2022 Carpet Cleaning Industry Leaders Review: Truman Steemers
By Amy Hughes
Courtney Lee, owner of Truman Steemers in Lawrenceville, Georgia, entered the carpet cleaning industry just a couple years out of high school, and if there’s one thing he’s learned in the decades since, it’s the value of a role model. As a new owner, Lee started following Mark Saiger of Saiger’s Steam Clean on YouTube, and then began making his own YouTube videos as a marketing strategy. But in following an industry role model, Lee saw himself become a role model for other cleaners from all over the country.
Questions on Lee’s process flooded in, and he soon found himself offering others industry advice. Recognizing an industry need for more mentorship, more discussion, and more connection, Lee created Cleaners Connect, a space where cleaners from around the world could ask questions and share ideas. “It was mainly to help cleaners come together in a group where it wouldn’t just be on me,” Lee explains.
How it all started
As active and impressive as Cleaner’s Connect is, Lee’s main job is still running his own company. Lee started Truman Steemers 15 years ago after spending nine years in the industry working for other companies. “I realized I wanted to be able to offer my clients a better experience than some of the other companies that I had worked for, especially being upfront and honest about the price because a lot of companies were doing bait-and-switch,” Lee explains.
Truman Steemers began with a Ford F150, a portable unit, and a few bandit road signs for advertising. Today, the company is a three-truck, three-man operation offering carpet cleaning, upholstery cleaning, tile and grout cleaning, pet odor treatment, and hardwood floor cleaning and restoring.
Lee says one of his first big challenges was realizing, if he wanted to offer something different from the companies he’d worked for, he would need to use different marketing strategies to find different clients. “I immediately started marketing to the lower-end clients because that’s what a lot of the companies I worked for were doing. But at the time, I didn’t realize that was a volume-based business and not something for a smaller company like myself,” he explains, noting that in the beginning, he was charging just $20 per room.
After five years of mental and financial struggle, Lee realized he needed to change his approach. He stopped using the road signs and raised his prices by 25%. “I immediately started utilizing Google AdWords, and I was also doing yellowpages.com at the time to attract better clients,” he says. “And those two sources of marketing are what helped me build a good, solid clientele.” Lee also says adding higher-end services, like hardwood floor cleaning and restoration, have helped to grow his business. This year, he added a full-time truck dedicated to hardwood floors, and it doubled his gross earnings in under a year.
From YouTuber to industry role model
When it comes to marketing, Lee says the key to his success has been his YouTube videos. He started making videos about ten years ago, before YouTube marketing was as popular as it is today, with the initial goal of attracting potential customers to his channel and then his website by showing his cleaning process and the results. His inspiration came from watching Saiger. “He was a big influencer to me when it came to videos because he was actually the first person I started watching on YouTube in the carpet cleaning industry,” Lee explains. “He has just been a great, positive role model for myself and others in the industry.”
Even though he credits Saiger as a role model, Lee quickly became an influencer in his own right. “I think what made me stand out is that, being African American in this industry, I didn’t see any African American cleaners doing videos at the time, so I knew that would definitely be a big point for me just to be seen differently,” he says. “I’ve had so many other African American cleaners who reached out to me because of YouTube, and my videos gave them the confidence to actually do better in their business.” As the channel grew in popularity, more and more cleaners began reaching out with specific questions about his processes. It became more of an educational channel for fellow cleaners, with Lee adding “tips of the day” and discussing his business model to help others in the industry.
The questions pouring in became overwhelming after a while. “It got to the point where I just couldn’t handle all the questions from cleaners reaching out to me,” Lee says. This led to the creation of the Cleaner’s Connect Facebook group he and his friend Chandler Thompson started four years ago. It’s an open forum where cleaners can network to ask questions and share their experiences. The group has more than 10,000 members and averages 40 posts per day.
Cleaners Connect is one of the things Lee is proudest of, but he gives a lot of credit to the other admins and members whose participation keeps the group going strong, especially group admin Chad Mayes, who does most of the group management now. “Cleaners Connect would not be where it is now without the administration and management of Chad,” he says, adding, “Without the members, there would be no Cleaners Connect, and that group has helped so many.” Lee notes he even met one of his employees, Kenneth Scoby, who is helping to grow the hardwood floor services for Truman Steemers, in the group.
Staying the course with no regrets
As for his company, it should be no surprise that what Lee enjoys most is getting out into different neighborhoods to connect with lots of different people. And even though he has made some mistakes along the way, Lee says he wouldn’t change anything about the path he took to get here because it taught him what he needed to know to be successful and help others. “Teaching other cleaners and coaching other cleaners, I tell them what to do differently, so they don’t have to go through the same mistakes or trial and error as I did,” he says, “but to be honest, I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Looking ahead, Lee plans to continue expanding the hardwood floor cleaning side of the business and is also considering franchising that aspect since it has been so successful. “Instead of trying to get a multi-truck operation like most companies want to do, I’m focusing on selling a certain service to other cleaners who are looking for better opportunity and who also can make more profits in a lesser period of time while doing fewer jobs,” Lee explains. As for his plans to meet these goals, Lee intends to “continue to stay on the path that I am, stay focused,” and once again credits his industry role models—people like Robert Atlas and Robert Allen. “I’m just seeing how their companies grew and took them into a totally different direction than just focusing on a multi-truck business operation, just kind of thinking outside the box,” Lee says.
Additionally, Lee wants to continue being a leader in the industry, helping and coaching newer cleaners. His advice for anyone just starting out? “Focus on quality, not quantity.” Lee also says it’s important to figure out where you’re headed and what you want out of the business, otherwise, “you find yourself like me, five years in, looking up and realizing you just wasted five years basically wandering in this industry without any guidance or leadership.” Once you understand the industry and you know your goals, Lee says, “follow that path, no matter what.”
Amy Hughes is a freelance writer who has worked with Cleanfax for three years and has worked as a writer and editor for nine years. Reach out to her at [email protected].