I started professional cleaning back in 1971.
Of course, when anyone starts a business like this, it is highly unlikely that it is professional unless by that you mean that one professes to be a cleaner.
There was a lot of learning ahead.
In those days, we agonized about whether we were janitors or custodians, sanitary engineers or building service contractors (BSCs) or simply cleaners.
I think the search to find a title or something that enhances the profession continues to this day, what with industry writers insisting that cleaning workers, by using color-coded mop heads, can overcome the laxity of the healthcare workers who fail to wash hands and clean stethoscopes, thereby cross-infecting patients in their care.
While this is obviously out of our control, the quest for the key to making the janitor highly respected and universally adored continues unabated.
Who knows what will come next?
How about wearing those lighted shoes I see the grandkids sporting?
Avoid slip-and-fall by better illumination of the flooring?
The Importance Of Experience
When one starts an enterprise with minimal experience, as I did, it is a good idea to get some ... and fast.
Even more valuable is obtaining the correct guidance as opposed to tedious trial and costly error.
I came across Cleaning Management magazine shortly after Dan Harris, out in California, bought out National Custodian, whose startup time is where CMM’s 50th anniversary starts counting from.
To this day, I have an American Institute of Maintenance pin from those early days.
It gives me the same perks that I get from my old, yellowed BSCAI pin.
Anyhow, one key to learning janitorial in those days before the Internet and being welcomed by ISSA was to read trade journals and fill out the reader service card found in every issue.
You circled the items of interest, and a few weeks later, the post office delivered material straight from the manufacturer of the product or equipment.
With this information available, there was no longer any reason to rely on the often limited experience of the JanSan supply salesman who may have been selling for the local Sears store a month ago.
When Dan Harris and CM organized a series of educational seminars, beginning with one in Rosemont, Illinois, the opportunity to learn firsthand was too attractive to pass up, and I found the time and money to be there.
I think that over the years, I missed only one of those shows.
The CMM Expo (I can’t recall when the Maintenance “M” came in) put distributors, cleaning contractors and in-house people together for the first time.
What a great learning and sharing experience.
Forty years later, many of these folks are still with us and active in the industry.
Bill Griffin, John Walker, Vince Elliott, to unfairly name just a few.
I have affectionate memories of experts such as Oscar Koeppel and others who were there to make a real contribution to the betterment of all attendees.
Over the years, the CMM show and the magazine have been valuable in helping me keep abreast of industry changes and product developments.
In time, I was able to return the favor by writing articles for the journal, doing presentations at the exposition and now editing the Ask the Experts feature on the website.
I even wrote a humor column for CMM for a few months.
You can’t believe how funny someone looks skating across a stripper-laden tile floor and heading for a stairwell unless you have worked in the industry and have watched someone do that very thing.
Not humorous if you do it, but watching? Hey!
Unlike many owners of janitorial companies who outsource carpet cleaning and often floor work, I felt our company should have those capabilities, and from the start developed the skills and obtained the equipment needed to offer these services.
This led to an awareness of Cleanfax when John Downey was still at the helm.
Today, we run a Sprinter van-mounted El Diablo and still own a Cleanway Powermatic from yesteryear.
I converted that unit to natural gas and it sits ready in the garage for in-house carpet and mat work.
The educational opportunities we have today so far surpass those of 40 years ago that it is unbelievably easy to get questions answered and problems resolved.
New skills and endeavors present themselves in abundance.
In the “old” days we had Bill Griffin writing for contractors and Ed Feldman for the in-house service provider.
Today, CMM is still in the forefront with the magazine in print and online, and with industry related publications.
They are at ISSA INTERCLEAN North America and involved in the industry rather than contenting themselves with simply reporting.
A few years back, two of the CMM staff came to our operation and spent time on the job with us, running various machines and even the truck-mount wand.
Now, that is true interest and commitment.