Expert Interview – The True Value of Clean

This month I had the opportunity to interview Dan Wagner, Director of Facility Service Programs at ISSA and a 17-year veteran of the cleaning industry. ISSA is the preeminent association for the cleaning industry and Dade Paper has been a member for 35 years.

LC: You have been part of the ISSA team for many years. What roles have you held?

DW: I actually started my career as in-house counsel. I assisted members with their legal and regulatory compliance concerns in the areas of hazardous chemical handling and transportation, product registration and licensing and overall safety. When ISSA made the decision to become an all-industry association in 2005, they needed someone to head up our newly created department that is responsible for developing and managing programs for facility service provider members. Since then my responsibility has expanded to include all education, training, standards and certification programs which allows me to work with all segments of the industry, including manufacturers, distributors, building service contractors, in-house cleaning providers and facility managers. I now serve on ISSA’s senior executive team and it is my privilege to work with members and represent the industry throughout the world.

LC: Tell me about how ISSA supports the cleaning industry?

DW: ISSA recognizes that as the “Worldwide Cleaning Industry Association”, it our responsibility to represent the industry and develop tools and resources to help our members succeed. Many still immediately think of ISSA as a trade show company given the success of the ISSA/INTERCLEAN brand of shows. But the truth is that we are so much more and are extremely proud of the other benefits we provide members. Those range from education, training and certification programs to industry leading communication and media to industry benchmarking studies and tools that help our members promote the true value of the industry. And everything is based on our brand promise – to “change the way the world views cleaning.” Those of us who are in the industry understand that cleaning is properly viewed as an investment rather than a cost to be minimized but we need to deliver the message to those who make the decisions regarding setting specifications and cleaning budgets. After all, we are talking about an activity that has the potential to have a positive impact on human health, occupant productivity, sustainability, safety and facility asset preservation.

LC: What are the biggest industry changes you have seen in last 5-10 years?

DW: Well, in the supplier space, it all starts with dramatic changes in the makeup of the marketplace. We are witnessing a tremendous shrinkage of traditional “jan/san” suppliers while at the same time learning to deal with the introduction of new players, the so called disruptors. And these distruptors are forcing manufacturers and distributors to take a hard look at how they operate and the services they provide. It is simply no longer enough to try and offer the best price. Suppliers have to be prepared to serve their customers as true business partners, willing and capable of helping them on their core business. With regards to the service side of the industry, the pressure to do more with less continues to grow. Efficiency is the word of the day and service providers need to help customers understand the role they play in facility management excellence.

LC: What is the biggest challenge BSCs (Building Service Contractors) are having today?

DW: BSCs really need to explore ways to deliver a clean and healthy indoor environment while doing so at the lowest possible cost. While the number of customers who understand and appreciate that cleaning truly is an investment is growing thanks to the “true value of clean” message, the numbers of end users who will completely ignore cost is very limited. This is especially troublesome given that the industry is still littered with companies that do not operate as professionally as one would like and who may be willing to underbid accounts. So how do effectively managed companies who are capable of delivering a clean and healthy indoor environment in a cost effective manner set themselves apart in a crowded marketplace? How can they prove that they can be counted on when everyone says they are professional, including those who may not be?

LC: How can the BSCs approach that challenge?

DW: It certainly starts with the true value of clean message and helping customers understand the importance of making sure they receive a quality cleaning service. And then, once the customers “get it,” BSCs need to make sure they have the tools to demonstrate that they are a company that can deliver on their promises. Fortunately, there are programs that can help. BSCs can look for standards and third-party certification programs that enable them to prove that they are professional, customer-focused and committed to true excellence. For example, ISSA offers the Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS) and CIMS-Green Building program which sets forth management and operational best practices in six areas – quality systems, service delivery, human resources, health and safety, management commitment and green cleaning – and offers third party validation of excellence. BSCs should also partner with an experienced, reputable distributor who can help with product and equipment selection as well as provide training and additional support.

LC: What other advice can you offer?

DW: The entire industry truly needs to come together to spread the “value of clean” message.  We all need to be committed to professionalism and to making sure cleaning is viewed in the proper light – as a key, strategic component of facility operations and the most crucial piece of the healthy indoor environment puzzle. Cleaning has been viewed as a cost to be minimized and little more than a line item on a budget for far too long and it is up to us to change the perception to better meet reality. But we must also be prepared to live up to our promises and hold ourselves to the highest standards.

LC: What is the best way for people to contact you or ISSA?

DW: Give us a call or send us an e-mail. Why, we even still have a working fax machine! The bottom line is that we are here to help the industry and ready to provide assistance to our members. After all, it is our responsibility as the association that represents the cleaning industry. I can personally be reached at 800-225-4772 or daniel@issa.com and my ISSA teammates are ready to help as well.

For those in Florida, I’ll be at Dade Paper’s Innovations Expo on September 9th in Orlando. ISSA’s booth number is 246. We’ll be joining your staff, supplier partners and customers for what is sure to be a productive and enjoyable day!

LC: That’s right! For anyone interested in attending, visit http://www.dadepaper.com for more details and online registration.

DW: Of course, everyone is also strongly encouraged to visit with ISSA at the annual ISSA/INTERCLEAN show which will be held this October 25-28 in Chicago. ISSA/INTERCLEAN is the undeniable can’t miss event of the year, featuring more than 60 education and training sessions, more than 700 exhibitors showcasing the latest innovations and unbeatable networking opportunities. Please visit http://www.issa.com/show to register! Trust me…you want to be there for all the show has to offer as well as to hopefully help cheer on the Cubs as they attempt to end their 108 year World Series championship drought!

LC: As a fellow Cubs fan, we can only hope that this year will put an end to the Curse of the Billy Goat! Thank you, Dan!