Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

2006 Person of the Year - Steve Spencer

September 19, 2010

Steve Spencer, CM/Cleaning & Maintenance Management® magazine’s 2006 Person of the Year, said, “This honor is special because it is determined by industry peers,” people he has the greatest respect for, and whose recognition he greatly appreciates.

As one Dream Team judge put it, “I only met Steve once but know a lot about his dedication to this industry and the floor safety industry.”

Indeed, Spencer has a long and impressive history in the JanSan industry.

He was a territory representative for a large janitor supply house, where he sold JanSan supplies and equipment to schools, nursing homes, hospitals, and restaurants.

He managed a variety of accounts for four Illinois cities as a territory manager for a contract cleaner. There, he trained employees and inspected job sites.

As an environmental services director for a health care facility, he was responsible for the housekeeping department, the laundry and waste management, and also contracted cleaning services for the building’s offices.

And he learned how important clean rooms, restaurants, lounges and grounds are to customers’ expectations when he was a manager for a firm that managed Holiday Inn and Ramada Inn hotels.

Now, with those 25 years of experience in the hospitality, janitorial supply sales, contract cleaning, and health care industries, Spencer manages over 30 million square feet of State Farm Insurance properties.

Putting it all together
Spencer became a facilities specialist at State Farm Insurance Corporate Headquarters in 1994 and found that “the diversification of my work history was a perfect fit for my responsibilities at State Farm,” he said.

At State Farm’s department of facilities management, Spencer serves as the expert for cleaning, interior maintenance, slip-and-fall prevention, carpet and flooring specifications, and is the maintenance resource on the company’s design team.

One of his most important contributions to the success of State Farm’s performance is his innovative work on day cleaning. According to Spencer, some larger facilities report as much as $100,000 in annual energy savings with a day cleaning system because of reduced energy needs.

Under Spencer’s direction, the insurance company has converted hundreds of its properties throughout the United States to the day cleaning system.

“From his position at State Farm, Steve has proven his leadership by working on floor safety, as well as his pioneering work on day cleaning,” one Dream Team judge stated.

Along with his State Farm responsibilities, Spencer currently serves on the End-User Advisory Council for Invista, the National Floor Safety Institute Board (where he has actively participated in the creation of numerous walkway safety standards and procedures that have been utilized by members of the industry across the country), the Buildings Magazine Advisory Board, and is conference chairman for his local International Facility Management Association (IFMA) chapter.

According to several Dream Team judges, Spencer is nationally renowned for his professionalism and commitment to the industry, and is a highly motivated person who is an excellent role model for other JanSan professionals.

Industry know-how
Spencer said that “a thirst for information along with patience, persistence and perseverance” continue to be the factors for his success in the industry.

However, he also credits his employer for encouraging his continuing education and giving him opportunities for growth and responsibility.

One of these opportunities includes lecturing at numerous trade and safety organizations over the years as to the benefit of proper maintenance as it relates to accident prevention.

As he is recognized as one of the nation’s leading authorities on safety, health and hygiene, many organizations and end-users have asked Spencer to speak about his industry knowledge and ideas, including IFMA, the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), the International Sanitary Supply Association (ISSA), the Today’s Facility Manager (TFM) show, among several others.

He has also lent his expertise by writing numerous articles for various industry publications and co-authored a white paper for The Journal of Facilities Management, an international publication, called “Partnering Design and Maintenance.”

However, one would think that with his drive to educate fellow industry members on his innovations for day cleaning, cooperative cleaning, and floor safety programs, he would consider this his most significant accomplishment.

Although he feels very strongly about these programs, Spencer feels that his role in designing safe, maintenance- and cleaning-friendly buildings and his involvement in sustainability is more significant.

His peers might agree with him. One Dream Team judge stated that Spencer has been “instrumental in helping shape the slip-and-fall prevention industry as a whole and making others aware of the problems and prevention associated with floor safety.”

In order to see his innovative ideas through, Spencer has worked together with architects and interior designers at State Farm in selecting products and designs that are safer, easier to clean and maintain, therefore reducing costs and extending the life cycle of finishes.

Future plans
So, when asked what changes he would like to see in the industry, it seems fitting that he was ready with ideas.

“I would like to see more measurement,” he said. “Measurable operation standards will provide a template for consistent performance and a recognized professionalism that this industry needs to be successful and respected.”

And for those of you wondering, retirement is not in Spencer’s immediate future. “I find satisfaction in being able to find solutions to problems,” he said.

One of Spencer’s other ideas for the future involves his love of technology, especially nanotechnology, and the positive effects it can have on the future of the industry.

Also, he is currently working to establish an easy, effective method of keeping carpet out of landfills.

When he’s not working…
Family is very important to Spencer. He has been married to his wife Linda for 32 years and they are the proud parents of daughters Leigh and Whitney.

Linda works for a local school district and will complete her degree in communications in December at Illinois State University.

Leigh is a zoologist at the Fort Worth Zoo and recently married Jeremy Whitted, a fellow zoologist at the zoo.

Whitney has a B.A. in musical theater and dance and is now pursuing her career after putting things on hold to help prepare for her sister’s wedding.

Though Spencer couldn’t put his job on hold for his daughter Leigh’s wedding, preparations kept him occupied. He and Linda spent the last 18 months preparing a Renaissance wedding for Leigh and Jeremy.

Though Spencer is a busy man at work and at home, his ambitions and successes keep him grounded.

“I personally don’t work solely for a paycheck but strive to make a positive difference in my workplace, community and the industry,” he said. “This recognition helps to confirm that I am on the right track. ‘Thank you’ doesn’t seem like enough to show my appreciation.”