By By Harrell Kerkhoff
Maintenance Sales News Editor
Professionalism goes a long way in conveying a positive image. The cleaning industry is no different. This was the message presented by Anthony Trombetta during an educational session at the ISSA/INTERCLEAN® North America 2014 trade show in Orlando, FL.
Trombetta, who is director of sales at ISSA, discussed how to “Put The Pro In Professionalism” as it relates to the cleaning industry. His message was directed toward such industry players as jan/san distributor sales representatives and facility management personnel.
What does it take to be a true professional? According to Trombetta, professionalism can permeate everything people do — from the vocabulary they use, to the way they train employees and/or customers.
“When it comes to the cleaning industry, I believe the more professional you are, the better off you will be. I also feel the more information you have, the more professional you become. Information is power, and this translates into professionalism,” Trombetta said.
He added that the cleaning industry is not often viewed as “glamorous.” However, it remains a critical industry nonetheless, helping people keep buildings not only clean, but safe as well.
“It’s not glamorous, it’s not sexy, but a lot of people who enter the cleaning industry want to stay. It’s full of great people,” Trombetta said. “It’s also large, a $100 billion industry in the United States alone. About $25 billion is associated with chemicals, equipment and other supplies, while approximately $75 billion is connected to labor.
“Although not small, the cleaning industry often flies under the radar until there is a major problem, such as an epidemic.”
According to Trombetta, there is approximately 71 billion square feet of commercial office space to be cleaned in the United States. About half of this square footage is in smaller buildings of 5,000 square feet or less.
“Typically, these smaller buildings are run by operators who realize the true importance of cleaning. They know that cleaning translates into more occupants, more customers and more money,” he said.
Despite the growing importance of properly cleaning facilities for health, safety and appearance, many cleaning budgets continue to remain stagnate or are reduced. Many of those involved in the cleaning process have to continually justify the industry’s importance. This translates into a greater need for professionalism, according to Trombetta.
He added that certain segments of the cleaning industry are also hampered by high employee turnover rates, especially when it comes to custodians. And, the percentage of new companies entering the professional cleaning business that ultimately fail is also quite high.
“I think one of the reasons why the failure rate is so high is because a lot of people don’t consider cleaning a true profession. For example, the cleaning department at a lot of places is often viewed as ‘the low man on the totem pole,’” Trombetta said. “Most people outside of our industry also think it’s easy to clean a building. We all know this is not true. It’s very hard to clean a building properly. There is a lot of heavy lifting involved, endurance to go through and procedures to follow.”
With such large challenges, the need to increase professionalism in the cleaning industry has never been higher. Therefore, it’s important that those people involved with cleaning, whether they are distributor sales representatives, facility management personnel or front-line custodians, properly communicate the industry’s true importance and needs.
Trombetta said that cleaning budgets for many U.S. schools and universities are at the lowest point in 40 years.
“Why do you think that is? Is cleaning less important today than 40 years ago? Do we not have information at our fingertips today showing cleaning’s importance, such as through the Internet? Wouldn’t you think that in the wake of such topics as Ebola that cleaning budgets would be increasing?” Trombetta asked. “They are not, and it seems that people in charge of cleaning schools and universities are being asked to do more with less.”
Therefore, those involved with the cleaning industry need to do a better job at communicating the value of what they do, and provide greater professionalism. Often, this starts with a better vocabulary.
“It’s our job to make people understand, and connect the dots, as to why cleaning is important, and how it’s connected to health,” Trombetta said.
Using The Correct Terminology
In order to be a professional, it’s essential to sound like a professional. According to Trombetta, using outdated industry-related words and phrases can stand in the way of future success.
For example, few cleaning professionals actually “wax floors” or “shampoo carpets” anymore, yet these terms are often still part of today’s vocabulary with distributor sales reps, facility managers and custodians. They also appear in spec sheets presented to customers.
Trombetta said such terms should be eliminated as they are outdated. Using them shows a lack of professionalism.
On the flip side, cleaning professionals should be well versed on such subjects as nosocomial infection (infection acquired in a hospital), fomite (transfer of disease from one surface to another), and dilution ratios. They should also know the true difference between sterilization, disinfection and sanitization.
“If you are telling someone how to properly clean an operating room in a hospital, don’t you think it’s important to use the right words?” Trombetta said. “Using proper vocabulary will also be noticed, and thus picked up, by fellow workers, employees and customers.”
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Part of being a true cleaning professional is the ability to present the value of the profession to people. Trombetta said this can help turn the tide against depleted cleaning budgets.
“For example, people should know that the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) estimates 1 in 20 U.S. hospital patients will acquire nosocomial infection a year, causing or contributing to approximately 90,000 deaths,” Trombetta said. “How many of these 90,000 deaths are directly attributed to a poor custodial program in place is hard to determine, but our best information says 10 percent (9,000 deaths). This is scary, yet cleaning budgets continue to get cut.
“If more people understand the connection between a properly cleaned facility and fewer people getting sick or dying, and if they connect the relationship between healthy workers and increased productivity and profitability, then our industry will receive a lot more respect. True professionalism will help us achieve these goals. It starts with people in the cleaning industry.”
He said there are often unintended consequences and risks associated with the cleaning industry when professionalism is lacking. End-users can find themselves using the wrong type of cleaning chemicals, or become injured due to a lack of training such as with improper equipment use. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) violations can also be very costly.
Being a professional in the cleaning industry, Trombetta added, means being able to not only show the advantages of implementing a proper cleaning program, but how to avoid dangers and mistakes that can lead to health concerns and economic losses.
“I’m not saying it’s good to scare people, but it needs to be understood that a poorly cleaned building and shrinking cleaning budgets can increase liability, claims and absenteeism,” he said.
Image is also important. Trombetta showed several slides of poorly maintained custodial closets. None of them portrayed a professional image.
“If you are trying to get more money for a cleaning budget and the person in charge walks by one of these closets (shown in the slides) ... It’s not the professional image you want to project,” Trombetta said.
The Complaint Factor
Being a true cleaning professional also means properly measuring and responding to complaints. When it comes to building maintenance, 47 percent of complaints stem from the lack of either restroom cleanliness or adequate supplies. This percentage of complaints is followed by negative issues with carpets (12 percent), snow removal (10 percent), non-floor dust (9 percent), entrance lobbies (9 percent), floorcare (8 percent), and grounds care (5 percent), according to Trombetta.
He added that restrooms represent about 5 percent of area in most buildings, but still generate 47 percent of complaints.
“We (the cleaning industry) are not very good at working toward our complaints. Why do I say this? Because these complaint percentages haven’t changed much over the past 20 years,” Trombetta said. “Therefore, it’s important for people involved in the cleaning industry to properly measure complaints, and then work to resolve them.”
Being a professional also means learning how to address various elements of a cleaning program such as those associated with physics, biology, mathematics and chemistry. These are all key subjects not only in school, but the cleaning profession as well.
“For example, with physics it’s important to show people how an ergonomic handle can reduce fatigue and increase productivity. There is a lot of physics involved in cleaning as well as biology,” Trombetta said. “Mathematics is also vital, such as showing people how to ‘workload.’ This involves knowing how much time it takes to properly clean a specific room. If you can’t workload, you can’t justify a budget. It’s very important.
“Chemicals, paper and equipment being sold to end-users represent 5 to 10 percent of many budgets. The other 90-plus percent is centered around labor. Those cleaning professionals who help customers with workloading issues can create a solid bond because labor is the biggest issue. Many solid relationships can be fostered by helping end-users understand workloading.”
Being well versed on the logic of cleaning is also important, he added.
“A cleaning professional should be able to explain to people why appearance is not the most important reason to clean,” Trombetta said. “The main reason concerns health. It’s essential to make buildings healthy for occupants.”
Chemistry is another key element professionals in the cleaning industry should not only understand, but be able to convey.
“How cool would it be to meet with your staff and explain the PH scale? You can talk about what is acidic and what is alkaline,” Trombetta said. “It’s not really hard, but it takes time and effort. It’s all part of being a true cleaning professional.”
In an effort to help these people showcase to their customers the importance of proper cleaning, ISSA recently developed its “Value of Clean®” toolkit, according to Trombetta. This includes an online calculator, a white paper documenting various cleaning studies, a PowerPoint presentation template, an infographic and video, various articles and a webinar offering.
Visit www.issa.com/value for more information.
“It’s important to know that these resources exist and how to use them — all in an effort to increase professionalism in our industry,” Trombetta said.
Now From Spartan Chemical:
HALT™ Concentrated Disinfectant With Norovirus And Canine Parvovirus Claims
Spartan Chemical Company, Inc., has announced the availability of HALT™ One-Step Cleaner Disinfectant.
In addition to its effectiveness against Norovirus, it also offers a Canine Parvovirus claim. Canine Parvovirus (CPV) is a highly contagious virus and is important to contain. Once infected, the virus in incurable. Dogs infected with parvovirus need intensive treatment. Halt™ cleans and disinfects, killing the virus before it spreads.
“Regardless of your industry, preventing the spread of infections is important from a cost, as well as, public well-being perspective,” said Spartan Chemical Company President John Swigart. “The key is to use the right product for the right problem. Halt™ delivers broad spectrum disinfection that targets today’s most recurrent public health issues.
HALT™, available through Spartan distributors, is a hospital grade, one-step cleaner, virucidal, mildewcidal, fungicidal, disinfectant proven effective against norovirus, canine parvovirus and blood borne pathogens. At 1:64 dilution, it economically disinfects and deodorizes. With a fresh scent, it leaves surfaces clean, germ-free, and safe.”
Spartan Chemical Company, Inc., has been a formulator and manufacturer of sustainable cleaning and sanitation solutions for the industrial and institutional market since 1956.
A U.S. employer, Spartan manufactures products from its manufacturing facility in Maumee, OH, and sells both domestically and internationally through a network of distribution.
Visit www.spartanchemical.com for more information.