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When John Mapes was involved in the commercial printing industry, carpet cleaning was probably the furthest thing from his mind.
But now it''s what he lives and breathes.
John is the president of Ecosteam Corporation, located in Sycamore, IL and serving the areas of northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin.
The business started in 2003 with one truck and currently has a total service fleet of 11 vehicles, plus four support vehicles, and a total staff of 16 full-time employees.
Ecosteam offers residential and commercial carpet cleaning, upholstery cleaning, hard surface cleaning, water damage remediation and radon mitigation.
Making it work
John feels like the industry picked him as much he picked it. It has all the elements of the past skills that he had learned, and all the aspects he enjoys the most.
Developing staff, John says, has always been his favorite part of being in business. Watching them grow and learn how to inspire others to embrace vision and business goals is what he enjoys.
Although any new business has growing pains, John said that 2009 was really a challenge, as the company grew a modest five percent, and the team had to really work hard to hold its own. 2010 has seen tremendous gains in gross sales, up nearly 40 percent from the previous year.
Ecosteam doesn''t appear in any telephone book, and has avoided Yellow Page advertising for nearly three years.
The best marketing tools the company has are in the digital domain and building retailer relationships.
The retailer relationship method of gaining new customers has worked extremely well for Ecosteam, as the company has partnerships with 16 retailers representing 72 locations in two states.
Holding a solid position with past clients is also part of Ecosteam''s success.
Emphasis on growth
Ecosteam plans to continue to expand its retailer network aggressively and fine tune its efforts to find the best type of client.
This could be done, John said, by acquiring other service companies in 2011. That''s an option the company is considering. But the main focus will be continuing to maintain the Ecosteam current client base and building upon that through referrals.
When looking at opportunity, John realizes that his biggest competitor isn''t any one other company — it''s himself, he said. He''s quick to guard against complacency each and every day.
Taking the staff and clients for granted is deadly, he believes, so Ecosteam never has a "big head" about itself. The company continues to remain grounded and humbled by its growth and success as a group.
Current and future success and growth is with those in the company, John said. He personally doesn''t spend too much time focusing on clients — he leaves that up to his quality staff.
His job, he believes, is to remove obstacles and create an environment in which his people feel fulfilled and have a desire to grow in.
The result is a company that is totally engaged in the journey to a great future.
Ultimate Carpet Cleaning
The founders of what would become Ultimate Carpet Cleaning in the Boise, ID area have always been fairly entrepreneurial.
Jeremy and Jennifer Higley purchased their first rental property in 1996 while going to college, and continued to purchase and manage rental properties until just a few years ago, when the market started to decline.
For a period of time, they started and ran a home remodeling company, specializing in kitchens and bathrooms.
When they bought their first truckmount, they bought it for their rentals and as a bonus service to their remodeling clients.
It wasn''t long before Jennifer climbed onto the truck and was cleaning four to five jobs a day, three days a week, while also working a full-time job.
They admit that, at that point, they didn''t know anything about cleaning carpet. It wasn''t until they started reading Cleanfax magazine that they started to realize how much potential there was in a carpet cleaning company.
In 2006, they shut down the remodeling company and Jeremy finally came to what Jennifer laughingly refers to as the dark side.
They were now in the carpet cleaning business and all their efforts were consolidated and focused on creating a truly unique, family-owned company that emphasized exceptional service, the ultimate in clean and the very best guarantees.
Jeremy and Jennifer Higley both manage the office, telephones and the marketing.
Ultimate Carpet Cleaning services the Treasure Valley, which includes Boise and surrounding areas. Currently, the company employs two technicians with two carpet cleaning trucks, with a plan to add a third truck in March. The company also runs a full in-plant rug cleaning operation, with a busy pick-up and delivery service van.
The Higleys, like most, didn''t initially plan on a career in carpet cleaning. They were prompted to do so by their remodeling clients, who kept insisting on having their carpet cleaned. Soon, these same clients were telling their friends and the Higleys didn''t have much of a choice.
Eventually, a few of their competitors tried to buy them out and hire Jennifer and her helper to run their trucks. The Higleys knew they really had something at that point.
Only about 45 percent of company revenue is from carpet cleaning, with odor control and carpet repair reaching significantly higher percentages during the past two years.
With a full in-plant rug cleaning process, the Higleys enjoy earning additional revenue from at least seven other local carpet cleaning companies who take advantage of the service for their own clients.
As is the case with many other cleaning companies, Ultimate Carpet Cleaning also offers tile and stone cleaning, wood floor maintenance and new flooring sales.
Ultimate Carpet Cleaning''s growth has been steady and methodical.
During the past four years, gross revenues have increased on average by at least 30 percent each year. They have seen their greatest growth during the recession of 2009 and 2010. This was partially due to the acquisition of a smaller competitor''s company in January 2009, but mostly because of their emphasis on unique marketing and developing great relationships with clients and referral sources.
The Higleys are constantly reading, learning and attending industry events, looking for improvements and processes to make their company better, to serve more people, to improve customer service and to amplify cleaning efficiencies.
They also look to other industries, believing that true innovation doesn''t necessarily come from within your own industry, as it is usually an adaptation of something that is working in a different industry altogether.
When it comes to marketing, and planning future expansion, the Higleys can''t say enough about the benefit of having a decent website, one that makes it easy for the customer to find and buy carpet cleaning and related services.
Ultimate Carpet Cleaning also "touches" their clients often, whether by e-mail, a postcard, newsletter, etc.
Much of their marketing success can be attributed to simply being unique, and one favorite method is unique direct mail. Rarely does a mailing go out that they don''t hear back from clients who truly appreciate the personal touch.
Williams Carpet Cleaning
If Randy Williams ever has mechanical issues with his carpet cleaning vans or machines, he can, no doubt, make short work of any needed repairs.
After high school, Randy traveled to Oklahoma to drill oil wells. He was what was called a "roughneck". He started as a "worm" and worked his way up to "driller" with his own crew.
In those years, he learned how to fix virtually everything that needed fixing.
Then, in 1982, the price of oil fell and so did most of the oil rigs... so he went to work in the pre-stressed concrete business. He started a lawn mowing business in the evenings to help make ends meet.
One day, Randy mowed the yard of a carpet cleaning company owner. Randy was asked if he was interested in cleaning carpet. Randy''s first question was "How much can I make?" The two of them worked out a commission plan with bonuses for add-on sales.
Eight months later, that carpet cleaning company was sold and Randy spent a short time as an owner/operator.
Eventually, Randy and his wife Janet moved back to their hometown of Prosser, WA, where they started Williams Carpet Cleaning in 1996.
Williams Carpet Cleaning offers carpet cleaning, upholstery cleaning, carpet repairs and water damage services. The two-truck company even cleans airplanes.
Steady, profitable growth
Williams Carpet Cleaning had seen, since its humble beginnings, approximately a $25,000 increase in business each year, due in large part to referral and repeat business.
Like many, Randy started his company by using the Yellow Pages. He also took advantage of a software program to run his direct mail campaigns.
He did all this in-house until discovering a newsletter program where all he does is upload his mailing list and lets someone else do the work.
Randy also finds success with using a local television station to give his company "face time" with the community.
He''s proud of his accomplishments, and makes sure his current and potential customers know about it. He''s quick to advertise his credentials as he continues to expand his education.
Randy is quick to take advantage of the Internet and the reach it affords service companies.
In 2007, he built his own website and started seeing results the following month. He uses pay-per-click programs extensively, and sees great results from them.
It worked so well that he started to build and maintain websites for other carpet cleaning companies. He now cares for more than 40 carpet cleaning websites, launching a new venture: Williams Website Design.
With a successful business in both carpet cleaning and website design, Randy''s plan is to continue to learn how to better run his company and to watch industry trends so he can take advantage of future growth opportunities.