Dale McCaskill admits his company, Southco Sweeping and Maintenance, is one of the largest sweeping contractors in the Carolinas. But he'll also be the first to say, "So what?"
"Being the biggest is not what's important," he says. "What's important is providing comprehensive quality service to our customers."
McCaskill, current president of the North American Power Sweeping Association (NAPSA), says he saw a need to change the way the sweeping industry viewed itself and the way it was viewed by its customers.
"My idea was to apply a white-collar approach to what at that point was a blue-collar industry, and I think we've been successful in doing that," McCaskill says. "Our goal when we opened the business was to set ourselves apart from the competition. We believed that property managers and property owners needed a company that could offer multiple services, so our company's number one priority has been great customer service, superior quality and to make our phone number the only one they will ever need."
Setting itself apart from the competition is also why Southco Sweeping, a full-service maintenance contractor offering sweeping, landscaping and maintenance, became a NAPSA-certified sweeping company.
"Because we felt that our industry was not perceived as being professional, at least in our area, we made it one of our company goals to change that perception. The one thing that has helped to make us successful is and has been understanding the needs of our customers. We make it a priority to anticipate needs and address them before they become issues. Property managers appreciate the fact that we do not just consider them or their property as just a job, but we make them part of our 'family,' and we do everything in our power to make sure that they look as good as we make their properties look."
Sweeping drives full-service
McCaskill says that being a professional involves recognizing the needs of your customers then working to meet those needs. So it wasn't long before Southco Sweeping began adding services - first landscaping and then pavement maintenance - becoming Southco Sweeping and Maintenance.
"We started as a sweeping-only company, but we have evolved into a full-service contractor for our customers. By broadening our services we have become a more valuable supplier to our customers. " McCaskill says. "But our business is sweeping."
He says the addition of a landscape division was an afterthought, the result of property managers asking Southco to perform some landscaping services. "It's not something we actually sought out and planned to start, but we decided to go ahead and market landscaping and sweeping as a package.
"I would like to say that we planned to get into the maintenance business; however, that would not be entirely accurate. When we first opened the sweeping operation I had one property manager in particular that was several states away and managed four properties in my area. She was a great lady, and I always wanted to help, if I could. She would call me on Friday afternoons with an emergency at one of her centers. Luckily, my father-in-law was able to come to the rescue, and we did so well in this area that we were able to keep my father-in-law and a crew of four busy every day of the week. We worked ourselves into a niche market there, and it's really paid off."
He says most of the maintenance jobs were small in the beginning, "the kind of job that a major contractor won't even take the time to look at," but that's not the case any more.
"We want to be there for our customers and be able to provide whatever it is that they need," McCaskill says. He says the biggest challenge the maintenance division faced was in 2002 when his father-in-law died unexpectedly. "Even now, over five years later, when a job doesn't go as smoothly as we think it should someone in the office will say, 'Johnny would not have done it that way.'
McCaskill credits his father-in-law with Southco's approach that the company can take on any job and make it work.