Virtually every experienced carpet cleaning technician has heard the name Ralph Bloss. Famous for being the founder of one of the first companies to develop an effective truckmount carpet cleaning system, Bloss once memorably quoted John C. Maxwell when he told an audience of carpet cleaning company owners, “Change is inevitable; growth is optional.”
Anyone in the carpet cleaning business for more than a few years knows how true these words are. While many carpet cleaning companies place their future growth potential on marketing prowess, which admittedly is very important, one thing they may be underestimating is just how essential their distributor can be in helping them grow and succeed.
Supply chain versus value chain
Jan/San and carpet cleaning distributors are often viewed as just part of the supply chain. The supply chain is the network that works together to bring cleaning products and equipment to the end customer.
The supply chain starts with the manufacturers of cleaning solutions and equipment; these manufacturers then sell their products to distributors; and the distributors then market and sell these products to you, the end users of the products.
However, in reality, astute and knowledgeable distributors are much more than just a link in the supply chain. They actually are your connection to the “value chain,” and it is the added value they bring to the table that is so crucial to your company’s growth and success.
Historically distributors also have been viewed as friendly order-takers. Many carpet cleaning technicians have developed relationships with these people very simply because they like them, while not really considering what value these distributors bring to their businesses. While liking the people you buy from is important, it does not necessarily mean they offer the value you need for your business’ growth.
A value-focused distributor is, among other things:
- An educator,
- A trainer,
- An innovator,
- A problem-solver,
- A service expert,
- A product consultant,
- A safety advisor.
Value-focused distributors know that, as they help you grow your business, you will become a more valuable and loyal customer. To be able to offer these many valued-added services to their customers, some distributors have turned to new technologies, software programs and dashboard systems to help them and their clients address a myriad of carpet cleaning challenges and, in so doing, are helping their clients to grow.
Taking a look under the roof
To better understand how distributors can add value, let’s suppose your company is being considered to handle the carpet cleaning needs of a large, multi-story medical facility.
This offers significant growth opportunity for your firm — the potential client is bigger than any other client you now have — but several issues must be addressed in order for your company to meet the medical facility’s demands and win the business.
- The building’s administrators want to minimize full carpet restoration (extraction) because it can be so disruptive to their 24/7 facility. Instead, they are asking you to put together a program that emphasizes interim carpet cleaning procedures that can reduce restoration cycles.
- Administrators have indicated they are not interested in set carpet cleaning schedules, whether interim or restorative. Instead, they have asked your firm to develop a program in which carpet is cleaned based on need and use.
- The facility is made up of several different areas, all carpeted and having different needs. These areas include nurses’ stations, patient rooms, break rooms, hallways and waiting rooms; your company will need to indicate how you will handle the different needs of these different areas.
- Because of environmental concerns, only green-certified cleaning solutions can be used in the facility, and only cold-water, low-moisture restoration equipment may be used.
- You have been asked to develop a “soil prevention” strategy for the carpet; this involves the selection of interior and exterior mats at strategic locations that can both help prevent soil from entering the facility and, if it does, keep it from spreading.
So where do you start?
If you are working with a value-focused distributor, she most likely will have access to one of the new technologies, software programs or computer dashboards mentioned earlier, in addition to cutting-edge techniques and equipment. These technologies can help you virtually “take the roof off” this medical facility to address its many different carpet cleaning needs. While not all systems work in the same manner, an effective program would likely walk you through the following steps to address the carpet cleaning challenges posed here:
- Discovery. It should help you and your distributor fully understand the carpet cleaning needs for all areas of this medical facility. Often this is done in a question and answer format. This can help you determine where an effective matting system is needed, for instance, what areas will likely need more frequent cleaning, and those areas that will not.
- Evaluate. Because the medical facility has many different areas and types of areas, there is a tendency to over-order or place redundant orders for products, which just costs you money. With access to various new technologies, a value-focused distributor should be able to help you eliminate redundant product purchases, minimize storage issues and also ensure cleaning solutions are provided on an as-needed basis.
- Explore. A crucial piece in the process is the ability to explore and compare the different types of cleaning solutions and options available. If a carpeted area of the facility tends to be heavily soiled — and is now cleaned using traditional cleaning solutions — these technologies should help to select cleaning solutions that can tackle these carpet cleaning challenges but in an environmentally preferable manner.
- Analysis. When the process is complete, a comphrenisve review or analysis should be provided, which can help you organize and present your carpet cleaning program to the medical facility administrators. This can prove very effective in helping you win the account.
Traditional approaches to try to address such requirements often resulted in more questions than answers, which in turn increased the likelihood of not securing a large client, thus minimizing business growth. Fortunately, by working with a value-focused distributor, you can effectively develop a plan to address these challenges and win the client’s business, helping to ensure your company’s growth potential.
Michael Wilson is vice president of marketing for AFFLINK, developers of the ELEVATE process, an online system that allows users to learn about and select products that will help operate their facilities in a greener, more sustainable, healthier and more cost effective manner. He can be reached through his company website at www.AFFLINK.com.