Moving From Good to Great in the Contract Cleaning Industry

In the early 2000s Jim Collins wrote the book, Good to Great, which became a bestseller read by businesspeople around the world. Yet, despite books like his and others that serve as roadmaps to the top, greatness eludes most companies.

Mr. Collins and his research team studied over 1,400 companies, and have said, “In each dramatic, remarkable, good-to-great corporate transformation, we found the same thing: There was no miracle moment, Instead, we found a down-to-earth, pragmatic, committed-to-excellence process – a framework – that kept each company, its leaders, and its people on track for the long haul.”

In the cleaning industry, what makes a building service contractor great? We know from books like Good to Great and related research that great companies have developed systems and processes that work in concert to produce consistent quality and results, at the price point and service level that each client expects. In other words, the entire organization is aligned to a set of common goals and shared values.

Thankfully, in our industry a set of guidelines, the Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS), has been created that specifically helps contract cleaning companies identify common goals and committed-to excellence processes within their organization.

CIMS focuses on five management principles:

1. Quality systems
2. Service delivery
3. Human resources
4. Health, safety, and environment
5. Management commitment

In the absence of well-defined and unambiguous systems, managers deal with constant turmoil. As a leader, you have a choice: You can either manage the system or manage the confusion. Which do you do?

Quick operations check-up

There’s no room for chaos and confusion in CIMS-compliant cleaning operations. What about your business or cleaning operation? Are you managing a quality system or in a reactive mode? Quiz your operation by asking yourself the following questions.

  • Can I walk into any account at any time and be 100 percent confident in the results of what I will find? Owners and managers of organizations that follow a management system should know exactly what to expect – consistent, quality service regardless of customer location.
  • Am I surprised when a customer calls with an issue? It is not a good thing to be surprised. If you have effectively implemented quality systems a customer call should never ruin your day.
  • Do I proactively teach and develop mid-level managers and supervisors? Building a great management team is the essential to success. CIMS sets forth a helpful framework for developing your managers.
  • Am I constantly scrambling to fill positions? If you’re constantly scrambling to fill open positions there may be a breakdown in your human resource function. You should have a proactive hiring process and retention plans. Hiring “bodies” is a symptom of far bigger issues.
  • Do I have an approved product and equipment list that is used throughout the organization? Product standardization is the foundation for smooth running operations. A well-managed product and equipment list gets rid of employee confusion, lowers cost, and drives consistency.
  • Do I have standardized work instructions in place? Standardized work instructions go hand-in-hand with the approved product and equipment list. Employees must be clear on what is expected of them and how to deliver service.
  • Are each of my job sites organized in a consistent manner? When all customer locations are managed under the same processes and policies, you’ll quickly be able to identify when a site is not using the system.
  • Are my startups seamless or is each one an “event?” If you use a system for all locations then a startup should be a breeze since everyone knows what to expect and how to perform.
  • Does my organization use workloading methodology that is accurate, competitive, and reproducible? Workloading systems allow for easy cleaning system tailoring for any new customer or new building. Workloading also ensures buildings are set up with the best combination of workers and tasks.
  • Can my organization withstand an OSHA audit? If your organization meets CIMS’ health, safety, and environmental requirements an OSHA inspection should not scare you.
  • Are you in full compliance with all wages and hour regulations and hiring requirements? This is how you attain quality employees and protect your business from legal issues.
  • How did you do? Are you exposing your customers to your organization’s inefficiencies or are you demonstrating the professionalism for which you were hired?

No matter if your company is large or small, the difference between “good enough” and greatness is how comprehensively these principles have been implemented. Exposing your customers to even small issues can have huge consequences. Adhering to a comprehensive, quality management system such as the Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS) enables leaders to manage, and devote time and energy to delivering customer value.

How important is it to strive for greatness? When money is flowing freely, there is a market for mediocre, adequate, or good enough companies. That isn’t, however, the market we’re operating in today and the truth is, good enough isn’t good enough anymore.

Michael Schaffer is president of Tornado Industries, Chicago, a manufacturer of commercial cleaning equipment, and a senior executive with Tacony Corporation’s Commercial Floor Care (CFC) Division. Special thanks to Mr. David Frank, president AICS, for his contributions on CIMS.