When it comes to cleaning and building maintenance, many businesses are attracted to the lowest price, but there's often some sort of pain along with the perceived gain.
“It usually takes about six months to see that the quality isn't there and things aren't getting done,” said Matt Tolan, president of City Wide of Lehigh Valley, which manages 25 facility services for hundreds of building owners and property managers throughout the region.
Tolan said, for example, that some cleaning vendors may not have insurance, or they may be understaffed so if someone gets sick, the building gets neglected.
City Wide launched in spring 2013, providing a range of interior and exterior services, including janitorial, window cleaning, handyman, mold remediation and even security services.
Businesses typically begin using City Wide for cleaning, then build in other services such as windows and floor care. The business quickly forged partnerships with service vendors and established itself as a reputable company.
Tolan brings a background in procurement sales, so it comes naturally for him to deal with vendors, whom he views as “partners,” working together for a single cause.
“We started off very hot,” said Tolan, recalling how he and his associates closed one to two new businesses in the first 30 days of operation. In the last year, business has doubled, but like any business, there's an ebb and flow.
“Sometimes it comes all at once,” he said. “In one month, you'll get a lot of business; another month it'll be slow.”
But now approaching his third year in business, he said: “I know a lot more. I know how to get from Point A to Point B a lot quicker.”
Tolan attributed much of his success to his service providers, some of which are small, minority-owned cleaning companies that have just a few employees but are committed to good service and have proven to be reliable. Being able to apply his experience and know-how to help these companies grow is a highlight of the job for Tolan.
Alexis Bacourt, owner of one of Tolan's subcontract cleaning companies, has learned a lot about building a successful business from Tolan. She said she has observed fairness, good business sense, good rapport with people and an ability to interact well with customers as well as contractors.
“We're very proactive, and Matt is very good at finding a solution right away,” Bacourt said. “If I can follow in the footsteps of Matt Tolan, I'm definitely learning the right way.”
Dale Wagner is vice president of distribution at Tri-Dim Filter, a filter manufacturing company. City Wide provides all of the janitorial services at Tri-Dim's 65,000-square-foot warehouse in Upper Macungie Township and recently started providing maintenance such as painting services and toilet replacement.
Wagner said that today's landlords are cutting costs by getting out of the tenant-service business, so City Wide does a good job filling that gap.
“They'll bring in their own supplies if you need something special done, like extra dusting, cleaning or vacuuming,” Wagner said. “They'll quote everything out and give you a fair price, and get it done in a very timely manner. It's kind of like having your own employee but pay as you go.”
In City Wide's future, Tolan said he sees technology becoming more prevalent in the commercial maintenance industry. He cited the example of being able to go into a building with an iPad, write quality checkups and take inventory of bathroom supplies, whereas a lot of the work had always been manual, involving driving from one place to another to see what people need.
Although Tolan said he envisions fewer human resources needed to service the customer, good business will always come down to people.
“The better our service providers, the better we're going to be,” he said.