Hurricane Sweeping LLC

Hurricane in the Desert
Here’s one for the ages. Man’s talent is recognized in construction. Man becomes Superintendent on the world’s most massive kinds of construction projects; we’re talking hospitals, bridges, malls, freeways and other gargantuan, jaw-dropping undertakings. After a long and exceptionally successful career, man turns to a simpler life, still makes a great living, and basks in relative freedom forever.
Yes, here’s one man taking time to smell the roses, or rather, the cactus flowers. Shayne Dodemont, started his company, Hurricane Sweeping, in Tucson in 2007. First, we can’t miss the amusement of naming a business in the desert “Hurricane”. The timing of the startup also jumps out to get our attention. Dodemont recalls 2007.
It was probably the worst time there’s ever been to start a company. The economy was bad. It was more than bad, it was crashing. We asked if he bought Hurricane as an established company. I started the business cold turkey.

Before Hurricane
I had been a superintendent for a construction company. That’s a high-stress job. My doctor said my blood pressure was through the roof and that if I kept doing the work I was doing, I was headed for serious health consequences. Being a superintendent on malls, hospitals, bridge jobs, freeway jobs is pretty stressful. It was a lot of hours and weekends. I usually had over a hundred employees, plus contractors, etc. Life is short. At that point, it just wasn’t worth that stress anymore for me.
My dad was a mechanic and taught me as I was growing up, working with him for several hours a day. So, I had been building motors since I was 13 years old. He once told me, “It’s easier to pull knobs (on equipment) than to pull wrenches (as a laborer). It’s a lot easier on your body, and you make just as much or more money.
So, I got my first real job running a backhoe at a construction company. I came up the ranks running loaders, cranes, blades, backhoes and other equipment. They asked if I wanted to be a foreman, then they put me in as a superintendent, then I did estimating too. I did all the phases, from underground to everything else.
Anyway, I needed a new career after deciding to leave construction management. I went on the internet and found a sweeper up in Flagstaff. I was already in the construction business, so I wasn’t’ too worried about finding work. I’ve never regretted making the change. I should have done it 40 years ago.
I like seeing now that a lot of the guys at so many of these companies doing construction in the area are guys I brought up through the ranks, and now they’re running projects. Now, I’m on those job sites with them doing a different part, and I’m enjoying that.
Shayne’s pursuit of a certain dialed-back approach to sweeper business operations stands in sweet contrast to his former work-lifestyle. Before Hurricane, he had lived continuously, 24/7, bearing the incomprehensible weight of monumental construction plans, with their unfathomable numbers of major elements and fine details.
His choice of business model also stands in laid-back contrast to the wide world of aggressively growing sweeper businesses increasingly dominating most medium-sized markets across the U.S. sweeper industry. I haven’t advertised since I went into business. Instead of cards, I pass out pens. I just give those out instead of cards. People like them. Their wives like them. They write really nicely and have a light on the end that you can use to get in the house.

Why Hurricane?
Asked his reasoning behind naming a business in the middle of the desert “Hurricane”, he tells a story that’s as surprising as the name. I chose that name because when I bought the first sweeper, it had some literature about it with the truck. The part that talked about the blower said it produces “hurricane-force winds, up to 350 miles per hour.” I just thought “Hurricane” seemed like it would make a good name for the business. Good? It’s actually one of the more exciting names we’ve heard for a sweeper business for marketing and branding purposes—attention-grabbing, scalable; it’s got it all.

Sustained Hurricane in the Desert
I’m on the internet, but I don’t really update it. I’m sure the big guys are up front. I don’t care to be up front. I get enough business the way it is. People call when they want bids from six or seven companies. Before I go out and look at the locations, I talk to them about what they need and want.
Some people have unrealistic expectations. One person had in mind to pay $770 to get about seven sites done. I explained that the job should really be bid at around $3,500 – $4,000. The customer said they weren’t happy with their current service. Instead of wasting their time or mine, I just explained that for that price they’re paying, I don’t see how their current sweeping company could be doing a good job. It’s better to tell them right away. $100 per hour, starting from my yard, to the work site, and back to my yard; that’s what makes sense for my business.

What Does Dodemont’s Desert Hurricane Look Like?
I have ride-ons, three little PowerBosses and other equipment, a dump truck and three sweeper trucks. One’s an Elgin, and there are two big mobile L 45 runaway sweepers. I have a 440-gallon water tank, which is necessary to keep the dust down. I’m keeping it small, making enough money to be happy, not have to worry about bills, and be able to pay everything off quickly.
My son Shayne works with me, and I have one other guy. He welds and works on trucks, and he sweeps occasionally. I keep pretty busy. I pretty much do all the invoicing and accounting myself.
We do subdivisions, parks, apartment complexes, road jobs, runways at the airports, some large subdivisions and other work. Sometimes I may do five or six subdivisions in a day. They have inspections and want me to clean everything up before they have those. I try to tell them to give me a week heads up, but sometimes I’m on all sides of the city in a day.
We do government work. We go to the national guard facilities, air bases, and constructions sites. Those are places where you need to wear your PPE (safety vests and hard hats).

But, What’s Special About Hurricane?
Shayne goes on to tell what’s especially good about his business for Tucson customers. My vacuum and broom combination is popular. All the paving and sealing companies love it because it blows out all the cracks. It takes about 80 percent of the dirt and rocks out. Then they can do a better quality job sealing the parking lots. Other types of equipment don’t suck up everything as well. We can easily imagine the need for providing that quality of surface cleaning in the dusty desert of southern Arizona.
Shayne also mentioned milling work that Hurricane offers. I also have a little milling machine. I do a lot of business with that, and that’s all just through word of mouth. People become aware through others that I offer it, and just ask me to do the work.

Chance of Hurricane Growth in Tucson?
I think about hiring. It’s hard to find the right people. There’s subdivision construction everywhere in the area. So, the current employment market doesn’t leave many prospects. People who aren’t already employed during times like these are those more likely to have a problem with drugs, or they may be the kind of guy that shows up on Tuesday instead of Monday and wants Friday off.
I’d like to put on a couple of good guys. I’d like to just do scheduling and go out and talk to people. But, I can’t trust just anybody with a $200,000-piece of equipment.
I’ve looked at the idea of buying two big mills and transport trucks and hiring five guys. I came close to doing that. But, the equipment is high, and the truck and transport is about $150 to $200,000. So, it’s about $2.5 million to start something like that. I’m 56. I want to call it quits in 7 to 10 years and let my son take it. I’ll just answer the phone then. Why would I want to stress out again? Once you get those big payments, you have to bid the work accordingly.

Side Deals Bring Windfalls to Hurricane
I buy sweepers and other heavy equipment at government surplus auctions, sometimes for pennies on the dollar. My first truck only had 5,200 miles on it, and it had brand new Michelin tires worth $1600 on it. I bought another in Sacramento. I paid $9,546 for that one. I flew in to Sacramento, put two new batteries in it, and in two weeks, it was paid for. I like to pick up stuff at auctions and double my money. Sometimes, I turn a vacation into a three or four day adventure.

Managing a Hurricane
When somebody calls me, I know what I have to do and how long it will take. I’m not afraid to say “no”, though lately I have been working weekends and haven’t had a day off. With the economy flowing, companies are letting out a lot of work, so things are busy, and that’s good. We see that being busy and being in a high-stress situation are not the same thing from Shayne’s perspective. He’s still very busy, but minus the mad stress of running massive commercial and industrial construction projects.
We sweep around the U of A. My son takes the other truck and does his work. He was recently in Phoenix for a month. We’ve been doing that in Phoenix for the last eleven years. He goes all over Phoenix, Oro Valley, the whole metro area for a month a year. One company wanted me to go to Texas, but that’s too far.
About 85 percent of my business is on construction sites. We do apartment complexes as needed. When property management companies call me, I do the work for them. We get a lot of other calls from all kinds of locations to do work all over the area.

Advice For New Sweeper Market Entrants
Asked to offer some advice for aspiring sweeping business owners, Shayne provides some concrete points that we don’t usually hear. The standard advice we get for new market entrants is to be mechanically inclined and to resist the temptation to underprice your services. But, here’s something new, from Shayne Dodemont, owner of Hurricane Sweeping in Tucson AZ.
It’s hard to start out unless you have a lot of money. Until you’re working enough, it can be hard to make payments on a new sweeper truck. So, I would say, buy a used one so you can make your payments. Yes, used trucks have problems. But, new ones have problems too. He does then go on to emphasize the more common important advice for newcomers to the industry.
There’s a lot of work to put into sweeper. Stuff goes on all the time. You need to be mechanically inclined. You need to know how to weld. A lot of welding goes on and fabricating steel. There’s a lot of replacing tubes, greasing bearings, changing air filters. There are a lot of moving parts. You need a little background in mechanical work, or you need to hire a mechanic.
Also, be willing to refer business to competitors. I call other sweeping companies and send them the business I can’t handle, and vice versa, they call me. Don’t try to take business from anybody. There’s plenty of water for everybody to drink. I like to just live comfortably, and I don’t need to be extremely rich to be happy. I can recommend planning for making enough money to make your payments comfortably and enjoy your life.

What’s is a Life Well Lived as an Entrepreneur?
Shayne Dodemont’s story is of learning to love mechanical work as a child helping his dad, rising through the ranks in construction to lead some of the most massive of modern construction projects, and ultimately having that epiphany that some wise and fortunate men come to have. That’s the one about putting on the brakes a little, adopting a new way of thinking about priorities, and a new way of living life—taking time to stop and smell the cactus flowers. Though, to be fair to those of us who haven’t gotten there yet, he does live with the mesmerizing glory and splendor of the almost unbearably gorgeous Sonoran desert undoubtedly inspiring deeper insights.
There’s a great and gentle lesson for all entrepreneurs across all economic sectors in the story of this fully-accomplished professional. It’s about a big opportunity, the one realized by answering that call of the spirit that says—go ahead, live more simply, more meaningfully—more richly in the ways that riches are counted best for those who are rich in happiness and peace of mind.



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