Executive Perspective: The IICRC's Kenway Mead & Tom Hill

September 25, 2000
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There’s no doubt that the mere mention of the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) has the ability to initiate differing conversations and conclusions. But upon mentioning the name of its Executive Administrator, Kenway Mead, even the nay-sayers seem to concur on how much his efforts over the years have helped the IICRC level the playing field for the consumer and cleaning professional alike.

Since its inception in 1972, the IICRC has served as an independent, non-profit certification body, dedicated to setting and promoting high standards and ethics; and to advance communication and technical proficiency within the inspection, cleaning and restoration service industry.

Kenway came on board with the IICRC in 1985 when there were only 600 technicians and 250 firms certified. Eighteen regional, national and international trade associations and four original founders currently own IICRC stock. With more than 18,000 members, and a Supporter Program that is 50 members strong, it has become a force to be reckoned with. According to Kenway and co-Executive Administrator Tom Hill, “People are looking for credentialed professionals rather than fly-by-night scam artists. Hopefully, the IICRC can make a dent in that matter. We have definitely seen an increase in certification in the past years.”

There’s no doubt that consumers want their carpet cleaned without being taken to the cleaners. The proof to this theory was seen earlier this year following a Dateline NBC segment that investigated “bait-and-switch” promotional tactics in the carpet cleaning industry. After the telecast, viewers logged onto the IICRC’s web site or called its Vancouver, Wash.-based office in search of additional information. According to the IICRC, the telecast welcomed nearly 27,000 visitors to its web site; generated more than 1,500 e-mails; and referred more than 5,400 certified cleaners to 1,900 callers who had called its toll-free consumer line.

In the past few years, the carpet cleaning industry has seen an increase in cleaning equipment targeted at the Do-It-Yourself (D-I-Y) market by the vacuum cleaner manufacturing industry. Although I knew what the answer would be, I had to ask both Kenway and Tom what affect, if any, they felt these systems would have on the professional cleaner. “Steam-X, about 25 years ago, was for the Do-It-Yourself market and cleaners were scared. But after using it, consumers would turn to a professional cleaner,” Kenway said. But what about the new cleaning units manufactured by Bissell and Hoover that are sleeker, “greener,” and more user friendly? With a smirk on his face, Tom answered, “When DuPont came out with the StainMaster commercial at first, the same thing happened with cleaners. But cleaning levels actually spiked and it brought awareness to the consumer that carpets need to be cleaned,” he concluded. History repeats itself.

In addition to its restored business and promotional savvy, the IICRC has played a major role in thousands of lives—Myrtle Beach, S.C. 1999 and Hurricane Floyd. “Many IICRC folks went to help with the restoration efforts. A hundred issues of the new water standard were also sent to assist insurance companies and restoration firms to help assess the damage. We felt we had to help the residents any way we could.”

Looking ahead, both Tom and Kenway agree that the IICRC’s name needs increased exposure. “Our long term goal is to increase consumer awareness. There are certified people out there that have been accomplished and through the IICRC’s public relations agency GCI, our name is out there,” said Tom. Further, “We’ve formed alliances with mills and associations, spoken with consumer advocates, shelter magazines, marketed to registrants, etc. trying to get cleaners to realize how important it is to get the word out,” concluded Kenway. According to Tom, 10% of cleaners are currently certified. “The IICRC has experienced a 15-18% growth rate per year for the last five years. It took us 27 years to get to 18,000 registrants, and it won’t take that long to double.”

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