When Mitch Barkman sold his Texas parking lot sweeping business and moved back to Ohio to start up again, the decisions he had to make didn't seem that difficult.
"Seems like every business down in Texas was ‘Longhorn Something' and I decided that if I ever got back to Ohio I was going to name my business after the buckeye," Barkman says today. "But after that, all we wanted to do was to sweep a little dirt and plow a little snow."
He soon realized, however, that if he was going to be successful in the Northeast Ohio market it was going to take more than having ‘buckeye' in a company name. First of all Barkman had to decide what kind of sweeping business he actually wanted to run. And the business he came up with — he wanted a service-oriented business that was flexible and responsive — is well on its way to being the success Barkman envisioned.
"The whole purpose when we started parking lot sweeping was to grow the business to the point where we could handle anything sweeping-related, from anyone who called in, no matter how big or small or how little notice we were given," Barkman says. "It's taken us about 10 years to get to that point, but we're there now."
Barkman started in the sweeping business sweeping parking lots in Texas in 1985. Four years later he decided to move back to his home state of Ohio, sold his Texas sweeping business, and started sweeping parking lots as Buckeye Sweeping.
Barkman says that since he started Buckeye Sweeping he wanted the company to be the place property managers, general contractors, paving contractors, and municipalities can rely on to get help at virtually a moment's notice. So he has structured his company to be flexible and responsive to customers' needs. He says he realized early on that to become the kind of company he envisioned, he would have to have a variety of equipment and a fleet of significant size.
"We're definitely not a one-truck operation," Barkman says. "We couldn't be and still provide the service and responsiveness that is our key to our success in the market."
Today the 17-person company offers a broad variety of pavement-cleaning services for commercial, industrial, and construction industry clients. Barkman says 30% of sales are from commercial sweeping, and 33% are from industrial and construction sweeping (including construction site cleaning, scraping and flushing). The remaining 37% are from snow plowing and salt spreading, which he decided to add to their services because he wanted winter work to stabilize cash flow, keep some employees working, and provide an additional service to some clients.
"We worked hard and we grew," he says. "Then as we grew we added new services that fit with what we do and that we felt we could offer to help our customers. We pride ourselves on that, on being responsive and real flexible and on being able to satisfy a customer's needs on a moment's notice.
"We try to do everything first class," Barkman says. "We keep our equipment looking good, we make sure the work is done properly, and we follow every guideline we're given, whether it's a guideline from property managers, paving contractors, or the DOT."
A fleet for flexibility
A member of the North American Power Sweeping Association and the Snow & Ice Management Association, Buckeye Sweeping has assembled an equipment fleet that enables it to be responsive to a broad variety of pavement cleaning needs. Having used a variety of sweepers throughout its life, Buckeye now uses only two types of sweeping equipment: six reconditioned Athey/Mobil Top Gun mechanical brooms and six SK Sweepers single-engine vacuum machines. The Mobils, which are available only on the used sweeper market, are considered the company's daytime sweepers, handling everything from industrial parks, milling sweeping, and new construction cleanup, to general street sweeping for municipalities and private properties. All night sweeping, which includes almost entirely parking lot sweeping, is done by six SK Sweepers units the company has acquired in the last 18 months.