Cleaning company learns how to sweep up the business leads
The clock is ticking down on Edward Givens.
The year 2000 will be the start of a new millennium, but for Givens Carpet Cleaning and Building Maintenance, it also will be the year the company graduates from the Small Business Administration's 8(a) program.
For owner Givens, it means he has less than three years to make major changes in his company. He must move from mainly relying on non-competitive government contracts set aside for socially and economically disadvantaged businesses to competing soley in the competitive market.
"That's one of my biggest challenges I've got coming before me right now ... trying to (determine) what's my best avenue to take," Givens said.
Currently, non-government business makes up 40 percent of his $1.5 million annual revenues. Givens said he has several ideas to increase the income from the competitive side of his business. In fact, Givens hopes to triple overall receipts in the next three years.
One method he is using to increase business is advertising. He is expanding his phone book presence, using direct mail and radio. He is also using bids and knocking on doors to earn business. Additionally, he has expanded his business to include fire and water restoration.
Eventually, he said he would like to see an even split between the carpet cleaning and restoration part of his business and the custodial work. Today, the custodial side makes up about 80 percent of the business.If he achieves this goal, he will be
greatly expanding his residential business, which is now 75 percent of his carpet cleaning and restoration business.
One way he has attempted to achieve growth is bidding for large non-government contracts. One stumbling block has been getting bonded for these large jobs. Givens is exploring options in this area, but it has cost him business.
Iris Newton, a public information officer with the SBA, said getting bonded is a common problem for small companies.
Bonded or not, Newton believes Givens will ultimately be successful in the open market.
"He takes care of business the way it should be taken care of," Newton said.
While Givens hasn't received large non-government jobs, he has impressed at least one government official. The company has had a custodial contract with McConnell Air Force Base for five years.
"We're very satisfied with them out here," said Ed Harvell, director of contract operations for the base.
Givens has been successful in getting several small and mid-sized non-governmental janitorial contracts. One of those is with Office Depot where the firm does floor maintenance. Darrel Wenzel, a representative of the west store, said Given's company is doing a good job and much better than the last firm contracted to do the work.
Getting an opportunity to show the value of his work has made Givens thankful. He said he has been blessed to be see his business grow.
Whether Givens eventually triples his business or not, he has come a long way since 1972. That year, he started his business on a part-time basis. He went full time in 1979. Givens said the business was a one-man struggle for many years.
His cause was helped in 1991, when he was accepted into the SBA's 8(a) program. Givens acknowledged two benefits of the program. First, is the management and bookkeeping skills he has learned. Second, is the government contracts which have helped his firm to grow from one to 70 employees.
The SBA's Newton said the main emphasis of 8(a) are the business skills taught. She said some companies in the program never get non-competitive contracts, but all receive individual counseling. Firms can be in 8(a) for nine years, but must meet targets for getting a sliding scale of greater non-government work.
Givens credits the SBA with teaching how to run a business more successfully. He said a large part of that was learning how to chase business.
"If I go in to put in a bid and I don't get any response, (I) try again, call, stay in contact," Givens said.