Select Sweeping, Fresno CA – Keeping it Clean Since 2018!

Over the past six years, since July 2018, Craig Diebert has not had much time to think about growth strategy for his Fresno, California pavement sweeping business. Why? Because he’s been too busy trying to keep up with the existing book of work he bought from a former area operator along with the natural growth by word of mouth from servicing those original accounts he picked up. 

As Select Sweeping has gradually exited its startup phase, Diebert has been thinking less about long-term strategic planning and more about focusing the team as strongly as possible on ideally serving his current customers’ interests. What’s that like for everyone around the business, inside and out?

Well, a friendly business owner answers the phone himself, is very open, and diligently striving to keep coming up with more and more ways to provide better and better outcomes for his customers and workers. He recognizes the worth of investing a little of his very limited time in a casual talk about his operation and business philosophy with NAS magazine.

Organic Growth

I was a Construction Project Manager for about 15 years, and I went to school and got my MBA. The kind of heavy construction I managed was road building. I knew there was a need for sweeping services, so over the years I kind of penciled the idea that maybe I could start a business doing that at some point. My wife is a pharmacist. She’s been very supportive of my goals. I couldn’t have gotten started and succeeded in the business without her through these years. 

In 2018, I started from scratch. I bought a truck, a Broom Bear. I saw that there was a one-man operation owned by someone who was retiring, and I bought his book from him. I didn’t buy his business name or his system or anything else. I just bought the book and an old sweeper truck as a backup. He had a few HOAs and a homebuilder account he was servicing. One location was serviced once weekly and maybe 8 to 10 were serviced between once per quarter and twice a month.

The kinds of sweeping we do are heavy commercial construction site and highway construction cleanup, as well as HOA, commercial, and industrial site maintenance sweeping. We use industrial mid-sized air sweepers and mechanical broom sweepers. We thought about getting into pressure washing, but the amount of growth between our regular heavy commercial construction site sweeping, a lot of construction cleanup work for homebuilders, and our regularly scheduled HOA street maintenance sweeping service, and industrial customers keeps us pushing to keep up. 

In the beginning, I did the knocking on doors at HOA management offices and road construction projects. But soon, I found that it was less important than trying to keep up with what I already had to do. Through the past six years, I’ve been trying to pace myself and just serve the clients well. 

Keeping it Simple

My thinking about how to run the business is pretty basic — just keep it simple. When people call you, pick up the phone, show up on time, make sure customers know they’re your focus, and do the job right. Treat your people right, and pay them well.

When I first got into the industry, I thought of it as working with heavy-construction civil contractors that do paving and clean up the mess from it. That seemed to be the right fit for me. But, in addition to that kind of cleanup, I got into a much broader range of pavement sweeping services, including the HOA sweeping market and commercial construction site sweeping. We’ve been able to carve out that niche for our services here in the area and fully serve the road construction industry too.

In the beginning, I did the street sweeping, accounting, invoicing, phone calling, etc., all of it. Then, we brought on a part-time administrator to help with invoicing, Accounts Receivable, Collections, Payroll, correspondence with employees, the Certified Payroll, etc., while I continued to do the basic accounting, Balance Sheet, etc. Then, our crew grew from there. 

We asked Craig if he would consider more growth by acquisition any time soon: If the opportunity came about, it would have to be the right thing. We’re just a little regional shop, and we like what we’re doing. We’re very proud of being a part of the Fresno market. 

We asked Craig about branding: I wouldn’t say we’ve done much in branding. We do participate in the local builders’ exchange and local construction management training program run by the Fresno State College. We try to stay involved with the college’s Industry Advisory Committee through its local industry advisory board. We go to meetings, and I’ve tried to be supportive where I can in that way.

Sweeper Truck Selections by Select Sweeping

We have regenerative air sweeping technology and mechanical broom sweeper trucks to meet our customers’ particular needs. We examine each worksite to determine which type of technology will deliver the optimum sweeping performance for a customer’s location. 

We have a Tymco 435, and we’ve got another one on order, coming in later this summer. We have an XBroom. We also have 2 ODRA (M4MHs). One is an older Broom Badger (a.k.a. Challenger) mechanical broom. When I started, I bought an old Athey as a backup sweeper. Now, the truck we have on order is another Tymco 435. It’s a little shorter model than the one we have. 

Two competitors make that same truck. What we look for is a practical solution for our clients’ needs. When we choose a sweeper truck make and model, it’s because we think it’s a good tool, the size is right, the performance is right, and we know it. Each equipment type has its particular niche in the market that it’s best for servicing, so the best approach, we find, is just growing the fleet with multiples of each type we need to grow in each type of service we provide. 

To buy it from a manufacturer we’re familiar with, instead of others, means we benefit from knowing what to expect. Buying the same makes and models we’re already using means we can capitalize on having two of everything. Like the ODRAs we have. When you’re doing all the same types of work with the same types of vehicles, there’s an efficiency level you can reach by using that kind of equipment that translates into significant savings of money and time. 

Another thing that goes along with sweepers is that the whole system in each one has to be over-maintained, making sure it doesn’t break down. Having a sweeper truck means always being between water pump breaks, auxiliary power issues, hydraulics problems. Adding up all the $100 parts can add up to a large total expense in a year. Having multiples of each model leads to a much better understanding of the equipment, which is extremely helpful in maintaining it effectively and repairing it as efficiently as possible and carrying parts for all the trucks.

Select Sweeping Company Culture

Our team currently consists of me, a part-time business office administrator who works 100% remotely, 3 full-time sweeper truck drivers, 1 part-time driver, and an HR/Safety Consultant, and our outside accountant. It’s been great with the team. We’ve had very little turnover. Our part-time guy started in our first year. A friend of the family maintained and ran equipment for us for 3½ years until he moved out of state. Another guy has been with us for 2½ years. In the last 3 to 4 months, we’ve brought on 2 new hires who are both doing awesome. 

I don’t know how I got so lucky with personnel and hiring. The hardest role to fill has been the admin bookkeeping job. Maybe it’s harder to fill that kind of spot in a company with super low overhead. But, it‘s been the toughest one. Our admin is doing a great job. We had a student intern at one point. And, our accountant has been very helpful. 

Day to day, we all just drive and maintain the trucks. We inspect in the morning and fix stuff all the way through the day, as needed. The part-time admin is fully remote. My office is at my house. We have an office at the shop where we store the trucks, parts, and tools. Through the day, I may be at my house on my couch taking calls, or at the shop, or driving a sweeper truck, or going to see customers. 

Our company culture is that we do quality work and we do on-the-job training. New drivers get to be on maintenance jobs. We try to provide more opportunities for everyone to grow and do more. 

Asked about rewards for exceptional performance, Craig said that he tries to show appreciation for people who go extra distance to help others. He said he thinks a time bonus is a good way to reward people for hard work. For example, he likes to give people paid hours or days off, among other occasional perks, to thank them for their efforts. Select also holds an annual Christmas party with bonuses. 

The company pays its employees well. That’s more to the point that Craig emphasizes in this regard. It’s simply to provide people with good jobs. I appreciate them, and I say it a lot. I thank people for coming to work, always showing up, taking good care of the equipment, treating customers and everyone right, etc.

Select Tech Systems 

Select Sweeping is a paperless company. Further, everything possible at Select is cloud-based. The accounting is in Xero (Quickbooks competitor). All systems are cloud. We try not to keep any paper. We scan and upload everything on paper into the system, then shred it. 

We use comprehensive Nektyd software to manage receipts, timesheets, and everything else in the field. Our dispatching is cloud-based, including scanned paper driving logs, dispatching system logs, payroll hours, which are GPS-tracked, geofenced project information, any auto-clocked information, etc. We do submit bids. We’ve got some county contracts, all also managed in the cloud as much as possible. 

Industry Certifications at Select Sweeping, Fresno CA

Tymco has an awesome training program. We sent two of our guys to their 2-day program, and they learned a lot from that. Our company has NAPSA Certification. We believe in NAPSA. I’ve done the Manager Certification Course. One of our drivers has done it too, and our other drivers have either received their certification or are working on it.

We get a few leads here and there through 1-800-SWEEPER, but the best thing I have found about being a part of that trade group is having peers available. We’ve been members since April of last year. I’ve just come back from one of the biannual events in Huntsville, Alabama. 

Coming from the heavy construction industry, I had assumed I could figure it all out, though I didn’t know a thing about it. So, it’s been a challenge to figure things out as I go along. Having people to ask questions and discuss things has been great. 

Advice for Industry Newcomers from Craig Deibert, Select Sweeping, Fresno CA

There are a lot of pieces of advice to offer. It’s all around managing a customer-centric business with efficient, uncomplicated systems. It’s hard work. It’s way more work, and harder, than having a regular job. I think it’s natural during the startup years to question yourself about whether you’ve really made the right life choice. It’s got its own kind of struggles. 

I’ve definitely had more stress than on regular management jobs. But, it’s not the same kind of stress though. I’ve never had that feeling I had gotten on regular jobs from wondering whether I just didn’t want to do the work anymore. The stress of ownership, for me, in this industry, is more to do with finding solutions to recurring issues, whether they involve creating systems for invoicing, collections, etc.

It’s “us,” “we.” The business, after these past six years, would be nothing without the employees. The thing for us is that we’re really proud to be local. We’re proud of our employees. One of our guys just bought his first house, because he’s got a good job. We’re trying to make careers out of these jobs. We’re proud of our company and our community, just being a part of Fresno.  

Reflections on Select Sweeping, Fresno CA

 For Craig Diebert and the unique service-focused team he’s built, it’s about the one-on-one impression made for every HOA decision-maker and every road construction project manager adding one more successful service delivery to the track record. 

Select’s success has been linked directly to its owner’s ability to recognize that that is what his local market requires and his throwing his team’s and his own energies so fully into repeating the application of that utterly basic formula. Never has anyone said, “Keep it simple,” and appeared to mean it more.

As we started the interview, Craig’s wife was leaving the house and he needed to take care of their baby so we decided, upfront, just to see how things would go. Within the next hour, father and baby traversed the gamut of possibilities. The baby cried, the father changed the diaper, fed the baby a variety of things, the two played, and so on. The baby gave way to giggling and ultimately sounded amenable to napping. All the while, the patient father, local employer, and owner of a successful California heavy-equipment business steadily and thoughtfully answered questions for the feature article in his industry’s magazine. 

When asked again about strategic plans for the future, he emphasized again that, for now, the idea is to stay the course and continue to grow organically through word of mouth. Why not? He already has what he loves. He is very much enjoying being a part of his community and the local economy.

He offers, for example, a reflection on the employee experience his company provides for its workers. A guy who works here is proud of the work he does, the quality of his workmanship. It’s his name, it’s his company’s name on the job. That sort of timeless performance pride and sense of community is what’s most meaningful about one’s career in Craig’s vision of the American dream.

So, for Craig Diebert, at this time, it really is about simply running a reliable, top-quality local service, providing good jobs for employees, and nurturing the organic growth of his highly-efficient heavy-equipment-based business. Beyond that, it’s about enjoying his family and the life they’ve chosen in the charming California community they love.

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