Editor’s Note: This article is the first of a five-part series investigating what the cleaning industry is doing in response to the COVID-19 crisis. The first in the series concentrates on challenges facing building service contractors.
During this COVID-19 crisis, most of you reading this right now are either under a voluntary stay at home situation or a “shelter-in-place” order. Some of you may still be working but many are not.
You, fellow industry professionals, no doubt feel frustrated, lost, maybe even anxious with what’s going on. You worry about not only your families, friends, and loved ones, you worry in a professional sense as well. You worry about the health of your business or organization, your employees or fellow employees, and you worry about those you have served faithfully for many years: Those you clean for, those you provide services for, those who you call your clients or customers.
In this time of crisis, you realize they aren’t just clients or customers. They are also friends, and like you, facing many dilemmas and predicaments about what to do.
One thing is sure: In the past few weeks, as this situation has developed into the situation it is now, our industry is coming together. It is uniting. And preparing to deal with the issues we all face and come out of this stronger and better than ever.
These aren’t just words of mine. They are the words of some of the leaders of the industry you are not only a part of but love as well.
Read on to learn how two leaders in the contract cleaning segment of our industry are dealing with the crisis.
Building service contractors speak up
A service industry such as building service contracting is feeling the pain of the COVID-19 outbreak, as some facilities are temporarily shutting down and waiting this out. But now is the time to be positive and plan for the future.
That’s what two industry leaders who own and operate BSCs are doing.
Roman Chmiel is on the board of directors for ISSA, and chairman of the ISSA Building Service Contractor (BSC) council. But his work in the industry is similar to what many of you do: Provide services to clients. He is CEO of Scrub Inc., a Chicago-based building service contractor with a wide menu of BSC offerings but also specializing in a diverse variety of services for the aviation industry, including aircraft cleaning and disinfecting.
“We are seeing solidarity with clients in the airline community,” Chmiel said, “and working together with company management, our employees, and our clients.”
He noted that right now it is difficult to stay positive, but for his own family of employees his philosophy is to encourage them to do what they need to do to survive, even those who are unfortunately laid off from work. “Laying people off is a temporary issue, and we encourage them to file for unemployment, take their personal days, and we will call them back when work resumes.”
Matt Vonachen is a BSC director with the ISSA board of directors, and also operates the Vonachen Group, a commercial and industrial service provider based in Peoria, Illinois. His comments stay the line of be realistic but use the time wisely and think of the future.
“It’s the most fluid situation in my lifetime,” he said. “I compare this to the 2009 recession, where we lost 30% of our revenues in a very short period of time. This is going to surpass that,” he warns.
One piece of advice from Vonachen is that when you go through a crisis like this, it will make you stronger and better. “For our phenomenal run in recent years, we give credit to how we handled the 2009 issue. This is going to be a restart for many companies. So learn how to operate more efficiently. This whole world of now working virtual will put pressure on the necessity for the brick and mortar model.”
Reflecting again to the recession of 2009, he said, “When our backs were against the wall and I didn’t know how to make payroll, we (management) went offsite for a few days and created a strategic plan. I learned at that time I had to create a very diversified company and not depend on any particular market vertical, segment, or city.” He said he believes there will be the same learning opportunities as we exit this crisis.
One thing he stressed is each company and organization should create a pandemic plan. The Vonachen Group created one in 2017 and revised it for this coronavirus.
Share your thoughts
ISSA wants to hear your voice. Please contact us with questions and concerns and tell us how we can help you in this crisis. Share your own observations and what you are doing to handle this COVID-19 outbreak. What are you doing? How will you cope? How will you move forward when the crisis is over? Share your thoughts.