by Ranger Kidwell-Ross
The company was chosen as this month’s Featured Contractor because of a story we wrote about one of their employees, Kris Hardie. Recently, Hardie received a Citizen Hero Award from the City of Kirkland, Washington and its Fire Department. The Award was for his quick actions in an incident while he was on a freeway construction job near Seattle. During our interview with Hardie, we were impressed with the comments that he made about the safety training he had received from his company, among other things.
Best Parking Lot Cleaning’s website boasts that the company is the “largest combined street sweeping, eductor truck, snowplowing and deicing company in the state of Washington.” Hamilton estimated that about 70% of their company business still comes from sweeping, with emphasis on construction and municipal work. They also do some nighttime parking lot sweeping and then, in addition, run vactor trucks and do snowplowing, as needed.
In addition to having CDL licenses, the Best operators also are CPR-certified. When asked about this, Hamilton said he and his sister just believe it is a good business practice and besides, he commented, “It may be me who needs someone around who knows CPR sometime! Our personnel may take the CPR class a number of times but never have to use it. Still, it’s not surprising if the situation occurs where they would need to use the training at least once in their lifetime.”
In addition to typical contract work, the company has been involved in cleaning up after a number of special events. These include about half a dozen of the type that involve participants being pelted with cornstarch dye. The one shown in the photo was called ‘Run or Dye Tacoma.’ These, says Hamilton, can pose a real cleanup problem if it’s rainy at the time of the event, something which occurs quite frequently in the Northwest.
Although most of the operators of these events are above board, when asked if they had encountered any trouble with payment, as has been reported nationally, Hamilton said they did run into a nonpayment problem with one of the organizations. As a result, they now make sure to get payment upfront now so the sponsoring organization can’t short them later.
The company managers have also allied itself with some nonprofit events. Most all of these they archive onto their Facebook site, which is a way for customers and potential customers to find out more about the company, see its equipment in operation and, in some cases, put faces to names of individuals they may have spoken to on the phone. Their Facebook postings include many photos of their equipment in action, which also allows prospective customers to see the type of equipment Best runs and what type of appearance the company portrays.
Hamilton said they have a strong commitment to putting their contact information on all of their equipment in large enough letters that it can be read easily. This is done for two reasons, he says: first, they’re proud of their equipment and of their operators and know the machinery provides a good advertising billboard for the company. “We want people to see our name on the side of our trucks even if they are going 60 miles an hour in the southbound lane and our trucks are headed north. We are proud of our company and our employees and equipment are definitely a part of that.”
Secondly, on the off-chance that someone had a complaint about the way anything is being operated, he said they would like to know about it right away so that any misunderstandings, or lapse in the way an operator was doing something, could be solved quickly.
The company runs a variety of sweeper makes and models, with sweepers that include Elgin, Schwarze, and TYMCO. “Recently,” said Hamilton, “we have been tracking the expenses for comparable models, comparing the overall maintenance and repair costs of sweeper types that we use for the same type of work. This information, plus the ease we have of working with each of the manufacturer’s local dealerships, is how we will decide on what sweepers to purchase going forward. Purchase price is important, but sometimes the purchase price of the vehicle over a five-year period is cheap compared to needed maintenance.”
GPS by ActSoft is used routinely throughout the company. “We find it to be very accurate, with updates about every minute. We have found that GPS can be useful in a variety of ways; for example, if a driver can’t find the jobsite he’s headed to he can give us a call. While he’s on the line I can take a look to see exactly where he is located at that moment and then give him precise directions on how to proceed. Also, if someone wonders whether we cleaned in the back of an account around the loading dock or not, for example, our tracking information can show that we were there, how long we spent on the job, etc.”
Recently the company underwent a Federal Motors Commercial Vehicle Compliance Audit and received the highest possible rating, Hamilton told us, which is seen as proof positive that their fleet is safe and dependable. They also have this information posted on their website for all to see.
Also on their website, for the convenience of their customers, are links to both a credit application and to a page where customers can quickly and easily paying their invoice online via credit card. In addition, they have a link for job seekers to fill out an employment application. All of these offer both added convenience and an air of professionalism to the company and its website. In addition, the company’s phone system is professional and features a message that provides the person on hold with a list of the various services offered by the company.
When asked about how the company fared when the recession hit in 2008, Hamilton said that, like most other businesses, they found they needed to make a number of changes. “Construction sweeping fell off completely,” he told us, “so we moved toward municipal sweeping to try to fill the gap. We also went more into parking area sweeping since that still needed to be done. In addition, employees took over various new job titles and descriptions so that we could keep as many people busy as we could. It was amazing: During that time, we had individuals with four-year college degrees applying for jobs driving a night sweeper!”
Hamilton said their best way of procuring employees is via referral and/or recommendation from existing employees. Today, when the job market has gotten tighter, they also utilize Craigslist and, sometimes, even employment agencies.
When asked about the value in having a brother-and-sister team at the top, Hamilton didn’t hesitate in saying that it worked very well for him and his sister, Rebecca. The way they split their job duties is for Rebecca to handle management of the inside operations, including scheduling, billing and related management. Richard said that he handles the outside operations portion of the company’s business, including employee management, equipment repair and associated functions.
From all appearances, Best Parking Lot Cleaning is a well-run operation and it is easy to see how this second-generation, brother-and-sister team have brought the organization to the forefront of their Pacific Northwest market area.
For more details and in-depth information about the company, be sure to listen to the approximately 18-minute podcast interview of Richard Hamilton by WSA’s Executive Director, Ranger Kidwell-Ross.
You may contact Richard Hamilton or Rebecca Craig through the company’s website, which is www.bestparkinglot.com.