Making It Right

Steamatic
Written by Robert Hoshowsky

Originally founded in 1948 as a cleaning company by two Fort Worth businessmen, Steamatic quickly earned a reputation for high-quality, dependable service.

In addition, livewire owners Bill Blackmon and Scott Mooring were behind several industry innovations, including a unique piece of equipment specifically made for cleaning area rugs.

Believing others worldwide would benefit from their patented, state-of-the-art hot water-recirculation cleaning systems, the two launched the Steamatic Inc. franchise business in 1968.

“They developed a lot of the initial industry standards for how to deal with water damage and duct cleaning,” says Steamatic’s Director of Operations Zach Ledford. “Processes were being developed on the spot at that time.”

Following the flooding of the Trinity River and its considerable damage to people’s homes, Blackmon and Mooring soon found their equipment was well-suited to helping homeowners recover, and the restoration side of the business was born.

“The business helped families suffering water damage to extract the water and clean up after the damage,” says Ledford. “This initial step into restoration—to serve and help people rebuild—became the direction of the brand that we still live up to today. But times change. Today people are looking for a turnkey solution. Steamatic wants to be the answer, by providing construction services that help with the emergency response and the clean-up and being there to put things back together again.”

Acquisition and action

Steamatic took a bold step forward in 2019 when the publicly traded, Australia-based construction and restoration giant Johns Lyng Group purchased the master franchising business from the incumbent owner.

“With the purchase came an investment in resources, as well as a cultural shift that focuses on developing leadership by hiring rock stars,” says Ledford. “This change in attitudes led to a rebuilding phase where complacency was no longer acceptable.”

On acquisition, positive changes were implemented immediately, including the introduction of tools to monitor employee development and determine everyone’s personal and professional vision with the company. All employees, from entry-level positions to upper management, had a voice that was heard. Fresh ideas were welcomed, and employees got more involved with Steamatic’s brand and direction.

Communication increased with updated newsletters and announcements. But the biggest transformation taking root in the company was in its hiring process and staff management. Traditionally, hiring was based largely on skill, but the company shifted toward hiring staff on intangibles instead.

“Our whole MO is that we can hire someone with no skill in relation to the role, as long as they have good intangibles like character, integrity, drive, and we teach them the skills,” says Ledford.

Building the culture

“We are a little different from other companies because we have people on the team who may not have been directly involved with the industry. However, they have good intangibles and great personalities that are in line with the culture we want,” Ledford shares.

Along with setting employees up for success and fostering a positive work environment, Steamatic brought on the former head of human resources for Nike, who introduced culture workshops and teaching. A change in attitude followed, where complacency was no longer acceptable.

As part of the company’s rebuilding phase, Steamatic has re-worked its standard operating procedures, updating documentation, operation manuals, and training processes to build the brand to a point where, when making a franchise offering, they are truly providing franchisees with a competitive, state-of-the-industry restoration business.

“We are one of America’s original restoration brands,” says Ledford. “Steamatic has helped pioneer many of the techniques now used in the industry, and we’re always looking for new ways to innovate. We are an American-born institution with franchises all over the world. Steamatic is committed to the customer experience and personal connection with our customers.”

The complete clean and restoration

Living up to its tagline, “Residential and Commercial, We Do it All,” Steamatic is America’s most trusted restoration and cleaning brand.

From its modest beginnings, the company has added many more services. Offering cleaning services for everything from carpets, area rugs, and furniture, to heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC), and ducts, the business has expanded to include restoration works such as water damage and flood restoration, mold remediation, and electronics restoration, to name a few.

With the acquisition in 2019, Steamatic added construction services in the U.S. (in Canada and internationally, Steamatic locations are their own master franchises). Although not all American franchisees are full turnkey with construction, they can facilitate construction by working with subcontractors. From demolition and debris removal to project management and new home construction, the company has commercial and residential reconstruction services to meet all the needs of its customers.

Steamatic is also a leader in indoor air quality (IAQ) services, from air ducts to HVAC cleaning.

Considering we spend about 90 percent of our time indoors, the air we breathe matters more than ever. One of the first companies to recognize the importance of indoor air quality and cleaning for health, Steamatic stresses the importance of following industry guidelines for air duct cleaning. The company encourages all of its owners who commit to cleaning air ducts to become certified through NADCA, the National Air Duct Cleaners Association.

Professional air duct cleaning not only improves the quality of indoor air but has many other benefits. Furnaces don’t have to work as hard, and unpleasant odors and harmful bacteria can be eliminated, creating a much healthier environment.

Understanding that cleaning the environment we live in influences air quality, Steamatic recently innovated a line of green chemicals with low VOCs (volatile organic compounds).

“During a water or fire damage, removing excess humidity from the environment quickly can prevent or greatly reduce mold contamination,” says Ledford. “We have the tools and training to monitor the conditions that can lead to IAQ problems and implement solutions to reduce the impact on homeowners and workers in the environment.”

Peace of mind

When flood, fire, or other disasters strike, customers are invariably upset, confused, and frustrated. The average incidence for those owning homes is two claims in 30 years. Their property, and often its contents, are damaged or destroyed. Many don’t know their deductible, or what to do next—and that’s where the professionals at Steamatic come into the picture.

“The first person on site is usually an estimator, and they must have the skills to work with the customer and provide a high level of customer service,” says Ledford. “We want to help them from start to finish. So we’ll walk in, make an assessment, put an estimate together, and communicate with the insurance adjuster and the insurance company.

“We’ll get an agreed-upon scope of work, help the customer with material selection—if there is material selection—and be there during the drying or cleaning stage.” Once this stage is complete, Steamatic is there to the end for its customers.

New Vice President

One of the biggest recent developments at Steamatic is the addition of Vice President Chad Rhoden.

Deeply experienced in the industry, Rhoden has served as Restoration Division Manager for Texas Fire and Deflooding, where he handled property restoration training, industry software, and day-to-day operations.

In other key roles, including the posts of Director of Technical Training for The Dwyer Group and later Director of Operations for Wardlaw Claims Services, Rhoden was entrusted with developing adjuster training reinforced by critical industry standards, providing technical oversight, and other initiatives.

At Steamatic, Rhoden coming aboard as Vice President is a clear signal of growing talent and ability propelling the company forward.

“Chad has been involved in the restoration industry for a significant amount of time,” says Ledford. “He has a wealth of knowledge and an IICRC (Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification), and he shares a lot of those intangibles we’re looking for, so he’s a great fit culturally.”

The key to growth: people

With 43 locations domestically, Steamatic is currently looking to expand. The company is present all over the globe, including Canada, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Mexico City.

“As far as those people who want to work with Steamatic and are looking for a restoration franchise are concerned, we want self-starters with high levels of drive and energy,” says Ledford. “We want friendly and reliable people with extreme character and integrity who are open to new ideas and processes but unwilling to compromise on work quality. They need to be the best of the best. That’s who we want to attract.”

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