Benjamin Briggs: Welcome to Business Innovators Magazine, Mr. Hickman. Tell me a little something about your history and how long you’ve been in Alaska?
Wallace Hickman: I’ve been in Alaska since 2004. I followed my kids and their mother up here. I came looking for work and ran into a nice roofing job at first for a couple of months in a sort of search for more work because I wanted to expand my talent. I ended up at Mr. Prime Beef, which is a meat cutting company. I trained for about six months learned quickly. I was promoted to lead man on the floor. I was there for about 3 years.
I wanted to move on to something different. So I went to a Henry’s Janitorial Service. I had a conversation with a young lady by the name of Kathy and we talked. I was very interested in what she had to offer me, so I took that on. To make a long story short, I started cleaning buildings, something that I’ve never done before. I thrive when facing the unknown. It’s a little scary at times, but I fell into it rather quickly. I started cleaning buildings up about three days a week. I kept my job at Mr. Prime Beef so at nighttime I was cleaning Affluent high rise buildings downtown all over town like Contec and Davis construction. After two years of that, I started getting into floors; stripping and waxing, doing carpet cleans and more and more. At that point, I made supervisor. And from there I guess my head got big but you know so be it.
Benjamin Briggs: Confidence is definitely something an entrepreneur, such as yourself, need to have in abundance anyway so, to say you are big-headed…I’ve seen you work and your work is good. So its okay to afford yourself a compliment from time to time. What types of specialty services or provided by a building maintenance contractor?
Wallace Hickman: Most building maintenance contractors offer house service two or three times a week. We have people come in and clean your house, make your bed, wash dishes, vacuum your carpet and much more. Besides that we do nightly services; after people get off work, we go in vacuum, empty trash and mop. Those are the three main things that we do. We start to add in extra things as well and it’s something that I believe other companies don’t do. We wipe off the tops of their desks while being careful not to break anything. Those are just some of the little things that we do. We have more to offer.
Benjamin Briggs: So you do your job with love and care?
Wallace Hickman: Yes, as if it was my own house.
Benjamin Briggs: Okay. And that’s a good quality for your profession. It sounds very interesting. Do you have experience with green cleaning programs? What kind of chemicals do you use?
Wallace Hickman: Some of the chemical we use? For floors would be Vectra. It’s a hard wax for places that have high traffic areas; such as Fred Meyers or Carrs/ Safeway. Places with very high traffic are where you would use this hard wax.
We also use a green product called Carefree which contains no allergens. Some people are allergic to certain chemicals. We also offer a variety of green products. They’re more expensive but we do offer that. We definitely take into consideration the client’s needs before taking on a bid.
Benjamin Briggs: Do you provide blood borne pathogens cleaning?
Wallace Hickman: Yes we do. We provide any service that a client may request. If we don’t have it we will reach out to get it.
Benjamin Briggs: Tell me something about your capabilities for responding to emergencies such as flood vandalism, fire or smoke damage.
Wallace Hickman: We have experience in this area. Our company is a 24-hour-a-day business, so we’re on call all of the time. I’m personally always on call. I’m actually the number one man who gets the call for floods or whatever. For instance, just last week I had a client’s building downtown where a pipe busted. I had to get out of the bed, go get extractor and extract the water. I have to deal with alarm codes. One thing about servicing these office buildings is that you must know the codes to get in. That is a big must that you need to know.
Benjamin Briggs: How do you determine the number of man hours needed to clean a commercial facility?
Wallace Hickman: Man hours depend on the condition of the facility. Whether it’s brand new; if it is a newly constructed building, it would take less than a building that’s ten years old because of normal wear and tear. If there’s one person in a building that takes four hours to do, you go by man hours. If there are two people you divide the man hours so…like I said it will all depend on condition of the building.
Benjamin Briggs: How does a building maintenance contractor manage a smooth start up transition when it comes to a new customer account?
Wallace Hickman: The first thing we do is introduced ourselves. We find out exactly what that customer’s looking for. One of the unknown secrets about this is that the customer doesn’t always know what they want. We know what they want. You find out by doing a walk through after you introduce yourself. You ask questions and then you present. If you’re good, it just works out.
Benjamin Briggs: I understand you have plenty of contracts. How do you deal with the overflow?
Wallace Hickman: In this business, overflow is ongoing. It isn’t something that you can’t really put a cap on because it’s a business that has a high turnover rate. You will always have more work that you have employees when you do good work.
Benjamin Briggs: Obviously you guys are doing good numbers. Tell me, how do you respond to complaints or problems from customers facilities?