The founder of Victory Sweepers is Mark R. Schwarze, son of the founder of Schwarze Industries, Inc., Bob Schwarze. Before he was old enough to drive, Mark accompanied his father as a helper on his contract sweeping routes in Huntsville and Birmingham, Alabama. Then, once Mark was old enough to get a driver’s license, he became a weekend sweeper operator in the family’s parking lot sweeping business.
In 1973, Bob Schwarze decided to make his own parking lot sweeper, primarily because he couldn’t buy a commercially-built sweeper that worked well in a parking lot sweeping application. Once others in the industry discovered how well his new air sweepers worked, Bob soon had to quit sweeping so he could build parking lot sweepers full time.
Mark went to work for his dad’s sweeping manufacturing company, Schwarze Industries, Inc., right out of high school, even though his dad would have preferred he go to college instead. So, Bob had the good sense to start his son at the bottom of the company ladder — washing sweepers! Then, over time, Bob worked Mark up through the ranks. Seven years later, when Mark took over the company’s day-to-day operations as vice-president, he’d had first-hand experience in virtually every hands-on job in the organization, from welding to fab to paint to sales.
Over the next 15 years, driven by the ‘keep it simple and make it work great,' product design and customer-oriented support philosophy of his father, Mark catapulted the company to the leading position in the parking lot sweeping industry. At one point, the Schwarze family firm had in excess of 60% market share in that industry segment, a number that was arrived at from a competitor’s survey.
Then, as company president, Mark also expanded the family firm to include making regenerative air and mechanical broom street sweeping machines, and developed an almost worldwide sales network. By 1999, Schwarze Industries, Inc. had become a company with over $35 million in annual sales and was one of the top three sweeper manufacturers in the U.S. marketplace.
A direct result of this tremendous reception by customers was, oddly enough, that by 1999 it became apparent the company business would have to be sold. That’s because the primary stockholder was the now ailing founder, Bob Schwarze. The company had grown so large under Mark’s direction that there was, under American tax laws, no practical way for it to pass down from father to son. In addition, the Schwarze family’s historical strategy of continual growth would soon require a large financial outlay in order to finance the necessary expansion.
Finally, when Bob received a short-term terminal diagnosis, the answer became inescapable. With no choice but to sell prior to Bob’s passing, a public company, Alamo Group, Inc. (NYSE: ALG), became the eventual purchaser. Schwarze Industries, Inc. was a family business no more.
Although as part of the arrangement Mark initially stayed on as president, it wasn’t long before the differences in the public company’s methodology, direction and customer support philosophy became glaring. After just under three years at the helm, Mark resigned from his position. During the next two years, during which he was bound by a non-compete agreement with Alamo Group, Mark purchased and expanded a local area multi-lines truck dealership. However, when the non-compete ran out he sold this dealership and began the process of getting back into the sweeper manufacturing business.
In his words: “In April, 2002, I gave my life to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It was the greatest day of my life! If there’s one thing I now know, other than my belief in doing God’s work and my love for my family, it’s that I belong back in the sweeping industry.
I grew up in it, the industry is in my blood, and I love and miss the interaction with all of the customers. I’ve been blessed to have sweeping contractor friends from all over the U.S., and I can’t wait to have a product that will once again offer us an opportunity to get back together on a more regular basis. Plus, in my time away I have had a tremendous number of ideas about how to make a sweeper that’s better than any currently being built.
My intent is to come back at the same point where I believe our family company was when we sold it, as producer of the best sweepers in the industry, accompanied by the absolute best customer service and support systems in existence. To our former customers, I promise you a return to the kind of ‘customer as friend’ relationships we used to enjoy. To those who didn’t ever have an opportunity to know the level of support and product value the Schwarze family brought to sweeping, get ready for something entirely new, different, and a notch above anything you’ve seen before.
I’ve already been asked how it will feel to be competing with my old company, especially since it still bears my name. My answer is, after discussion with my family members, that doing so is the best way possible to actually protect and preserve the family name and legacy as one of the pioneer families in the American sweeping industry.
I can tell you I have the complete support of my entire family, including my wife, my mother, my brother, two daughters, son and new son-in-law. The only person who hasn’t yet weighed in with an opinion is my six-month old grand daughter, but I feel sure she will ultimately offer her approval, too.
I can also tell you that part of my decision was based on the enormous number of phone calls I’ve received from sweeping contractors since my departure. After first telling me about the many differences they remember in our Schwarze family way of doing business, as contrasted with the way our old company is run today, a number have committed to purchase the first product I build if I come back into the industry. I find this humbling to the point of tears. I pray I can earn their business and exceed their expectations.
So, I say to all of you: “It’s GREAT to be back in the sweeping business! We’re going to have fun, all of us, while we once again re-define how the sweeper manufacturing and support business can be operated for the benefit of all. My goal is not just to build great sweepers, but to offer a product line that shows everyone what our Victory Sweepers slogan, ‘Winning Together,’ can mean for us all.”
Mark Schwarze and his design team recently unveiled the first model in the Victory Sweepers line. To make sure you’re one of the first to see the new family of sweepers, be sure to sign up for our occasional emails, by submitting our contact form.