Sunday, October 28, 2012


As I write and post this week's blog we are about to enter the last quarter of  2012. It also ushers in the busy time of the year with Halloween, Thanksgiving and then the Christmas and New Year holidays. Lots to think about and lots to do. It can have your head spinning in several directions. 

Most of us begin to think of the new calendar year and make plans on how we will attack the market so we can grow our sales and profits and this is certainly a very important aspect of planning the new year. Some of you may even pull out your business plan, blow off the dust and see what it says and review how you have done (or haven't done). You may even find some things in your business plan you forgot were there. 

Talking about forgetting, there is one thing I want to remind you to not forget---YOUR EXISTING CUSTOMERS. So often we get so busy trying to add new customers we forget about the ones feeding our families at the present time. The month of November in the United States brings us the Thanksgiving holiday when we are to pause and give thanks for all the wonderful blessings we have. Let me offer a couple of suggestions that may just help you keep those valuable customers you already have. Remember, it costs much more to bring on new customers than it does to retain the existing ones. We so often forget that in our fast paced, get new business environment. 

1. Why not send a letter to each of your customers, PERSONALLY SIGNED, thanking them for their support and business this past year and telling them how much you look forward to serving them in the future. It is common practice to send holiday greetings at Christmas time wishing everybody a happy holiday season but sending a letter to our customers at Thanksgiving time can be much more effective because they don't get that type of correspondence often, if at all. How many Christmas cards do you get? 100? 200? more? How many Thanksgiving letters do you receive? 5? 10? NONE? Exactly. 

We started this process several years ago and many of our customers called to thank US for thinking of them. I thanked them but the personal phone call gave me a chance to reiterate what we said in the letter that they were greatly appreciated. Almost of all them said they got hundreds of Christmas cards each year that they didn't read but a Thanksgiving letter caught their attention and was greatly appreciated. I almost always would add a personal note as I signed the letters I was responsible for, offering a special thank you. 

If you choose to do this, let me suggest you have the letter signed by the person most familiar with the customer. I think it makes it much more personal to do it this way but the important thing is to let the customer know how much they mean to us. 

2. A procedure that may even be more effective than the letter might be having you and your staff visit EVERY customer in person during the month of November to do nothing but say "THANK YOU" for the business. Some of your customers may be shocked to see you visiting them for something other than requesting a price increase (hopefully I am just kidding). A sincere thank you can go a long way in solidifying a customer relationship. You never know, you may even be able to get some new business while you are there but always remember the purpose of the visit is to let the customer know how much you appreciate them. 

A few years ago, there was a commercial on television where the owner of the company called all of his managers into a meeting and gave them each a plane ticket to go and visit their customers. It was a commercial for an airline but it was powerful in that his comments were that we have all of these wonderful electronic things like internet, cell phones, go to, etc. etc. but we should not forget the importance of making visits in person to thank our customers. Your competitors are visiting your customers, don't you think you should as well? Thanksgiving time is a perfect time to visit them eye to eye. Try it, you'll like it.

Hundreds of  people in 14 countries read this blog each week and many thousands more listen to our tripodcasts every week so I can't personally visit each of you but I can say THANK YOU VERY MUCH for all the support you have given us. This year of 2012 is BY FAR the best year we have had. Our DVD's, CD's and books all have set records for sales made and our business to business consulting service has more than doubled this year over last year. Again let me say THANK YOU. We look forward to 2013 with great anticipation. 

Till next time. 


Tuesday, October 23, 2012


I spent last week in Chicago at the BSCAI convention and the ISSA/Interclean trade show and what a great week it was. Lots of people, lots of exhibits, lots of new stuff, and lots of discussion. 

Let me list some of the most prevalent conversations taking place that were different from some of the previous years. 

1. More than ever I heard people talking about training and asking about different ways to effectively do that training. I was involved in 3 sessions on employee training that had every chair full and some great discussion. It is obvious that the idea of how to train the different age groups and cultures in the work force is really becoming important to contractors if they want to be effective in their training programs. My old saying of "On the job training is a recipe for on the job failure" was a frequently used phrase (by me) and was accepted when people really thought it through. Many admitted they had not been in the field to double check how that old time employee was really training that new recruit. I'm confident many went home to check that out this week.

In addition, the subject of electronic means of training was discussed many times over. More contractors are beginning to use the internet for training with pod casts, MP 3 players, you tube, i phones, tablets etc. Many contractors I visited with were planning to take steps to implement new ways of training and more consistent, frequent training. The industry is really beginning to understand the tremendous investment we make in recruiting new people into our organizations and we need to give them the support and training to become successful. Hooray!

Our company had a table in the solutions pavilion at the BSCAI portion of the week and more than ever we were asked what CDs, DVDs, or books we had on training. I realize it was good for our company sales but more importantly it signals the emerging belief in the value of training and training of all generations. 

2. I heard more and more companies talking about the need to become facility services companies rather than cleaning companies. Our customers are looking more and more toward wanting to use one service provider to take care of cleaning, landscaping, trash removal, pest elimination etc. Many companies are already doing this and have for years but I see more and more companies finally taking the plunge to REALLY service their customer or find themselves on the outside looking in. How about you?

3. Perhaps the most dominant theme this year was the part that information technology is now playing in making a BSC successful. Many exhibitors were present to display their wares on customer communications technology, inspections, timekeeping, and an array of other ways to become more successful in obtaining and retaining customers as well as just running a much more efficient organization. I LOVE IT.  

All of this coupled with new technology in training as I discussed above and have in other blogs and magazine articles is really bringing our businesses into a new era and we need to enter that new era with excitement and positive energy. Are you ready for that new era? Chances are your competitor has or is jumping in with both feet. I was really intrigued with the countless number of applications that BSCAI partner Sprint displayed in the BSCAI booth. I hope you took advantage of learning about all that can be done today with the tools available. The distracted driver application may just save an employee's life. Check it out. I know it sounds like a commercial but Sprint, Team, CleanTelligent, and a host of others are working daily to help us improve our businesses and when we attend a show like the one in Chicago we get the opportunity to really look at how we can improve our businesses in this new technological age. 

I met many new people in Chicago and thanks for introducing yourself. What was really gratifying was the large number of people that approached me to say they were listening to our FREE weekly tripodcasts. In fact, one man from Australia told of how he appreciated the various speaker tripodcasts leading up to the event so he could plan which sessions to attend. Thanks to all of you and we'll do our best to deserve your continued listening. In 2013 we will be having some experts from our industry as guests from time to time on the tripodcasts. These are people who really know their subject and will bring a fresh perspective on a particular subject when they join us. 

I've attended the BSCAI conventions since 1970 and never get tired of meeting new people and making new acquaintances. This year was no exception. 

Till next time.

Friday, October 12, 2012


Have you ever found yourself in a situation where a good customer asks if you can do some service that is outside the actual scope of janitorial service? Did you answer "We don't do that", or did you say "We can do that"?  You see, so many (you?) BSCs see themselves as a janitorial service provider rather than a facility service provider and in the long run that is going to hurt their growth opportunities and possibly lose some of the business they currently have.

Many of our customers today are looking to consolidate vendors so they don't have to deal with so many people and write so many checks each month and the more services we can provide the more solid our relationship becomes. And a major side benefit---if you are performing several services for your customer it becomes much harder for them to terminate you for missing a few trash cans if they are committed to you in several different service areas. 

Let me give you a few examples I am aware of where BSCs were able to solidify their position with a customer by saying "We can do that". In fact, some of these examples are the company I owned for 34 years.

One customer was having a difficult time with their entrance mat rental service. The service was irregular, the mats weren't laid now clean and many times in the wrong area etc. Overhearing the frustration, the BSC said "we can do that" and they negotiated an addition to the contract for 150 entrance mats per week. Here is the really great part. The customer provided the space for the BSC to clean the mats etc. How cool is that? 

Some months later that same customer was getting ready to take proposals for maintaining the grounds on their 40 plus acres which entailed mowing, fertilizing, trimming, planting and maintaining flower beds etc. Guess who they ended up negotiating the contract with because the BSC said "we can do that". We didn't really know how but we hired people that did know how. Following that came parking lot sweeping, striping, and snow clearing. How did all this get done by a BSC that started out as a janitorial service? Finding reliable sub contractors that could provide a quality service on those services we weren't proficient at.

Now, when the time came to take proposals for facility services it became pretty easy to renew the agreement with the customer because the incumbent was the only "qualified" vendor that could provide all the facility services the customer needed. The last time I checked the BSC was in their 23rd year of providing service to this customer. 

Another case in point. One customer got the approval from the home office to purchase 2 fork lifts for their warehouse. Neat, huh? To show you the wisdom of the home office, they would not authorize the funds for the customer to hire operators for the fork lifts but gave them authority to hire help through a temporary help agency. "We can do that" was the reply of this BSC. They provided the fork lift operators and had a nice profitable add on service for years. By the way, if you're only doing the front office areas of manufacturing plants you are missing out on a tremendous profit opportunity. The "real" money is in the plant areas themselves. You can provide aisle sweeping and scrubbing, rafter cleaning, equipment cleaning during shut time times etc. 

One contractor I know actually invested in the vending machine business and provided all the vending machines and related services to their clients. Wow! What a profit center that was for them. In fact, that eventually became a larger percentage of their total business than the janitorial business. Interesting, isn't it?

Okay, okay, some of you that are smaller size contractors are probably saying, "That takes a lot of money to gear up for some of this work". Let me suggest you negotiate into the agreement that if the customer cancels for ANY reason, they agree to purchase the equipment from you. Not possible to negotiate these terms you say? Happens all the time except maybe in the vending machine business. You don't get what you don't negotiate. 

Here's an unusual one. A customer was getting ready to purchase about 25 microwaves for break areas and lunch rooms throughout their factory. An aggressive BSC said to their customer "we can buy those, place them were you want them and maintain them for you for a monthly service fee. The customer bought the service. And with the price of microwave ovens these days if one does go bad you can usually just replace it almost as cheap as trying to repair it. 

These are just a few of the services I am aware that aggressive BSCs are providing for their customers today. If provides an additional profit opportunity for the BSC but just as important, and maybe more so, it makes it much more difficult for the customer to replace you for a minor slip up in service OR  if you get that new purchasing agent or property manager that wants to make a name for themselves by saving a few dollars on the janitorial service by "going out for bid". 

Start making you list today of the services in addition to those listed about that "we can do" such as 

Pest elimination
trash removal
stocking of shelves
temporary help services 
scheduled light bulb changing and lens cleaning
minor repairs
furniture moving
what other services can you think of?

Start being more observant of the needs of your customers besides the janitorial services you provide.

You see you don't have to be proficient in all of these, just be able to locate and work with reliable, professional sub contractors. You pay the subs and add on a 15% or so amount for you. Remember, the sub probably would not have that business if it weren't for you so they should be willing to discount their service to you which in turn results in no additional expense to your customer by having you handle all the services. An additional selling point to your customer is one check per month, one phone call to one location gets the service they need. This dramatically reduces their overall cost of doing business.  

Like I said earlier in this blog, start making your list today of the services you see your prospects could use and let them know "we can do that".

Till next time.



Tuesday, October 2, 2012


At the time I am writing this there is about 2 weeks left before the BSCAI convention and ISSA/INTERCLEAN trade show in Chicago. I hope you have been listening to our daily tripodcasts highlighting the various speakers and partners that will be there. 

With the new session additions, this year there will be outstanding learning opportunities like never before. For example,

I count 24 general and concurrent sessions taking place at the Radisson Blu hotel on Friday and Saturday, October 19 and 20. Nearly all of them are by professionals IN THE INDUSTRY managing their business in the trenches just like you. These are not sessions on theory but on real life every day happenings. I am privileged to speak on Saturday morning at 9:45 on the subject of SUCCESSFUL HIRING PROCESSES FOR SERVICE WORKERS. In addition to the power point slides that you can download on the bscai site at, I will have a separate handout for those in attendance. 

In addition, something entirely new this year is that BSCAI will be having sessions ongoing in their booth (number 4619) during the trade show on the 17th through the 19th. Sessions every hour that discuss green cleaning, talent management, time and attendance, increasing profitability, workers compensation costs, revenue generation, peer groups, bar coding, mobile device management, THREE sessions on the new healthcare reform law that will affect BSCs dramatically. There will be a total of 15 SESSIONS IN THE BOOTH ON THESE 3 DAYS. 

I will be presenting a session on Employee Training at 4 PM on Wednesday the 17th. I have a passion for this subject and hope you will come by. If not to attend the session, just say hi and let me know what you think of the weekly blogs and our tripodcasts and give us ideas of what you would like to read, see and hear in the future. 

On Thursday afternoon beginning at 1 PM there will be a series of BSCAI roundtable discussions at McCormick place on a variety of subjects with attendees being able to rotate to the different tables. I will be moderating sessions on Employee Training  with some handouts that you can take with you. 

I count over 40 sessions for you to learn from people who have been in the industry and can give you real usable information that you can implement the day you get back to your place of business. Think of it, 40+ sessions and I haven't even discussed the trade show. That is a lot of learning opportunities crammed into a few days. 

In addition, I encourage you to register to attend the Green Cleaning University half day workshop presented by my colleague, David Holly on Tuesday the 16th. He truly is the expert in GREEN and has a lot of knowledge to impart. You can register at

On Wednesday, the 17th you can also register to attend the Bidding and Estimating seminar presented by BSCAI. Year after year this workshop continues to reach high attendance levels.

You also have the opportunity to take in the 3 day trade show that will feature over 1600 booths full of new technology, equipment, supplies, and a myriad of other "stuff" that you can use. There is a green pavillion and a book store where you can buy all sorts of helpful information (including my three books). 

What a week of learning we have the opportunity to attend. I sincerely hope you have made plans to attend the sessions you want and take in the trade show. Never before that I can recall have we had so many learning opportunities in one place of information we can use immediately. 

So...LOTS OF LEARNING will take place in Chicago October 16-20. I encourage you to take advantage of the opportunity. Come by the BSCAI booth and say hi or come visit us at the vendor pavillion on the 19th and 20th at the Radisson. 

Till next time.