Millennium Maintenance & Power Sweeping

Here’s a story of an extraordinarily rare enterprise. The company advertises as “America’s Best Street Sweeping Contractor,” and it also promotes its Waste Services, Sanitizing and Disinfecting and Demolition Services. But, that’s actually just the beginning of the astounding list of specialized services offered under the Millennium brand. (You may need to sit down to read the entire list.)
Even more impressive is the depth of commitment to quality of workmanship and service in every area of endeavor that characterizes the company culture, as expressed by David Ross, Founder and CEO of Millennium services.

Millennium Business Model

The Millennium company has a truly extraordinary number of revenue lines. The business model amounts to provisioning of pretty much any form of commercial real estate design and development, disaster rehab, or general interior or exterior maintenance you can think of. You name it, they do it. The company offers perhaps the purest version of a one-stop shop that we’ve seen.
Its core service is in pavement maintenance, and the business has a vast fleet of industrial street cleaning equipment, including vacuum sweepers, broom sweepers, and dustless sweepers and scrubbers. Millennium is a self-performing company, which sets it apart from national companies that use subcontractors. Ross emphasizes that when you partner with Millennium, you have the benefit of the company’s extensive networked of resources behind you.
He goes on to explain that being a self-performing company allows his management team to be in charge of organization. It helps them schedule and execute a job better under the customer’s specifications. For example, most companies subcontract hauling their heavy equipment, whereas Millennium has the advantage of being a heavy trucking company, transporting their own machinery.
David Ross sees his company as first providing all types of pavement sweeping, including nightly vacuum maintenance sweeping at retail sites, municipal sweeping, heavy construction sweeping, and environmentally sensitive porous pavement sweeping. However, the scope of the Millennium business model reaches far beyond sweeping into every imaginable area of commercial property development and maintenance services needs.
Millennium’s services are so far-ranging that the operation arguably might be barely recognizable as primarily a sweeping company, if not for its concerted marketing and branding efforts as such. The incomparably diverse number of service channels sets the company far apart, not just from others in its market area, but possibly from all others nationwide. Millennium’s specialized services include:

Parking Lot Maintenance
Sweeping and Litter Control
Snow & Ice Management
Guard Rails
Light Pole Replacement
Paving Construction Services
Interior/Exterior Remodeling
Roll Off Dumpsters
Sewer and Water Work
Construction Sweeping
Water Trucks
Heavy Trucking
Vanilla Box Construction
Plain Box Construction Outside Services
Catch Basins
Outdoor Enclosure Installation
Pressure Washing
Day Porter Services
Site Patrol & Security
Grounds Preparation
Special Event Clean Up
Site (& Night)
Inspections Building Maintenance
Janitorial Services
Pest Control
Pressure Washing
Window Cleaning
Pest Management
Drain Maintenance
Vacancy Cleaning
Vapor Steam Cleaning
Removal Special Events
Portable Facilities
Flag Pole Installation
Temporary Lighting
Shuttle Bus Service
VIP Comfort Stations
Special Projects
Audio & Video
Office Relocations

A New Millennium

David Ross founded Millennium Services two decades ago, in 2000. He explains that he decided to call the company “Millennium,” because he expected that the word would be everywhere for several years, which, of course, it was. This year (2020) marks the business’s 20th anniversary. From here, David tells the fascinating story of starting out with nothing but a mere promise to prospective customers (to be explained) to create a startup and then growing that promise into the thriving enterprise is Millennium today:
I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit! As a kid, I delivered newspapers, shoveled snow, cut grass. As a young man, I sold flowers on holidays and Christmas trees from vacant lots. At one point, I bought a pushcart and started vending. I had a natural affinity for selling, and one pushcart grew into dozens. It was hard work, but a lot of fun, too.
In between the push carts, I drove trucks: cement trucks, trash trucks, and roll off trucks. I’ve always liked trucks. Eventually, I wanted my own trucks. So, I did my homework and researched, and I thought I could make a go of it in the sweeping industry.
I was already in business for myself. I always had a full-time job and was in some kind of business. I was driving trucks, picking up roll offs, etc., and always wanted to have my own truck. But, they were so expensive to buy. But, I had watched a truck sweeping a parking lot of a supermarket. When the driver left, I saw that he hadn’t done a good job.
Coincidentally, the next day a friend asked me if I knew anyone who does payment sweeping. I called around to local sweeping services and got nothing but voicemail — and nobody called me back. Mom and pop operations would let their calls go to recording. They were too tired from working at night, so they wouldn’t even pick up messages. I said to myself, “I can do better than that.” That’s how I came up with the idea of getting into the sweeping business. That’s how it all started.
So, I went out and drove around, and watched them (sweeping trucks) working in the middle of the night. (My wife thought I was crazy.) They just weren’t doing quality work. I would see sweeping truck drivers asleep in their trucks behind the shopping centers! So, I researched a little more.
I found a book called The Fundamentals of Power Sweeping by Ranger Kendall Ross. He’s the founder of World Sweeper Association. I currently sit on the Advisory Board of the global association. It’s remarkable to me that I was reading the book back then and now 20 years later am sitting on the board!

Staggering Growth of Millennium

When I started out, I didn’t have a business model. I kind of followed my natural instinct. I like people, and I like to work. I picked up the book on street sweeping fundamentals and practiced selling. I’d call people out of state just to practice my sales pitch, and I would get appointments.
We started the company with a picture of a street sweeper from a magazine. I brought the picture of the sweeper, and I told people, “If you hire me, I’ll buy one of these trucks. “I got enough people to say, “If you buy the truck, I’ll hire you.” So, I got a truck. I drove the truck myself. That’s how it started. Today, we’re a $20+ million per-year company. We were breaking records before the coronavirus outbreak.
When I started servicing accounts, I had one truck. I got in the truck each night and swept lots. During the day, I did sales. Fairly quickly, I developed a strong reputation, and I established lasting relationships with folks who manage lots of retail sites. Those first customers are still with me 20 years later.
During the height of our busy season, we have 125 full-time and probably about 20 part-time employees, including everybody: office workers, project managers, safety managers, HR, field services people, and others. I want to thank my staff. There’s no way to do it without them. Many are 15-20 year employees. Our staff is responsible for the company’s success.
We have well over 200 power sweeping trucks and a large fleet of specialized equipment, including waterless sweepers, tow trucks, flat bed and low bed trucks to transport sweeper trucks, and many other types of equipment.

David Ross’s Growth Strategy

Originally, I’d find a subcontractor for work that customers needed, but that I couldn’t provide directly. Then, after I had enough customers asking us to do that type of work, I would bring it in-house. It was easy to expand that way, and along the way, we were getting much better at what we did (in providing whatever work customers needed). If you can figure out what your customer needs and figure out how to provide a solution, you can grow. That’s how we’ve grown. We would create opportunities. For example, we’d see if it would be a stormy night, and we’d come and pick up broken branches.
We stayed with our fundamentals, and instead of no one answering the phone, we made it the priority to answer the phone and to be available. We are always looking for new ways to service our customers. As a result, today we provide sweeping services for hundreds of local, regional, and national firms for building projects, commercial, residential, and mixed-use developments.
We sweep over 300 sites each night in our maintenance sweeping division alone. We deliver about 25 dumpsters 5 days a week, and in our newest division — which is less than a month old — we’re serving about 10-12 customers a day. Our Waste Division has had great success with roll-offs, and very recently, in response to the need, we added our Sanitizing and Disinfecting services.

Millennium Company Service Culture

Our company stands out because we have a can-do attitude. I have it, and I hire people who have it. We have long-term, loyal employees. They are the back bone of the company.
We really care that our customers are satisfied, and most importantly, what sets us apart is that we listen to what our customer want and anticipate what they need. We made a choice early on to be clean neat in appearance, answer our phone, do what we say we’ll do, and be available for customers.
Once we gained our customers through the sweeping service, we built relationships with them, and they started asking for other things. For example, they’d ask us to fill a pot hole, make a repair, etc. As the years went on, tasks we were asked to do got more complex and required higher skill levels, and we accommodated our customers to meet those needs.

New Product and Service Lines

We got calls quite a bit for urgent services. The phone was ringing in the middle of the night regarding environmental spills, for example. So, we’d sweep up the mess for clean harbors. Millennium Emergency Services started when we came up with a pretty good idea:
We’d have a half dozen people on call. We’d pay them an additional 50 dollars just to stay on call, and if they were only out on an emergency call for two hours, for example, we’ll still pay them for eight hours. This enabled us to dispatch crews quickly.
Another way that occurred to us in recent years that we could also meet customers’ needs is by providing roll-off containers for their projects. So, in the last two years, we’ve establish a strong and fast growing waste division that has increased over 100% each year. In fact, right now we are seeing our strongest growth in our roll-off division.

COVID 19 and Millennium Sanitizing and Disinfecting Services

Another great and more recent example of increasing our services to meet needs is related to this historic crisis our country is facing with COVID 19. We researched the most effective way to sanitize and disinfect commercial properties, construction sites, small business, trucks and other vehicles, for instance.
Our sanitizing services are second to none. We use CDC-recommended hydro-electrostatic sprayers and use only EPA- and FDA-certified hospital-grade disinfectant. Our crews are trained in the latest techniques and are available 24 hours a day.
With this service, our customers and their employees have peace of mind, and our construction customers can meet the mandated local and state guidelines and keep their projects moving forward.
All the municipal work we would currently be doing has been postponed, due to the coronavirus pandemic. Except customers that have a grocery store as an anchor, pavement sweeping work has been cancelled or significantly reduced. But, when one door closes, another opens:
We’ve always been a cleaning and disinfecting company. With the virus coming, we had a feeling we might not be able to get hydrostatic-electrostatic sprayers. So, we converted to disinfecting services. That opened up another revenue stream for us.
So, again, by anticipating customers’ needs, we could see they’d need a solution, which also created an opportunity for growth. This has consistently been our mode of growth: We see a need, and we fill it. In the changing business landscape, you have to change to grow.

Millennium Marketing and Sales

Because the business is very diverse at this point, we use a lot of various marketing resources. I like using social media to promote the business. We reach a lot of folks that way and get to share lots of different visuals. We’ve had great feedback. We also use Google very effectively. We’ve got a great media guy who knows his way around. We also still use some of the more traditional methods, like print advertising and The Blue Book too. But, really, customer referrals is the source of new business that makes me proudest.
I still do the sales. I’m not getting out as much as I did in the past. Now, Google Ad Words, social media, and our website do a lot of the work. Visitors to the website fill out the paperwork on the site. But, of course, there’s absolutely nothing better than word of mouth and repeat business from existing customers. So, we work to develop current customer accounts.
From the beginning, we’ve gotten email addresses. We now have a database of current customers and about 4,500 to 5,000 other email addresses. We may send out Merry Christmas emails, weather reports, or emails on topics of interest to people. We’re in constant contact with our current and potential customers. We try to stay out in front.

Operations, and Service Models

As for the operational routine, I work remotely a lot. We have really, really good managers. Work starts about 4:30 in the morning, when dispatchers come in and make contact with all third-shift sweeper drivers who have been out since 9:00 last night.
At 6:00 am, the day really starts. It switches over to the day shift, after having the third shift sweeping division working since 9:00 pm the night before.
So we’re really never closed — and we answer the phone on the first ring.

Challenges for Millennium Management

This pandemic is the ultimate example of unforeseen outside forces. We are an essential business, so we have kept the wheels turning. But, many of our customers have been adversely affected, and that trickles down. We are being mindful of optional spending right now, and we’re changing the way we do things in some cases, to keep our employees safe and healthy.
Fuel is another challenge. We have no control over that, and we use thousands of gallons per month. So, just a couple of cents in price change can be significant.
One of the most challenging aspects of any business is hiring the right people. So, it’s always been challenge to find right employees. It feels like there is a shortage of folks, and we’re picky about who we hire. These days, with 2 1/2 to 3 percent unemployment, finding the right help and getting them up to a level at which they can succeed can be difficult. People want to do a good job. They want to be led and to succeed. But, that’s a tough challenge.

Advice to Industry Newcomers from Industry Leader David Ross, Millennium

This is America. The kind of success we’ve accomplished is available to everybody, if you’re willing to put in the work and make the sacrifices. Those can include not seeing your family, missing events, and other personal sacrifices that may be unfortunately necessary, as they were necessary for me, to grow a business.
The formula for our success has been pretty straightforward. It started off with a good idea, and we do a good job. Do what you say you’ll do, and things will be okay. I recommend that to anybody starting out in the business.

Reach out to David P. for pro bono consulting

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