No, the circus isn’t in town. These two Aftermath technicians just took a moment out of their very serious workday to participate in Red Nose Day last month. While Memphis, TN Aftermath crew celebrated the charity event, they were also celebrating the grand opening of the Memphis area office. The fully outfitted shop includes three technicians and a supervisor. Supervisor John Bidwell reported that the office was staffed and ready within one week of his arrival.
That isn’t to say there haven’t been challenges, however. Building a team takes time and effort. The current Memphis crew includes Bidwell as Supervisor, and technicians Jonathan Adkins, Michael Perez, and Aaron Boatwright.
“I like to engage potential employees in conversation before I hire them,” Bidwell explained. “I look at their longevity with other companies, which shows their willingness to stick it out through more difficult times. I also look for those who understand that the work requires long hours, sometimes days on the road. It’s more of a lifestyle than a job.” This can be hard not only on the technician, but on their families as well. “It can mean missing a birthday party, or family get togethers. It’s not a job for everyone.”
Sympathy and Deeper Understanding
Bidwell understands all this from personal experience. He has worked with Aftermath for over 4 years, beginning his career as a service technician and occupying several roles over the course of his employment, including supervisor and growth/area supervisor. Recently he relocated from Kansas City to set up the Memphis shop and adopt the role of supervisor for the location. “There’s nothing else I could see myself doing,” he states.
John is also no stranger to the kind of loss that many Aftermath customers struggle with. After losing several close family members himself, including a daughter, he understands the need for compassion when working with families who are dealing with the aftereffects of a tragedy. “When I was younger, I watched my mother clean up the scene of my brother’s death. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. I saw how it took its toll on her. Knowing that I can step in and help others avoid that same experience is the most important part of the job to me.”
It’s a Tough Job
Empathy and a strong work ethic aside, there are other factors to consider before joining an Aftermath cleanup crew like the one in Memphis. “One of the first things I tell new technicians is that the work can be hell; it’s not an easy job, physically and emotionally. I tell them they’re going to hate me before we’re done training, and probably afterward, too.” Before hitting the road, Aftermath employees put in hours of training. Professional biohazard cleaning companies spend many hours teaching employees the special methods and procedures used to tackle tough situations like suicides or unattended deaths. Backgrounds in construction tend to be helpful, but they are by no means a requirement for the work.
Then there are some things technicians just need to learn on the job. On one of their first days in the field, the Memphis crew was faced with the difficult job of cleaning up after a tear gas incident. Biohazard suits are challenging to work in, even in the best of circumstances. On this day, the temperature soared and the suits were unbearable. One new technician removed his face mask to wipe away the sweat…and breathed in tear gas residue. “He learned his lesson right then,” John reports.
Building a Business
Another challenge about setting up a new location can be getting the Aftermath name out to the public. Few people think about crime scene cleaning until they need it, and even then many others don’t know that such a service even exists. Every area is different, but a majority of the cleanups the Memphis crew will see involve suicide. In the early stages, John and his crew will spend some time getting to know local law enforcement and funeral homes, who might have cause to refer the company to a client or victim.
Despite the clown noses and the relaxed pose in the photograph, it’s easy to see that Memphis Aftermath technicians take their jobs pretty seriously. Fortunately John and the team were able to answer the questions posed for this interview while on the road. However, they couldn’t help but end the conversation with a lighthearted fact. When asked if there is anything he misses about moving to the area, Bidwell is prompted by one of the other crew members. “The BBQ is better,” he says, laughing.
Stay tuned as we discuss more about the Memphis area in future posts, and keep in touch with how the crew is doing by following our Twitter page. To reach the Memphis office, or for service nationwide, call 877-872-4339.