Tuesday, 4 February 2014

City Wide Services In Boston

Karen Sommers of Southboro, who co-owns City Wide Maintenance of Boston with her husband, Bob, is pictured at her Southboro office. The blue dots denote window washing clients.
For maintenance firm, bigger is better (Southboro, Boston) — Drive along Route 9 and look to your left and right. See all the buildings? Karen Sommers does. She's constantly on the lookout for commercial space that needs cleaning. Mrs. Sommers and her husband, Bob, own City Wide Maintenance of Boston, which sends cleaning people, handymen and window washers to more than 200 buildings a week across a swath of Eastern Massachusetts, from Worcester to Plymouth to the New Hampshire border.

On any given night, crews dispatched by the Southboro based maintenance management firm clean more than a million square feet of commercial floor space, Mrs. Sommers estimated. Clients include Atlas Box & Crating Co. in Sutton, Concord Academy, car dealerships such as Boch Automotive and Mirak Chevrolet, and Plymouth Country Club, she said.

"Some need us for a little bit, some need us for many things," said Mrs. Sommers, whose network of cleaning and repair contractors provides a widening range of services: emptying wastepaper baskets and restocking bathroom tissue; fixing frozen pipes and clearing icy walkways; even climbing in bosun's chairs to clean high-rise windows. "This year, we're doing snow removal," she said. "Most people say, 'Oh, it's snowing.' We say, 'Yea, it's snowing!' "

In 2008, Mr. and Mrs. Sommers acquired Boston franchise rights from City Wide, a national building-maintenance-management company that now has 37 locations across the country. The Southboro residents, parents of three, were looking for a business opportunity that would allow them to combine their talents. She previously worked as a sales manager in Boston radio, and he was a global-alliance manager in high tech. "This is a customer-service business," she said of their current occupation.

This past September, City Wide Maintenance of Boston marked five years in business. When they were starting out, they "worked 24-7," says Mrs. Sommers. Her husband still has the couch in his office, on which he slept many a night. Today, City Wide Maintenance has 14 staff members — six added in the past year — and are looking to add another account manager and another sales associate to keep up with the firm's growing territory. This year, they expect to add 80 buildings and to see the company's annual revenues grow by 25 percent, to more than $5 million.

Where do they hope to be in five years? "Double the size where we are now, in revenues and buildings," Mrs. Sommers said. "There's no limit to how big (the business) can grow." Their focus is on buildings between 10,000 and 300,000 square feet. She gave the example of driving down the highway and looking at all the potential customers — what she likes to call, tongue in cheek, "yummy buildings" — that could benefit from cleaning and scrubbing and plowing. "Those are just the ones you can see from the road," she said. "We service (buildings) along Route 9, Route 128, Route 495, but also in industrial parks that are off the beaten path. We target buildings we know are the right building for us. We know we can go and provide them value, based on their size and location."

On the wall of their Main Street office, a map of Eastern Massachusetts is covered with dots denoting clients for various services: yellow for janitorial, red for handymen, blue for window washing, green for landscaping. "We bundle services together, saving customers time and money," Mrs. Sommers said. "They don't have to Google who to fix the crack in the drywall or clean the spot on the carpet."

City Wide Maintenance contracts with a network of between 75 and 100 qualified cleaning and repair people to provide services. These local contractors are regarded as their partners, Mrs. Sommers said. "We're helping them grow their businesses," she said. "We become their biggest customer. A number of our contractors started with one small building three nights a week, did well, (and) we gave them another building," and so on, she said.

"They love working with us," she said. "They don't have to go out and find new buildings or do collections. We pay them at the same time every month. They're doing what they do best, providing skilled (cleaning and janitorial) services," while her company takes care of the paperwork, scheduling and billing, drumming up business and providing clients with "somebody to talk to," especially someone to take the call at 2 in the morning when the pipes have burst.

It helps that Mrs. Sommers likes cleaning. "I have three kids and a Bernese mountain dog that sheds a ton," she said, with a laugh. "Cleaning is part of my daily task list." She is bullish on the future for her business. "If you work hard, you can build it," Mrs. Sommers said. "We have a team of people who are willing to do whatever it takes, and I'm so proud of that. We're working so hard at continuing to foster the culture we have. As we grow we want this professional hard-working image." Yet she added: "I never want to lose our scrappy edge."

1 comment:

mark willams said...

Nice one! I like the outfit of the characters. Wish i could do the same thing too but im not that techie.i like the outfit of “from farmer to warden”.. really interesting.

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