Jon Whittaker has a passion for educating others in the carpet maintenance industry. In early 1992, however, carpet was the furthest thing on his mind when considering his next career move. After 26 years in the United States Air Force, a decision to settle close to family led Jon to New Castle, Pennsylvania and a job with the R.E. Whittaker Company, founded by his cousin, Dick Whittaker. Currently, as President of Jon Whittaker Consultants, he works with the carpet mills by focusing on their various recommended approaches to maintenance, including editing and writing cleaning manuals and guides, providing after sales support, and teaching carpet cleaning.
With nearly two decades spent at R.E. Whittaker, Jon collected a wealth of experience working with service providers, carpet cleaning end users and manufacturers. In that time, he’s seen a number of changes in the flooring industry and he believes the most significant industry shifts are in maintenance, especially the development, expansion and acceptance of interim cleaning, based upon the use of the dual cylindrical brush scrubber and dry crystalline cleaning solutions.
When asked about the maintenance needs of different markets, such as hospitality, corporate and education, Jon points out that those segments often have the same demand – quality appearance without disruption at a minimal cost. And what’s the simplest way to maintain floor in any of these markets? “Clean it before it looks dirty,” Jon insists. “When a carpet looks dirty, the maintenance technician has not been doing his job properly.” Jon believes that routine and frequent low moisture cleanings will actually reduce cost and keep the carpet looking better. “How often do we clean hard surface flooring? How often are we cleaning the carpet? Foot traffic is the same, so why won’t we address carpet on a frequency schedule similar to hard surface? That’s the question of the century.”
On Carpet Maintenance:
“When a carpet looks dirty, the maintenance technician has not been doing his job properly.”
For several years, Jon has suggested that service providers, first and foremost, need to take notice of the mills. “We need to listen to how they want to take care of the floor and do it that way,” he explains. “In the future, the flooring manufacturer will have much greater say in how their products are maintained.” Not only can manufacturers impact flooring maintenance, but Jon also believes that they play a big role in the choices of the end user. “Know your customer,” he states. “Know that the carpet mill is your customer. The mills are the influencers and will affect the decisions of the end user, the ultimate customer.”
Asked if he could change anything in the flooring industry, Jon again mentions manufacturers, but, this time, from different industries. “I would change how chemical and equipment companies are allowed to develop products for the flooring world.” He notes that some companies, like XL North, work side by side with mills to develop solutions first and then go to market. It’s done to make sure the chemistry, equipment and processes won’t harm the flooring. However, as Jon states,”Too many chemical and equipment manufacturers produce products that get distributed without any reflection on potential ramifications it may have on the flooring, the occupants of the space, and the technicians.”
On Service Providers:
“Be a problem solver for the customer.”
Just about anyone can clean a floor, but, as Jon notes, “It’s a smart floor care provider who focuses on service, not just cleaning.” What does quality service mean to Jon? “It encompasses meeting and hopefully exceeding the expectations of the customer in regards to ‘clean’. It’s also going the extra step to provide a broader spectrum of service offerings.” Smart floor care providers also focus on what their customers think is important. “Be a problem solver for the customer,” Jon says. Personalization, including customer satisfaction surveys and regular on-site meetings, is key.
Smart floor care providers are also knowledgeable and on top of the ever-changing industry trends. That task, however, can be daunting. Jon suggests, “Read trade magazines. Go to trade shows. Pick the brains of the vendors. Ask for demonstrations on your own turf. Visit the CRI website. Know as much as possible about the specific carpet you are asked to maintain.” Most importantly, get the mill’s maintenance guide. “They all have one,” Jon mentions. Lastly, get to know the technical, installation and maintenance teams at the mills.
Upon his retirement from the Whittaker Company in November, 2010, Jon proceeded to fulfill his long lasting desire to consult directly with the carpet industry and own his own business. Jon is President of Jon Whittaker Consultants and VexAll Industries. As a consultant Jon works closely with the major carpet mills to resolve claims and provide technical expertise as an outside problem solver. He trains and develops carpet care programs for customers in all the major sectors of the industry. In regard to sanitation, VexAll Industries applies unique components in a process that disinfects and protects both hard and soft, porous and non-porous surfaces. The process is being marketed via licensing agreements and to manufacturers and larger customers as a do-it-yourself technique to guarantee healthy environments.