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Management And Training

Letters to the editor

March 02, 2011
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Editor''s note:

A recent discussion on the Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online™ Bulletin Board pertained to ISSA''s Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS) certification.

That discussion of differentiating your business from that of your competitors with industry-accepted criteria and standardization follows below.

Posted by:
David Moynihan

Has anyone gone through the CIMS certification process?

If so, has the certification made a difference in obtaining contracts?

Do you use the certification as a way to differentiate your business from another?

If so, how do clients/potential clients perceive the certification?

I searched for threads in which CIMS certification was discussed, but the most recent one was a couple of years old.


Aaron Baunee

I suggest checking our searchable archives for the monthly "Raising Standards" column written by Dave Frank and/or Jim Peduto.

The column discusses various aspects of CIMS and often speaks of success stories.

Robert Jess

I don''t find certifications do any good for getting customers.

But, at the same time, I wouldn''t write them off as a loss, as it would likely benefit you to learn more about the industry.

For differentiating yourself from others in order to get more customers and win more sales, I don''t see the value.

Instead, it starts with your personality and the way you present yourself and your business to the client.

Show interest in their company and describe your ability to instantly provide a solution to their problems.

It is giving them that good gut feeling within the first minute of meeting them.

Focus more on them and their business needs and less on yourself and your business.

As I always say, do what others never do — listen.

David Moynihan

Robert, did you not find a certain certification worthwhile?

With regard to the CIMS certification, I would think the greatest benefit is going through the process itself — much like the Baldrige self-assessment process.

But, from what I can gather, only a small number of firms have gone through the certification process.

Robert Jess

Like I said, it would probably be good for learning more.

For instance, if someone does carpet cleaning, then the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) would be a good benefit for learning more about carpet cleaning.

It doesn''t help them get customers, because most customers couldn''t care less.

But, it would help the person retain customers and perform better quality work from the experience they received going through the learning process itself.

So, to answer your question: I find most of them useful to some degree.

If they''re used to apply, then they''re useful.

If it is meant to be used as a magic wand to get customers, then it''s useless.

In general, CIMS certification should lead to improved efficiency, greater customer satisfaction and an overall better quality of service — regardless of whether your organization performs cleaning in-house or is a building service contractor.

Your question was: "Has the certification made a difference in obtaining contracts?"

I''m pretty sure CIMS wouldn''t help in the area; what you want are sales classes where you can learn to sell your services.

David Moynihan

Here is an example of CIMS making a difference in obtaining a contract: "Spencer, who now requires that all new contractors hired by State Farm are CIMS-certified or certified within six months, says the Standard has made his job easier by pre-qualifying contractors."

Full article:

Robert Jess

David, if you feel that strong about it, then you should go for it.

Personally, I wouldn''t rely on it to get customers, but it could help make your business better.

We are both from Massachusetts, except you are down in the Cape Cod area and I''m in the Worcester County area.

I know your area very well, since I''m usually down there three days out of the week.

Even though I don''t do business there, I know a lot of businesspeople in that area — hotel owners, restaurant owners and so forth.

I can guarantee you the majority of businesses in that area couldn''t care less about a certification; all they care about is price and maybe some experience.

But, I do believe the certification would be good for you, just not for what you think.

In case anyone is interested in CIMS certification, here are their fees and costs:

Applicants for certification under the ISSA Cleaning Industry Management Standard are required to pay the following fees:

  • Application fee: $500

  • Certification fee: $995 for members; $1,695 for non-members

  • Assessor daily fee: $1,500

  • Assessor expenses: Reasonable.

The length of an assessment depends on the size of the organization and the scope of the geographical region where cleaning services are offered.

In general, most organizations can expect to undergo a three-day assessment, including two days onsite and one day dedicated to preparation and follow-up work.

Reasonable assessor expenses may include airfare or other travel, lodging and meals.

So, the total cost of certification if you''re an ISSA member could run around $7,200; the non-member price would be about $7,900.

David Moynihan

While I do believe professional certifications are important, my intent was simply to point out that a certification, CIMS in this instance, can be an important differentiator even before a business has an opportunity to sell its services.

You mentioned above the IICRC and how a certification from that organization is important for a business providing carpet cleaning services.

I agree and am an IICRC-certified Master Textile Cleaner.

However, there are many in the carpet cleaning industry who believe the IICRC is irrelevant.

I, on the other hand, ensure clients and potential clients are aware of the certification; it has made a difference in getting some jobs.

And, not unlike other professional certifications, clients are not necessarily aware of the IICRC.

But, at least understand that, in pursuing the IICRC certifications, I''ve gone beyond that of some carpet cleaners with whom they may have dealt in the past.

I think it is a similar situation with CIMS, GS-42, etc.

Becoming certified simply to have a certification is not very practical.

One should pursue certification to better one''s business, which should result in a better service offering for clients/potential clients.

Again, this is akin to the Baldrige Award where undertaking the assessment process is the real benefit and making the cut at a certain award level is just that much better.

With regard to the cost of pursuing CIMS certification, that was the impetus for my original post in this thread.

Robert Jess

Some professionals will knock the IICRC and say it is irrelevant.

I can understand their reasons; a lot of them have been in the business for many years and learned from the university of hard knocks.

I also learned from the same university, and although I am not IICRC-certified, I do not see it as irrelevant — nor do I see the others as irrelevant.

I think those getting into the business who are limited in experience should definitely take advantage of any type of education or certification that will get them up to date and help make them more experienced.

It is kind of like the saying about the person going for brain surgery where there are two doctors from which to choose.

One says, "I have many years of education, a wall full of certifications and am a member of many medical associations, but I have never performed a brain surgery in my life. You will be the first."

The other says, "I do not have any certifications, but I have been performing brain surgery most of my life and have performed thousands of them successfully each time."

Which doctor will you choose?

Lynn Krafft

My company is not CIMS-certified, even though I am a CIMS ISSA Certification Expert (ICE) and intend to keep that designation.

Knowing and applying the principles of CIMS is of great value to you and your company.

Unless you are in the market in such a situation that you are seeking State Farm-sized accounts, you most likely will not see a request that you be CIMS-certified before submitting a proposal for services.

In my market, Podunk Savings Bank has never heard of CIMS and, if they do, will probably will think it''s a video game.

Years ago, I worked as a sub for one of the largest CIMS-certified companies in the country.

They couldn''t manage to deliver the correct size toilet tissue roll even when notified of the specifics.

They wasted money on needless delivery charges to bring in supplies we could have dropped off for free.

They never did a written inspection as they said they would at the outset.

Obviously, any guarantee that CIMS certification will bring automatic assurance of excellence is unfounded.

Any certification program is as good as its participants wish it to be.

Get the knowledge of CIMS and apply the guidelines.

Get certified if you can afford it and your market suggests a value.

Do not get certified to make the business easier or contracts more readily obtained, as that probably will not happen.

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