Companies cleaning up in post-recession era
Janitorial firms are working to secure and keep quality employees.
During the Great Recession, many businesses cut corners by seeking a cheaper way to meet their janitorial needs.
Now, with a stabilized economy that continues to improve, area janitorial companies are seeing an uptick in business and are focusing on controlled growth by adding new clients and by hiring and keeping the right employees.
“All around, a lot of customers are looking for a better quality,” said Cindy Locklin, president and CEO of Busy Bea’s Services. “We try to provide that for them.”
Locklin said Busy Bea’s has grown rapidly the past two years — by 46 percent in 2013 and 53 percent in 2014.
She said there was some client loss during the recession as businesses and building owners looked for cheaper alternatives. The result was poorer service and higher turnover in staff, Locklin said. Some factories resorted to assigning cleaning duties to employees to stretch their dollars.
During the recovery, United Commercial Services started to diversify its offerings, including adding divisions such as painting, said President Tim Brom.
United Commercial Services maintained its employees at approximately 220. Last year, it raked in about $6.5 million in revenue. This year it will gain a major customer and expects to add 25 employees.
The company has approximately 100 customers with various building sizes, with the largest being a million square feet. Brom said large footprints are the company’s specialty.
“The bigger the facility, the better,” he said.
Brom said United Commercial Services acts as a partner with its clients to make sure the businesses run as efficiently as possible.
A lot of the company’s recent growth comes from clients increasing their frequency of service, he said.
“We’re seeing more people invest in their facility,” he said. “Many are increasing service from three days to five days a week. They want to make sure everything is taken care of.”
Losing a contract — which can last three to five years — and trying to obtain a new client can cost a company a lot, Brom said. That’s why it’s important to staff quality employees and stay on top of cleaning trends and demands.
More companies also are seeking to be environmentally friendly and are looking for sustainable janitorial services, Locklin said. Busy Bea’s specializes in sustainable practices and uses Green Seal-37 products and others to minimize the environmental impact of its products.
Locklin said Busy Bea’s is struggling to find quality employees to fill its growing needs.
“It’s taking longer to fill positions,” she said. “That’s been the biggest challenge with the growth. We try to pay a little better to attract better people.”
Busy Bea’s began offering health care and other benefits to its employees before the Affordable Care Act went into effect and does what it can to retain employees to ensure a better service for clients, Locklin said.
“A lot of companies are cutting back on employees,” she said. “We’re going the other way. We want to invest a little more so we can give better service.”
Aggressive Cleaning owner Ryan Vandergraaf said there’s an industry-wide surge in business.
“We’re picking up, but so is all the competition,” he said.
Half of the industry is made up of smaller “mom and pop” operations, he said, because of the low investment to start a cleaning company. Those smaller operations give a bigger company such as Aggressive Cleaning an “in” with businesses that require specialized sanitation techniques or other specialized services.
Vandergraaf said there’s plenty of new construction in the area in need of specialized janitorial services, many of which are medical facilities.
“The new construction takes quite a bit more investment,” he said. “More tools, square footage — and they need to be cleaned more frequently.”
He echoed Locklin’s sentiments about hiring, noting that employee retention is of high importance.
“There’s nobody there when you’re cleaning, and a supervisor might stop by once a night,” Vandergraaf said. “It’s difficult to find people who are responsible in that situation.”
Whether it’s new business or retaining existing clients, making sure the right people are in the right places is key to success, Brom said.
“It’s one of the biggest challenges,” he said. “One of the reasons we see companies fail is growing too fast.”