Sharing The Wealth

Ken Lindsey - Commercial Power Sweep, Inc.

As a second generation sweeper, Ken Lindsey took over his parent’s California-based business in 1997. Over the years, the business has tripled in size in Napa and the Greater Bay area.

Lindsey almost had a different path. He went into sales after college and was doing his own thing. About the same time that his parents were getting their business appraised for their retirement, Lindsey decided he wanted to go into the family business.

“Fifteen years ago, I had the opportunity to carry on a legacy,” says Lindsey. “I’m glad it didn’t slip through my fingers. I called my dad up and a week later I went to work for them full time. It was a great melding of old and new minds. We complemented each other’s styles.”

A true mom and pop shop, Lindsey’s parents divided the responsibilities of running their business mainly from their home. When Lindsey took over, he got an office downtown, hired a payroll company and diligently worked on growing his business. “I had been in sales dealing with government agencies and recognized that we had the potential to grow the business through them. We started offering the option to lease an unmanned sweeper if they didn’t want to outsource to a contractor.”

Commercial Power Sweep, Inc. provides sweeping for parking lots, commercial, construction, and municipalities. “Right now, we are just trying to hang on to our parking lot contracts,” says Lindsey. “Third party consolidators or brokers have really affected our industry by greatly underbidding what we have and selling it back to us at up to 30 percent less. Unfortunately, many big box stores are sending their properties out for bid at a national level rather than keeping things regional. I understand the concept. It has just hurt the industry and jeopardized the quality of service. We have survived through customer referrals, which is where most of our business comes from. We used to get a lot of work through the phone book, but now it’s through the Internet, our website, the NAPSA contractor locator, or 1-800-Sweeper.

“Belonging to 1-800-Sweeper is helping us to compete with those other third party consolidators/brokers and allows us to maintain our profit margins by being self performers.”

By being recognized at a national level, 1-800-Sweeper and its members are actually able to bid larger contracts directly, cut out the middle man, and maintain our quality of sweeping services.”

The bulk of their business is through construction sweeping. “We subcontract through paving contractors and other major contractors that are building bridges, roads, and some residential construction,” says Lindsey. “We also have commercial sweeping for HOAs, industrial parks, strip malls, and others. “We also provide sweeper leasing, sweeper sales… I have more than 20 sweepers within our active fleet that we operate.

“Sweeper leasing and sales offset the slow months. We may perform the bulk of our construction sweeping May through December, then slow down for the next five months. Parking lot sweeping typically carries us through winter. Some customers have had to cut back, but rather than losing a customer, we’ve been able to lease them an unmanned sweeper.”

Lindsey is able to do this through his fleet of sweepers, some of which are for sale or lease. They include Athey Mobile, Alliance, Elgin, Husky, Masco, Tennant, Tymco, and Schwarze. “I’ve bought them from all over the U.S.,” says Lindsey. “When it comes to working on them, we do most of our maintenance ourselves. The manufacturers provide me with replacement parts as do some of the after-market providers such as Lacal Industries. United Rotary has kept us stocked with our brooms for 20 years. I’ve been very happy with them because of their service-oriented customer service. Most of our suppliers offer us substantial discounts by being a NAPSA or 1-800-Sweeper member.”

Even with his fleet of sweepers and established business, Lindsey says that running a business of that size, or any size, has its own challenges. “We are constantly being undercut by owner operators or sweepers who don’t keep up their insurances and other requirements. Regulation isn’t going away, and I know of several states that are on the fast track to pass similar emissions standards to those we have here in California. I also see an industry that will be in trouble if people don’t take a stand against third-party consolidators/brokers. Municipalities are also cutting back on sweeping because of budget cuts.”

Despite those challenges, Lindsey sees a lot of good things on the horizon. “Even though municipalities are cutting back, they still have a need for sweeping. At NAPSA, we started a dialogue with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last year. I’m optimistic that we can continue to educate them on the benefits of sweeping to keep rivers and streams clean. I think the real-time data that we are showing them will impact their regulations, which could lead to a mandate for local governments to maintain a certain level of sweeping that will help secure future business in the industry.”

Lindsey also sees those regulations eventually being applied to parking lots, similar to construction site regulations.

As president of NAPSA, Lindsey is excited about the work ahead. “Even as a second generation sweeper, I continue to expand my knowledge through weekly interaction with contacts who have an abundance of industry experience. They’ve been a great resource and helped my personal and professional growth. Being involved in NAPSA has helped me to run my business better, safer, and more efficiently.”

“With my experience and resources, I think that I can assist NAPSA and our members a great deal. I hope that others can experience the growth that I have by being involved in industry associations. I’ve learned a wealth of information through attending the National Pavement Expo (NPE) and NAPSA affiliated workshops and sweeper roundtables. I wish I had done that years ago. I’m excited to share that with others through my position at NAPSA.”

Story by Jennifer Taylor