Sparklean, part of the DKI® network, is an emergency restoration company that provides cleaning and janitorial services; and flood, fire and mould remediation. Using an incredible array of technology, Howes and his team are among the fastest and most efficient companies in the Edmonton area to clean, dry and restore damaged homes.
The company was launched 25 years ago by Mike Howes, a man with a ready smile and a great sense of humour. Before Sparklean, Howes was the president of a carpet cleaning company, but he wanted the stability that comes from being one’s own boss, as well as the challenge of more diverse tasks and hands-on work.
Howes realized that investing in talent and technology was the way to distinguish Sparklean in the restoration business. The company quickly evolved physically, taking over three bays in their previous location, before moving to a larger location in St. Albert. Over two and a half decades, it evolved in its service offerings as well, providing work in the private, public and insurance sectors.
“Technology is what enabled us to grow,” says Howes. “We’ve implemented technology in-house on every level, and that keeps us at the top of our game.
“For example, we’ve replaced sand blasting with dry ice blasting. The dry ice sublimates to CO2 gas and dissipates, saving us from having to clean up several thousand pounds of sand at the end of a job.
“Ultrasonics clean by vibration and afford the opportunity to clean household contents such as silk plants, toys and electronics that would be too time consuming to clean in the past.
“Our Esporta laundry machine is seven feet tall and eight feet wide. It can remediate 160 pounds of laundry at a time using an intense but gentle method. With Esporta, we salvage 85 per cent of items that have been in a fire or affected by a backed up sewer. This is good news for wedding dresses, vintage quilts, leather shoes, etc.
“We also have a dry heat trailer that bakes the moisture out of things. In 48 hours, you can get back into a house you thought you had to vacate for 90 days! In the past, a flood meant throwing out drywall and carpets. With the dry heat trailer, we dry and steam the carpets and get all the moisture out of the drywall. We even polish your furniture. Customers are always saying, ‘how did you do that?’!”
The customers are not the only ones that are impressed. It took a while for the insurance companies to believe that Sparklean could clean, dry and remediate homes with their signature speed and efficiency, but once they saw what their technology could do, they were happy to send Sparklean to homes that had insurance claims.
“Insurance carriers score remediation companies with a system based on how well they perform, and we have internal dashboards to make sure our score cards are where they need to be,” informs Howes. “Through our technology, reputation and our refined systems, we are getting more and more insurance work. As an independent company in Edmonton, we can keep up.”
But it takes more than great tools to run a company. It takes a cohesive team.
“It’s a family business,” smiles Howes, noting that his wife is part of the business, and several employees work alongside their sons and daughters, too. “I make this a fun place to work where my staff can have a better life. I tell them ‘you don’t work for me, you work for yourself.’ They understand that.”
After 25 years of cleaning and restoring homes, Howes knows that “everyone’s home is their castle. Whatever we are doing to your place, be it taking care of a small patch of mould in an apartment or restoring fire damage in a big house overlooking the River Valley, to us, it’s a high-profile job. The loss is large to you no matter where you live, and we treat each job with the same level of courtesy and efficiency. We are honest about each situation, and we tell customers what they can remediate quickly and easily on their own, or if we need to come in with special equipment.”
Sparklean is also very active in the community. When the Fort McMurray fires devastated the northern city, Howes took 45 people to the site as part of a contingent of 600 DKI operators. He ran project meetings outside of a trailer and rolled up his sleeves with the many men and women that helped to restore the city. Howes is also heavily involved in Rock N’ August, has sat on every committee in St. Albert’s Chamber of Commerce and is on the board of the Eagles Club. Sparklean regularly donates to Stop Abuse in Families Society (SAIF), the Sturgeon Community Hospital Foundation and many more.
“What comes next for Sparklean?” muses Howes. “I know I’m supposed to be thinking about succession planning, but I just love what I do and I have no plans to quit. I see myself still coming to work when I’m 75 and driving my staff crazy. Maybe with a nicer office, though! I enjoy watching the company and my staff grow. I’m at a stage where, for the first time, I can work on the business instead of in the business. It took 25 years to get here, and I want to work on it for another 25 years.”
Bob, the office cat, adopted the Sparklean family several years ago and now functions as the company’s guard cat. Rather than attacking intruders, he takes the soft approach of gazing at them with huge, curious eyes, which always results in a melted heart, the offering of treats, and many pats. Bob is paid for his dedicated service with comfortable places to nap, treats kept in every office (he knows how to knock on treat doors when he wants a nibble) and the undying love and affection of his work family and Sparklean’s customers.