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December 2013 Bidding & Estimating

Where Is The Next Generation?

The cleaning industry may experience drastic changes.

December 11, 2013
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I was at the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) instructor’s symposium last month and a speaker asked the crowd of approximately 140 cleaning industry trainers to raise a hand if they were under 40 years old.

Maybe six hands went up.

Looking around the room, I’d say most in attendance were like me, over 60 and a balding or graying male.

Last night I went to a CCINW/Carpet Cleaners Association of the Northwest dinner meeting, and in looking around the room, I don’t think I saw anybody that was under 40.

Most were close to my age.

What this means is that in the next 10 to 15 years, over 90 percent of those in attendance at both events will be retired or deceased.

The problem is that there is no next generation stepping up to fill the void, which begs the question, who’s going to own cleaning businesses and who’s going to clean America’s factories and offices in the future?

It’s a question I’ve been asking for over 25 years, and I’d have to say that the cleaning industry is fast running out of time.

The industry has no plan or even an acceptance that there is problem looming that will have a much greater impact on our industry than who has the lowest price.

From my perspective, there are only a couple of options, and you aren’t going to like either one of them.

Here’s what I see happening: Architects and engineers will design and build facilities that are pretty much self-cleaning, and the second option is robotics.

Realistically, what we will probably end up with is a combination of the two.

What I don’t think we understand is how fast this will take place and the dramatic change this will have on the cleaning industry.

And lastly, I don’t think there is anything we can or should do about it.

This is the natural progression of things, it has happened before, it has and is happening in other industries and it will happen to the cleaning industry over the next 15 years. 

Staying Competitive

I frequently hear complaints from contractors about how “it’s all about the price” and not much else matters.

Price is a key factor and often it is the primary factor in the decision making process to accept a proposal for cleaning services.

Very few people want to pay more than they have to for a product or service.

I doubt that anyone reading this looks for the highest priced gasoline when the gauge says you are running on fumes.

I know I don’t, and if you do, you are the exception.

Having a competitive or the lowest price doesn’t have to translate into poor service.

Part of having the most competitive price relates to knowing about labor saving processes, products and equipment.

If your competition has done more or better research or has made the investment to attend industry trade shows, which is where newer, more productive technology is on display, it will give them an edge in their bidding. 

I go to about half a dozen industry trade shows each year.

Sure it costs me money, but at the same time I see it as a worthwhile investment that keeps me ahead of my competition who I don’t see at these shows.

It helps me solve my customers’ problems, and it allows me to charge a top rate for my services.

With technology changing faster and faster each day, I don’t see how anybody can stay current without spending at least some time each week looking for and following current and emerging trends.

Being aware of these impending changes is what allows you to prepare for and ultimately outbid your competition by working smarter rather than harder.

Resources For The Future

You have one of them in your hands.

The Cleaning & Maintenance Management Buyers’ Guide is a great resource when it comes to contacting companies that have the products and services you need.

Another great resource is the annual ISSA/INTERCLEAN Show.

Hopefully you were in Las Vegas last month for the largest and most comprehensive convention, tradeshow, educational program and event in the world for cleaning professionals.

If you weren’t there in person, see if you can find video from the show or Twitter feeds that will give a taste of what you missed.

Then you can plan to attend next year’s ISSA/INTERCLEAN Show in Orlando, Florida on November 4-7, 2014.


William (Bill) Griffin is the president of Cleaning Consultant Services Inc. and president of the International Custodial Advisors Network (ICAN). ICAN is a nonprofit association comprised of industry professionals providing free consultation services through the Cleaning Management Institute (CMI) and their Ask The Experts page. Comments and questions about bidding and estimating are encouraged: (206) 849-0179 or

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