Sir Grout's Owner Is A Former Ceo

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

A new tile floor is a beautiful asset to a house's kitchen or bathroom. The selections of tile these days are endless, and many homeowners fulfill their dreams by installing adobe squares of burnished brown tile, or glossy ceramic pieces designed to offset their cabinets and appliances.

But then, over time and plenty of inevitable spills, that lovely tile and the grout that holds it together loses its luster. It's dirty and stained, and no matter how clean you think it is, it's really not-because grout is porous, and holds the dirt, food and other spills tight, no matter how hard you scrub.

So what do you do, replace it at great expense? Not necessarily. You could call SIR GROUT instead.

The year-old business with a noble name has taken off like gangbusters since it was founded by New Milford, CT resident Tom Lindberg in 2005. SIR GROUT is a steam cleaning and grout sealing company that does more than just clean up tile floors and sanitize them.

The company's method preserves and protects tile floors so that they look like new using a selection of tinted and colored sealants that can improve the look of a tile floor and make it last longer, while saving the owner plenty of money.

Mr. Lindberg, a youth hockey coach and father of two who, with his wife has raised his family in the area since the late 1980s, has an extensive corporate background, working in marketing, sales and general management for large corporations like Honeywell and Union Carbide. He has traveled the world extensively, and loved his hometown, but never felt part of it. By starting up SIR GROUT, he said, he finally feels at home, connected with the community and his customers. His work in corporate taught him best practices and how to start up a business of his own, and at the age of 43, he feels he's come full circle in his career.

"I was running a company in Tarrytown NY as its President and CEO, moving it from New York City to Mexico, and the assignment was going to end in a year," Mr. Lindberg said, during a recent interview. "A friend asked me to get into this steam cleaning business and I said, 'What's interesting about that? Then I talked to a supplier who saw our business advertising and talked to us about expanding our services [to include] an acrylic polymer sealant." "Once the tile and grout are deep-steam cleaned, you put this acrylic polymer over it and it seals it, protects it and makes it look like new," Mr. Lindberg continued. "Customers can get just what they want-we bring swatches for them to choose from and we apply the stain ... and they're very happy. I've heard some of the nicest things from my customers about our work. They're always so happy with the way the floor looks when we're done." Mr. Lindberg enjoys his work because of the personal contact with his customers and the satisfaction he receives from their response to his company's services. Eventually, SIR GROUT's tile and grout cleaning and sealing method is to become a national franchise, based in New Milford but offered around the country, he said.

"It's my passion," he said. "I don't sell-I educate people on how to best take care of their restored floors. I'm a marketing guy-I've done this kind of work for a long time and this is what I enjoy doing. And it's very gratifying, understanding peoples needs and making them happy with what we do." His focus on "customer service is what makes SIR GROUT a success," he said.

"I wanted to make the name something special "" a lot of people use 'Mister' this or 'Mister' that, but 'Sir' is distinctive," he added with a laugh. "My employees are my knights... we've got vans decorated with a medieval design and people love that.

They chase us around town until they catch us." In explaining the importance of steam cleaning tile, Mr. Lindberg said that even the best soaps can stain and eventually damage the grout that holds a tile floor in place.

"Because the grout is porous, the soap sinks in and leaves the dirt behind," he said. "Add a little sugar spill here, some dog food there, and you've got dirty grout. And that makes the tile look faded and old. ... By steam cleaning it and sealing it, you're sanitizing it and upgrading it. It's a tenth of the price you'd pay to replace it. People can get exactly what they want and preserve their floors." His customer base varies, from small and large homeowners in greater Westchester, Fairfield and Litchfield counties, to businesses including restaurants and schools. He gets leads from realtors and people in the trades who do home renovations, and business has been brisk. And Mr. Lindberg believes it's important to make timed appointments and treat each customer as an individual.

"If I say 9:30 a.m., I'm there at 9:30 , and I do the consultations," he said. "If I do a few less people because I'm spending more time with the customers I have, that's OK. For me it's important to take that time." Mr. Lindberg's partner, Jeff Gill, has the same values and processes and manages New Jersey and southern Westchester, NY.

Since SIR GROUT got started, Mr. Lindberg has joined the Greater New Milford Business Association, a support network of local businesses who meet Friday mornings at the New Milford Railroad Station. "Joining that group has been fabulous," Mr. Lindberg said. "It's very fulfilling, being part of the community. We help each other, give each other leads ... it's a great group of people." The New Milford Times 2006

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