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Saturday, 09 August 2008 12:24

Varsity ContraCtors

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Heartthis year, bscai presented the industry Hero award—arthur c. Barraclough company community Services award—to arlo luke of varsity contractors.

Arlo Luke

this award recognizes companies for their volunteer effort for charities and the community. annually, the winner receives a crystal award that can be displayed prominently in their lobby and a charity representative is flown to the BScai convention to accept a cash donation. arthur c. Barraclough, cBSe, served on numerous BScai committees, with three terms on its board of directors and was also president-elect until his untimely death in May 2004.

Pocatello, id-based varsity, which has grown from a three-man cleaning team in a small community to approximately 5,000 employees throughout the uS and part of canada, has been a BScai member since 1974.

“i knew and was a personal friend of art,” recalls luke. ”i loved his attitude and quiet behavior, always serving and never complaining.”

varsity has always included service in its values and mission. one way it met this mission was to have a service project at every one of its annual company meetings. “For years, we would take a half day and with all our managers in the company, we selected a needy site or organization and worked shoulder to shoulder together,” luke explains. “We are in the service business and felt one way of making it more meaningful was to give our management team an opportunity to give “true service” or serving without being paid. it created a sense of serving others which we felt translated into our business service opportunities.”

after 30 years of growth, however, it became increasingly diffi cult for the company to fi nd a service project that would accommodate several hundred managers. “So we eliminated the annual meeting service project and asked each district and branch operation to do their own service project,” says luke. “all at once, we went from one major service project, to 30 to 50 service projects throughout the country. it was thrilling, when they would send in articles and pictures about their project and to see hundreds of our local employees working on the project. Something magical happens when you create that type of environment in your company. So, getting this award validated our desire to truly be a service organization.”

Some of the service projects varsity has done include building a log fence at a scout camp. “and, in the small city of St. george, utah, we divided into 12 cleaning teams and went to 12 homes of very needy people,” says luke. “We washed the walls and [did] woodwork, carpets, windows and exterior landscape work.”

today, the company does many local projects throughout the community. examples include building a play area for children at a local zoo, cleaning walls and finishing floors at the Salvation army, and total cleaning and repair at a denver safe house.

"varsity has always included service in its values and mission. one way it met this mission was to have a service project at every one ofits annual company meetings"

“another interesting project was in california where our people organized a music concert and antique car show to raise funds for a community clinic,” luke recalls. “in a community in illinois, we built a safe crosswalk for senior citizens who were challenged when they walked from their bus to the local businesses. of course we have hundreds of hearttouching stories about service in homes of needy and aged people.”

over the next few years, varsity will continue to strive to provide a service offering to customers that differentiates itself from the competition.

“We are chasing the so called ‘hedgehog,’” says luke. “While we want to continue to grow and provide increased opportunities, the highest priority is to become the standard of excellence. We are investing greatly in a new and unique service operating system, a system that provides to the customer peace of mind and repeatable success. the system, besides providing the clearing performance required, also addresses safety, asset preservation, environment and health. We are in a changing environment and very competitive. We cannot become complacent to be just cleaning contractors. We need to become total facility service providers and do it in a unique competitive way.”

and even with the challenging economy we are faced with currently, luke see this as an opportunity. “interesting, we have always done well in a down economy or recession. it is a time of opportunity. Many unprepared contractors go out of business or cannot manage productively well enough to adjust to the demands coming from our customers. it generally is a time when getting good people is more plentiful. the need for service does not go away in a slump in the economy. But it does get tighter, and there in lies the opportunity.”


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Lisa Kopochinski is an accomplished writer and editor with more than 20 years of journalistic experience. Her background includes working as a news anchor and reporter in television, radio and print. She has been in association trade publishing since 1987 and has written articles and edited numerous magazines, directories and newsletters for approximately 100 associations and industries across both Canada and the U.S.

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