How to Respond in a Tough Economy

According to a recent survey, over the last three years, most sweeping contractors faced a loss in sales. Almost all challenges can be blamed on economic factors resulting in their customers cutting costs: price competition from National Service providers and unprofessional companies, increased fuel prices, government regulation on fuel emissions driving equipment costs higher, increased employee insurance costs, and more.

Particularly in this economy there is no room in pricing to recover these costs of doing business. The pressure on the sweeper contractor’s customer to cut costs is leading to the acceptance of a lower quality product or requiring the quality contractor to do the same or more work in less time for less money. In this economy the low price is becoming more and more attractive and the importance of quality is being minimized.

So you may be asking yourself, is the outlook all bad? The answer is of course not. Around 20% of sweeping companies are actually growing their sales in this tough economy. The strong and those who find creative ways to survive will still be standing at the end of this crisis. Here’s what some contractors are doing to be in that 20%:

  • According to Christy Schmidt, Chamberlain Sweeping, Cincinnati, has “woven pull-behinds into our routing,” enabling Chamberlain to reduce the every night use of larger trucks
  • Michael Wagoner says Cantel Sweeping, Gresham, OR, has “streamlined our scheduling and passed on some costs where we can.”
  • Griffin Parking Maintenance, Tampa, FL, is focusing on “buying more fuel efficient trucks and maintaining them better.” Carl Gardner says the contractor is also “training all employees on how to be more efficient in working their sites.”      
  • Algonquin Sweeping and Striping Co., Walpole, MA, has “increased direct mailings to coincide with specific opportunities, i.e.; spring clean-ups, winter retail bidding season.” Algonquin’s Ron Lichtenstein says the company also mailed to “specific target groups such as landscapers and local colleges and universities.” Lichtenstein said “we pushed only our website and our 15 years in business.       It seems to have helped us meet our growth targets and add new business.”

One thing that may actually benefit the industry is that contractors are being forced to understand and reevaluate their costs. Windell Brent, Commercial Property Maintenance, Albuquerque, NM, is trying to create a “We’re in this Together” environment with his customers. “We try to develop a sense of working together for survival,” Brent says. Brent has had to revisit his pricing structure to show his part of the cooperative effort. “We had to become more efficient and cut our overhead to compete at lower bidding levels. We can only do this if we know our costs and at what levels we can still make a profit.”

So although what will be faced in the future isn’t necessarily clear, this is not a time to sit idle and wait for clarity. Now is the perfect time for internal as well as external evaluation. Now is the time for creativity, for branching out by trying new things and strengthening networks because when the dust clears, those who did something will be the ones who swept it up!

Author Gregg Blair, Superior Tire and Rubber Corp., is a member of the North American Power Sweeping Association and can be reached at [email protected]. NAPSA is committed to promoting and educating the power sweeping community while enhancing the environment. For more information on NAPSA membership, please visit or call (888) 757-0130.