|A crew from Stamford, Conn.-based Sentinel Maintenance cleans the LED video display at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.|
Cleaning company winning clients at construction stage: On a sunny morning in early July, the glassy facade of a former GE Capital building on Long Ridge Road reflected light in the direction of the comparatively modest offices where Marc Schultz sets the weekly schedule for his Sentinel Maintenance. It was not so long ago Schultz was working inside that building—and if his new company keeps up its momentum, it may not be long before he is working the exterior.
Nearly three years after establishing Sentinel Maintenance East Coast in Stamford, Schultz has grown the building cleaning company to 30 workers with clients throughout the Tri-state area and as far south as Miami. If still a small company, Sentinel Maintenance is living up to its company slogan “clean across North America.” Created by cousins of Schultz, initially in the province of Saskatchewan and then in Phoenix, Sentinel Maintenance expanded throughout Canada and the Western United States.
Schultz grew up in New York City, with his father selling bulletproof vests to the military, law enforcement and corrections facilities. Schultz moved to Stamford in 2000, working for GE Capital here and in Norwalk. Following the financial crisis, General Electric began paring back GE Capital and in 2012 Schultz lost his job as a senior vice president of strategic marketing.
He took the summer off, improving his golf game while assessing career options, but he didn’t find any great opportunities in his field. The phone did ring one day, however, with his cousin Craig Grotsky in Phoenix, who had gotten word of Schultz’s free-agent status. “They called me up and said, ‘Just a thought —fly out to Phoenix, sit with us for a few days,’ ” Schultz recalled. “I came [back], found an office … For two months I was pounding the pavement, dropping off cards and flyers. Landlords, building owners, developers—I was shooting for the fences.”
Schultz won an initial job cleaning a Webster Bank branch in Greenwich. From there, he started to see a trickle of responses from his outreach, with much of the early work coming from Sentinel Maintenance’s focus on cleaning up buildings under construction.
|With New York City's Freedom Tower as a backdrop, workers with Stamford, Conn.-based Sentinel Maintenance prepare to clean windows at the Ritz-Carlton New York, Battery Park.|
Sentinel’s big breakthrough was the result of happenstance, however. Spotting the glass tower of the Ritz-Carlton Westchester while passing through White Plains, N.Y., on a whim, Schultz pulled up and asked to see a manager about taking on window cleaning duties there. Leaving a card, Schultz hit the road for Stamford, and within 10 minutes got a call from the manager, who told him she happened to be looking for a vendor. Sentinel got the deal and delivered —and got a major reference that has generated ample business. “From that, our phone just keeps ringing,” Schultz said.
It is a ground-up business model —literally. Sentinel Maintenance has built its customer base by getting contracts with developers to tidy up after construction crews as they build structures, then perform a final cleaning in advance of tenants taking occupancy. Those jobs are short but intense, with constant touch-ups required over several months. While those contracts have a shelf life, from those relationships Sentinel has been able to win ongoing exterior window cleaning of building facades or “porter” work keeping common areas on property spotless, providing it a base of recurring revenue.
|Employees of Stamford, Conn.-based Sentinal Maintenance position a suspended platform at the Ritz-Carlton, Westchester in White Plains, N.Y.|
Schultz said he has no interest in expanding to include broad commercial or residential janitorial services, saying he prefers daytime jobs that showcase the professionalism of Sentinel Maintenance’s crews in action. Locally, the company’s highest-profile project is still a work in progress —Stamford Hospital’s new tower rising on the city’s West Side. With a client that is as obsessed with cleanliness as any, Sentinel Maintenance crews will perform the final major cleaning in advance of hospital staff bringing the facility up to exacting health facility standards.
Today, Sentinel Maintenance has expanded to encompass a staff of 30 in Stamford, who have undertaken cleaning assignments for new buildings in the city’s Harbor Point district and window scrubbing for the Trump Parc Stamford tower and other high-rises in the city.
Two years ago, Sentinel Maintenance opened a Georgia office, and in June added a location in Miami. Schultz is now considering opening an office in the Charlotte, N.C. area. He says he can envision having 10 offices covering the East. If seeing momentum and repeat business after a tight first year, Schultz will still go out on a limb—or more precisely, a lanyard—in a bid to impress a potential client. Hearing that Schultz himself had never been over the side of a high-rise himself, a Sentinel Maintenance client told Schultz he would sign on the spot for year’s worth of service if he did it then and there. “I harnessed up,” Schultz said.
|Sentinal Maintenance's Alan Martinez prepares to descend a facade of the UBS building in Stamford, Conn. in June 2015, with a helping hand from colleague Antonio Marquez.|