There are CEOs who claim to be hands-on bosses who don’t mind rolling up their sleeves and getting into the nitty-gritty. And then there’s Matthew Roselle. He’s the founder and CEO of Simpurgo, an Edmonton-based janitorial company with over 200 employees and offices in Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver. Simpurgo provides a wide variety of cleaning, janitorial and building maintenance services to retailers, restaurants, hospitality groups, buildings, offices of varying sizes, educational facilities, medical offices and facilities, and many others. Some of its clients include Cactus Club Restaurants, H&M clothing stores, DHL warehouses, Pattison Advertising, Canadian Brewhouses, Midwest Properties and Weyerhaeuser – over 50 clients throughout 120 buildings adding up to over 2.5 million sqft of property being cleaned daily.
And, although he’s the boss of more than 200 employees, Roselle has no problem stepping up or, in many cases, getting on his knees, if he feels he needs to. “I’ve always been the guy that if the job isn’t being done properly, I can take over and do it,” he says “I was the first guy to clean toilets for the company. I was the first guy to pull an all-nighter and this is the same for our managers, our supervisors, our owner/operators.”
Roselle began Simpurgo as a one-man operation in 2010. He was working as a marketing and sales rep for another company when a client lamented about the lack of quality from his cleaning company. Sensing a potential business opportunity, Roselle offered his services, even though he had never done janitorial work before. “I sold myself and he gave me the opportunity to clean his toilets,” he says with a laugh. “For about four months I was up at about 3 a.m. before I went to my office job to clean his toilets.”
Roselle’s can-do attitude is the direct result of his upbringing. One of three children being raised by a single mother, Roselle admits that he didn’t have it all growing up. In fact, there were tough times, so tough that sometimes utilities had to be shut off when the family had to choose between paying bills or buying food. “Nothing puts me off. I’m quite willing to tackle anything,” he says. “And that’s always been my driving factor, looking for opportunities and always seeing how things can be improved.”
Even with over 200 employees, 50 clients, a new office in Vancouver and the possibility of expanding into Saskatchewan and further east, Roselle's core values remain the same. "Our fundamentals, our values, my values, our code of ethics remain the same. It's a humble, small company mindset but with a larger reach,” he explains. “I have had opportunities to go for quantity rather than quality but Simpurgo is not set up that way. We’ve been slowly growing. Our company is based 90 percent on referrals and that speaks highly of our service.”
The opening of Simpurgo’s new Vancouver offices is a prime example of the company's ability to expand based on its reputation. They were providing janitorial services to the Alberta locations of a retail chain for a number of years; when the contract for the B.C. locations came up, the company offered the work to Simpurgo because they were extremely satisfied with their work in Alberta.
“We try to take off all of the stress, all of the workload, all of the struggles that a client currently has with their janitorial program and we take that on,” he says. “We’re the ones in the cleaning business. A client should never have to pick up a duster or consistently be following up with staff for cleaning issues. That’s our job.”
Simpurgo is known for having comprehensive structures in place for high standards such as quality assurance walk-throughs, and highly detailed guidelines and operating procedures. And they will be improving these quality assurance standards with the development of their proprietary software Sanitrac, short for sanitation tracking.
Sanitrac is a fully integrated mobile operating platform that manages quality assurance through inspections and reporting, daily cleaning activity lists, quality monitoring for tasks and employees, analytics for deficiencies, a client feedback portal for clients, and a knowledge centre, which will include how-to videos. Sanitrac also monitors employee activities by time tracking clock in/outs through GPS software.
Although janitorial and building maintenance will be the key part of Simpurgo’s business, Roselle also sees an opportunity to market and customize Sanitrac to other companies and clients.
The company is also working with Goodwill to establish a program that will train Goodwill workers, many of them with learning and other disabilities, to work as janitorial workers in the Goodwill outlets but also to work for Simpurgo.
A lot has happened in the eight years since Roselle offered to clean toilets for a friend and client. And Roselle sees nothing but potential for the future. “This industry has always been under-rated and the growth potential - if you know what you are doing and are doing it right - is massive,” he says. “The global cleaning market is $100 billion per year, with the Canadian market worth $6 billion per year.” Plus, 50 percent of the janitorial companies in Canada are mom-and-pop operations, with revenues of less than $60,000 per year, he notes, most with little or nothing in the way of quality assurance.
“A lot of people think cleaning a toilet is really simple; you wipe a cloth, you close the lid, you flush it, you walk away. But [at Simpurgo] when we walk into a restroom, the colour coding starts. The same cloth you used on a toilet bowl can’t be used on the sink, on the floor, so we have these colour coding systems of cloths, so you can only use it on a certain area,” he explains. Simpurgo also uses a high-to-low system to ensure the highly used touch point areas have minimal bacteria/germs transferred to them by the dirtier, lower contact areas.
“In this industry there are a lot of promises, a lot expectations that are never met, but I think that’s been one of our pillars of success, we truly come to the plate and hit home runs.”