2021 Industry Leaders Review: Quality Care Carpet Cleaners Inc.
Lesa and Michael StPierre have been partners in life and business for more than 28 years. They own and operate Quality Care Carpet Cleaners Inc. of Auburn, New York, which they opened in 1992 after Michael spent some time working for a local cleaning company and saw the potential in the industry. “We were BROKE and had just moved back to New York from California. Michael got a job working for a carpet cleaning company locally. It was back-breaking work, but he learned a lot.”
Lesa says the company was a disorganized mess, but it opened Michael’s eyes to the possibilities. “Michael thought if an honest man were to go into business himself and just run a company properly, he would go far,” she recalls. With this goal in mind, Michael earned his Doctor of Business Administration degree in 1992 and started Quality Care.
His first customer was the Holiday Inn of Auburn, where Michael had previously worked as a chef. With the money earned from that first job, he bought his first big piece of equipment—a shampooer—and Quality Care’s good reputation began to grow. Lesa soon took over managing the office full time while Michael worked in the field. In 1995 they hired their first employee, Rick Quimby, who is still with the company today. Nearly three decades later, the company is going strong, and the Holiday Inn of Auburn remains a loyal customer.
Unfortunately, Michael suffered a broken back a few years ago that prevents him from working, so Lesa took over the business. Today, Quality Care has four employees and operates two truckmounts, two trucks, and one van dedicated to area rug pick-up. They offer commercial and residential carpet cleaning, area rug cleaning, furniture cleaning, apartment turnovers, VCT floor stripping, and tile power washing to the Auburn, Syracuse, Geneva, Waterloo, Seneca Falls, and Finger Lakes regions of Central New York. Seasonally, they provides home power washing, window cleaning, and auto, boat, and RV interior cleaning.
Steady growth meets challenging times
Lesa credits the company’s good reputation and “word of mouth” referrals for its growth. In 1992, Quality Care Carpet Cleaners made just $6,000 profit for the year, but by 1994, the company was doing four times that with just Michael working in the field. By 2000 the company was operating one truckmount and making $100,000 a year. In 2005, Quality Care added a second truckmount and made $120,000. Every year since, the company has experienced steady 10% growth focusing on residential cleaning and area rug cleaning with about 80% of its business coming from the residential market.
Achieving this growth has not come without its challenges, one being the seasonality of carpet cleaning in New York. “With every busy New York spring and summer comes a slow winter,” Lesa says. “We have learned to set aside savings for the winter when carpet cleaning is at its slowest. When business was busy, we were also able to invest in property, which is a second job.” To combat equipment failures, the StPierres intentionally grew their business to have two of everything—two truckmounts, two vans, etc.—so that they never have to disappoint a customer due to broken equipment.
On the challenges of 2020, Lesa says, “At first COVID was like a punch from Rocky Balboa! There was just no cleaning going on; the phones stopped ringing and the website was quiet. With residential cleaning being 80% of income ,this was a hard hit.” Lesa admits that the income loss from the beginning of the year was substantial, but she stresses that they prioritized keeping themselves and their workers safe even if it meant lost revenue. “We took advantage of all the online classes and content and learning that was going on during COVID. We attended as many learning seminars as we could on any subject, including COVID. Then we waited for confidence to rise and the pandemic levels to lower,” Lesa explains. They developed COVID-19 safety protocols and started cleaning again as the economy started opening back up in late spring. “We are now as busy as ever.”
But perhaps the biggest challenge the StPierres face is a more emotional one. “Realizing our sons might not be taking over our business—this was tough,” Lesa admits. “One wanted to be an electrician and is doing well with this. The other has not made up his mind yet.” For owners that pride themselves on their company’s longevity and the loyalty of both long-time customers and staff, the prospect of not passing the reins on to their sons is difficult; however, in the meantime, Lesa is still fully engaged in running the business, facing the challenges of the pandemic, and planning improvements for the future.
When it comes to the future of Quality Care Carpet Cleaners, Lesa’s focus is on improving the company’s marketing strategy in a few key areas. Currently the company advertises on Facebook, Google, and Instagram, as well as through mailed postcards. Over the years, Lesa has found a few marketing tools she loves and recommends. “I have received wonderful results with the assistance of Marketing Zoo. Their ads and videos can be personalized to reflect any company.” Lesa also uses Texflo, a texting program that allows thousands of texts to go out at once or staggered with a company’s message or a special discount. In the new year, Lesa plans to find an email marketing tool that will help her easily email clients consistently, and she’s on the hunt for other advertising opportunities that are cost-effective and that she can do herself. Also on the docket for Quality Care in 2021 is a website upgrade.
As Lesa teaches herself the ins and outs of digital marketing and web design, she says this is one area she wishes she had mastered earlier in her career. “I had the secretarial part down. I had the people skills. I learned advertising (how to make ads) as I went along. It’s just getting that advertising to my customers online that I don’t target 100% of the time,” she explains. Among Lesa’s personal goals for the future are to learn how to build a website and improve her email marketing so she can engage regularly with her customers and “keep it interesting.”
Loving the work
Beyond all the challenges, past and present, and the goals for the future, Lesa and Michael both got into this business and stayed in out of a love for their customers and the work they do. For Michael, it’s the work he finds most satisfying. Early in his career, he took as many IICRC classes as possible and is “a wealth of knowledge when it comes to cleaning anything,” Lesa says. “Michael most likes the ability to take something that looks dirty and make it look clean and new again, no matter what the surface—carpet, tile, wood, or vinyl floors.”
For Lesa, it’s all about people and relationships. “I love the people you get to meet and the relationships that grow after all the years in business. I still surprise customers when I answer the phone and know exactly who they are from memory.”
Longevity is a hallmark of Quality Care Carpet Cleaners’ business, so for those just starting out in the industry, Lesa’s advice is to stay the course. “Don’t give up!” she stresses. “You will have good years and bad years, but as long as you have two feet and two hands there is always cleaning work to be done.” She also points out that a strong work ethic and continuing to learn from your fellow cleaners in the industry are keys to success. “It’s a great business to be in, but you can’t just be half in—you have to be committed.” For Michael and Lesa, that commitment has yielded both a successful business and a fulfilling life running their company together and serving their community. “When you love what you do and get paid for it, you are a happy person!”
Read other 2021 Industry Leaders Review profiles:
Amy Hughes is a freelance writer who has worked with Cleanfax for more than two years and has worked as a writer and editor for more than eight. Reach out to her at [email protected].