This month, as part of our 50th anniversary coverage, we spoke with Humphrey Tyler. Tyler owned Cleaning & Maintenance Management for more than a decade, and during that time he played an important role in the creation of the Cleaning Industry Research Institute and CM e-News Daily. Please continue reading to learn more about CMM’s important contribution to the modernization of the cleaning industry.
Phillip Lawless: How did you become involved with, at that time, Cleaning Management magazine?
Humphrey Tyler: We started National Trade Publications in 1981, and at the time that we purchased Cleaning Management in 1991, we had three other publications. We were looking to expand, and through a series of letters that we sent out to various publishers of trade magazines around the country, we targeted Cleaning Management.
The owners at the time were Nancy and Dan Harris. They had owned it, I think, for about 10 years. We purchased the magazine, CM Expo and Cleaning Management Institute and moved the entire operation to the NTP offices in Latham, NY.
PL: When you decided to expand NTP Media, were there specific reasons you targeted the cleaning industry?
HT: We were very careful in the search that we conducted to buy another trade magazine. There were a couple of reasons we zeroed in on Cleaning Management.
One was that it served a very large industry. There were excellent opportunities for expansion in the industry. Also, it’s a very stable industry. Recessions, economic crises, stock market booms come and go, but buildings have to be cleaned all the time. So the stability of the industry was very important to us.
The other thing that was important to us is we felt it was an industry that was greatly misunderstood by the general public. The general public looked upon the janitorial function as some sort of mundane, routine process in which you stick a mop in somebody’s hand and anybody can do it. We felt that particular stereotype of the industry was way off.
We felt that the impact that the industry has on public health was greatly misunderstood. And, we thought it was an industry that, as government and the public in general grew to understand the linkage between good cleaning practices and public health, was going to grow and grow in importance. We wanted to be part of that.
PL: What developments with Cleaning & Maintenance Management had a positive effect and helped improve the cleaning industry during your time with the magazine?
HT: During the time that we owned Cleaning & Maintenance Management, there were two key developments. One was the evolution of the Internet. The Internet broke on the scene in the mid-1990s, and Cleaning & Maintenance Management was the first media brand in the building services industry to have a website. The website was launched, I believe, in early 1998, and it was exactly what it is today, CMMOnline.com. We were also the first, and I believe only still, to launch a daily email news service for the industry.
Both the website and the daily email news service were very, very well received in the industry. I remember going to some industry meetings in the late 1990s, early 2000s and you could almost tell when CM e-News Daily was sent out because people would pull out their Blackberries or smartphones and start reading their handsets. They were reading what the headlines were for e-News.
The website also was the first website to have a real searchable database, almost Google-like, in the late 1990s. You could search for products by keyword product name or by keyword product function. That same search would bring up stories from the e-News and stories from the website and magazine on the product or topic linked to a keyword search. It was quite an unusual, at the time, industry-specific search engine. That was one major development during the time.
The second major development was something I was particularly proud of, and that is that Cleaning Management Institute and CMM magazine were not only one of the founding members, but one of the instigators of creating the Cleaning Industry Research Institute (CIRI). And, it was really CMI and CMM working with Frank Wylie of Magnitude Marketing from Hamilton, OH, that created what today is the Cleaning Industry Research Institute. The two of us got together with the CEO of Castle Rock Industries at the time to talk about, discuss and lay the groundwork for the founding of CIRI.
Then, we brought in Jim Harris, the owner of the largest building service contracting firm in upstate New York and the former president of the Building Services Contractors Association. Clearly, an undertaking like that needed a high-profile, high-energy leader, which is a pretty accurate description of Jim, who also has vision and was well-known in the industry. So I had lunch one day with Jim to ask him if he was interested in it; he was. Jim came aboard, and in 2004, through Jim’s leadership and Frank’s leadership and leadership from Cleaning Management Institute, we held an exploratory meeting for creating a research institute at the ISSA show in New Orleans. And, it was from that meeting that the CIRI that exists today — and all the great work it’s doing in scientific research and cleaning — was created.
PL: What were the important JanSan industry developments during your time owning the magazine?
HT: First of all, the industry was evolving at the time from being focused really just on janitorial functions to focusing more on the systems management of buildings and facilities in general. It was becoming clear in the early 1990s and later that the janitorial function, the cleaning function, really could not be looked at by facility managers as a stand-alone function. The process of cleaning has significant impact on the people using and living in those buildings. The cleaning agents used, their application, their residual effect and how those cleaning agents interact with other materials and products in those buildings and an enormous impact of the health and well-being of the people in the buildings. So during that period, the cleaning industry, the facility maintenance and the facility management functions started becoming much more interrelated.
In recognition of that, we changed the editorial coverage from simply the management of the janitorial and cleaning function to the management of the janitorial and cleaning function as it related to the entire facility or building. And we changed the name of the magazine to reflect that, from just Cleaning Management to Cleaning & Maintenance Management, and that change was very well received by the industry.
PL: Were there specific duties that managers were responsible for that changed and evolved during your time with the magazine?
HT: It was a very slow evolution, as you know and as the readers of CMM know, it’s an enormous industry. And as such, it changes very gradually. But the change that was taking place was that facility managers were becoming much more aware of the impact that the cleaning function had on the interior environment of the entire facility.
Just a few of the headline episodes that got into all the newspapers were such events as the spread of Legionnaire’s disease through HVAC systems. That was clearly an indoor air quality issue. Not only the spread of infectious diseases through the indoor air handling equipment, but also the possibility that the indoor air handling equipment was also contributing to the spread and the growth of the bacteria in some cases. The Legionnaire’s disease was one of the first headline incidents. It forced a lot of facility mangers to start looking at their facilities from a whole facility perspective rather than simply looking upon the janitorial cleaning function as a standalone process that really didn’t have that much to do with the health of the people who were using the facilities and the buildings.
Another episode that took place a bit later was the spread of the MRSA bacteria and the closing of schools because of the spread of the MRSA bacteria.
The big SARS scare in the late 1990s and early 2000s was another good example of the headline news and major news making it very clear that there’s a link between the janitorial cleaning function and the health of the people who use the buildings.
A term that came into use … in the early 1990s was the “sick building” syndrome. Nobody really knew what that meant. But what they knew was that in some buildings, an unusual number of the people were coming down with ailments that were clearly traced to something going on in those buildings.
So what became clear was that the building cleaning and janitorial function was really a key element in public health management. That was probably the most important trend during the 15 years that I was involved in the cleaning industry.
PL: Based on your experience in the industry, how do you see the industry developing in the future?
HT: It’s a fascinating industry, and much underrated. I think in this high-tech world that we live in, a lot of the world looks down their nose on low-tech industries. The janitorial and cleaning function is vital to public health. I think that the general public and policy makers still have a long way to go to understand the importance that it has in public health relationships. The challenge for the industry and public health policy makers will be figuring out ways to apply science to the cleaning function and establishing metrics and measurable quality controls so that we can have better public health outcomes as a result of better cleaning technology and applications.