As featured in the Spring 2019 issue of The Executive, an online magazine featuring members of Gwinnett Chamber’s Chairman’s Club.
Level Seven Facilities Services provides commercial cleaning services to office, industrial and retail clients, but that’s not what they’re selling. “We’re selling fewer headaches,” said Steven Tomlinson, Level Seven’s founder and one of the company’s managing partners. “Our job is to take problems off of a property manager’s plate,” he said. “If you’re in the cleaning business and your clients are thinking about you, you’re not doing something right.”
From janitorial services to glass cleaning, floor cleaning and refinishing, pressure washing, lift work and post-construction cleaning, Level Seven’s employees offer a full range of services that help Atlanta-area businesses stay clean, which can mean a variety of things. Dave Hollister, Level Seven co-owner and managing partner explained, “Cleaning is such a subjective term. Hopefully my standard is higher than most, but we want to make sure we understand what our customer’s level of clean is.” This definition of services, which happens in one of the first meetings with new clients helps Hollister and Tomlinson provide the right amount of staff and hours each facility needs to meet that client’s specific definition of clean.
That initial delineation of clean is the first step in Level Seven’s proactive management strategy, which is built on Tomlinson and Hollister’s business philosophy of good service equals good business. “There is a direct correlation between the level of service you provide and how successful your business is in the commercial cleaning industry,” Tomlinson said.
Tomlinson has a decades-long history in providing cleaning services that started in college with a buddy and a vacuum cleaner. “We would do whatever we needed to during the day and clean offices at night,” Tomlinson said. “We made a lot more money than our buddies flipping burgers.”
After taking on work within the building and remodeling industry after college, Tomlinson returned to commercial cleaning after the 2008 recession. “What attracted me back to this business model is that it’s recession proof. Or at least safer,” Tomlinson said. “Offices will always need cleaning services.” After creating and eventually selling a cleaning business in Savannah, Tomlinson moved to Atlanta and founded Level Seven in 2012. He welcomed Hollister into the business in 2016.
To provide a better cleaning service to their clients, Tomlinson and Hollister set out to make cleaning less subjective and more measurable. Their company’s structure enables Level Seven’s senior management to stay involved in the day-to-day activity of the company. The management team performs consistent quality control checks at their clients’ facilities at least once a month and creates a report to show the client how they are doing. This differs from a lot of Level Seven’s competitors, Hollister said. “Bigger companies will throw a crew in there and wait for complaints before they change anything. Our team finds issues, self-reports them and makes improvements.”
“We place a lot of emphasis on catching problems before they arise,” Tomlinson agreed. “Word-of-mouth is our number one source of opportunities, so there’s nothing more important to us than happy clients.”
The majority of Level Seven’s work is with property management companies and general contractors and stadiums.
Recently Level Seven started work with an international shipping and logistics company for which they provide a 16-person cleaning crew 24 hours a day, seven days a week to keep a 1.5-million-square-foot facility clean. “This job was right in our sweet spot,” Tomlinson said, “Small cleaning companies wouldn’t have been able to dedicate the amount of resources needed and bigger companies wouldn’t have given a contract this size the time of day.”
The shipping and logistics company found Level Seven during a Google search for a glass cleaner, which was either a fortunate stroke of serendipity or a good indication that Level Seven’s search engine optimization strategy is on point. When Tomlinson spoke with the company about their glass cleaning needs, the company representative mentioned he was in the final stages of selecting a facility cleaning crew. Tomlinson took the opportunity to offer Level Seven’s services as another option. In the end Level Seven was chosen for the contract, largely based its management structure and dedication to customer satisfaction. After cleaning the facility for about five months now, Tomlinson said, “our team has had great reviews so far.”
With a wide range of contracts across the greater Atlanta area, Level Seven is now a quickly growing and prospering mid-size cleaning company. “Now that we have space to breathe, we felt it was time to address one of the goals in our mission statement, which was to bring about positive change in the community in which we do business,” Tomlinson said. He and Hollister agreed it was time to join the Gwinnett Chamber and the Chairman’s Club. “We always heard about what a dynamic group of business leaders it was,” Tomlinson said.
“The relationships we’ve developed in the short time we’ve been involved have been outstanding,”
Hollister said. “We’ve gotten contacts that have been beneficial on a personal and professional level.”
Though Hollister and Tomlinson anticipate that their new relationships at the Chamber will help them grow, they are adamant that Level Seven will never outgrow its directly managed customer service. “There are a number of publicly traded entities in our industry that do an enormous volume of business all over the world. Their model is different than what we do, though. The vast majority of their contracts get subbed out to smaller local outfits,” Tomlinson said. “We will never turn into a call center, ever. It’s important to us that we never outgrow our capacity to closely manage the end product.” Because in the end, Tomlinson said, it’s the company’s principals’ personal investment and commitment to quality service that makes Level Seven a success.