I often think about the makeup of the cleaning industry and how the major talking points I typically hear revolve around innovation, new technology and the furthering of the industry. I always wonder about the nexus of decision-making that drives these points. And I wonder if perhaps a simpler question is, what drives the cleaning industry? To get a grasp on this, it’s important to understand the general make-up of the industry.

The cleaning industry is composed of, and driven by, three separate symbiotic groups: end-users, material producers and general interest groups. The balance of these three groups has a direct influence on how the industry advances — as an end-user, you have a very important seat at the table that shouldn’t be ignored. To better understand the role of the end-user, it’s important to understand the roles of all three segments. Each one is important.

General Interest. Trade associations, non-profits, government and non-government safety organizations, outside standards groups, sustainability/environmental, consulting firms, trade media, insurance, and architects are just some of the interests groups that affect the industry. Their impact is important for several reasons.

This group tends to provide a meeting place in the form of a convention, trade show or other related event. General interest groups bring broad philosophical perspective to the current status of the industry — they also are the main facilitators of industry-related networking.

Material producers and end-users rely heavily on these groups to stay current, benchmark and watch trends.

Material producers. In short, these are the manufacturers of tools, chemicals and equipment. They are committed to continuously improving the industry through ergonomic design, improved chemistry, innovative engineering and are constantly grappling with how to improve their products.

Producers are also motivated by moving units, therefore it is essential for them to be keenly aware of the current issues in the industry and how to translate those into products that meet a need for practitioners in the field. General interest and end-user feedback are essential for the industry manufacturer’s continuous improvement cycle.

End users. This includes executive level management down to the front-line cleaning worker. End users are the backbone of what this industry is built upon. Their role in this industry is not only to execute the cleaning function in practice, but to respond to the ever-changing demands of the industry. Without the end user, the producer and the general interest groups are not viable.

Which brings us to the central point of this column. It is my observation that many cleaning organizations constantly feel that they’re always adapting — or sometimes even struggling to adapt — to the ever-changing trends. This is why end-user involvement is imperative to continuous improvement of the industry.

With the ISSA convention fresh on everyone’s mind, remember that the manufacturers you meet and the general interest groups you encounter have a vested interest in you and your staff. Make sure they understand your needs and your challenges. Your role in this industry is crucial to its advancement, its innovation and to ensure that we continue to grow a professional cleaning industry. You have an important seat at the table. 
Ben Walker is the Director of Business Development for ManageMen, Inc., a leading cleaning industry consultancy specializing in training, transitions, auditing and educational materials. In addition to his consulting work, Walker is the author of ISSA’s best selling book: 612 Cleaning Times and Tasks.