partnered with a really good striping provider who’s expanded their offering to include infrared asphalt repairs. We like to believe in this industry “No News = Good News”; however, sometimes our clients or their tenants do report a concern. In those instances our one priority is a quick, professional response. CAM South’s primary customers are property managers, understanding they are pulled in multiple directions and everything is an “emergency”, our goal is to make common area maintenance a non-issue.
We have 30+ team members, primarily based in our Birmingham office. We do have a satellite office serving the Auburn/Opelika area. Our staff are employees of CAM South, we provide workers compensation insurance; process payroll to local, state, and federal law; put our crew in uniforms, and conduct regular employee meetings.
How much growth has your company had with the upward improvements in the economy?
We’ve worked hard to gain market share and have been able to sustain consistent growth year over year. There is a growing concern about traditional brick and mortar retail and the impact of regular store closings and bankruptcy filings. Although we work primarily with the retail industry; we are expanding to new markets, diversifying our services, and looking for new revenue streams, all to balance our portfolio.

How do you find new customers?
We employ the standard methods;
• Provide great service and value to existing customers
• General cold calling with a brief introduction
• Website
• Membership to the World Sweeping Association and NAPSA
• Sign-up to sub for a few of the national providers

Have you added on any newer services recently?
We recently added a bucket truck to our fleet; it allows us to change light bulbs and more efficiently power wash walls and other vertical surfaces. We also started a roadside division and have been awarded contracts to provide litter removal for government entities.

How did you arrive at creating a stand out identity for your company?
Our company brand is the result of several influencing factors. First and foremost it’s a reflection of our culture. Our core group established these expectations and standards early on. We’ve done a nice job of adding employees that meet these requirements and strive for excellence. Our teams must provide a consistent level of service, where taking one night “off” is not acceptable. CAM South provides company sponsored events throughout the year; VIP lounge at the bowling alley, family night with The Birmingham Barons at Regions Field, and employee ping-pong tournaments, just to name a few. A second factor is Equipment. We are providing professional gear to get the job complete. Our equipment is maintained daily, repaired when necessary, and replaced if required. All team members are provided uniform shirts, jackets, and hats. Each item has the CAM South logo and we’re always adding new colors, designs, etc. It’s a relatively small recurring investment, but nice way to keep our team looking good and branded.

Describe your day-to-day operations and how crew shifts go?
The overnight sweeper teams start at 9:30 PM. Every shift is started with a pre-trip vehicle inspection and inventory of supplies. Every vehicle has a defined route each night, no time constraints or maximums on site. The following morning, when our operations manager and supervisors arrive they start the process of shift review. We compile several items from the previous night; fleet tracker logs, pre-trip inspection reports, time cards, etc. We’ve developed a one-page dashboard using key performance indicators and baseline metrics to quickly summarize multiple data points and create a “picture” of the previous night. The team investigates discrepancies, assigns additional in-person inspections, and posts the route report for team review. Our day porter crews are dispatched between 7 – 10 AM. Some have assigned locations and daily schedules, while others are completing work orders and must remain flexible. Our sweeper trucks are given a thorough inspection by the operations team; daily, weekly, and special maintenance service is scheduled and/or completed. By 6pm the day porters are done, the operations team have all vehicles prepared for the sweeper routes, and we’re set for the next overnight shifts.

What sweeper trucks and equipment technology do you utilize most?
Our sweeper fleet is exclusively Schwarze. They provide great equipment, first-class service & support, and are just up the road in Huntsville. Our power washing equipment is Hotsy, backpack blowers are RedMax, and tires are Michelin/BF Goodrich. Actsoft provides our fleet tracking solution and Paychex is our payroll provider.

How does disposal work in your state?
It appears to be informal and decided by each provider. We have a 20 yard roll off at our shop that each truck uses at the end of their shift. We also have a few 8 yard dumpsters strategically located for either our longer routes or higher volume properties. Overall, I think everyone in our market follows proper protocol. However, I’ve seen competitors use dumpsters illegally, have received calls from property managers about abuse, and recommend tenants lock their units.

How does new technology factor into your business?
We like technology, but it’s only one tool our management team uses. Watching our KPI’s and efficiently managing our fleet & payroll are easier with technology. We evaluate new offerings and solutions, but only when they provide direct benefit; save money, save time, reduce human error, increase safety, etc.