At a recent trade show, I sat down with some building service contractors to discuss the industry. Typically, these conversations turn to employee retention, gaining a competitive edge or price constraint issues. But this time, the concern was different. The contractors quickly agreed that they wished the entire field of cleaning could be regarded in a more professional light.

Some commented on a few people they had met that day whom they deemed “students of the industry” – people who continue to research cleaning and try new things. Others mentioned interesting things they had learned simply by networking with international contractors attending the same show. Some BSCs mentioned that they even learned a few things from smaller contractors, and chuckled sheepishly about it. But the group still realized that they were in the minority; not enough of their peers were pushing the information envelope. And because of that apathy, we all suffer.

These contractors alluded to the tendency of business owners or high-level executives to become complacent after they have reached a certain level of growth. “What got me here was good enough, so why change.” Often that sense of complacency starts to trickle down and managers stop being inquisitive. If a person already has a professional certification, they fail to look at what other training is available, or if they’ve managed operations for years, they figure an educational seminar can’t teach them something new.

This apathy affects customer opinions of the industry. If contractor after contractor pitches seemingly interchangeable services, eventually facility manages and owners view BSCs as expendable cleaners, rather than valuable service providers.

Some of the contractors expressed a need for industry associations to further push education, networking and professionalism. But the truth is, each BSC must show some initiative. Contractors need to create the company culture that demands managers gain certification and pursue continuing education credits. They need to be the ones to strike up a conversation with a peer sitting next to them in a seminar. And they need to be the ones to educate their customers regarding what level of service is necessary in the industry.

To help get readers’ creative juices flowing, this issue offers information on available professional certifications from the industry’s associations. We’ve also included a round-up of tips from BSCs around the world who are facing the same problems as their U.S. peers. And columnist John Walker points out the latest innovations he discovered at October’s ISSA/INTERCLEAN Show.