The reason I got in to cleaning was because I strongly believed that the industry was, in the main, amateurish and behind the times. Stereotypical ‘Mrs Mop’ types of people was how people imagined the average cleaner to be, a woman, over 60 years old in slippers, curlers and a cigarette drooping out of her mouth as she mopped a floor with an old wooden handled mop and some kind of string mop that just moved the muck about.
The image of cleaners was awful and I believed that our company could help do something about this and improve both the standards of cleaning and certainly help the industry image. Smart uniforms, trained and scheduled operatives (of all ages, colours, ethnic values, sizes and shapes!) and ensuring that they are fully supported, equipped and supervised professionally was key in our belief in changing how cleaners were perceived. Add in audits for the clients, excellent communication and things like flexibility and contracts with easy get out clauses and we were on our way!
In March Hazel and I went to the Excel in London for the bi-annual Cleaning Show. The exhibition used to be across three huge halls at the NEC in Birmingham and was a proper, foot aching, mind boggling kind of day out. All of the main suppliers were there, some with huge stands and more representatives to talk to than you could imagine. It was attended, over three or four days, by many thousands of visitors and it was a place where we used to meet old friends over lunch before attempting to see what else was available and more importantly, make sure we’d missed nothing!
You can imagine our disappointment when the one ‘smallish’ hall at the Excel wasn’t even full. Huge gaps of empty space and other spaces with what looked like last minute mobile coffee kiosks with seating to make the place look fuller than it was. Gone were swathes of industry ‘giants’ and the suppliers that remained were on massively reduced sized stands.
This show used to be the UK’s Showcase event and it has become a shadow of its former self. I asked many of the people we met “Why” and the main answers revolve around the costs of being there. The stands for the few days alone cost a small mortgage and throw in people costs in London’s hotels and it becomes prohibitive to attend. What a shame. A shame for the suppliers who must have made money from showing their wares in the ‘old days’ at the NEC (or they’d not have come?) and a shame for companies like us who go along wanting to be enthused, excited and blown away by innovation. We arrived at 9.45am and left the Excel by noon, having walked around twice and sat for a coffee and sticky bun for 20 minutes or so. We chatted with quite a few people and may well have a new contact or two to progress to see if they can help in what we do but overall, what a disappointment.
Whilst we work hard to ensure that the image we give of our business is progressive and professional, it felt like the industry in the UK at least has given up! If it means we go to the Amsterdam and United States shows we will to find out what’s happening in the business we’re so passionate about. It just seems such a crying shame that the UK may not feel the same way. I hope I’m wrong.