Sweep Masters Built on “Want to”

Sweeping contractor thrives in Alabama, Mississippi

Cheryl Monroe

Don Odom, vice president of Sweep Masters, with locations in Gulfport, MS, and Theodore, AL, started the company in 1996 in Biloxi, MS. In 2003, Cheryl Monroe started in the office answering phones, preparing invoices and doing other general office work – basically learning the business from the inside, out. But she’d never operated a sweeper. Then one night Odom called her in the middle of the night.

“His whole crew had quit on him at the same time and he needed my help,” Monroe says. “That night is when I learned to drive a sweeper.”

In 2015, Monroe became CEO/president as Odom began his transition to retirement (and to enable the company to do work as a woman-owned business). Today Monroe and Odom have transformed Sweep Masters into a larger and more diverse sweeping business that provides complete sweeping service throughout the Mississippi Gulf Coast and the Mobile, AL, area. They have five employees and run five trucks (an Elgin Broom Badger mechanical unit and four Schwarze Gale Force vacuum units) and today generate 60% of their business from the 80 parking lots they sweep weekly (most five nights a week). Another 30% of their work is construction site sweeping and the remaining 10% is street sweeping, primarily for the city of Biloxi, MS.

Both Monroe and Odom still get in the cab – Monroe as needed (she ends up behind the wheel pretty much every week and also trains new hires) and Odom on specialty sweeping jobs, such as the Alabama Airbus manufacturing facility that requires special clearance to access the property.

No Sales Staff

But one thing they don’t do is solicit new business.

“We’ve been around so long and have such a good reputation that people call us,” she says. “I think we’d have more work than we could handle if we actually solicited it. We give every job and every customer 100%, so the result is we get a lot of very good word-of-mouth advertising and a lot of repeat business.”

But that doesn’t mean they don’t pursue sales.

On calls to new clients Monroe visits the prospect in one of Sweep Masters sweeping trucks. The oldest sweeper we have is a 2013 model and we take good care of them and keep them clean so showing up to a new client in a truck like that really makes an impact. It shows them we’re serious,” she says. “Then “I make a pass on their lot to show them what we do and what they can expect and I’d say that 95% of the time when we do that we get the job.

“When they see us around town or when we show up on a job they see newer trucks, our guys are in uniforms, they see us blowing off the sidewalks, getting the edges and gutters. It makes an impact.”

Encouraging “Want to”

She says taking care of employees is an essential component of providing the quality service that generates word of mouth to bring in other customers.

“It’s your ‘want to’,” she says, when asked how she and Odom get their employees to buy-in to their approach. “You have to want to do everything the right way. It’s easy to not give 100% one day, so you have to want to give it.”

Monroe says that to encourage “want to” in their employees they talk with them a lot about what the company expects and why they expect it, and how meeting those expectations affect each worker. They also offer unexpected incentives when they’re warranted.

“If a client calls up and says we did a good job we might give that operator a little ‘happy’ for it -- maybe a gift card or something like that,” Monroe says. “We try to make it fun because let’s face it, we’re picking up trash and dirt for a living.”

In addition they have a bonus structure for safety and also offer productivity bonuses. The most recent example is a three-week airport sweeping job. Because of Sweep Masters’ other regular work, taking the airport job meant employees were going to have to work seven days a week for at least three weeks. So Monroe says they got the employees together, laid out the job and schedule, and told them they each would receive an extra week’s pay for doing it if they stuck it out and they reached their goal.

“It made sense because their effort enabled us to take on that specialty job,” she says. “But we let them know right up front what was going to be involved and what they would get for doing it.”

She says all employees stuck with the plan and received their extra week’s bonus – except one person who quit part way through.

“We are very focused on quality,” Monroe says. “I want to do it right the first time. If I tell you we’re going to be there at midnight on Tuesday that’s what happens and we do exactly what we say we’re going to do. If you tell people what you’re going to do and you follow through with it, what else is there?”