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Cleaning in the U.S.A

What’s Your Trade Association Done For You Lately?
Now and then I hear association members complain that about the only things they get from trade association membership is a magazine with advertising that’s 3 months old and an invoice once a year.

Have you heard about the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA)? You can join this group for as little as $150.00 year. But here’s the good news. The WFCA offers two scholarship programs for its members and their children. Through their Trade Scholarship Program a member or member employee attend any industry related seminar or training program of their choosing and the WFCA will pay up to $500.00 of the cost. So last year over 500 members took advantage of the program with over $150.000 being dispersed. This year it looks like even more money will be given out. The group also offers an Academic Scholarship program for children and grandchildren of members that will cover up to $2500 in tuition each year. That program dispersed over $100.000 and will do about the same again this year. Any way you look at it the WFCA has some very attractive member benefits.

Now you might ask, how can a trade association afford to give away more than it takes in? The answer is easy. Good management. About 10 years ago the WFCA saw a need for a floor covering show on the West Coast. So they began holding the Surfaces Floor Covering Show in Las Vegas, NV each year. And to everyone’s surprise, over the last 7 years the show has grown to have over 35,000 attendees. But that’s not the end of the story.

What the association did was to sell the show for $35 million to a company that runs trade shows. The association took the $35 million, put it in the bank and now uses the interest on their savings to fund the scholarship program and other member benefit programs for members.

For more information on an association that really does something for it’s members. Visit: or call 714-978-6440

Day Cleaning and Full Time Workers
Recently I’ve read and heard a lot about how the cleaning industry is going to day cleaning and full time workers. First, let me say that no one has asked for my opinion, so I’m just going to give it anyway.

I don’t see a widespread move to day cleaning or full time workers happening anytime soon. The facts, at least from my perspective, don’t support either scenario. And here’s why. First off, the customer decides when we clean and most customers don’t want to see a bunch of janitors wandering around their building in the middle of the day bothering their customers or interrupting their workers. Second, it’s not an efficient time to clean. People are working. Production is happening. Any time you interrupt the flow or process you have a negative impact on production and you increase costs.

With day cleaning, this is how it goes all day long. “Excuse me can I grab your trash can? Can you wait a minute? I’m on the phone. Don’t worry I’ll come back later.” Do you call that efficient? Bottom line, the best time to clean is when the building is empty and no one is in the way and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Certainly there are exceptions, but that is what they are, exceptions. Not an industry wide shift or even a trend.

As for full time workers, it’s just not going to happen. I’ll admit our work force is changing, but the shift is toward more part time workers and self-employment, not toward full time workers who collect insurance benefits, sick leave and vacation pay. The money simply isn’t there and neither are the employees.
From what I’m seeing, the opposite is more in line with reality. More part time workers and fewer full time staff. How many people do you know who want a full time cleaning job? I don’t know of anyone. Certainly not a high school or college graduate, unless it’s to start their own business.

What I see is employers who will have to mold jobs to be more in line with what employees and customer want. Most people just don’t want to do cleaning on a full time basis. Part time for some extra income, maybe.

Young people today don’t see work the same way we do or as our parents did. Personal time is more important to them. They don’t intend to work until they are 65 so they can retire and die. They want to enjoy life now. They will work only as much as they have to, so they can do what they want to, when they want to do it. Have you asked an employee to work overtime or on the weekend recently? Give it a shot and see what you get for an answer. My guess, it won’t be “Sure, no problem,” it’s more likely to be “Sorry, I have plans.”

Sure I’d like to see every cleaning worker have a full time job, a great education, good pay and full benefits. But the economics don’t support it. The people to do the work aren’t there or interested. Nice idea, but in my book it’s only a dream.

Motivation and Supervision: Keys to Success
I’ve always liked this definition of supervision: “Getting people to do what you want, when you want, the way you want, because they want to do it.”

Action is the result of motivation. Some thing encourages the individual to get excited or enthused in such a way that they want to do the job or task that has been assigned, to the best of their ability. They are motivated.

I’ve always said that as a supervisor, lead or manager, we don’t actually motivate people. What we do is to provide incentives and create environments where a person can motivate himself to respond or perform in a certain manner. I’ve always seen motivation as a personal and internal thing that someone does to himself and not something that we do to someone else. Although we can in many different ways help someone or others to become motivated. Examples might include: rewards, discipline, recognition, challenge, trust, expectation, and setting an example with our own behavior and performance.

It is important to realize how much impact one person can have on another person or a group of people. A good supervisor, lead person or manager can make a world of difference in an organization and to the people in it as well as to the customers they serve.

This person is a leader. Others tend to follow their lead, believe what they say and put their trust in that person to such a degree that they will do what they are asked or know needs to be done because of their commitment to the other person. Not because they have to, but because they want to. This is one part of the essence of motivation. The relationship between two people in that neither one would want to let the other person down. Each person would be embarrassed and or disappointed in himself if he didn’t do what was asked or expected. With some it may be their moral character, it was the way they were raised. They see that as their obligation and responsibility and there is no way they would fail to do what they say or agree to do. They are motivated.

I think another element of motivation relates to benefits. The worker realizing that to get what they want, they have to do what someone else wants. They are motivated by their desire to obtain something that the other person can provide or help them get. It can be one or more things, and often includes such thing as: recognition, promotion, friendship, involvement, camaraderie, and the money to get or do the things they want or need. There is something they want and they are willing to do what it takes to get it. They are motivated by this desire and or need.

Most every person has a natural self-interest and watches out for number one. Some employees don’t see the link between doing what the supervisor wants and getting what they want. This often makes it more difficult if not impossible for the individual to become motivated. Others see or understand the link and readily respond, many times seeing the need or request as an opportunity and thus motivation takes place.

With those who’s vision might not be as clear, sometimes we can facilitate the process by understanding their wants, needs and desires and being able to, in plain language, explain how they can get what they want by doing what we want. And they too can become motivated and respond in a more positive manner to assignments and requests.

Being we are working with human beings, the results are not always as expected. However understanding what motivates people, including ourselves, provides us with an opportunity to be an effective manager or supervisor with a wider range of employees.

Where Did All the Salespeople Go?
Over the last several years, when I have interviewed industry experts for articles on sanitary supply distributors, I often hear the comment. “Today sales people are order takers, not sales people.” I didn’t really grasp the meaning of that until recently. However, after dealing with several large and apparently successful sanitary supply distributors in several different states, I now understand the statement much better.

There is a big gap and difference between taking an order and going out and selling a product. And today, I believe the experts are right, we have far too many order takers and far too few sales people.

Let me explain. Recently I’ve been working with distributors to promote the Floor Care Technician Certification program that is available through the IICRC. A distributor, after much prodding will agree to co-sponsor the seminar. As part of my support, I agree to provide the distributor with printed brochures, press releases, incentives and other types of materials to help them market the seminar to existing and potential customers in their local area.

Time goes by and when seminar day arrives, no one has enrolled or only one or two people have signed up. I love to teach so I will do the class even if it’s only for one person. But what kills me is that when I get to the distributors location, inevitably I find the flyers, brochures, press releases, and other promotional materials that I provided sitting in the corner of an office, under a desk or on a shelf. Few if any of the materials actually got sent out, distributed or even used. And this is not an isolated case, it has happened again and again over the last five years. The sales process just doesn’t happen.

A few days before the last couple of seminars I called the distributor and told the person answering the phone that I wanted to enroll in the Floor Care Class. At one company the person answering the phones didn’t even know anything about the class and at the other company I was told the class had been cancelled.

Is it any wonder that business is tough in the sanitary supply industry today. Nobody is selling. I swear most of these so-called sales people are sitting on their butt waiting for the phone to ring so they can take an order. If you’ve got a product to sell, Good Luck. I bet I know where your brochures are.

So what have I learned from all of this? Distributors don’t need classes on floor care, they need classes on better management and on how to sell.