by Stan Hulin, President of The League of Hard Flooring Professionals
In this article, Stan discusses why the carpet cleaning entrepreneur may consider making some adjustments to capitalize on the hard floor maintenance business boon that is increasingly entering the market.
The Addition of Hard Floor Maintenance to the Service Offering
When speaking of hard floor maintenance, many people just think about Vinyl Composition Tile (VCT) and simplify that with “it’s just mopping and waxing anyway”. The truth of the matter is that there are many opportunities that have nothing at all to do with VCT. There are natural stone opportunities as well as, porcelain and ceramics, engineered and solid wood, laminate and bamboo, and a wide array of resilient flooring designed for all environments. The carpet cleaning entrepreneur may consider making some adjustments to capitalize on the hard floor maintenance business boon that will increasingly enter the market.
Adding hard floor maintenance to the service offering does not need to painful or costly. In fact it should be a natural transition because the technician is already accustomed to the principles of cleaning and working on floors. The biggest problem the carpet cleaning technician faces is fear. Fear that the floor will not turn out, fear of an unsatisfied customer, fear of not knowing as much about hard surface flooring as carpet. The truth of the matter is when this same technician entered the carpet cleaning world, he/she did not know anything about that either, yet they persevered and succeeded.
Understanding that carpet is one seventh of the floor covering categories should be incentive to pursue others (concrete, stone, clay, wood, specialty and resilient). In each category there is ample opportunity to create financial gain and increase revenues. The question should be which of these will create the best opportunity for the business owner.
Carpet is 1/7th of the floor covering categories. The others are concrete, stone, clay, wood, specialty and resilient.
Adapting to Hard Floor Maintenance
When transitioning into hard floor maintenance it is usually easiest to begin in the environment you already service. For many this will be the commercial environment. There is plenty of opportunity in the buildings you already service; laminates, bamboo, solid and engineered wood floors, porcelain/ceramic tiles and dimension stone are all on the increase. Routine, periodic and restorative floor maintenance can extend the investment of your customers considerably.
Initial maintenance is an incredible opportunity to provide services and begin a relationship with new customers. Although daily/routine maintenance may be performed by the building service contractor, periodic maintenance is often overlooked until it is too late and restorative maintenance is required. It is unfortunate because this periodic maintenance is the backbone of floor maintenance programs. On most surfaces these services may be simply dry or spray buffing and scrubbing and recoating. The point is that this is a perfect opportunity to provide a much needed service, make the customer happy and reap some financial reward. After all, you are there anyway.
For those interested in transitioning into other environments (commercial, industrial, transportation, medical/health care, education, government, retail, grocery, hospitality, high-tech, food service and entertainment), be aware that these are areas that have been traditionally serviced by building service contractors or in house services and are difficult to obtain. The trend in the industry however is leaning towards contracting floor care specialists or subcontracting floor work out to qualified building service contractors. Either way there is sufficient work in these areas that everyone can be satisfied.
In order to pursue these opportunities, the carpet cleaning technician will have to do some adapting. Careful consideration should be made in selection of the floor coverings and the environments that the entrepreneur wishes to target. Once these important decisions are made some modifications in chemicals, equipment, tools, materials, education and training will be required. This is especially true if the individual plans on getting involved in the restorative service procedures of any of the flooring categories.
The cleaning and coating chemicals required will be predicated by the floor covering category and classification that the technician is working on. There are general chemicals that the floor maintenance technician should always have available; neutral and all-purpose cleaner are great for wet mopping and scrubbing service procedures, however, for more aggressive soils degreaser may be required. If the technician will be performing the stripping and refinishing service procedures, stripping chemicals will be required.
Wood floors may require an aerosol spray buff system to be used in conjunction with the appropriate pad and machine and stone floors may require powder polish or diamond abrasives. Although concrete and clay flooring are very durable and will last a long time, they will still need some form of periodic and restorative maintenance.
In order to perform hard floor maintenance the carpet cleaning technician will have to have some basic equipment. This does not mean that there is a big investment on the horizon. Many of the things required have already been adapted to work with the truck mount and portable extractors.
A standard equipment package should include the basic equipment; rotary floor machine, wet vacuum (with wand or floor squeegee attachment) and high-speed burnisher (optional).
Tools & Materials
Tools should include mop buckets w/wringers or pad system receptacles, dust mops or cloth system applicators, wet mops or micro-fiber applicators. Materials will include the mop heads, applicator pads and buffing or polishing pads required for the floor covering the service is being performed on. This should include all hand tools and materials and can be as extensive as the technician wants. Remember to protect everyone in the facility by having plenty of wet floor signs, placards and caution tape to cordon off areas for service.
Safety is a huge issue in hard floor maintenance and every technician should have their own personal protection equipment bag. This is simply a duffle bag with the necessary materials to keep the technician safe. PPE bag should contain safety goggles and glasses, cut resistant gloves, knee pads, rubber gloves, slip prevention shoes, first aid kit and a change of clothes. The latter in case the technician slips and falls into stripper or some other unfriendly chemical.
Education & Training
The main ingredient for adding hard floor maintenance to the service offering is education and training. Many carpet cleaning technicians have spent years accumulating the necessary knowledge to become proficient in their trade. There should be no less expectation with learning hard floor maintenance, it is just a little more difficult to find. Although there are not as many educational opportunities available, training is becoming much more established in the industry.
If you are looking for training, the best place to start is with the trade associations. Concrete, clay, stone and wood all have associations that can help direct you to some form of training, especially when it comes to the restorative maintenance. Some chemical and equipment manufacturers offer basic training in how to use their chemicals or equipment. Certification courses are hard to find, but available.
The bottom line is that hard floor maintenance is going to be around for some time. If you are looking to capitalize on the opportunity, you must make the effort to get there. For many this is simply overcoming the fear factor and jumping in.