American Sweeping, Inc. – 37 Years Later

Gale Holsman, President, and CEO of American Companies Inc., of which American Sweeping is a subsidiary has an arguably unparalleled track record. He has built an extraordinary Midwest corporation, with financially powerful tentacles reaching into just about every known site services industry. American Companies has flourished for over three and a half decades since 1984, to grow into an indomitable competitor in Kansas City power sweeping and related site services systems.
We spent some time with Gale recently, to learn the amazing story of this Midwest regional entrepreneurial phenom and his ever-expanding enterprise. We also asked about the business experience and after-effects of 2020 on the company, its team, and its future planning.

American Companies’ Spectacular Business Model

American Companies is the parent company of four separate incorporated companies, including American Sweeping Inc., American Pavement Maintenance Inc., American Waste Systems Inc., and Total Venue. This broadly diversified site services enterprise offers a one-stop-shop for customers, including:

Street Sweeping for:
Industrial Sites
Construction
Municipal Contracts
Powerwashing
Roll-off Containers

Portable Toilet
Models for:

Construction
Luxury Use
Special Events

Event Clean-up Services, including:
Stage Rental
Trash Containers
Other Event Site Equipment and Services Rear Loaders for Commercial and Residential Needs
Asphalt
Sealcoating
Pavement Striping
Other Services

This incredible company and its owner have come what must have felt unfathomably far back when Gale Holsman, a sales manager for Waste Management took a risk on buying a lone sweeper truck and started doing parking lots.
The next decades of vast growth by multiplication of very costly, high-risk revenue channels rocketed the fledgling entrepreneur to his status today as corporate President and CEO of a sprawling array of companies from Kansas City to St. Louis to Atlanta.

Innovative and Independent American Companies Leadership

Gale and his company introduced the first infrared machine for use in pavement work in Kansas City and have otherwise stayed at the leading edge of change in the Kansas City power sweeping market.
American discontinued parking lots sweeping services back in 2006 and redirected its focus onto much larger municipal street sweeping contracts and highway maintenance and construction cleanup services.
In more recent years, Gale has put his company at the forefront of change in the power sweeping industry in a different way, by discontinuing day portering.
We asked why he has made such a move, despite that portering is considered throughout the industry to be a cash cow. Gale characteristically boiled the matter down to its simplest terms in the February joint interview, “We used to do portering. We did it for 30 years. We got out of it because everybody got into it, and now people want you to do it for 1980 pricing.”

American Companies Equipment and Technology

The company currently has an abundance of sweeper trucks to meet the needs of its many clients. Gale explained that his team uses Eagles, because they can do both municipal streets and construction site sweeping, and they use Tennants for scrubbing garages. They also use Victory Air Sweepers to do any parking lot sweeping requested. In other divisions, the company has, for example, 3,500 Satellite rental restroom units (which number changes constantly), including some luxury trailers for special events.
The company relies heavily on GPS in all its service divisions. Gale emphasizes that it enables management to control what field services crew members are doing continuously. It reveals all the information they need to manage activities, such as vehicle locations, speed, the amount of time spent at a location, and even information from prior days. Gale praises the technology for its great convenience and efficiency in providing critical data for quality control, among other uses.
The company’s staff includes managers, supervisors, administrative office workers, salespeople, sweeper truck drivers, shop mechanics, and techs. American Companies has about 40 drivers, which number changes seasonally, and a total staff of about 15, including managers and admins. All drivers are cross-trained to meet shifting seasonal demands.
Like most other sweeper operations in U.S. regions with seasonal climates, American’s team experiences fluctuations in-field staff size throughout the year. Gale pointed out that the staff numbers also vary when the company brings on large new customers and when it takes on new projects, and as projects are completed.

2020 in Retrospect

When asked how American Companies did during 2020 and they are doing anything differently today and plan to do anything else differently in budgeting, operations, or strategic planning, due to lessons learned from the unexpected impacts of last year.
Gale was frank, “Last year stunk. The sweeping stayed about the same, parking lots, garages, and other sweeping all stayed about the same. About three-quarters of our sweeping revenues in 2020 were from power washing, sweeping garages, etc. Street sweeping went okay, but everybody had their budget cuts, so it wasn’t that popular.” But, he added that construction had remained fairly strong in Kansas City, and that that had helped keep volume up for American and that they had not had to lose any workers.
Gale said that the company has maintained its volume of sweeping business, not realizing much growth, but not taking losses in that division, even in the aftermath of 2020. He says that the power sweeping customer base has remained steady across the numerous cities where the company provides services, including many accounts they’ve had since the beginning 37 years ago.
As Gale explained, because of American’s long time in KC operations and strong relationships built over decades throughout the market, when his customers add new volume, his company adds volume right along with them. He commented on the continued good growth rate that held through 2020 in Kansas City and which the area is still experiencing. As he said, it’s naturally good for American.
As Gale shared with NAS and another publication in a joint interview last month (February 2021), “Sweeping is generating substantial revenues for us. We have some industrial accounts. Revenues have stayed steady in the sweeping, toilets, and roll-offs. Toilet rental revenues are probably around 18% to 20%. Roll-offs are probably around 11%, and residential trash pickup is about 60%, and sweeping accounts for the rest, about 10% to 11%.”
However the numbers are added, American Companies is a major site services business success story. As a result, Gale owns multiple other businesses. His fiancé owns two powersport motorcycle dealerships as well as the Shawnee Mission Cycle Plaza. Gale also owns Holsman Classic Cars. He also likes his race car and offshore race boat and has a ranch with nearly 60 horses.

Holsman’s American Companies Future Planning

Asked if strategic future planning is different in the wake of 2020, Gale said that naturally, his future planning takes into consideration potential future impacts to growth from external causes. Apropo to the topic, during our interview, Kansas City, along with much of the rest of the United States was frozen in sub-zero temperatures and buried under deep snow, which was causing slowdowns throughout the KC metro, including for his crews.
Gale offers a word of advice to aspiring new market entrants, “This is why diversifying your company into multiple revenue streams is imperative for a company in our industry. This time of year is when you would consider having a snow removal and deice service.”
But, Gale is focused on his company’s year-round commitment to service as the major approach to growth. As he had stated in a 2018 interview, “We spend our time on account retention. We want to provide the best service so that our clients have no reason to go to our competitors.”

American Companies Quality Systems

In the February joint interview, we asked Gale if his management team maintains any sort of personal contact with customers to gauge satisfaction with service quality. Gale responded, “That’s what keeps our service level up in our sweeping company. We always want to check-in.”
He went on to say that his team is very committed to handling customers’ needs with great care, and he credited their efforts with the company’s strong customer retention and with his own sense of confidence in their abilities to take the company on to a successful future through their quality efforts.

Marketing and Sales at American, KC

Word-of-mouth between KC business managers is one of American Companies’ primary sources of new customers, Gale explained. He added that being known in the market for such a long time organically brings new customers through referrals and by people just talking to others about their experience as a customer of the company.
Gale also said the company’s website is a major source of new business for the company. He said it’s like having salespeople on duty round the clock. Shannon Holsman Lock, Gale’s daughter, is the company’s Marketing Director. She does all the design and programming for the website and manages Total Venues, one of Gale’s other companies. They also run TV and radio ads and even rent billboards, to keep the company top of the public mind.
The company’s sales reps bid on new jobs for municipal street sweeping contracts, events, and others. Altogether, American appears to maintain a more robust sales and advertising program than almost any other successful power sweeping business whose operator we’ve interviewed over the past several years.

A Few Words from and About Portable Restroom Rental Industry Authority Gale Holsman, Kansas City, MO

Gale’s takeaway message for new peer business owners is not to fear charging what you need to charge for your services. He emphasizes the basic reasoning that if you don’t get paid what you need, then you cannot hire good workers and deliver good service, which means your customers can’t keep doing business with you and your business will fail.
We’ll add a few words here about another principle to mold your business management philosophy, based on our observations of Gale Holsman’s way of doing business. In addition to charging enough to stay afloat, it seems clear enough that It also appears to have a strong philosophy about just treating people well.
He brings a positive way of communicating and nurturing the atmospherics around him that is contagious. In fact, the American Companies owner appears to have built a brand over these past 37 years on just being himself: very kind, respectful, relaxed, funny, happy, friendly — just humble and down-to-earth…
It’s no wonder that Gale Holsman is sought for inspirational speaking to groups in the power sweeping industry and others throughout the U.S. Further, his encouraging, uplifting approach is bound to have added great power to his effectiveness as a change agent in both his B2B site services consumer market environment and the KC employment market throughout his entrepreneurial career.

For information about American Sweeping, Inc., or American Companies, Inc. visit americancompanieskc.com.

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