"Normally we are not the lowest-priced sweeping company, but our customers know that if they hire us they never have to worry about us being there, doing the work, and providing whatever service it is that they contracted for," McCaskill says. "I tell our customers that 'If the sweeper you're talking with can deliver to you what I deliver to you, and do it at half the price, I'd be a fool to tell you not to go with them.' But I also tell them I know what will happen. I tell them 'I know what it costs to run my sweepers and those low-priced sweepers can't do it or at least can't do it for very long, for the price he's quoted.' Contractors who sell based only on price just can't last - and they don't."
When McCaskill started in the sweeping business in 1989, he started like many other sweepers with just himself, a sweeping truck, and several small properties. Initially working part-time, the out-of-work sales manager soon realized that part-time needed to become full-time if he was to pay his bills.
"Then, once I got to 10 or 12 accounts, which didn't take all that long, I hired my first driver and that enabled me to work during the day, running it as a business and selling while the driver got the work done each night," McCaskill says.
After only a short time in the business, McCaskill felt he could bring some of his sales management experience to the sweeping industry, and today he runs a 25-person sweeping company that just experienced 14 months of unprecedented growth, requiring McCaskill to add staff and equipment to handle the increase.
McCaskill is quick to point out the importance of his administrative staff and regular employees in the company's success.
"We've made it a point to hire smart people, people who had goals for themselves, because we figure if they have their own goals they will be willing to work toward our goals," McCaskill says. "Then once we've got them hired I set goals to help them meet their goals."
Main administrative staff is all-in-the family. Dale McCaskill Jr. is his Dad's executive assistant; Debbie McCaskill, (Dale Sr.'s wife) is the company's vice president and financial officer, working with division managers on budgets and job-costing. Sister-in-law Luanne Hart serves as director of maintenance and also handles presentations and proposals, working with property managers, and making site visits. Daughter Lauren pitches in during the summer by making site visits and helping out in the office. Jeff Thompson, operations manager, has been with the company 10 years and keeps all the employees and equipment on track, works in sales, and manages special projects.
"We all work together to keep all the employees very, very involved," McCaskill says. "It's important we're all on the same page with the concept of what we're trying to do, so we keep everyone involved."
That involvement starts each morning with a 15-minute administrative meeting. McCaskill runs the administrative meetings while Thompson handles any field meetings.
"I know exactly what I want to have done and the way I want it done, and I think I've communicated that to everyone here. So the meetings are to make sure that happens, and we tell everyone do what you tell me you're going to do and everyone's going to be happy."
The Southco sales call
McCaskill says the most obvious example of a quick and easy improvement Southco first made when he started the company was in the bid and the sales presentation. "I was surprised how informal some of the sales presentations were," he says. "A number of times people were scrawling numbers on a legal pad and that was both the bid and the contract."
He says he knew he could make an impact there.
"When we started our approach was 'look bigger than we actually are' so we developed nice-looking brochures, formal contracts, and we instituted automated computerized billing," he says.
Now when Southco makes a sales call on a prospect, McCaskill says they present a professionally done conceptual presentation designed to let the property manager know all the different problems Southco can solve for him.
"It's a totally different approach than 'I'll sweep your lot for $35.' We talk about job quality, service, and we tell them 'We will sweep for you if that's all you want, and we'll do a great job just like you want. But we also can offer you more if you happen to be looking for more.' Generally people are very receptive to that approach.
"I never sell price because I believe profit is not a dirty word," McCaskill says. And that philosophy extends into Southco's approach to the work it bids and the work it accepts.
"I won't take a property just to keep someone else from getting that work, and I won't take a property that I can't make a profit on," McCaskill says.