By Stephen Ashkin

Stephen Ashkin is president of The Ashkin Group, a nationally renowned consulting firm helping both contractors and building owners “green” the cleaning process.

Being a building service contractor is tough. Competition is fierce and far too many customers view cleaning as a commodity and focus only on price because they believe all cleaning contractors are basically the same.

This competition based primarily on price puts a contractor at a severe disadvantage when dealing with customers who are looking to reduce their operational expenses due to a slowing economy. And with all the news about a possible recession, unfortunately the pressure to reduce costs may increase in the near future.

But for contractors who have embraced green cleaning, this is a time where you can use this to differentiate your company from the competition, and offset some of the price pressure and even grow your business.

It is clear based on the science that any well-managed system of cleaning given the appropriate amount of time to do the job right can offer customers extraordinary value. And we know that cleaning has an important positive effect on occupant health and productivity. Thus an argument could be made that reducing cleaning would have the same negative impact on occupant performance (and thus the organization’s performance) as converting to slower, less productive computers.

But there are other advantages for green cleaning such as the growth of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance rating system. More facility managers are using LEED for Existing Buildings in their facilities. As a result, contractors who meet the requirements of LEED are better prepared to help their customers and retain the business.

In addition to using green cleaning to retain business, it is an excellent strategy for growth especially in a period of hard economic times. Candidly, this statement would have been hard to make a few years ago because at that time green products cost more and didn’t perform as well as their traditional counterparts. But today this is generally not the case.

Today when building managers demand a reduction in cleaning costs, having a well-developed green cleaning program will give you an advantage. This is because it may help you mitigate some of the cost reductions demanded by existing customers, and perhaps more importantly, it can help you gain new business and grow overall sales and profits.

Hard economic periods are the time for contractors to be aggressive as lots of change will take place. Green cleaning can be your point of differentiation and add value as you help customers and prospects not only maintain a clean, safe and healthy building, but make a change that helps them position themselves for their future.

After all, green cleaning is going to eventually happen everywhere; this may be the perfect time to help your customers and prospects, and to also make a positive difference for both the environment and your bottom-line.