The recent Coronavirus epidemic has been a major wakeup call for consumers about the need for cleanliness and vigilance, but health and safety has always been front and center for Service Keepers Maintenance Inc.
“We are a commercial maintenance and janitorial firm that has been operating in South Florida for more than 30 years. We do high-rise condos, high-rise office building, private schools k-12 and industrial manufacturing facilities,” said Neal Berman, CEO of the Miami-based company.
Service Keepers’ mission reads, in part: “To revolutionize the cleaning industry for efficiency and safety while providing professional, reliable and responsive service.”
The company was founded in 1988 by Berman’s parents, who were previously in the chemicals business. They bought an existing company that they had been selling products to and Service Keepers was born. Berman’s wife, Audra, is CIO. Father Jerry is director of business development.
Today, this family-run business has close to 200 employees. What’s more, Service Keepers has a plan to accelerate its growth, thanks to the help of Florida SBDC at FIU, the small business development center with the university’s College of Business.
“Our growth as a company has been organic and based on referrals. We are very hands-on and owner operated. We have a vested interest in all of our clients that range from Fortune 500 companies to little mom and pop shop operations in South Florida,” said Berman, who became CEO in 2015. “I would say our niche is that our ownership is directly involved in the operations of the business.”
That personal touch was in evidence in early March as the Coronavirus was spreading worldwide. Service Keepers’ executive team was busy fielding calls from customers about extra cleaning services as well as making their own calls to suppliers.
“It’s been nonstop, every day, the calls,” said Berman. “There is this price gauging going on and we just don’t believe in that. And it is very hard to get product right now because everyone is panicking.”
But Berman and the team have been through this before, and they know they will face situations like Coronovirus again. Experience matters. The company follows a strict infection control protocol.
“Having 30 years of experience, we are very knowledgeable about disinfectants and emergent pathogens and the different systems and products that are used to contain them. We know what to look for and we know the proper procedures to take once a virus like this comes out,” he said about Service Keepers, a member of the Building Service Contractors Association International (BSCAI) and ISSA, the largest global association for janitorial companies.
“We’ve had trainings in dealing with issues like this because they come around every couple of years, like with SARS and H1N1,” said Berman. “We provide a disinfectant service where we use a residue disinfectant cleaners, and we also offer a disinfectant fogger solution. Disinfectants help keep everything clean as possible, but once it is airborne, it is very hard to stop.”
Being an environmentally safe company is also at the center of Service Keepers’ mission.
“When I first started with the company, I was driving around with bowl cleaner in my car for a week and I couldn’t breathe. I said ‘guys there must be something wrong with this.’ We started going green,” said Berman.
He said the company not only uses environmentally-friendly chemicals but equipment too. For instance, it uses four-filtration HEPA vacuums endorsed by the American Lung Association. It buys green-friendly paper products. ”We got certified as a green building corporation (CIMS) and we have always been about 15% higher in sustainability,” Berman said proudly.
What’s ahead for the company? Lots of growth, Berman said. The company also hopes to break into government contracting.
The CEO credits Florida SBDC at FIU for helping the company with its growth strategy going forward. FSBDC at FIU offers no-cost business consulting to growing small businesses in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.
“What we have learned from our assistance from the Florida SBDC at FIU consultants has been invaluable. Our latest achievement has been our access to capital because we plan to have a growth spurt in the next three quarters of this year, and that has all been made possible through the FSBDC at FIU. It gives us the ability to upgrade our team and make sure we are here for a long time and we keep making a difference in our community,” said Berman.
Service Keepers has been working with the Florida SBDC at FIU, which provides no-cost business assistance for about a year because even a three-decade-old business can learn about taking a company to the next level.
“The education that [FSBDC at FIU] provided on how to do the financing was really important. We’re also working on the marketing and website development and getting ourselves poised for growth. We feel very good about it.”