"We're deep enough in equipment so if something breaks down we can handle it without much trouble," Barkman says. "The backup equipment really pays off for us in the long run. It also helps when those last-minute jobs pop up."
He says the company's mechanics know the equipment "from front to back" and are able to order any needed parts on their own, which shortens the downtime.
"Our mechanics know the importance of keeping our equipment productive, so if they need something they know they have the ‘OK' to buy it to get the equipment back on the road."
He says that the company has also been able to see a significant savings by switching from wire gutter brooms to polypropylene gutter brooms on the SK Sweepers.
"Because we're using polypropylene we can rebuild the gutter brooms ourselves," Barkman says. "The difference in rebuilding a poly broom and reordering a wire broom saves us about $50 a broom."
‘Curb to Curb' marketing
Barkman says Buckeye Sweeping does not do much marketing and never has. They rely on a folder containing a six-page color brochure to introduce the company to new prospects from a list developed internally, and Barkman says that has been a good marketing piece for them.
In the last year, as a result of attending a National Pavement Expo seminar in Nashville, Buckeye Sweeping started its own two-page quarterly newsletter, "Curb to Curb," which it now also includes in the folder.
"We always knew we should have a newsletter but we never made producing one a priority," Barkman says. "The session I took at NPE motivated me to get one going."
The self-mailer newsletter goes out to 1,200 clients and prospects, and includes a variety of information, including a history of sweeping.
"It doesn't really have any hard content," Barkman says. "We use it just to keep our name in front of the customer."
And he says the new newsletter has been effective.
"We've had people tell us they got ‘Curb to Curb' in the mail and called us for something. It's more than paid for itself, there's no question about it," he says.
But perhaps the most-effective piece of marketing Buckeye does, at the beginning of each season, is to send a price list of all its "industrial" sweeping and pavement cleaning services to paving contractors and general contractors "and everyone we've done work with in the past."
"That becomes work we don't have to bid," Barkman says. "These contractors know us, we've done work for all of them or almost all of them in the past, and they know what it will cost them for us to do each type of work. So we don't have to bid that much work."
He says this approach saves sales time and helps solidify Buckeye's relationships with the contractors it subcontracts work from.
"It also enables us to be more responsive to them, which is a major goal," he says. "We don't have to get a call, get information, make a bid, and wait for it to be accepted before we do the work. And the customer doesn't have to wait, either, and that's the key thing because our response time is one of the main things that's put us where we're at today.
"They know they can call us and we'll be there. And they know what it's going to cost to get that service done. We can just say ‘Yes' when they call and go out and do the job because we both know what the price for that work is going to be. It also helps keep our equipment busy, which is important too."
Buckeye says that for past customers they will simply go out when asked, do the job, and send the bill. For new customers Buckeye doesn't take the time to prequalify them, largely because there often isn't time before a job needs to be done. So Buckeye handles new customers by charging a slightly higher fee for the work and by charging the job to the customer's credit card before the job is done.