A number of years ago when the North American Power Sweeping Association (NAPSA) was looking to enhance its member benefits, it hoped to offer an insurance program where the premiums and benefits would more accurately reflect the type of work sweepers perform.
NAPSA hoped to offer sweeper-specific insurance, available only to association members but was told by insurance underwriters that any such insurance would under the law have to be made available to all sweepers, NAPSA members or not - unless there was a different category of sweepers within NAPSA.
So was born the NAPSA Certified Sweeping Company (CSC) designation, a members-only program "to recognize those firms operating in a professional manner and contributing to the overall image of the sweeping industry."
"NAPSA was having trouble getting insurance underwritten, and we set about constructing a practice to set up a higher-quality product with a better class of companies based on specific business practices," says Mark Carter, owner of Bill's Sweeping Service, Orange, CA, which received its CSC designation in 2004. "The CSC designation gives us another level within NAPSA and makes a difference with underwriters."
Carter, who was on the committee that developed CSC and is currently head of the committee (with Debbie Jacketta, Jacketta Sweeping Service, and Gabe Vitale, C&L Sweeper Service) that reviews CSC applications, says certification has yet to translate directly into "a guaranteed X percentage off the premium," but underwriters tell NAPSA that will happen.
For now, receiving a NAPSA CSC means a company is one of the top contract sweepers who has worked through the certification process. Kerry Armstrong, Armstrong Sweeping, Arvada, CO, was the first company to be certified (he was also NAPSA's first president). Since then, 30 additional contractors have worked through the process and can now boast NAPSA CSC on their trucks, letterhead, bids, ads, and other marketing materials.
"So while the initial idea was insurance related, certification has become a marketing feature designed to give the industry and individual companies additional credibility," Carter says. "It's more a tool to raise the credibility of the association and individual companies."
Among the business aspects the CSC evaluates are safety, employee practices, business practices, vehicle practices, and industry education. In addition CSC applicants must sign NAPSA's Code of Ethics, which covers a variety of professional obligations covering the client, employee, and safety.
"People have gotten the impression that certification is only for the bigger companies, but that's not true. You can be a husband-and-wife team and can still be certified," Carter says. "It's the quality of the organization, not the size of the organization that matters."
To qualify for certification a contractor must meet either of the following two criteria:
- Generate more than 50% of business through sweeping, or
- If sweeping is not 50% of the business the contractor must generate $500,000 a year in sweeping.
"This is open to all NAPSA members who meet those criteria, and the intent is to make sure all certified contractors operate quality businesses and follow legitimate, sound business practices," Carter says. "That's most contractors."
He acknowledges, however, that there are legitimate business reasons for not becoming certified - for not putting the company name on the sweeper, for example.
"There are legitimate companies out there who don't want to put the name on their truck for legitimate reasons - noise issues are a perfect example - but if you're a professional you want people to know it," Carter says. "For the most part legitimate companies put their name on their vehicles, and they each have to make that call on their own from a professional standpoint."