One topic that continues to keep the attention of those in the sweeping industry is the use of National Service Providers, sometimes termed as aggregators. Essentially, these companies are the middlemen between property managers and contractors.
Through their services, aggregators bid and collect large-scale accounts on a national and regional level, and work for those accounts are given to the contractors who are contracted to provide services to the aggregator.
In response to this going trend, WorldSweeper.com hosted a tele-seminar where power sweeping professionals joined together via phone to gain more knowledge and information on working with aggregators.
Richard Arlington, president of Arlington Lawn Care and Rich Arlington & Associates, discussed the best ways to work with these types of firms, stressing that just as there are good and bad contractors in every market there can be both good and bad aggregators to work for. He said contractors who search for them will find them.
Arlington has worked with a variety of contractors offering tips on evaluating and working with third party service providers. In his presentation, he outlined several outcomes of working with aggregators.
Increased Access to Accounts
According to Arlington, several positive results can come from the use of aggregators for both the client and the contractor. "The reason this trend is moving forward at a fast pace is because it streamlines the internal accounts payable and management process as well as the number of checks the property owner has to write," Arlington said. "It streamlines the regional manager involvement allowing them more time to work on the company process instead of dealing with the paperwork of having multiple contractors at multiple sights."
Arlington also said that as more companies go regional or national, the use of aggregators will continue to grow.
He said that as with any business, some aggregators are good companies to work with and some are not - and people most often hear about the bad ones. From contractors' points of view, if they work in a good aggregator relationship they will have many benefits. For example, contractors will have access to accounts that typically don't accept local bids. Arlington also said that working with aggregators fosters a "team" approach, adding that contractors can benefit from working in a team environment.
He said contractors who work with aggregators will be able to make adjustments to their company, which will help their costs and ultimately their bottom line. "You will have no need for a sales staff to go out and try to generate the work from those types of clients because they won't have a relationship on a local level," Arlington said. In addition, because the aggregator will be responsible for managing accounts, contractors might be able to operate with fewer account managers.
Another advantage Arlington sees for contractors working with good aggregators is their budget. "Most of the work will be bid out seasonal, so budgeting becomes easier," he said. "You have a guaranteed set income every month, and you just manage your own expenses."
In addition he said contractors working with aggregators will have free training available, access to free operational or management systems, and have the opportunity to work with business mentors. The combination of positives for the contractor and client can create a win/win relationship for both parties, Arlington said.
Struggles with Control But Arlington acknowledged that both clients and customers can find many challenges when working with the aggregators.
Clients, for example, can see a lack of control by the site level team. "By lowering prices it requires more oversight on the proprieties if they do not hire good aggregators, and their properties can begin to deteriorate as well as receive fines from the city for trash and debris," Arlington said. "There is also a lack of control by their site level team because the NSP is nonresponsive or the contractor will end up in an area where it is outside the scope of work they agreed to."