Countless spring breakers flock to sunny Orlando, Fla., every March and April, but this year, they’ll be joined by thousands of cleaning-industry professionals for the 2005 Building Service Contractors Association International (BSCAI) Convention and Trade Show, running from April 1 through 5.

Each year attendance continues to rise, and this year is no different, says Greg Littlefield, BSCAI president, 2005 convention chairman and CEO of Professional Facilities Management Inc., Montgomery, Ala.

“Chicago is usually our highest attendance, but this year we’re tracking even better numbers,” he says.

Littlefield credits the record attendance to the diverse educational sessions that pinpoint the trends affecting the cleaning industry, including strategic planning, illegal subcontracting and diversification.

Two other trends prevalent at this year’s show are green cleaning and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). Green consultant Steve Ashkin will be giving classes on how to implement a green-cleaning program and Craig Sheehy of Thomas Properties Group Inc., will present a LEED-EB platinum certification case study. Plus, on the trade show floor, convention goers can expect to see a number of vendors showcasing green programs and systems, says Littlefield.

While walking the tradeshow floor, building service contractors can network with fellow contractors. Be sure to look closely at the name tags, as you might find yourself chatting with a BSC from overseas.

“The “I” in BSCAI stands for international. We want to do more for our international members,” says Littlefield.

Doing more includes an educational session on the state of the industry worldwide.

Add up all the education and information one can receive from the sessions, seminars and panels and you’ll understand this year’s show theme: “Take Charge of Your Future.” BSCAI offers classes for almost every company department, so by bringing more staff than just the CEO, a business can really change its future success, says Littlefield.

Some highlights to inspire change include:

Seminars, seminars, seminars: Saturday’s all-day supervision seminar will cover how to treat and manage all types of employees. Attendees of this seminar will also receive a bonus handout on legal issues, authored by BSCAI’s legal counsel. This seminar is also offered in Spanish. Sunday and Monday’s bidding and estimating seminar features building-bidding basics including job costing, acquiring information pertinent to bidding, different size buildings and developing industry standard production rates.

Leadership Leader: As in the past, each day of the convention will begin with general sessions to motivate BSCs with words of wisdom. In Saturday’s opening general session, educator, lawyer and consultant Gary Heil will educate BSCs on leadership ideas they can’t ignore. For more than 30 years, Heil has studied the human side of organizations. Heil is the author or co-author of numerous books about leadership and business relationships.

A focus on the customer: Author and sales expert Roger Dow will speak in Sunday’s general session about a customer-focused approach to business. Dow is the senior vice president, global and field sales, for Marriott International, and leads the company’s 10,000-person worldwide sales organization.

No buts: In Monday’s general session, Rick Butts will “Kick the Big Butts of Life.” Based on his self-help book, “The Big Butts of Life,” Butts’ speech is a blunt, humorous and educational lesson on how to knock down life’s obstacles and do “big things.” Butts’ past career moves include a pig farmer, lumberjack and Las Vegas entertainer, so audience members can be sure to be in for a unique experience.
Heil, Dow and Butts will be available following the sessions to sign their respective publications.

Listen up: Tuesday’s general session is a panel discussion on listening to your customers given by… your customers. Joseph (Matt) Dawson, 2004-2005 chair of the International Facility Management Association (IFMA); Steven Ford, Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) chairman elect; and Anthony Smith, president of the Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM) will discuss the customer’s point of view when selecting and working with contractors.

Fun in the sun
If your feet can stand to do a little more walking after the show, then take time to check out some of Orlando’s premier shopping venues.

The Mall at Millenia (4200 Conroy Rd.) is a 1.2 million-square-foot, two-level shopping complex. Inside are three huge department stores — Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s and Neiman Marcus — plus many luxury stores such as Tiffany & Co., Gucci, Chanel and Louis Vuitton.

Another shopping destination is Pointe Orlando (9101 International Dr.), an open-air complex with palm trees, fountains and more than 60 specialty shops.

Visitors can grab a bite to eat at the malls or head out to Restaurant Row for fine dining. Timpano Italian Chophouse (7488 W. Sand Lake Rd.) is one option awaiting diners on Restaurant Row. This classy “joint” croons Sinatra and serves pasta, seafood, veal and bone-in steaks.

At Seasons 52 (7700 Sand Lake Rd.), menus change with the seasons. With more than 100 wines and 60 of them served by the glass, diners won’t have to worry about finding the perfect drink for their meal.

But you don’t need to head to Restaurant Row to find a great dinner. Closer to the convention is the Atlantis Restaurant (6677 Sea Harbor Dr.) at the Renaissance Orlando Resort at SeaWorld. At Atlantis, a live harpist serenades you while you sample tasty seafood including lobster, salmon, shrimp and flounder.

And speaking of seafood, McCormick and Schmick’s (4200 Conroy Rd.) at the Mall of Millenia isn’t known as “The Fresh Seafood Authority” for nothing. Menus are printed daily to accommodate the ever-changing fresh fish lists. After the trade show, meet up with friends in one of the restaurant’s private “snuggeries” — an intimate dining booth that seats up to six people.

Movie lovers and golf enthusiasts alike might be interested in Murray Bros. Caddyshack (5250 International Dr.), a restaurant and bar owned by actor Bill Murray and his brothers and based on the popular movie of the same name. Favorite menu items include Chinese tacos, Sheboygan beer bratwurst and the Caddy burger.

There’s nothing better after a big meal than a drink and a cigar — and at Ybor’s Martini Bar (41 W. Church St.), you can do both. This bar offers a range of classy drinks from martinis to single-malt scotches. They have monthly cigar tastings and occasional music.

If you walk into Pat O’ Briens (6000 Universal Studios Plaza, Universal Studios Citywalk) and think you’ve wandered into New Orleans, there’s a good reason for that. This bar is modeled after the Crescent City original and features a patio, flaming fountain, dueling pianos and a Bourbon Street-like atmosphere. Be sure to sample a Hurricane, but watch out — more than one could spell trouble.

Travel from the Big Easy to the British Isles by heading to Cricketers Arms (8445 International Dr.). At this cozy pub, locals drink Guinness, nibble Scottish eggs and watch soccer (probably called football here) matches.

Stay a while
Orlando has plenty of fun for the entire family, so why not bring the kids and stay a few extra days?

Walt Disney World is home to four theme parks and two water parks, so spending only one day with Mickey Mouse might not be an option. The classic Magic Kingdom has something for everyone — thrill seekers can ride Space Mountain or Splash Mountain, while the less adventurous can find fun on the It’s a Small World or Pirates of the Caribbean rides. Between attractions, have lunch with favorite Disney characters such as Goofy or Snow White.

Besides playing in the Magic Kingdom, visitors can see the world of tomorrow at Epcot, go on an African safari at Animal Kingdom or relive the movies at MGM Studios.

And if you like movies, then head on over to Universal Studios for fun based on famous films such as “Jaws,” “Shrek” and “Back to the Future,” among others. For more excitement, check out Universal’s Islands of Adventure. While on these five uniquely-themed islands — Marvel Super Hero Island, Toon Lagoon, Jurassic Park, The Lost Continent and Seuss Landing — escape from a hungry T-Rex, ride near-miss dueling roller coasters and keep an eye out for Spider-Man and the Grinch.

For the marine-life lover, check out SeaWorld Orlando to feed seals, touch dolphins and, of course, meet Shamu, the world-famous killer whale.

So why not take a little spring break of your own this April and head to Orlando?

To register for the convention either call 800-368-3414 or 703-359-7090; fax 703-352-0493; mail to BSCAI, 10201 Lee Highway, Suite 225, Fairfax, VA, 22030.