The jan/san industry is not getting any younger. Distributors historically have struggled to recruit young professionals and recent graduates to sell toilet tissue, vacuums and other “unglamorous” products. With Baby Boomers retiring in droves, distributors need to find replacements for these vacancies. But more than simply filling a need, distributors really should be cultivating the future.

Sanitary Maintenance asked its advisory board members how they’ve been reaching out to the next crop of employees. Not every company featured has had success attracting the new generation, but they’ve all learned some lessons along the way.

Here’s what they had to say:

Question: What are some tips for recruiting young professionals? Are any aspects of the janitorial supply industry considered 'glamorous?'

By educating them that selling janitorial supplies is a true profession and that it is an industry full of consultative selling and finding solutions for customers.
— Chris Nolan, President, H.T. Berry Co., Canton, Mass.

In our case the market segments we are in happen to be intriguing for the younger demography, such as movie theatres and leisure facilities.

The other aspect that can really help, regardless what the market segment would be, is the nature of the marketing and sales approach. If it is just price, logistics and moving boxes then naturally it will have less appeal. However, if the approach is about solution systems augmented with the appropriate technology, then the process gets more sophisticated, engaging and rewarding.
— George Abiaad, President, Royal Corp., Santa Fe Springs, Calif.

Especially during these times of economic uncertainty, we continue to be a thriving company because our products never ‘go out of style.’ This continues to be what we preach when recruiting new employees. This is attractive to most people.

We also keep our fleet of vehicles, our corporate offices and retail locations updated. Our logo and look is fresh. We believe that the company image completely displays who we are and what we do, which I believe is very important in attracting younger candidates. The innovation and advancement within the industry can be considered glamorous and definitely exciting. My sales team loves showing new, improved, environmentally advanced products to our existing clients.
— Shelley A. Riley, President, MaintenanceMart Janitor Supply, Phoenix

The jan/san industry may not be considered glamorous, however, it can lead to an attractive paycheck. Sales in the business can be lucrative and with the ‘what’s in it for me’ attitude and ‘immediate gratification’ need, this industry can fulfill the basic needs of Millennials.
— Charles Wax, President, Waxie Sanitary Supply, San Diego

This is a uniquely glamorous industry; few other industries offer the ability to make such a difference in the health and welfare of society than ours, and there is good money to be made as careers develop. Emphasize the constant high demand in our industry.
— Paul “Dutch” Owens, President, Gem Supply, Orlando, Fla.

I kind of subscribe to the industrial distribution model, which requires eight to 10 years at an order desk before they considered promoting you to the street. You had to know the lingo, how the products were used, understand how things were done in the industrial market. Then you would go to the street. Its almost like an apprenticeship. I see that as the only way. Even my best rep, I brought him off the street for a couple years and put him back out again. After that it clicked.

It’s just a long, slow process. It takes at least two years or more. A lot of janitorial houses don’t have the patience. All of my good producers have been with me for a long time and they’ve grown into the job.
— Bill Nourse, President, Brookmeade Hardware and Supply, Nashville, Tenn.

I would agree that historically it is not a 'young' workforce, and I think that a lot of that comes from the buyers who purchase our products. Most of those buyers, facility managers and building and grounds people, are not 'young professionals' either. As this trend switches to a younger buyer in those positions our industry will begin to follow as well. As this market transitions, distributors need to focus on the tech/modern side of our business — The computer software, apps, etc. that are available to help sell our products and do our job.

A lot of the world still lump our whole industry of supply sales and custodial service all into one category as the person who cleans the bathroom. That is the image that has to change.
— Eric Cadell, V.P. of Operations, Dutch Hollow Janitorial Supplies, Belleville, Ill.

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Effective Job Postings For Young Workers