Broaden the sweeping niche
While most of The Parsons Group's sweeping is parking lot sweeping, the company recently began sweeping for pavers, which is a niche they got involved in simply because of their willingness to help out a potential client.
Milling is prevalent in the area, and pavement must be swept clean of millings before being opened to the public. Then, when it's time to pave, the pavement must be swept again before paving starts – two sweeps for every paving job.
"We got a call one night from a large paving company that did highway work. They were not a client of ours," Parsons says. "We only got the call because their regular sweeping contractor broke down. They asked, 'Can you help us out?' I told the guy we didn't have the type of machine he wanted but I'd be happy to send over everything we have and do the best we can to keep him working, and we did. It costs a lot of money to shut down a paving operation and he appreciated our help."
The following year the same person from the same paving contractor called Parsons back.
"He said 'You got us out of a jam and we appreciate it. If you go buy a bigger sweeper I'll give you the work.' So we bought the Tymco 500X and we've been able to keep that machine busy 100% of them time since we acquired it."
William Parsons operates the 500X himself because "It's easy to find a driver but it's hard to find an operator."
The 500X goes out with a 3-hour minimum and since June has more than paid for itself. Parsons is ordering another 500X for next season "because we don't want to have to tell our customers we can't be there. Having another machine will provide us with a maintenance rotation so we can better maintain it throughout the season. It allows another truck to get out there."
Parsons says while some contractors might view the purchase of a backup sweeper as a waste of money, he views it as essential to the success of his business.
"We're trying to keep that paver from going out there and buying a sweeper of his own," Parsons says. "You let him down once and he can just go out and buy one himself. By making sure you can provide him the service you promise you make it so he doesn't have to buy his own sweeper. You're taking that concern for sweeping off his mind."
He says that once they bought the 500X a whole new world of construction site sweeping opened up for them as EPA stormwater regulations require sweeping to reduce contaminated runoff from construction areas.
"Even with the slowdown of construction of houses developments are still being slowly built and the developers have to maintain all those streets," he says. "We've been able to get some of those jobs, which means we can use our new sweeper at night on paving and milling jobs and during the day on construction site jobs."
And sweeping of development streets has lead to long-term work for the 500X too.
"The homeowners association sees us out there taking care of the streets for the contractor and they ask us to bid the street sweeping for the development once the construction is done and people move in," he says. "We've already got a head start on other sweeping contractors because they've seen our work on that specific job. And they sign us to a sweeping contract where we sweep the streets monthly in the private development."
Accountability means quality
The Parsons Group sweeping operation includes Parsons himself and six full-time employees: three drivers and three assistants who ride along and perform work outside the cab such as hand picking trash, changing trash cans, and using backpack blowers to blow debris from beneath parked cars and shopping carts and out of corners. The assistants earn less than the drivers.
Parsons says he has tracked his costs and it's clear to him that two workers per sweeper are far more productive, and much more profitable, than using one person per unit to do all the work. He examined the weekly costs of a sweeper, a driver, insurance, and fuel. As soon as those costs are covered on the route he adds an assistant to the truck.