Armstrong Sweeping Inc., Denver CO

The Armstrong Sweeping company motto is “Our #1 goal: Getting the job done for our customers, no matter what it takes.” When we see one like that, we recognize that echelon of work ethic that elevates an industry. When a company is pledging to get it right “no matter what it takes,” you know there’s a lot of going the extra mile for customers, lots of over-delivering. It makes sense that Armstrong is an award-winning business, nationally recognized for its service achievements.

The company was founded in 1973 by Kerry and Marsha Armstrong. Their son, Mitch became an integral member of the leadership team as he grew up in the business. For these 48 years, Armstrong has been providing power sweeping services throughout the Denver Metro Area, north to Fort Collins and Greeley, east to Strasburg, south to Monument, and west to Clear Creek County.

Armstrong Sweeping Leadership Team

We spoke with Ryan Bentley, Armstrong Operations Manager, who came on board about five and a half years ago, after building a career in the industry. Ryan had worked his way up through the ranks with his previous employer. He had started from the ground up as a laborer on the job and then earned the opportunity to run things.
He explains, “I wound up working my way up to become a driver, then to lead, then to trainer, and eventually became Division Manager. Then, I started looking at the financial side of things. I told them (the company’s top management) that our sweeping side wasn’t profitable and why. So, they sold the division. I sold out my job, effectively, I then moved up to Director of Operations for that company.”
After an eventual change of ownership at that company, Bentley filled a couple of other roles in the pavement and power sweeping industries and ultimately was offered a position by Mitch Armstrong, Vice President. Already an industry expert in his early 20s, Ryan came to work at Armstrong at age 25, as the youngest person to enter employment with the company at that time. He recalls, “It was a real leap of faith on their part.”
The company is nearing its 50th anniversary. Today, in the Armstrong Sweeping, Inc. (ASI) leadership hierarchy is Kerry Armstrong, President, Mitch Armstrong, VP, and Marsha Armstrong, Secretary, and Ryan Bentley, Operations Manager. Currently, Mitch’s role is shifting to taking over general management of the business.
Mitch’s responsibilities will include strategic planning and budgeting, among other top leadership functions. Ryan explains, “He’ll also work directly hand-in-hand with me, to ensure that the overall management plan is cohesive with what we’re actually doing on the ground.

Armstrong Sweeping, Inc. Business Model

ASI is located in Arvada, Colorado (18 minutes from downtown Denver) and services the greater Denver metro area and beyond. Ryan explains that the company operates three separate main divisions: Broom Sweeping, Lot Sweeping, and Day Porter Services.
The company’s one-stop power sweeping and exterior maintenance service model that the combined divisions constitute includes:

General power sweeping services
Construction site cleanup
Community street cleaning
Condominium and apartment complex cleanup
Commercial parking lot maintenance
Parking area scrubbing services
Special projects
Work requiring custom sweeping equipment
Illegal dumping and homeless camp cleanups
Sweeping of milling and paving projects
Portering/exterior maintenance (trash containers, cigarette receptacle cleaning, and more)

The parking lot sweeping alone is provided by 10 crews per night, 365 days per year, serving approximately 450 customers — all of whom are happy with their service, as Ryan points out.
In summers, Ryan explains, “We’re then hitting it hard with paving and milling and construction sweeping,” and throughout the rough Colorado winters, ASI field crews are busy servicing municipal street sweeping and snow removal accounts.
The ASI day portering staff of four porters works Monday through Friday year-round picking up landscape debris and trash on properties, emptying trash cans, replacing liners, and doing other exterior maintenance and cleaning tasks as needed.
Ryan says parking lot sweeping is probably the biggest part of the ASI revenue base, followed closely by municipal street sweeping and construction site sweeping. He estimates the ratio is around 60% lot sweeping and 40% broom work.

Growth of the Armstrong Sweeping Company

Armstrong purchased two other sweeping companies in 2020, one in January and another in July. When asked about the business’s growth model, Ryan told NAS, “Growth through acquisition is a big part of it, along with holding ourselves to a high standard of quality and creating word-of-mouth customer acquisitions that way. When we brought on new customers, their prior services had only offered parking lot sweeping. We were able to provide them with the removal of items from illegal dumping, roll-off service, day portering, sand cleanup, street sweeping, and other services.” The company has a skid steer with a grapple bucket on it, which it purchased last year, for cleaning up dumps at homeless sites and other areas. Ryan assesses, “It has been pretty profitable.”
He goes on to explain, “In the January acquisition, we didn’t take any equipment or employees. We picked up about 40 customers. The owner retired.” In the other one (the July acquisition), we took 10 trucks, and about 4 employees, and somewhere in the range of about 200 customers.” We have since sold all the equipment. It was all old.”
Ryan continues, “Growth comes in spurts. Over the lifetime of the company, it was really big and thriving in the 90s, close to 50 pieces of equipment, everything was booming. Then, in 2008 (during the financial crisis), things really dropped. When I came on in 2015, we had 19 employees. Now, we’re at almost 40. We had some flux with our large third-party customers. They would award us with up to 40 properties at a time. We no longer work for the 3rd party that was a major cause of our growth in the last 5 years. We’ve had huge growth with them. But, we have 40 new properties coming on, so we’re continuing to grow.”
Ryan characterized the overall pace of growth for the company through the decades, “
Growth has been bumpy over the years. In the last five years, there’s been a pretty steady increase.”

Marketing and Sales as ASI

Asked about Armstrong’s marketing practices, Ryan says, “Aside from being a part of 1-800-SWEEPER, which is definitely a big part of our marketing, our trucks are our rolling billboards. Every truck gets washed every day. That’s our face, it’s what our customer sees. We don’t have ads or salesmen. We don’t call people or go door to door. It’s always been that way. We’ve never had to have a salesman, except in the first couple of years.”
He explained that all the field services employees have uniforms, which helps identify them with the brand. They wear orange t-shirts with the company logo on the front and back. Some wear polo shirts, hoodies, and hi-vis jackets, hats, or beanies. “We outfit them as much as possible. The night workers wear safety vests and leg gaiters, and Class 3 high visibility safety vests, instead of regular Class 2, for safety.”

The ASI Powersweeping Services Team in Arvada

Armstrong’s management consists of Mitch and Ryan. The field services team includes 25 to 30 sweeper drivers. The administrative staff includes 2 people, Sherri and Laura, who handle office support, bookkeeping, accounts payable, and other responsibilities. Ryan explains, “We have a Service Manager, Eric Norris, who oversees parking lot sweeping and day portering. He’s trained in every aspect of operations and can handle everything in my absence. We have two other managers, Shift Managers, for the parking lot division, who work 4 days per week, one overlapping the other. We do experience a little seasonal flux, but we keep everybody on year-round.”
Armstrong’s longest-term employees have been with the company for 15 to 20 years. One employee has worked for ASI for 28 years. Ryan estimates that the average length of employment with the company is around 8 years.

Equipment at Armstrong

The Armstrong Sweeping truck fleet and equipment are state-of-the-art. The company’s practice is to replace equipment well in advance of the time it becomes too costly to maintain it. The business passes on the cost savings in repair expenses to its customers. The Armstrong management also reasons that replacing aging equipment helps provide safer working conditions for their equipment operators.
ASI has about 30 sweeper trucks. The equipment brands used by Armstrong include about 10 Nighthawk Raptors, Raptor II’s, and one Osprey used for lot sweeping. We’re planning on ordering 2 more Raptor II’s in the first quarter of 2021. The Nighthawks are all dual fuel LPG and regular gas.”. “We’re trying to keep it green, Ryan explains. “We love the equipment. It’s very user friendly and easy to work on, and they’re quiet.”
He adds, “For our broom sweepers, we have quite a few Elgin Broom Bears & X-Brooms. We hope to have another X-Broom ordered this year, along with Schwarze A-8 Twister high dump regenerative air sweepers. We use Stewart- Amos S-4XL for non-CDL trucks. We run six late-model Ram 1500’s for our day porters. We have about 15 other misc support vehicles in our fleet.

The 2020 Experience for ASI, Denver CO

Ryan reflects on 2020, “Aside from our business purchase last year, which was a big spike, we also had many properties we were maintaining and had the revenues coming from those. So, there wasn’t really a down period in terms of revenues, aside from cities losing their funding, to cover unemployment, and not being able to do their spring sweeping programs. The buyout came unexpectedly. We thought it would be spring 2021, but the owner came to us and wanted to do it earlier. It all worked out great.
I’m feeling good going into 2021, but with having COVID happening, we weren’t sure what tomorrow may bring, so we have definitely had things buckled down. Especially in 2021, going in, we’re asking questions like, “Do we really need to make these or those changes.” I think we’ll keep it that way, and not go back to being any less cautious.”
We let go of one of our largest 3rd party customers in July. No one lost their job, but it was a huge financial decision, a million dollars in yearly revenue, through a third party. At the end of the day, it wasn’t worth it. But, we were starting new service for multiple others, so 2020 was probably better for us than many businesses.”

ASI Field Services Training & Certification

“For our broom crew, training depends on whether CDL or non-CDL is called for,” Ryan said. He elaborated, “Much of the training is done by our veteran drivers. New drivers ride along with them for up to a month at a time. The night crew train with the shift managers 8 to 12 days before they go out on their own. They ride with drivers doing parking lot sweeping, and the night managers handle the training.”
Asked about advanced training for veteran drivers and management training, Ryan said, “Eric and I do that training, to ensure consistency. We’re both certified sweeper operators for construction and parking lot sweeping. We took training for sweeper certification with NAPSA and recently graduated from the national leadership academy (National Pavement Maintenance Leadership Academy). We’re working on having all managers and operators certified.”

Armstrong Sweeping Internal Workplace Culture

Armstrong Sweeping has built a thriving family business in the Denver area over the past nearly half-century. Ryan accounts for the team’s long success this way, “We’re a family here. We try to take care of each other. If something is going on within someone’s family, we want to know about it and do everything we can. I think that’s the biggest thing we’ve got going right. We care about how their success is, not just about making a huge profit.
We reinvest a lot of the profit back into the company. Most of our trucks are 2014 or newer, which creates a better working environment. We offer benefits. Health insurance has probably helped retention and new hire success more than anything. Most competitors don’t offer that. We cover 70% percent of the premium.
Before we started that, employees would sometimes say, “I love everything you guys are doing, but I have to go where the health insurance is. We might not be able to pay the most hourly of any company out there, but we try to make up for it with the benefits and how we do things.
People make mistakes. We’re a second-chance company. Sometimes people have gone through rough times in the past. We look past that and try to help people succeed today.”
The ASI workplace culture is one of performance pride and full commitment to meeting customers’ needs and quality service and workmanship. Ryan offers, “Our company motto, about getting the job done, no matter what it takes, means that we make it happen, no matter what the cost may be. We’re committed to making sure the job is always done right in every detail.”

Pollution Management by ASI

ASI features its efforts to control pollutants from potentially going into the environment through power sweeping. Back in October 2008, NAS interviewed Kerry Armstrong. Kerry explained at that time that the issue of roadway-born pollution was just becoming understood, “It’s finally being recognized how much of an environmental service sweepers provide by getting a lot of potential pollutants off the roadways before they can be washed into the water sources.”
Armstrong Sweeping works on an ongoing basis with power sweeping equipment manufacturers to help reduce both dust and noise to a minimum during sweeping and scrubbing processes, to help protect their employees’ health and the environment.

Emergency Services Provided by Armstrong

ASI provides multiple local water departments with emergency services for rapid cleanup from any potentially hazardous repairs of water lines, by helping keep toxic debris away from the public water supply.
Armstrong even maintains a floating sweeper truck that can be sent to the location of any emergency virtually immediately, giving local municipalities the benefit of added resources in manpower and equipment, to help resolve problems as quickly as possible.

Advice for Industry Newcomers from Ryan Bentley, Armstrong Sweeping, Inc., Denver CO

“It’s a tough business. You’re not going to get rich overnight, and you may not ever get rich in this business. It’s a lot of hard work. But, you can do very well. The key is to take care of your people. If you make them a success, they’ll make you a success.”

For more information about Armstrong Sweeping, call (303) 432-0060, email service@armstongsweeping.com), or visit https://www.armstrongsweeping.com.

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