Best Parking lot cleaning, inc.

Best Parking Lot Cleaning, Inc. (BPLCI) is a Seattle street sweeping company that offers a unique range of additional services. The owners, Rebecca Craig and Richard Hamilton, brother and sister, have been on an epic journey together since their teenaged years, facing the daunting challenge of building the family-owned business that had operated in Washington state since 1977.
These two light-hearted business owners have weathered many changes in the business and in their market through the growth of their family’s company in the Seattle area. Through family trials and U.S. economic changes that confronted the business over the years, the sibling ownership team’s deep commitment, honorable dealing with clients and employees, and their insightful decision-making have led an increasingly thriving enterprise for more than 40 years.

A Rare Success Story – 40-Year, Second-Generation Family Business
Randall Hamilton, Rebecca’s and Richard’s father, started his sweeping business back in the 1970s, as a second job. Rebecca tells his story. Dad worked his regular job during the day and did the sweeping at night. He cleaned parking lots with a water truck.
He ended up getting more customers than he expected. Today, the company still services some of those original parking lots that he started sweeping more than four decades ago. He bought a water truck and started going on construction sites and doing dust control. Business built slowly. He certified sweepers. That’s what really put him on the map.
Then, when Mt St. Helens blew up, there was ash everywhere. The area east of Seattle had gotten hit the worst. Dad had sweepers by that time, so he and two of his uncles went around the clock for a couple of weeks cleaning up ash in Helmsburg. He had gone full-time into sweeping by that time. He got a public works contract with the City of Auburn. Randall later passed away, in 1990. Our mom was killed by a drunk driver about six months later.

Girl and Boy Assume Business Leadership in Tough Industry
Rebecca looks back on the period when she stepped into control of her father’s business. When my dad died, he had about 10 to 15 trucks. We had managers trying to run the company for us until 1996. I was 20 years old and didn’t know what I was doing. Richard and I had been around the business our whole lives. My mother had done the books for my dad. I had stuffed a fair amount of envelopes and licked a lot of stamps back in the day. We took our lumps. When you’re young, you’re kind of dumb. You don’t know what you can’t do. So, we took over the business. We thought we could do it best. We also figured that no one was likely to care as much about our business as we would.
For the business to have survived is pretty amazing. When we finally took it over, there were taxes to pay, problems getting bank loans, etc., and we didn’t know what we were doing. Richard recalls those early days, when he and his sister, at their tender ages, came in to take the reins of a business in a challenging industry.
Rebecca was a nurse. Richard explains her move into management of the business. She came down a couple of years before me. Rebecca notes that Richard actually came down while in high school and washed trucks. He was 18 when came on board full time, straight out of high school.
Richard recalls his early attitude about the business. I had always had an interest in it. It’s a good opportunity. All of my friends have student loans. I don’t. Rebecca agrees. Yes, it’s probably really the best opportunity to be in your own business, even with all the lumps and warts.
Two Young People Build Thriving Seattle Business
Richard is Vice President, and Rebecca is President. During their tenure, the exceptional brother and sister leadership team has built a thriving enterprise. Today, the company has more than 50 employees, including about 45 drivers, five mechanics, a couple of administrative employees who do payroll, accounts payable, scheduling, etc., and two dedicated sales employees. Both Richard and Rebecca do sales as well. Rebecca also does the company’s bookkeeping, and Richard manages myriad other tasks.
Rebecca jokes—and we still don’t know what we’re doing! But, the evidence of the company’s excellent growth and long-sustained success under the sister and brother leadership team proves otherwise.
In addition to sweeping, the highly diversified services array offered by Best includes Street Sweeping, Storm Drain Cleaning, Snow plowing, Catch Basin Cleaning, Pond Cleaning, and Parking lot Cleaning. Rebecca explains that these are extra services the company provides for customers.
The camera trucks we use sometimes discover issues when we’re taking pictures inside a catch basin, which leads to the need for other work to be done. There are all kinds of things that work hand-in-hand with each other, so sometimes you have to be able to do other types of work to help customers get it done as promptly and easily for them as possible.
How Did Two Kids Build a Distinguished 40-Year Business?
Rebecca reflects on the journey she and Richard have taken and the progress that the business has realized over the years. I think what makes us different is that we try to keep enough trucks on the road, and we have 24-hour service, so when you call us, you can get same-day service. We do a couple of hundred jobs per day. Some are eight hours, some are a half hour.
I would say that about 75% of our business comes in from people who just call in and ask to have service within 24 hours. She clarifies that these are often long-time customers in industry, construction, etc., who have come to expect to be able to just call in when ready and get service the same day.
Rebecca explains how the kinds of services Best provides work within the geographic region of the Seattle sweeper service market. Everything drains into the Puget Sound. So, it’s a good location for a street cleaning company that can respond quickly. We know that what’s washing into the storm drains has to be cleaned up right now, and that it can’t be allowed to flush into the Sound.
I feel like we’re fair in pricing our work. We’ve literally got customers that our dad started with in 1977. They know that about us. As long as we’re fair, they continue to call us. There’s enough work in our area that we don’t have to be overly aggressive on pricing, even though it’s Seattle, and it is very competitive.

Seattle’s BPLCI Business Model
Storm drain cleaning accounts for 50% or so of our total revenue. We take material and process it in our own waste disposal facility, if it can’t be dumped in a dumpster. That’s another thing that makes our company different.
We provide waste tracking as well, whereas normally customers, as the generators of the waste, are responsible themselves for tracking. In keeping with best management practices, waste must be tracked to make sure it’s going to an approved facility. Working with sweeping companies that are not set up as well to provide full service as seamlessly from the point of cleaning to the point of disposal is less convenient and efficient for customers.
We have another yard up in Woodenville. We provide chip ‘n seal, slurry seal, About 95% of our work happens within a hundred-mile radius of our office. We also recently started providing roll-offs. Currently the majority of work we’re doing with those is in house, but we’re anticipating some significant growth from that over the coming periods. We currently have four of the roll-offs.

Sales and Marketing at BPLCI
Even though we’ve been in business forty years, we still have to be active in sales. We’ve learned you can be on a job for a long time, but someone is right there waiting to replace you if you screw up, and you can be replaced with just one phone call. That said, Richard notes that in 2018, probably over 90 percent of customers that BPLCI provided service had called in 2017.
We have little ads and mailers and brochures and flyers. Everybody drives around a billboard on their vehicles. We also have shirts, sweatshirts and hats. A lot of our business is from referrals. It’s the majority of our work.
On a job site, you start out working for the dirt contractor. Then you end up working for the electrical contractor. Then you end up working for the general contractor. We’re part of a couple of websites where contractors and municipalities put up jobs they want bid.

Some Challenges of Operating in Seattle
We were experiencing slow and steady growth up to about 2010, when we hit the recession. I didn’t think we were going to survive that. Sales fell fifty percent. But, we did survive and recover.
There’s so much construction going on here in the Seattle area. The sky is filled with cranes. Development is projected to continue through 2030. It’s exciting, as long as you don’t need to drive anywhere. There’s work being done on transportation, but logistics are problematic. For getting around, we’ve had to figure out how to charge people to make it to their locations through traffic. We have to pass on to our customers the costs of using so much time to get through traffic.
It’s also very expensive in our area. Everything here is private money. Microsoft, Amazon, Boeing, Starbucks and others have their home bases here. That’s good for your business, depending on what kind of work lifestyle you want.
Getting more people to work is always challenging. We’re paying a huge amount of overtime. There are just not enough commercial drivers. You really have to try hard to get them, and then to keep them. There are huge signing bonuses for drivers, five and ten thousand dollars. In April or so, things start to ramp up for the busy season. Construction starts taking off and other business increases. So, staffing becomes a real challenge then.
Rebecca notes one additional interesting problem, one that seem ironic for a business in the city known as the global center of gravity for tech giants. We’ve had the same accounting software problem since 1990. There’s really no accounting program for our industry that works perfectly with it. I would love something that would have industry-specific billing and payroll, at a reasonable cost.

Best’s Unique Employee Retention and Engagement Systems
We’re all in this together. We are a team. We couldn’t do this without everyone here. We have some people who’ve run the same equipment for 20 years. Some guys have been with us for 25 years. One of our guys just had his 30th anniversary. Some do municipality contracts. Others do cross-functional training, and they do emergency response types stuff.
We offer benefits, including medical, dental, vision, 401k, holiday pay, vacation pay, Christmas bonuses. That’s what people are here for. We don’t want to be under any illusion. They have to feed their families too. They want what you want. (Offering our employees those packages means we won’t be the cheapest company on the block. We won’t be able to compete with one guy with a truck.)
We have an open-door policy. We try to encourage interaction between employees too. The monthly staff meeting is the first Thursday of every month. That helps employees get to know everybody.
We have a Facebook page. The employees join and communicate with each other on there. They’re in trucks all day, so they don’t get to interact with other employees. They get to know each other on the Facebook page.
On black Friday each year, we make it an opt-out day. If you send a picture of your family out doing something, if you post it we pay you another eight hours. That way, you get to see others’ families and get more familiar with coworkers, and you have something to talk about.
We do the state fair. We have a party at the fair, so their whole families can come with the employees. Everybody brings their kids and eats pounds of candy.
We have GPS, so we know where workers are and how long they’re there, and we have a quality control person. He goes out and checks quality. But, if you’ve done such a great job that a customer calls in to give a complement, we call your name at the next staff meeting and give you fifty bucks.

Advice for New Entrants to the Sweeper Industry
If you go about this right—take care of your customers, be fair, take care of your employees—anything can happen. Customers have told us they felt that they got ripped off, or slighted in some way by a previous service provider. You don’t want to be the flash in the pan. Aim for slow and steady growth. Help people trust you and be confident that you’re going to give good service and bill fairly. As long as that happens, you can all be friends. They’ll call you again. Try to be on your customer’s side.

BPLCI – Cutting-Edge Employee Engagement Model
After talking with the sister and brother leadership team of Rebecca Craig and Richard Hamilton, we will add our own comments for industry newcomers to consider. The steady growth and enduring success of this proven team at BPLCI in the highly competitive Seattle sweeping services market has been built on customer retention. Their exceptional retention rates have resulted from strong customer confidence in their reliability. But, the story turns on their progressive strategies for personnel retention, which have made the company’s exemplary service reliability possible.
BPLCI’s thorough pre-employment process (which we did not detail) and the impressive variety and frequency of special team bonding and employee appreciation activities that the company has maintained over the years can be assumed to have contributed to its exceptional success in staff retention.
Such a record of retaining quality staff is the hallmark of a company with savvy leadership, whose service and growth strategies are grounded in prioritization of internal culture. It makes sense that the BPLCI owners would be found operating in this way. Their genuinely friendly and humble manner has organically spread a kind of enthusiasm that is contagious and inspiring.
Maintaining a high standard of employee engagement and job satisfaction, as exemplified at BPLCI, is a management principle bearing profitability implications that have only recently come to fuller recognition by corporate leaders across the business sector. Those exploring new ways to strengthen team commitment to shared goals are catching on to employee satisfaction as a fundamental for maximal business performance. By contrast, in this story, the solution was long ago intuited by two kids who’ve gone on to build and sustain a thriving business in a highly competitive market, by applying learning from their parents about the value of treating people well.

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