Since the onset of the pandemic, businesses have been scrambling to stay open, stay relevant and stay competitive. For many, that meant taking a hard look at operations and potentially rebranding, which can lead to an overhaul in services, staff and overall strategy — often in a frenzy to minimize losses.

At Acme Paper & Supply Co., Inc., Savage, Maryland, the reason for rebranding the “Janitorial and Sanitation” division to “Hygiene and Facilities Solutions” in early September checked none of those boxes. To explain the decision simply, the distributor wanted to highlight the strengths of their company as a relationship-based solutions provider for both local and large-scale businesses as they maneuver the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the process leading up to the rebranding didn’t happen overnight, co-CEO Steve Attman says the decision to emphasize hygiene in the name came naturally through customer feedback. It wasn’t necessarily the number of calls about chemical safety or clean air ventilation that caught Acme’s attention — but rather the fact many of those calls came from customers who never paid much attention to the details before.

“We would talk with end users about required dwell times and the clean-versus-disinfect process, for example, but they weren’t always interested in learning the specifics,” says Attman. “Now, because of the pandemic, customers are more involved in the particulars of a cleaning process. You can’t afford to take shortcuts. One mishap can cause a spread of the virus throughout a facility.”

Those conversations resulted in a series of meetings and several naming iterations over many months. In the end, Phil Carrizales, director of Acme’s newly branded division, says none of the options were a better fit than “Hygiene and Facilities Solutions.” The rebranding isn’t a change in approach, but more of a reminder that the issues at the forefront of the pandemic — including green cleaning, occupant safety and reliable consultation — have been crucial to Acme’s nearly 75-year history, long before COVID-19.

“For years, many managers would only be concerned with price and kill-claims. Now they’re asking questions that we’d only get from infection preventionists in the healthcare field,” says Carrizales. “They allow us to get a full scope of their facility like never before. We’ll evaluate equipment, chemicals, procedures and provide suggestions from there.”

Adaptive Interaction

While the pandemic led to more clients seeking in-depth consultation, it also closed the door for in-person interactions. Attman says the shift toward digital or distanced interactions has gone smoothly thanks to quick adaptations from Acme’s management, sales and purchasing departments.

In some instances, Zoom sessions and YouTube training videos have effectively replaced in-person facility evaluations and subsequent suggestions Acme provides to save clients time and money on equipment and cleaning processes. However, Acme will still schedule on-site visits for significant equipment adoptions, such as electrostatic sprayers.

“We’ll do socially distanced walkthroughs that might take a whole day because we can only train limited numbers of people at a time,” says Attman. “When a client asks us about a product or cleaning process that may be outside the usual way of thinking, we listen and then proceed to figure out how to do it together.”

Targeted webinars are another routine component to keeping both Acme and its customers up to speed. Doing so requires a great amount of research on Acme’s end to keep up with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registration requirements and protocol suggestions that are constantly updating.

“We want to keep customers interested, so we present information in a variety of mediums — whether it be about handwashing, personal protective equipment or touchpoint disinfection,” says Carrizales. “It’s a combination of making sure the key points are addressed, but in an interactive way where it’s not just a lecture that drones on.”

The information from webinars can be widely applicable to all facilities, but when it comes to case-by-case consultation, Acme embraces a micro-scale approach. Within any facility are unique issues that can spread infections, and Carrizales finds that many clients don’t even realize what they are.

It’s these opportunities, Attman adds, where Acme can truly showcase the goal of their rebranding. From an interaction standpoint, partnerships with Network Services, Schaumburg, Illinois, and the Healthy Measures Program equips them with an efficient system to communicate ideas within different Acme departments.

“We have the ability to consult our clients using an app-based program where we can engage in high-level discussions within all departments to objectively quantify different areas within their facility that affect infections, patient or occupant satisfaction, and regulatory compliance,” says Attman.

Now that more clients are open to extended discussion, more opportunities for long-term cost savings can come to fruition.

“In jan/san, cost expenditures for labor can reach up to 80 or 90 percent. That leaves a lot of opportunity for solutions selling,” says Attman.

In healthcare facilities, for example, a point of emphasis has been properly laundering microfiber. By investing upfront in a machine that can sanitize properly under recommended CDC temperatures, facilities can forego the commonplace renting process for microfiber.

“We had one hospital put in a couple of our recommended washing machines and the payback is projected to be $1 million over 10 years,” says Attman. “That’s factoring in the purchase of new high-end microfibers and maintaining everything themselves through labor and effective water treatments.”

For schools and universities, restrooms are a usual suspect for proposed solutions — particularly those with a large number of touchpoints that compromise hand hygiene.

“When identifying infection hotspots, it can be something as simple as a multi-fold dispenser where hands will potentially reach in to pull towels down,” says Attman. “You can have all the right signage and occupants with the best habits, but all it takes is one misstep with your setup to spread an infection.”

These are just two examples of the details Acme will evaluate with clients, says Carrizales. The idea is never to prioritize a sale, but to find an improvement.

“We ask about how they are cleaning and what tools they’re using. In many cases, the right products are used but they have the wrong process — or the other way around — and they just need to make a couple of modifications,” says Carrizales. “Sometimes we don’t end up selling anything, but they remember us as a trusted partner, which can lead to other opportunities down the road.”

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