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I started my carpet cleaning business in 1982. Ronald Reagan was in his first term in office, and I had yet to lose a single strand of hair. I had a shiny 1978 Dodge van, a brand new portable boasting an awesome 100-psi pump, as well as the requisite wand, hoses and chemicals. I was accelerating up the on-ramp to the highway of financial freedom attained through the bliss of self-employment. I had it all.

Well, almost. Something was missing, though I didn’t realize it then.

What am I referring to? Industry interaction. A feeling of camaraderie, and the opportunity for continuing education, both formal and informal. That’s not to say that we existed in an early ‘80s vacuum; there was a regional trade organization available that met nine times a year, one that was even able to produce an annual trade show.

But it was nothing compared to what cleaning professionals have at their disposal today. The last decade has opened up a plethora of opportunities for newcomers and seasoned vets alike to get together, advance their knowledge and, most importantly, form new and lasting friendships. The advantage these opportunities offer will forever change the way you conduct your business. Many of these groups provide year-round support for members, as well as mailed tech bulletins, newsletters and other sources of information. Back in the day, if we had a question involving the cleaning process for a specific fabric, you more than likely phoned the chemical supplier. The same held true with equipment questions and problems. Calling a peer or, even worse, a local competitor, was unheard of!

Today, options for the cleaning professional are abundant thanks to the many trade organizations and electronic industry bulletin boards. Along with the resurgence of organized annual meetings, small grass roots get-togethers have gained in popularity in the last few years. These are primarily social events where strong friendships are formed, equipment is demonstrated and networking takes place, leading to a greater understanding of our industry and it’s peers. You’ll never look at your competition the same way again!

Several such events will take place this year. Regional conventions, as well as the national ones, such as the ISCT meeting in Greensboro, NC this summer; the new, exciting Connections 2003 in Las Vegas, Oct. 2-4 and, of course, the informal and fun SummerFest 2003 in Baltimore in September. Sure wish I had these options when I started out.

Get involved. You won’t regret it.

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