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How to beat the BIG boys - What the giants of the industry just don't get
by our US correspondent, Ed Selkow
I used to look forward to reading our trade journals. Services Magazine, Cleaning Management, Building Services Management and a couple long gone now. Those magazines weren't just bathroom reading for me, I would hang on every word, read every article and carefully read every single ad. Editors had names like Terry 'Five Coats' Wilhelm (forgive me Terry if I got your last name wrong, haven't seen your name in print for many years but I hope you made a good buck selling the magazine and are comfy in retirement).
Professional trade journal publishing companies took over and now the janitorial magazines are only one in an entire portfolio of trade journals, among other trade journals like for gummy worm manufacturers and 'ethnic' haircare distributors. I am OK with this, it's progress I suppose and the professionals have done a great job converting to digital formats. Terry 'Five Coats' could never have dreamed of a digital magazine.
I used to love to read what other successful company owners were doing and what they thought was important. Fortunately, for me, the internet took off and today I talk to janitorial company owners all over the world directly and read what they say with no editors. I still do read our trade journals but now I read the digital versions.
Most newcomers into the business want to know how to build big companies like the ones they feel are running over them. The basics of moving dirt seems so simple and big companies have developed systems that are very good in operations and job costing. However, they DO falter as evidenced by one of the biggest companies in our industry who once boasted 75% of the entire downtown market where they are headquartered but have today lost more than two thirds of their buildings in their own backyard.
Newcomers should not copy everything big companies do because big companies have their own problems. The biggest problem is that they are too big to look around and see the changes that are occurring. Medium sized companies, which have achieved a degree of success, ignore key innovations that they should not. Small company owners have an advantage, they are hungry and you NEVER hear the worst thing ever said in the business world "...we ALWAYS did it THIS way so why change now?"
The bankruptcy of Kodak is a lesson on big companies that failed to look around and see the changes which occurred around them. Kodak invented digital photography in 1975 but did not bring a digital camera to market until 1995. The digital world gave us America Online and the glory days are behind it now. Our nation's push west in the 19th century was by pioneers who ALL had Sears & Roebucks catalogues and now this once great American company is in huge trouble.
We stand at a time in history where things are changing. In business, relationships ARE being developed digitally, communication is now instant and today when a business person says they have connections they don't mean a pile of business cards back at the office sitting in a box.
According to the Global Web Index, based on 27 markets and 100,000 surveys: "for the first time, B2B decision makers and senior decision makers are more engaged in all forms of social media than the average online user". In addition, online conversations with people from the company are seen as the most influential factor in B2B purchases. This is an amazing statement of the impact of Social Media."
You need to read that last sentence one more time. You hardcore business folks that need to put a dollar figure on everything, would you please tell me what exactly IS the ROI on your office phone?
For the most part, our industry is lagging WAY behind in adopting many important changes. I found a trade journal where janitorial companies who put up web sites were featured as big news. It was complete with instructions on how to look at those sites on your 'personal' computer (so the reader wouldn't get confused and try to view the featured web sites on their refrigerator sized, super-computer they kept in a utility closet behind dirty wet mops left to dry out overnight).
I know of one $150,000 million national cleaning company that was afraid of putting computers in its offices because employees would only be playing games on them (emails were sent to the home office and then relayed by telephone to operations and the salesforce across the United States).
Another regional company that started in 1919 would not put a fax machine in its office because it never needed one before (leaving its sales force to run down to a local print shop to send and receive faxes). Last year, I interviewed a company with operations in 16 states and the owner wasn't sure professionally printed business cards were necessary.
Are you sure you want to be just like the big companies?
In December 2011, LinkedIn had 92,131 property managers, 27,062 facility managers, 523,254 office managers and a 22,427 facility services professionals (that's you and me and I am no longer selling cleaning services for myself, I now grow janitorial companies for others who pay me)! Please look again at those numbers, tell me who you sell to and then explain to me once again PLEASE why social media is NOT important.
We are going to explore this further together so stay tuned!
1st March 2012