Like many in our industry, Bill Corridan had many jobs in the past and eventually stumbled into owning a carpet cleaning company. The stumbling turned out to be a good thing for Bill. The cleaning industry, he quickly discovered, was a perfect match for his entrepreneurial spirit.
Bill owns and operates Prestige Carpet Care, which services the San Jose, Saratoga, Los Gatos, Monte Sereno, and surrounding areas in California. He has been in business for 24 years. It didn’t take him long to learn how to be successful. An open mind and the willingness to learn were evident needed skills to him in the beginning of his fledgling company.
As an owner-operator, he embraces mentorship from other successful business owners in the industry. He also values the networking opportunities at trade shows and events, especially his activity as the Central California Chapter Director for the Carpet & FabriCare Institute (CFI).
Many carpet cleaning companies get their start by throwing money at as many marketing strategies as they can ind. Some work, some don’t. But this concept was not something Bill could embrace. He analyzed what the industry had to offer the marketplace and decided to limit his advertising budget to… zero.
“I’ve never done any paid advertising whatsoever,” he said. “My business has been built strictly from referrals from my satisfied customers.” he jobs started coming in. From all types of clients. He says, “[I started out] doing plenty of apartments, rentals and commercial accounts but I soon decided I wanted to focus on residential customers that were willing to pay for high-quality service.”
To learn how to do that, he searched out and met cleaners that were “respected and the envy of his area.” hat included Dave Roberto of Roberto’s Carpet Cleaning in the San Jose area. He met and built a friendship with Steve Marsh, a Cleanfax columnist who operated in the same area and then launched the Single Truck Success and Be Competition Free marketing programs.
“I was fascinated by how much training was needed to become extremely profitable. I soon learned from Steve that there are many customers that are more than willing to pay top dollar for a high-quality service experience.”
Creating a company, not on size but on quality, is what Bill prides the most. “I have kept my business as an owner-operator company from the very beginning to right now,” he said.
His focus on high-end residential fits that goal perfectly. He has two trucks, one a full-service cleaning van and the other strictly for rug pick-up and delivery. Bill is a practicing Senior Carpet Inspector as well as an IICRC Master Textile Cleaner. Working with other companies helps him attain his goals. He partners with a high-quality rug cleaning facility in the San Francisco area, so his clients’ fine rugs are cared for properly.
“The success and growth of my company is directly related to myself becoming more educated through IICRC classes, industry trade associations, and business seminars,” Bill said. “I also feel that my relationships with some of the top industry leaders in our industry have been invaluable. he late Carl Williams was my instructor in 2007 for my week-long IICRC Senior Carpet Inspector Course. Other mentors include Steve Marsh, Doug Kuehne, Jim Pemberton, Matt Cole, Mike West, Jessika James, Jim Smith, Dave Roberto and many more.”
Words of advice
Bill believes that to be truly successful and happy, you must love what you do and everything involved with it. “I enjoy the challenge and gratification of watching our business grow and thrive.”
Although he has attended countless classes and workshops, he believes in going back, again and again. “The hands-on classes are fantastic. Business-building classes are a must. here is so much to learn and fine-tune.”
Keeping in touch with the clientele is always at the top of Bill’s priority list. “Do this regularly through informative newsletters, thank-you cards, reminder cards, holiday cards and more. Ask your clients the best way to communicate with them for reminders and any follow-up correspondence.”
Bill knows how cleaners consume information has been changing over the years. “Plenty of cleaners now focus on forums and social media posts for gaining knowledge. While that is convenient and valuable, I feel that nothing compares to joining a local trade association and meeting regularly.”
Finally, he recommends getting to know industry leaders personally and subsequently giving “back to our industry by recruiting and helping other cleaners that are trying hard to succeed and need good advice. We should always be looking for an opportunity to train and mentor the future leaders of our industry.”
Getting wiped out by a hurricane, suffering through a bait-and-switch scam and getting madder by the minute might not seem like a series of events that would result in anything positive… but it did. It’s exactly what lead Mike Swinson to launch American Carpet Cleaners in the Indianapolis marketplace.
Mike started American Carpet Cleaners in 2001 and has 10 employees for both carpet/upholstery cleaning and janitorial services. On the carpet cleaning side, he runs four vans and offers a full spectrum of services, such as furniture care, tile and grout cleaning and air duct cleaning.
The saga begins
It all really began in 1999, when he was “completely wiped out.” He says, “I mean completely! I had no more than a couple changes of clothes to my name.” h is was after Hurricane Floyd hit his hometown in North Carolina and he relocated to Indianapolis. Once he found and rented a three-bedroom home in Indianapolis, his parents decided to schedule a visit. It was time for Mike to look down and realize the carpet needed cleaned.
He responded to a national company’s three area special for $99. Turned out, that deal quickly went to $250 although the rooms were small. “They were giving me the entire dog-and-pony show,” he lamented, “by saying one room would count as two, there would be a charge for every little spot, that sort of thing.”
He refused the service, sending the bait-and-switchers packing, and ended up doing the job himself with a rental machine. After his parents left, he was sitting on the sofa watching television, and and that same bait-and-switch company’s advertisement came on.“The more I thought about it, the madder I got. I wondered how many moms and grandmas they were doing this to.”
That’s when he decided to look at the carpet cleaning industry and eventually start his own company. But with a twist. “I decided to offer fixed-price carpet cleaning,” he explained. “The customer pays one flat price based on if the home is single or two story. That’s it! No worrying about paying extra for steps, or counting square feet, paying extra for spots, or deodorization. We take the worry out of the carpet cleaning experience.”
His approach, as he said, is much different than others in the industry — but for American it has worked well. “I found that customers had always longed for straight-forward pricing, but could rarely find it.”
Mike didn’t rely on a unique pricing structure to succeed. He has attended multiple IICRC training classes, as well as studying business-building tactics. He has grown the business from just himself wearing all the hats to employing others and having a near-solid booked schedule even in the “slower times” of the year.
His company has received recognition for its success. American Carpet Cleaners was voted the best carpet cleaning company in Indianapolis by the Indy A-List for 2013, 2014 and 2016.
“They did not have a 2015 contest for whatever reason,” Mike explained about the one-year gap in a successful run of wins.
Not all aspects of a start-up company were easy, Mike said. “The largest challenge I had to overcome was finding good employees. At first, I would employ anyone who had a pulse simply because I needed the help.”
It didn’t take long for him to figure out this was, perhaps, not the best approach to building a company. “I started really vetting employees and looking for quality people,” he explained. “We have always run background checks on every employee since the very beginning, but that wasn’t always enough. We have since combined that with a host of other options when looking to hire someone new. We use everything from social media to previous employers to help in the hiring process now.”
Besides finding quality workers, the marketing angle had to be figured out. Mike “tried nearly every kind of marketing method” you can think of, from ValPak to cash register receipts. “It’s a real live-and-learn process,” he said. “But by far and away the two best marketing methods are referrals and staying in touch with current customers.”
In addition, he learned that having a solid business plan was a must. “Know where you want to take your business, what you need to do to achieve those goals, and stick with it,” he advised. “Review that plan at least annually to make sure you are meeting goals and staying on track. Make any necessary adjustments you note.”
And, of course, never forget to provide the absolute best customer service you can. “Bend over backwards to not only meet — but exceed — the customer’s expectations. Make them part of your family!”
That was back in 1998. It didn’t take long for Steamy Concepts to grow… and then morph into Steamy Concepts Carpet Cleaning, Steamy Concepts LLC for the water damage division and Royalty Renovation LLC for repair and remediation. Steamy Concepts is headquartered in Tucson, Arizona, and serves Tucson and Phoenix and all communities in the region.
With nearly 60 employees and 50 company vehicles, anyone in the Tucson, Phoenix market must be aware the company is thriving.
A rough, rocky road
Matt had some carpet cleaning experience before launching his own company, having worked as a technician for a few local companies. “But I just knew I could be successful on my own,” he said.
His “real job” was delivering newspapers full-time, with his wife Lori, and the carpet cleaning gig started with printing flyers and leaving them on windshields in parking lots and leaving them at apartment complexes. Any work he lined up was done with portable machines and on the weekends.
Eventually, his father helped him purchase his own portable extractor, yet the business “was just a side thing at the time, to make a few hundred dollars a week,” Matt explained. When it happened. “I stumbled across a very used van with a truckmount for $5,000, so I bought it and started the business oofficially.”
He still worked the newspaper job full-time but spent all his extra time marketing for carpet cleaning jobs. “My strategy was simple. I opened the phone book to “Apartments” and started calling in alphabetical order. I got through the C’s after about a month of calling and visiting potential clients, and we were rolling pretty much full time.”
It didn’t take long for Matt to relinquish his newspaper job and focus all his energy on his fledgling company. Lori soon joined him. After six months of slogging it out on his own, she quit her job and ran the office, while Matt handled the marketing and field work.
That didn’t solve all their challenges, though. “Financially, everything was a struggle for the first few years,” Matt lamented. “We had to be the cheapest to get the work, but deliver the best service. It was tough, and we struggled for years to make ends meet.”
At one point, it was even a challenge to keep the equipment running and the van stocked with supplies. The money was there, just not in their pockets. “I remember on several occasions we would be owed thousands of dollars from apartment complexes, well over 30-60 days past due, and I would go to the mailbox anticipating big money, only to find a $30 check.”
Steamy Concepts was on the verge of shutting down.
Expansion saves the day
Matt knew he had to make a drastic change, and it fell right into his lap. He landed his first “real” water damage job. at was in 2001. “I ramped up the water damage marketing, and we slowly started getting water damage jobs and making a pro t.”
But carpet cleaning was in his blood. He didn’t give up. He knew he had to refocus. “We started advertising to residential customers and slowly fired most of our commercial clients. It just didn’t make sense to be the cheapest, the best and the finance company with no late fees, penalties or interest. I was done with apartments and most restaurants.”
Suddenly, the issue wasn’t the money or cash ow. Now, the challenge was growth. As more work came in, they needed more employees, more space, and more trucks and equipment. “The list goes on and on,” Matt said. “We gambled a lot on making purchases and adding staff, but in the end, every risk worked out as a win.”
As the calls, customers and profits came in, Matt didn’t sit back and simply enjoy the success of his growing company. As marketing strategies evolved, he evolved with them.
“We focus, obviously, on repeat customers, but also on online marketing,” Matt said. “I have created more than 100 laser-focused websites that pull in a large amount of business. In fact, I employ two webmasters full-time at my offce and their job is to keep us at the top of Google searches.”
It’s working. Steamy Concepts is enjoying a website conversion rate of 40 percent.
“We use tracking phone lines and software to see exactly how many people click and call. We have even integrated an easy online appointment scheduler, which allows our customers to set up an appointment and get an accurate quote within minutes. You would be surprised how many middle-of-the-night appointments we get.”
What’s next for Steamy Concepts? Matt has his eye on expanding into at least one additional major market. Stay tuned. This could be just the beginning.