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AmeriPride

AmeriPride

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AmeriPride Services Positions for Growth

 

AmeriPride

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Distinguished family enterprise aims for expansion, impact

In football, it’s referred to as “having your head on a swivel.”

In other words, being able to see all the various moving parts on the field and recognizing how they might impact what it is that you’re trying to accomplish.

In business, it’s often the CEO’s job to have that level of awareness, both internally and externally.

When it comes to AmeriPride – the Minnesota-based company whose wheelhouse is in uniform rental and linen supply – that role has belonged to Bill Evans since he arrived in 2009.

And if you ask him what he hopes to accomplish while he’s here, he has it boiled down to one word.

Growth.

“AmeriPride equals growth,” Evans says. “If there’s one thing I want people to know about our company, it’s that we intend to grow. For the long term, that’s clearly the backbone of any company that’s going to be sustainable, and we’re no different. It’s my job to make sure everyone is aligned to that idea, both internally and externally.”

SWELLING THE RANKS

Already an employer of approximately 5,600 across the United States and Canada, Evans says AmeriPride boosted headcount among its team of sales reps by one-third within the past year and has adjusted its financial forecasts going forward to reflect the desire to continue growing.

What it means fiscally, he says, is that the company will be more focused on mergers and acquisitions and the sort of organic growth that guarantees long-term success.

AmeriPride already holds the largest market share among its competitors in Canada and has established a presence across the entire country from its east to west coasts. The Canadian market is vitally important and the company has no plans to cede its position there, Evans says. In addition, adding to the footprint in the United States is something the leadership agrees is a near-term priority item.

“It’s important to protect our leadership position and we’re always looking at acquisition candidates to maintain our status as the biggest player in Canada,” he says. “Look at our service map and you’ll see we have fairly widespread coverage in Canada. Our footprint in the U.S. is a little different and we are executing a more surgical and practical approach to acquisitions here.

“Here we are primarily looking at acquiring operations that are in our existing service area or contiguous to it, but we’re not ruling anything out.”

AmeriPride’s in-house mergers and acquisitions department does ongoing research on the market, identifying candidates that might be a good fit. Ultimately, if the process goes smoothly, AmeriPride enters negotiations with a particular business. But, Evans says, it’s not entirely about the bottom line.

They are also looking for companies that are a good cultural fit and share similar values.

Evans cites the company’s most recent acquisition – Plus Linen and Uniform Service of Canton, N.C. – as specific evidence of the importance of the proper corporate culture.

“One of the deciding factors for them was that we are a family business as well,” he says. “It’s been a terrific acquisition for us from a business standpoint, as well as good cultural fit. That’s been a perfect match since day one.”

And the value placed on family ownership goes back to day one for AmeriPride, as well.

All the way back, in fact, to 1889.

STARTING A FAMILY

Founder George Steiner got his start while working his way through school delivering towels for a local laundry in Lincoln, Neb. He ultimately purchased the company for the then-princely sum of $50, and, when he and his brother, Frank, parted ways and moved to Minneapolis and Salt Lake City, respectively, each opened a branch of the company – then known as American Linen Supply – in his new home.

Expansion into Canada as Canadian Linen and Uniform came in Vancouver in 1925, and, 23 years later in 1948, the international entity that had grown to 19 branches was consolidated into a single integrated corporation. A rebranding effort in 2000 changed the corporate name to AmeriPride and Evans was later brought in as the first non-family CEO.

“I give former CEO Bruce Steiner and the family leadership tremendous credit for recognizing that some changes needed to be made in order to sustain,” Evans says. “The company was growing, but it was being outpaced by its competitors. This meant bringing in some outside talent to help lead the company forward and adapt to a changing marketplace.”

Evans’ previous experience at PepsiCo might appear to be a business incongruent with AmeriPride’s products and services, but he insists there were a lot more similarities than differences.

“Both are distribution companies with very large fleets,” he says. “I was able to come in, look at things from a broader view and provide a unique outside perspective. The new leadership has allowed us to become more progressive, yet remain very engaged and connected to the values we share as a company.”

THE NATURE OF PROGRESS

The progressive nature has led to myriad successes in the field.

Alongside its signature penchant for customer service, AmeriPride has assumed a cutting-edge role when it comes to innovations and best practices in the garment and textile spaces.

The company is a leading player when it comes to testing fabrics for durability and color retention, as well as coming up with washing techniques that ensure the level of cleanliness needed in highly-specialized settings, like uniforms for technology and healthcare customers that often require very specific laundering and care. The company also knows how to clean and repair safety garments so they retain their flame resistant qualities, and utilizes ultra-high frequency chips in uniforms that allow for better tracking throughout the wash and transport of large-scale bulk loads.

Outside the processing plants, the decision was made to begin leasing its fleet of vehicles rather than owning them, which has allowed for better fuel efficiency and lower maintenance costs, and the introduction of alternative fuel vehicles like propane, compressed natural gas (CNG) and electric. A new ”telematics” technology is also being implemented that will help the company improve efficiency and safety.

In the end, Evans maintains that it is still all about the customer.

“There are a lot of different applications for what we do, and it’s amazing to think about the vast array of customers that we serve,” Evans says. “Whether we are helping protect employees’ safety and health, saving a business owner time and money or helping to improve their public image, we have the opportunity to make a big impact on a lot of different people, and that’s something we take a great amount of pride in. It’s important to us to be the people you can count on.”

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