Case Studies

UCS: Providing Quality Service Cleaning and Restoration

  • Written by: UCS: Providing Quality Service Cleaning and Restoration
  • Produced by: UCS: Providing Quality Service Cleaning and Restoration
  • Estimated reading time: 4 mins

UCS – formerly known as Universal Cleaning Specialists – is a fast-growing residential and commercial cleaning and restoration company. With locations in Austin, Belton and San Antonio, Texas, UCS offers a wide range of services, including carpet cleaning, maid service, commercial night janitorial service, and fire, wind, water and mold damage remediation.

The company began as Universal Cleaning Specialists in Austin in 1997. The intimate, 12-employee company’s original focus was carpet cleaning for multiunit apartment buildings. Searching to change his career from a corporate attorney, Ben Wells purchased the company in 2003 and rebranded it as UCS.

UCS has grown significantly in the past 10 years. Maid service was added to the original business model, and the Belton office opened in 2006. A year later, UCS began offering restoration services. Nighttime janitorial services for office buildings were the company’s next addition before opening the San Antonio office in 2009.

As Wells focuses on growing the business in San Antonio, the company is thriving. About half the business is carpet cleaning and janitorial service, with 10 percent being maid service and the remaining 40 percent comprised of restoration work. “I like the different areas of the company, because they balance each other out; if one is busy, another may be slow,” says Wells.

However, business has been anything but slow. In the past three years, revenue has grown 96 percent and the company has hired 37 employees for the UCS team. To boot, UCS is ranked 89 in its industry and has been named to the Inc. 5,000 List of America’s Fastest Growing Companies three years running.

Tackling Large Jobs

The company has earned notable awards and recognition. It is no secret that cleaning and restoration work requires a lot of labor. UCS employs about 100 people working in various capacities within the company. Having that large a staff helps tackle even the biggest contracts UCS receives.

“We’re certainly not a big company by corporate standards, but for some of the industries, we’re fairly large,” says Wells. “We understand property managers’ needs with multifamily buildings and can service their needs when smaller businesses can’t.”

In fall 2012 UCS wrapped up a large project with an Austin apartment community. Over 200 units in the community had a major design flaw in the bathrooms, which resulted in significant damage and mold growth. The property’s owners and management company opted not to renew leases as expired, and instead hired UCS to come in with a team to demolish and restore the bathrooms.

“This project lasted nearly two years,” notes Wells. “That’s been a good project for us.” The total contract was around $1.6 million. UCS used its mold remediation licensure to tackle the build up in each unit. Subcontractors were hired to do the plumbing and alleviate the problem that caused the mold initially. UCS wrapped up the project with all the finish work and upgrades asked by the property owner.

Building up the Business

“The range of services UCS offers has been key in growth,” says Wells. There are many companies in the Texas area that offer carpet cleaning or night janitorial services, but not a lot that offer both in addition to maid and restoration services.

The other key difference, Wells explains, is each division of UCS in each geographic market has its own dedicated manager. As a result, each manager can specialize and provide dedicated oversight of his or her division. For example, a carpet-cleaning manager isn’t also responsible for maid service, or a manager in Austin isn’t also responsible for San Antonio. Wells holds each manager and UCS’ entire staff to a high standard of professionalism. “Not many small businesses are run by a corporate lawyer,” he says.

In the downturned economy, Wells feels these standards have given UCS its competitive edge. He admits, however, that financial stress on UCS clients has taken a toll. According to Wells, collecting from clients after work was complete became a real issue for the company. “It forced us to tighten credit when vetting new customers,” he details.

According to Wells, even the threat of legal action didn’t matter because some property owners were so affected by the drop in property values and the lack of tenancy that they just walked away from properties. After probably the worst year for this in 2009, UCS has learned to be very careful when approving credit for new clients.

Despite minor setbacks, sales have continued to grow and business is picking up. For 2013 Wells hopes to solidify UCS’s place in the San Antonio market through branding efforts in the area. UCS also recently added painting as another service on the UCS roster
due to the fact that lot of painting had been subcontracted out for restoration contracts and because of requests for painting services from many of company’s existing customers.

Wells is also considering a Houston location down the line as he continues to grow UCS. With a heart full of ambition, Wells and the team at UCS are sure to continue flourishing for years to come.

Published on: April 1, 2013

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