Pacific Sweeping, Industry Leader in Southern California

Pacific Sweeping provides power sweeping and power washing for more than 30 cities across five counties in southern California. The service cleans a staggering 350,000 miles of roadways and 15,000 parking lots per year. The company’s clients include Cal Trans, counties, utility companies, service providers for public events, and various government construction projects, and government agencies such as the City of San Diego, the State of California, the U.S. Navy Shipyards, and the U.S. Marine Corps.
Lee Miller, President, and CEO of Pacific Sweeping, is currently a Board Member of NAPSA, and he has served as an Advisory Board Member for California State University (Dominguez Hills), and Cal State Fullerton and he served on the board of the local MSA (Maintenance Superintendent’s Association for many years.

Move from Public Works Management to Private Sector

Founded 45 years ago in 1968, the company started as Cannon Pacific Services. In 2013, Miller changed the name to Pacific Sweeping, to better signify the kind of service the company provides.
Lee came into the business in 2007 with a B.A. in Public Administration/Organizational Management and an MDE in entrepreneurial studies from UCLA. For the 15 years before becoming an owner of Pacific Sweeping, he had managed three local cities’ government public works operations for southern California’s public works department. There, he had overseen public works maintenance operations, which included contracting for all facets of roadway cleaning, public facilities repair, and related services.
When Lee was invited by Cannon’s owners to take a look at the business, he had been contemplating an exit from the municipal world. He agreed to come on board with Cannon as an equity partner and began running the company. He bought out one of the other two partners in 2009, and the other in 2011, making him the sole owner.

Organic and Strategic Growth

Miller performed a major restructuring of Pacific’s operations, leading to a growth of more than 300%. When he came on board in 2007, the company employed 16, most of whom were in one county and still work for the company today. He reflects on the company’s evolution, “Over the years, we’ve grown both organically and by careful strategic design.”
Lee goes on to explain, “At our peak, we had 57 employees. Recently, we’ve scaled back to 46. Sales are down about 15% due to the pandemic. Municipal budgets have been shrinking due to lost sales taxes, and shopping centers are being closed. We’ve grown steadily between 2% – 8% each year up to now. This is the first year we’re experiencing zero growth.”
In the broader view, today the company has nearly 50 pieces of equipment servicing five counties, making Pacific Sweeping the largest privately owned and operated business of its kind in the region.
Lee attributes Pacific’s continuously strong growth over the past decade to his customers’ confidence in his team’s consistency in delivering quality work within their budgets.
The company has made some small strategic acquisitions. Lee recounts his process, “We’ve ventured into new counties by gaining a beachhead in each one, winning a large contract and then building a volume of accounts around those.” The company now has six satellite locations, complete with supervision on each of those sites.
Each location is fully self-sufficient, with the main central facility handling all equipment repairs in the mechanics’ shop. The 10,000-square-foot central facility maintains a full array of parts in its inventory center. There’s a mobile team of six repair mechanics, for on-site repairs when necessary.

Pacific Sweeping Business Model

The company provides municipalities, construction project managers, HOAs, and commercial customers with contract pavement cleaning as well as on-call and emergency services.
Breaking down the business model, Lee explained, “About 80% of our work is municipal, 15% is private and HOA work and the remaining 5% is parking lots, pressure washing, and construction sweeping.” The company has special equipment for construction, primarily mechanical broom sweepers, and truck types especially suited for municipal street sweeping and parking lot sweeping, as well as power-washing equipment.
He notes that the company had done some weed abatement and landscaping tasks in the past, but found that that service market was “ultra-competitive,” so they decided not to pursue it. He said they also considered road and parking lot repair work as an additional revenue channel. But, Lee commented, “Everybody in Southern California is in pavement repair, so we just stay in our lane.”
There are 40-50 service vehicle drivers in the field, on average, and the mobile team of six mechanics. An administrative team of six people handles all the management and business functions of the company. Lee’s son, Hayden Miller, is Pacific Sweeping’s VP of Operations and Fleet. He is an expert in diesel mechanics and is professionally trained in management and supervision. He handles all operations. Lee says his role in the company these days is about half-time in the office and half in the field, doing primarily executive-level work, negotiating big contracts, and guiding the vision and culture of the company.

Pacific Marketing, Branding, and Sales

Lee provides a picture of the sales operation at Pacific, “We have a dedicated business development manager who oversees the sales department. Her role is primarily to seek out and network with potential large customers. We have a CSR (customer service representative) who takes all incoming calls that are urgent service requests. He performs in the sales role on all of those calls. My role in the sales process is to review contracts and to ensure that we can meet specifications and pricing commitments.”
The company’s Business Development Manager, Rosio Vitela, makes cold calls and networks in the business community and trade associations. The company also subscribes to a couple of government contract bid services. She also reaches out and investigates and pursues those opportunities. Lee expressed, “Rosio has been with the company for nearly 15 years and does a fantastic job at promoting Pacific Sweeping and its brand.”
He estimates that about 50% of the company’s revenues are generated from sales efforts, around 25% from repeat business, and about 25% from referrals. “We provide monthly service to about 450 active accounts, but have around 2,000 that we provide service as needed.”
The sales and marketing team utilizes a database with outreach activities. Lee notes, “We outsource the online and the email campaign to Rick Brown at the Karcher Group. They’re doing fantastic work and they are continually updating our website and managing our email campaign.”
He has rebranded the business in the last 10 years. It was known as Cannon Pacific Services for many years. He explains that since the rebranding, the company has registered the new name, Pacific Sweeping, and has registered and promoted its great tagline, “A cleaner road will follow.”
Lee points out that an inherent marketing benefit of being in the municipal street sweeping industry is that the large expensive equipment is present throughout the area, projecting the company’s professional image.
Pacific Sweeping additionally utilizes the national service alliance 1-800-Sweeper, to generate new revenue sources and participate in the 1-800-Sweeper buying group where he saves thousands each year on routine items they would be purchasing anyway.

Pacific Sweeping Distinguished RFP Response

On Lee’s practical view of his company’s position in the regional market of municipal sweeping prospects, the advantage for Pacific is that city decision-makers are inclined to prefer working with reputable established vendors. In keeping with that reputation, he approaches contract bidding with an attitude of helping cities devise their specifications for street sweeping services in ways that most appropriately reflect the realities of the industry.
He is quoted in another interview (linked below) explaining that cities hire street sweeping based on either the best price or best value. To obtain the best value requires bidders to develop a meaningful response to a municipality’s request for proposal (RFP). Lee’s RFP experience in public works oversight affords him a unique perspective from so much experience on both sides of the proposition. His ability to think as an advocate for the city and to customize the bid for each city’s particular needs has produced exceptional results for Pacific in the RFP arena.
Some of the matters Pacific’s bidding process includes in discussion with city representatives are sweeping regulations, storm run-off guidelines, routing, equipment changes, service frequency, and air quality management. Pacific’s business development manager also lets’ decision-makers know what the company is doing in the surrounding municipalities and why they’re doing it. Lee finds that cities are very interested in such discussions because most want their cities to be current with industry standards and trends, and they want to be paying a fair price.
He points out that various levels of customer service mean varying pricing levels. For customers who require more rapid response times, the higher degrees of reactiveness naturally must be reflected in pricing.

Culture of Service and Environmental Quality Management

Pacific Sweeping was one of the first companies in the country to adopt the newly comprised ANSI standards for the power sweeping industry. As to be expected from a business that has risen to such a challenge, Pacific’s team adheres to stringent internal quality requirements.
“We have a Safety and Quality Control coordinator, who spot checks service calls to ensure quality control. He also serves as our safety coordinator. His role is to review dashcam footage and GPS data, and resolve issues in the field and ensure a safety culture.” Lee goes on to emphasize,
Every employee is an inspector in this business, and everyone is selling.
If we see something out of the ordinary, we have a very strong team of operators and support employees to manage it.”
The Pacific field services team reports on every curb mile they sweep, providing critical data to help the cities they serve to improve the effectiveness of their street maintenance programs.
Lee is proud of his company’s “Dirt Free Guarantee.” The language of the guarantee is posted on the company’s website. It simply assures customers that if they are dissatisfied with their service for any reason, they can contact Pacific within a reasonable timeframe and receive a re-servicing of the area until it meets with their satisfaction.
The guarantee emphasizes the company’s goal of bringing customers to have confidence that the quality and the value of the service they receive from Pacific Sweeping is superior to all competitors.
As a NAPSA Board Member, Lee Miller’s role is to provide his insights and direction to the national association and to collaborate with industry members to educate on excellence in power sweeping operations. So, it makes sense that he strives to maintain NAPSA’s high standards throughout his organization.
Lee discusses Pacific’s historically very low turnover rates, in contrast to the current situation in 2020, “We have had problems since the onset of the pandemic finding people looking for work. We have had to hire three new people, and it took some time.”
He attributes the company’s low turnover to, “our culture and the stability the business offers to employees. We call ourselves customer- and employee-centric.” He clarifies that that means the leadership team is not focused so much on the business as they are on the needs of the customers and employees. They seem to reason, and rightly so, that focus on those is the key to the success of the business.

Environmentally Conscious Business

One thing that stands out about Pacific Sweeping leadership is Lee Miller’s consistently expressed commitment to environmental conscientiousness throughout all facets of the business’s operations. The company maintains a fleet of modern, low-emissions commercial and industrial sweeper trucks and half its fleet runs on alternative fuel.
The company also subscribes to management best practices for the sweeper industry and promotes those principles to all its customers. The Pacific team strives to meet the state’s tough CARB regulations, NPDES requirements, and the gamut of other local, state, and federal environmental rules and regulations.
In all functions of the business, the Pacific team takes pride in working with the community to help promote the health of the state’s waterways and the Pacific Ocean, after which the company takes its name.

Emphasis on Team Building and Training

The exceptional extent of team-building and staff training at Pacific captured our attention. Scrolling through the company’s Facebook page reveals an elevated commitment to team development. The page is packed with images that would excite any talented business manager, pictures of one after another training session, team training meeting, team certification event, etc.
For just one example, the colorful photos of the company’s annual Division 1 meeting to discuss vehicle inspections, technology use, and work quality, and to conduct safety training, portrays the company’s investment in robust training and information sharing practices.
The post also mentions milestones recognized by the division. Accomplishments depicted include pictures of the division’s Certified Sweeping Operator program graduates. The post also featured the group’s celebration of its lowest worker’s compensation incident rate in the past 15 years! And, there was mention of the great barbeque the company hosted for the Division 1 team.
Posts on the Facebook page also announce Pacific’s upcoming Division 2,3,4 and 5 annual meetings. The company additionally conducts two annual all-employee meetings, which the pandemic has affected. Since in-person meetings are not allowed under state orders, Lee uses Zoom and short videos, emails, and text messaging to keep all employees informed of what is going on.
Pacific’s winning formula for successful team-building and a healthy workplace culture further includes the practical fundamentals for employee satisfaction — a full package of benefits, including health 401K, and paid leave.

Key Challenges for the Pacific Team

The two largest complaints that the field services team receive from customers are about dust in the air and the perceived speed of the vehicles. Lee said that it was complaints about sweepers going too fast that motivated the development of Pacific’s “Dirt Free Guarantee.” He explained, “We could go 5 mph, but it might still sound like the sweeper is going fast. So, our policy is to hold truck speeds at whatever is best for the efficiency of the vehicle. On the dust side, we just explain that sweeping is not a dustless process. Most customers are satisfied with that explanation, once you help them understand the nature of this kind of service.”
Pacific is carb emissions-compliant under California regulations. The company has sold off all its older equipment over the past ten years so that every existing piece is in compliance. Lee reflects, “It cost us a small fortune to replace expensive equipment that California forced us to retire. Not all companies are compliant, but we’ve made the investment so that our customers don’t have to worry about us being compliant. Our customers are responsible for hiring a compliant street sweeping company. If they hire non-compliant companies, they are at risk for fines themselves. So, it’s an important point for them to know that we are fully compliant.”
Other challenges Lee discusses are that labor laws are ever-changing in California, and insurance rates continue to escalate. In fact, he says rates have doubled each year in the past 3 years, despite their solid safety history and relatively good loss ratio. And, as auto insurance and umbrella liability coverages are becoming increasingly expensive, the concern is that such costs can potentially squeeze profitability and will likely force many businesses out of the market.
Lee expressed, “If all insurance companies are increasing rates, it can begin to put us at a disadvantage, considering we often cannot increase our pricing fast enough to keep up with the insurance costs. This is something that the insurance companies do not understand.”
Beyond those common industry issues, we asked Lee how the unique business challenges of 2020 are affecting his operations. He replied simply that, “With the pandemic, we have relaxed many of our policies a little bit, in order for employees to maintain their work status here. Some of it has been directly related to COVID-testing. Fortunately, those instances were all negative results, false alarms. Some of it is now related to childcare during distance learning for their children. It’s hard to be at work when you have to be at home acting as your child’s teacher.”

Equipment and Tech Systems at Pacific Sweeping

Pacific Sweeping’s fleet includes Tymco air sweepers, Elgin Broom Badger Mechanical Broom Sweepers, Schwarze M6 Avalanche CNG Powered Mechanical Broom Sweepers, and Hydrotek Steam Cleaners/Pressure Washers w/full recovery systems. These state-of-the-art models are powered by alternative fuels such as biodiesel, propane, and compressed natural gas (CNG).
The company uses GPS tracking to monitor vehicles’ speed, locations, and other characteristics of their operations. Each field service truck is also equipped with Netrodyne cameras driven by artificial intelligence we have 24-hour access to all footage, and alerts when there is a triggering event.
Advice for Industry Newcomers from Lee Miller, Pacific Sweeping, San Marcos CA
Lee Miller’s advice to new entrants to the power sweeping services market is very straightforward, “Focus on driver safety, employees’ safety, and customer satisfaction, and don’t try to be the cheapest guy on the block.”
Lee’s track record, in both his background in the public sector and in Pacific Sweeping leadership, is one of building successful teams, strong labor relations, enduring internal and external business relationships, and producing optimally successful outcomes for southern California power sweeping customers and for the workers under his direction.
For those inclined to follow the exceptional example of this industry leader, we would emphasize focusing not on finding ways to make more money from each municipal contract, or on submitting the lowest bid. Instead, adopt the sales model the Pacific Sweeping owner provides: think in terms of your prospects’ best interests, and help them see what is involved in delivering the best value.

For more information about Pacific Sweeping, visit https://www.pacificsweeping.com/.

BY BOBBI JACKSON

References

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Pacific-Sweeping-Co/587732218034754
https://www.linkedin.com/in/lee-miller-60240814/
https://www.forconstructionpros.com/pavement-maintenance/sweepers/article/12064739/street-sweeping

No comments yet... Be the first to leave a reply!