Business is booming for Tony Moser’s cleaning and disinfecting company
The Steri-Clean franchisee has shifted from disinfecting crime scenes and hoarders’ homes to battling the coronavirus.
Like many business owners, Tony Moser has pivoted during the pandemic.
His pre-pandemic niche: cleaning and disinfecting bloody crime scenes and the homes of hoarders.
He runs two Steri-Clean franchises; one services the Chicago area, the other in Springfield.
As the coronavirus spread, his skills began attracting a new range of clients seeking to ward off the unseen threat before anyone got sick or kill any trace that might be left by workers who tested positive.
Demand has doubled.
“I’ve been to warehouses, bakeries, liquor stores, grocery stores, senior living centers and lawyers offices,” he said. “I get a lot of ‘I need it done tomorrow, because we had somebody test positive and I don’t want to shut my business down.’”
Tim Mulrooney, an analyst with William Blair who focuses on commercial services, said there’s been a clear boom in disinfection services, and a number of companies are positioning themselves to ride the wave.
In addition to new companies being formed, other businesses with built-in infrastructure, like pest control companies, have been adding disinfection services to their menus.
Companies that offer janitorial services, like the industry giant ABM, are also offering add-on disinfecting services.
But a company like Steri-Clean is extremely well positioned to take advantage of an increasingly “hygiene-focused world” as workers return to office spaces, Mulrooney said.
“Property managers don’t necessarily want to go with the new kid on the block, they want to go with companies that have established protocol and supply chains, that are well known and have a good brand,” he said.
Not all of Moser’s new clients are companies. He regularly fields calls from people with loved ones who’ve been sick or didn’t survive.
“They’re burned out by dealing with family members who’ve been in the hospital or died, and now they’re just kind of somber. You can tell, they’re in distress, they need someone to take over the situation,” he said.
“I ensure people that I 100% understand what they’re going through and will take charge of the situation to take that stress off of them,” he said.
Moser said business has grown so much that he’s been booked for at least a week in advance for the past several months.
One of his biggest clients is Bimbo Bakeries USA, which runs one of the largest commercial bakeries in the country in Cicero. Moser has work crews at the plant three days a week. Plant manager Moises Chavez hired Steri-Clean after several workers contracted the coronavirus. Extra sanitation has quelled fears among the plant’s roughly 400 employees, Chavez said.
“They have seen we’re going above and beyond what is recommended,” Chavez said, “so that makes the people feel more comfortable and safe.”
Moser and his staff, normally accustomed to 10-hour days, now regularly work 16-hour days — most of the time in biohazard suits.
“We don’t just spray, we wipe everything with detergent and then we come back and spray and then we test for efficacy and that surfaces are disinfected,” he said.
More competitors have popped up during the pandemic. Moser always tells potential clients his company has been doing this for a while.
Steri-Clean was founded by Cory Chalmers, who later became a host of the reality television show “Hoarders.”
Moser has a degree in industrial engineering and worked in manufacturing before opening a Steri-Clean office in the south suburbs six years ago.
He has 12 people working for him and hopes to have 20 by the end of the year.
But hiring and retaining good people is a challenge, he said, pointing to the sights, smells and emotions that come with the job.
“It’s beyond what you could ever believe,” he said.
Plus, it’s hot working in a biohazard suit all day, he said.