Supreme Leadership in Detroit MI

Anthony Cadili was employed at a mall and drove a bread truck at night. He knew a property manager where he worked. She had mentioned some problems she had been having with the quality of the parking lot sweeping service on one of her properties. That caught Cadili’s attention. He saw an opportunity, decided to go for it. He saved up and bought a sweeper truck from Schwarze.
Today, 21 years later, Supreme Sweeping Services, owned by Cadili and his partner Mike Miodowski still services that original property management account that inspired Anthony to get into the business. That kind of longevity in a customer lifecycle speaks like no other testimonial about service quality and customer satisfaction. It’s the most moving kind of story in world of entrepreneurialism — a story of a customer relationship built on commitment to service.
In the early days of the startup, Anthony did it all. He drove the long night-time miles to service accounts and did cold calling by day, to generate sales. Miodowski was still working at a different company during that time. He explains how he and Anthony became business partners. We had friends in common. In 1998, Anthony started the sweeping business. In 2003, we started talking about working together, and in 2004, he and I started a partnership in Independent Services Group, a snow removal company. Then, in the spring of 2005, I purchased half of the sweeping business and we became partners in it too.
Cadili and Miodowski Lead Detroit’s Supreme Team
Anthony focuses sales and Supreme’s larger client relations, and financing. Some property management companies have a dozen jobs and are very high maintenance accounts. He handles their needs. He also goes out and brings in new work, knocks on doors. Mike explains that a lot of work comes in because people know about Supreme’s service, but the company still grows through its active sales efforts.
Mike focuses on maintenance of trucks, routing and working with the employees. The company has grown to currently own a fleet of about 24 sweeper trucks, which are all kept indoors and serviced and washed daily. They’re having two more built at Schwarze right now. Mike attributes the company’s increasing success to its excellent staff. We’ve been able to get really great employees over the years, retain them and grow.
We have three key employees: our Garage Manager, Jason Harris, our Office Manager, Amy Grech, and our Operations Manager, Derek Tribula. With those three running the operations, we can leave for vacation, and the ship keeps sailing. Jason leads our garage staff of three people. He’s our mechanic. He’s been with us over ten years. He’s our go-to guy. The garage team can do anything, engine repairs, engine swaps. Derek has worked with us here for 12 years. We have about 20 drivers. Derek spends lots of time during the day looking at jobs, and in the evenings he’s busy meeting with drivers. He handles all of the quality control. Amy has been with the company 8 years. She holds everything together, from checking in and out, to billing. Lots of our customers do unique billing online. All of our trucks have GPS tracking. She makes sure guys use the system correctly. She also coordinates with the garage staff, the drivers, and with me and my partner.
I’ve known Derek for a long time. He worked with me prior to coming onboard with Supreme, and I’ve known him for almost 20 years. I’ve known Amy for 25 years. She had never worked for me, but I knew about her abilities. Jason was a friend of a former mechanic who worked with us. Jason was in high school, and we hired him right out of school. He’s grown with us, and we’ve grown with him.
Our head driver is Kevin Denean, another key employee. He was a driver back when I purchased half of the company. Kevin has changed with us when we’ve needed to change, and his role has come to include managing a crew at night. He carries a tablet with our routing information on it. We work 24 hours per day. Kevin does the night-time in-person oversight, and Derek does the day-time in-person.
I guess a lot of finding good people to work with is luck, being selective, and looking at their character and what you can trust them with. If you enable people and give them the tools they need, and don’t put them in a winless situation, they can do their best. When they fail, talk about why they failed, and when they succeed, give them credit for it. Lots of people work hard and are generally good people. The reason we’re successful is the quality of the people who work with us.
Supreme Quality Commitment
One key difference that distinguishes our company is our attitude, which is, as it says on sides of our trucks, “A clean sweep, no excuses.” We’re never the cheapest service. People will always able to find a cheaper one, but you always get what you pay for. We show up when promised, and we do what we say we’ll do. A lot of times customers don’t get that. They pay for 7-day service, but then they get skipped on a Saturday, when the sweeping service knows there isn’t a supervisor around.
Our quality control is what really sets us apart. Problems are handled immediately. We give great attention to detail. The maintenance of our equipment is excellent, because we have an in-house maintenance staff. That means our vehicles are especially reliable. Our drivers don’t go out in sub-standard trucks, with hoppers that are not holding trash, or with sweeper heads that are not functioning properly. We take care of everything in-house, and our mechanics are the best in the industry. Many of our drivers have been working with us for ten years or more. We’re proud of that. We pay them well, but we expect a lot from them too.
Our Quality checker goes and visits all jobs in an area, like Lavonia, for example, and nit-picks the work quality. Or, when he goes to price a job in an area, he’ll go look at jobs in the vicinity and spot check those. If there’s a problem, we want to find it long before anyone else finds it. We also have spare trucks on hand at all times, so there are always some in the shop ready to go. If a driver has an issue with a truck, he can immediately get in another one and go.
Supreme Sweeping Business Model
Our core business is parking lot sweeping for commercial industrial properties, large malls, large retail chains, property management companies, and small office buildings, 7 days a week. We do a ton of parking lot repairs, cleaning catch basins, asphalt repairs, power washing, striping and painting. We have a whole array of subcontractors who do that work. Many have been with us over ten years. We’re the go-to guys for outside work. We’ll have a crew there on the customer’s site the next day, putting on a new apron, etc. We don’t advertise for it, or go out looking for it, but we do a lot of these kinds of work, and it’s a nice profit center for us, during our 6 or 7 months of nonfreezing weather.
We do snow removal for some of the same clients we sweep for. We’re pretty selective in the location, size and type of client we work for. Years ago, we did broom sweeping. There’s good money in it, but it became frustrating. When the economy took down turn ten years ago, construction stopped and so did construction sweeping. So, we decided to get out of that business and get into more permanent types of jobs. For example, with large retail store chains and property management companies, in most cases, as long as pricing is in line, they don’t need to make a change. Their sweeping service is like a utility for them. It’s a year-round task.
We have very little call-in business asking for next-day service, etc. We get calls for proposals, but once a customer is on board and the service is done once, if they like the service, they continue with it. We grow as our customers buy and sell more properties. A property may change hands, but suddenly we find that the new owner has four or five more properties for us to do.
We’re not looking to add any new services. We change bags in trash receptacles. We provide day and night portering services. We clean large sidewalks for our parking lot clients. Our drivers provide some additional services, but for others, we work with three different subcontractors, individuals who have insurance and who work only through us. Metro Detroit is a very big area, so it takes all three to cover it.
Growth at Supreme
Every year, we experience a little bit of increase. We don’t have massive growth surges. It’s controlled, sustainable growth. We’re not out there to throw the prices in the gutter just to get a job. The price reflects what it takes for us to do a quality job. We’re about quality. If a customer is all about a price, they’re probably not the customer for us. That’s not to say we’re not competitive, but some companies, especially new ones that have only been in business a couple of years, often agree to prices that are too low to keep them in business.
Marketing and Branding, Supreme Style
We own our own building (26,000 square feet). We do have signage, and the building is painted up nicely. All of our trucks are green and have the same logo. All the drivers were uniforms, the shirt or hoodie, with the logo, and we have caps. We supply those, just for identification, in case they encounter a customer at night, which they usually don’t. All drivers are driving clean trucks at all times.
We really don’t do any advertising. We’re on Facebook. We do have the website, but we don’t run ads per se to reach our market. My partner goes out and notices service problems at locations and goes in to talk to the prospective customers while they’re having a problem. He’s out on the streets knocking on doors. And, once we get the work, we keep the work.
We stay involved in the community. We’re in a unique situation. We’re in a small town called Centerline, which is only 2 miles x 2 miles, within the city of Warren. The police the fire departments are just down the street. We sponsor golf outings, and we support local programs for civic and youth sports and organizations.
Technology Resources at Supreme Sweeping
Our night-time supervisor and drivers all start at 8:30 p.m., and route sheets have already been assigned. Each driver does between 6 and 12 jobs per night. We do only a small amount of sweeping work during the day, for example, for an apartment complex that has people gone in the day, which means the lots are empty, or for warehouse lot that may only be open during the day. The night supervisor sweeps a lighter route, and he has a tablet, so he can look and see where every truck is. He also has the same GPS tracking that we have at the office.
We use a program called Geotab. First thing in the morning, he logs on and makes sure every route and each job got serviced the way the driver reported that it did. He can see the trail of the truck, what it did, all the stops. If a driver drove too fast, or stopped abruptly he can look at that live at night. He may shadow a new driver, to double check and ensure the new drive is working up to standards. There’s coordination between drivers and management in what’s happening at night, so if there are issues, he can go out first hand and see it, or send a day driver out to correct the problem in the day. So, we’re looking at all of the work every single day to make sure we’re doing a good job.
We’re constantly tweaking things. We’ve used QuickBooks for twenty years. That changes in good ways every year. All of our routing is done on computer; I do that. Every driver gets a unique route sheet, description of each account to be serviced, detailed location information, and space for the driver to make notes on the route sheet. That is used to communicate with customers and the Quality Manager. We’re kind of the eyes and ears of the Property Manager.
Every day, we’re getting new requirements from bigger customers, to do billing in the service channel. We use Excel like crazy. We call it “go to the tape”. Every single thing we do, Amy logs. She can go and search and located anything in the system. She obsessively tracks all communications. We keep paper copies from every year, including write-ups of pre-trip and post-trip inspections. Mechanics make notes; they’re all logged. Every truck has its history logged, including oil changes, hose replacements, any part change. We pay the drivers for their use of their smart phones for work, and they use them to take pictures and text them to Derek or the office.
Major Challenges for Supreme Management, Detroit
Our major challenges are probably the same that face everyone else in the industry — the low-level starting-out driver. We have a lot of long-term guys, but we always have four or five guys that have only been here a few months. That’s because they start out well, but become unreliable to get here every day. So, it seems there are always 4 or 5 drivers that we’re replacing. People think they can do this night-time work, but then realize it’s not right for them. There are always a few spots in flux.
Ten to twelve years ago, a dozen people would show up, all with CDLs, and would work hard, because there were no other jobs there. But, now everybody’s busy. Our battle is finding people. The other battle is the new smaller sweeper companies out there underpricing the work. We wish they would understand sooner what it means to work in a way that keeps a business going for more than a couple of years.
We asked Mike for his concerns about any potential unforeseen challenges down the road that could impact Supreme’s future success. Long-term, I can see government emissions requirements on diesel engines possibly having an impact on what we do. The sweeper trucks don’t really have a whole lot of success when they put the emissions equipment on them. It runs down their performance and durability. Or, if the economy turns downward, we’ll have to tighten up again.
Advice for Industry Newcomers from Mike Miodowski
Some companies, especially new ones, that have been in business for just a couple of years or so don’t realize the burdens of truck costs, which are hundreds of thousands of dollars, and high fuel costs, and that puts a lot of pressure on new owners. They just think, “I need work.” So, they start undercutting prices. But, then service inevitably suffers, and they start skipping days that they’re charging customers for and cutting corners on service in other ways.
Hopefully, they eventually come to realize that you have to make money for what you do, or you will not be in business for long. So, my advice would be to do your homework, and be aware of your costs. You can’t hide from your costs. You have to price things to make money.
Supreme Leadership in Detroit MI
In interviewing Mike Miodowski of Supreme Sweeping, s from it, we noted early in the interview, that he began to credit employees for the business’s success. Instead of giving an obligatory passing mention to the great work the staff does, he began naming key team members who manage various areas of responsibility.
Crediting staff, upfront and in detail, for their contributions to the success of the company’s mission is telling of a way of thinking that is characteristic of the best organizational leaders across the sweeping industry and throughout the business sector. Mike Miodowski and Anthony Cadili personify the brand of leadership that inspires.
So, it’s no wonder that Supreme appears to be among the companies in the sweeper industry that have the strongest track records of long-term employee retention. As that encouraging management approach has a way of reflecting itself in service quality, it’s also no wonder that Supreme has continued in the kind of steady growth that is more indicative of long-term trust-building than short-term incentivizing of employees and prospective customers.
Further notable is Supreme’s meticulousness in all facets of organizational management in everything from book keeping, to communications records, to maintenance and service records. It’s a level of excellence for which the mass of businesses strive. Supreme’s level of accomplishment in these areas offers a clear concept of the degree of “nit-picking” mentioned in Supreme’s site service quality inspections, and it further accounts for the company’s stellar record of customer retention. It also speaks of a level of performance pride that additionally helps explain the company’s success in retention of high-caliber personnel.