Jeff Cross is a very recognizable name and face in the world of floor cleaning and restoration. A prominent industry icon, Jeff’s most notable role as executive editor of Cleanfax magazine normally has him on the other side of an interview, as the person asking the tough questions. Not surprisingly, investigative journalism became Cross’s professional pursuit when he was just 13 after reading Woodward and Bernstein’s coverage of Watergate. Jeff began his career as a journalist for a daily newspaper, but eventually realized that a journalist’s salary wasn’t enough to meet the needs of a growing family.
A friend who owned a thriving carpet cleaning and restoration company was doing well financially, and first introduced Jeff to the cleaning and restoration industry. Cross was quickly hooked! He found the work enjoyable and rewarding. For 15 years, Jeff successfully owned and operated his own cleaning and restoration business, but journalism was still a passion, and Jeff began contributing articles to Cleanfax magazine.
In 2003, after selling his company, Jeff became the executive editor of Cleanfax. His cleaning and restoration experience coupled with his journalism background create a unique perspective that lends itself perfectly to the role, and ensures the magazine is continually providing solid, beneficial content. 15 years of troubleshooting every possible cleaning issue helped provide a solid foundation, but Jeff’s education is far from over.
“I’ve learned more since I quit cleaning than I ever did when I cleaned. I’ve learned more on the technical side, the details, the small stuff that you might not think about every day, but is still important,” Jeff notes.
It’s All About Education
Being a journalist tends to keep Jeff behind a computer, but as an educator, he’s often put directly in front of end users. He always welcomes the opportunity. Cross notes, “Everything I do is really about education, whether it’s through the magazine, or IICRC classes, or Totally Booked University.” Jeff founded Totally Booked University as a marketing and sales resource to help cleaning and restoration companies increase sales. He’s also an approved IICRC instructor. Through training workshops and classes, Jeff is able to “talk shop” with other cleaning and restoration peers. He also gets valuable feedback on recent magazine content. The discussions offer Cross insight into the current industry climate, as well as hot topics and trends, and often become the foundation for future Cleanfax articles.
Cross is passionate about his role as an educator, and believes education is key in maintaining standards throughout the floor maintenance and restoration trades. When asked if that could be achieved through a college or tech school degree, Jeff is unsure, but believes measured curriculum improves the industry and has positive benefits. Also, while the impact of classroom training can’t be beat, Cross thinks that a combination of online classes and hands-on instruction is a powerful tool that can help promote continuing education and certification for workers throughout the industry.
Hiring Can Be Tricky Business
Of course, having properly trained and educated staff is essential to success, but Jeff points out hiring the right person is becoming increasingly difficult in an industry where the best workers are getting older and millennials have little to no interest of joining. Drawn to other less physically and technically demanding trades, the younger workforce is overlooking careers in floor care and restoration, and it’s an industry-wide concern.
Jeff advises, “Look for workers in other industries that have the personality and drive, that you can train and teach technical skills. Don’t just hire skill. Hire personality.”
Because customers already expect technical proficiency from staff, good communication skills are even more crucial. Jeff states, “Clean is clean, but the person doing the work is who your customer experiences, and that’s what makes a difference.” When asked if labor is the instrument that can make or break a business, Cross confirms, “It’s all about the people.” He continues, “A cleaning and restoration business owner will agonize for months over which van, truck mount, or drying equipment to buy, and will spend big money on the purchase. But then they hand the key over to the first person that walks through the door needing a job.”
Image is Everything
Good consumer experiences not only benefit individual companies, but also positively impact the cleaning industry as a whole. As industry professionals, we should continually educate customers on how carpet transforms a space and how to keep it clean. Unfortunately, bait and switch predators and dishonest upsell tactics have created lasting negative impressions with some consumers and that’s something Jeff feels brings down the entire industry. Successful carpet cleaning and restoration businesses do what’s right by providing the very best service to customers. Again, for Jeff, that means education.
As concern grows regarding allergies, sensitivity, and indoor air quality, the argument against carpet is one commonly faced. While professionals outside of our industry offer opinions, it’s an opportunity for carpet cleaning pros to educate consumers with facts and statistics. Promoting awareness with scientific data that show how carpet acts as a filter trapping dust, dander and contaminates is important. Cross points out, “People are people, and typically clean floors based on appearance. It should be done on a schedule, but it’s often not.” There’s always an opportunity to educate consumers and become a solution provider.
An industry-wide positive image should be important to all floor care and restoration professionals as it provides opportunities for growth and promotes competition. Jeff mentions, “There’s nothing wrong with being in an industry where competition is doing well. It’s going to positively impact your business.” He concludes, “I’ve found when I had good competition and other cleaners were busy, so was I. It raised awareness. People respond to good competition.”
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