- THE MAGAZINE
Doyle Bloss is a 38-year veteran of the industry (including 30 years spent on the supply side). He currently works as the marketing and brand manager for HydraMaster/U.S. Products.
How would you best sum up the last 50 years (or the time that you’ve been a part) of the carpet cleaning/restoration industry?
The first carpet I ever cleaned was in 1974. It was about 10 x 20 ft. and installed in a gas station. My mother drove me to the job site in a cherry red 1972 Ford Station Wagon. Ask me about that “job” sometime. After graduating from college and doing some post-graduate work, I went to work for my father in the supply side of the business at Steam Way International in 1983. He had just purchased the company from its founder, and at 60 years old was hoping his two sons could help him build the company. At the time, I did not really think much about whether this industry was going to be my career. Now, I can’t imagine doing anything else. I love the professional cleaning and restoration industry. Even today, what industry provides a better opportunity to an entrepreneur who is willing to work and market hard to build a wonderful life for his/her family? I can’t think of any.
Probably the thing that strikes me about this industry after 38 years the most is that it is still an industry that is built upon the back of the mom and pop entrepreneur. Sure there are more sophisticated businesses in the industry now, but if you look at the “average” company, it has not changed much. The industry has certainly grown in size. There were about 28,000 carpet cleaning companies in the United States in the early 1980’s. Now if you add in restoration, the number is over 65,000 companies. This can be seen in the growth of some of the largest manufacturers and distributors.
Though introduced in the early 1970’s, the truckmount became the dominant piece of equipment for the carpet cleaning professional in the 1980’s. Like any new revolutionary change, there were those who were resistant to change and slow to adapt. I believe the single greatest contribution of the truckmount was it gave the professional cleaner the ability to double his income in the same amount of time. It raised the average income level of the professional cleaner, which in turn, led to the advanced development of technical educational opportunities. A significant portion of the industry began to look at education and training as an integral part of their business plan. This inevitably raised the professionalism of the industry and no doubt is what began to bring outside interest in the industry in the early 1990’s.
Of course, the other great “development” of the 1980’s was the introduction of water damage restoration to the industry. Who would have thought Lloyd’s metal fans, a Sear’s dehumidifier, and Claude Blackburn’s foam block manufacturing machine would eventually develop into the biggest part of our industry? The ASCR (Now RIA) also helped in the development and organization of this almost entirely new industry.
Probably the most important development of the 1990’s was the growth of training dedicated to the marketing and management of the cleaning and restoration company. This created the opportunity for entrepreneurs who had entered the industry over the previous 20 years the chance to learn more about spending time working on the business than to continually be engulfed in their business.
I think encapsulation carpet cleaning taking off may be what we remember the most about the industry at the turn of the century. This gave cleaners the opportunity to blow open lots of new commercial carpet cleaning opportunities and even compete with the big building service contractors who had made bonnet cleaning so big in the 1980’s. Encapsulation carpet cleaning kind of “rounded” out the ability of the professional carpet cleaner to allow him/her to compete in any arena they chose to pursue.
The last 10 years or so have been all about the diversification into the cleaning of hard surfaces with truckmounted and high-performance portable equipment. First cleaners started with tile and grout cleaning. Now natural stone, wood floors and finished concrete are helping them to grow their business. Today’s professional carpet cleaner is really cleaning virtually every floor in the residential home and most floors in the commercial environment.
In your opinion, what have been some of the most significant events and milestones to impact the industry over the past 50 years? What about some of the most significant people?
This industry owes a debt of gratitude to many of the pioneers and “early adopters” that forged the way at a time when the industry was just being born and developed. Obviously, I have a keen desire that we honor and remember these pioneers, but in my attempt to do so, I will obviously leave someone important out. In addition, my list is certainly directed toward the development of hot water extraction cleaning and independent cleaners and restorers. There are many pioneering manufacturers in the industry for low moisture cleaning methods and innovators and developers of franchise companies that should be recognized. For those omissions, I apologize ahead of time.
- The development of some of the first hot water extraction cleaning portables: Bill Wisdom, Bill Bane (Bane Clene), Clark Seabloom (Steam Way), Gene Bates (Steam Genie), Deep Steam (Deep Steam Extraction), Mr. Steam (Windsor Industries); David Bergen (Certified)
- The “acceptance” of hot water extraction “steam” cleaning to a world dominated by in-plant cleaning and on-location rotary shampooing: Howard Olansky, Bill Bane, Ralph Bloss, Ed York, Dick Maplesden
- Carpet cleaning chemicals specifically formulated to clean carpet: Bob Hughes/Dan Savanuck (Chemspec), Don Terry (Bane Clene), David Bergen (Certified) Joe Domin (Prochem)
- The development of truckmounted equipment: Mike Palmer (HydraMaster), Bill Bane, Joe Judge (Judge Hot CC), Judson Jones (Judson), Arnie Ballweber (Ballweber), Jim Roden/Mike Roden (Prochem), Larry Hawkins/Ralph Greco (Steam Way); Gene Bates (Steam Genie/Big Red), John Sales (Steamaction)
- The development of water damage restoration as an industry: Lloyd Weaver, Claude Blackburn
- Building bridges between the carpet industry and the carpet cleaning industry: Walt Lipscomb, Bill Doan, Carey Mitchell, Dr. Steve Spivak
- Having the guts to start education and training – In 1973, a couple of Steam Way distributors – John Maucieri in Canton, Ohio and Jim Nalley in Jackson, Wyoming, held some of the very first training seminars for professional carpet cleaners. Speakers on those very early programs included a virtual “who’s who” in training: Jeff Bishop, Ron Toney, Lee Pemberton, Ralph Bloss, Walt Lipscomb, Ned Hopper, Arlen Knight, Murray Cremer, Dr. Dennis Deaton, Wally Weber and more.
- The development, management and growth of the IICRC and the recognition it brought to the industry: Ed York, Sonny Bass, Kenway Mead, Tom Hill
- The development and growth of training dedicated to marketing and managing a cleaning or restoration company: Bill Bane, Lee Pemberton, Jeff Bishop, Joe Polish, Howard Partridge, Steve Toburen, Martin King
- The earliest connection “kings” (i.e. people who served as mentors and brought others into the industry or introduced them to the industry who became important influencers, motivators and trainers) – Ralph Bloss, Bill Bane, John Maucieri, Lee Pemberton, Howard Olansky
- Introducing Cleaning Science: Dr. Michael Berry, Dr. Gene Cole
- Industry conduits for communication through industry publications: Howard Olansky, Howard Clark, Evan Kessler, John Downey
What are some of your fondest memories of being involved in the industry in years past?
Many of my best memories are from attending local and national trade association events over the years. I have developed and cultivated life-long friendships, while also being able to build a career. That has been a true blessing. I can point out several times that stand out in my mind – spending beautiful falls in New England while the leaves are turning with the NEIRC; trips to Elitch’s and Colorado Rockies Baseball games with the PCRA; 3 a.m. fire alarms in the hotel at the CFI convention in Nevada; “pig pickens” and beautiful golf courses with the MSPCA; and meeting with the first organization meetings for the development of the national Connections Convention. Then, there was the time I was giving a presentation on the cost of doing business at the SCRT convention and walked right off the edge of the raised platform. Good thing I “stuck” the landing. There was a pony-tailed new guy in the back of the room named Joe Polish who quickly stood up with the folks around and held up “10” signs. I have had the wonderful opportunity to attend events and participate in presentations with virtually every trade association in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. What struck me first and foremost on my international trips was how similar professional carpet cleaners are in all of those countries – their hopes, fears, dreams and challenges. It truly is an international brotherhood.
Moving forward, what do you see in store for the cleaning/restoration industry’s future?
I am going to sound like a U.S. President starting his/her “state of the union” address with this, but ladies and gentlemen, the future of the professional carpet cleaning and restoration industry is strong. Many an organization or investment group has introduced their new venture with the goal of “gluing” together a fragmented industry. Most of these ventures to “dominate” our industry have failed miserably. Some would take that to be a negative. I view it as the strength of this industry. The independent nature of our industry has developed hugely successful cleaning and restoration companies – both independent and franchise. It has developed numerous organizations and trade associations, each with their own strengths geared toward the needs of their specific membership. It has developed six or more recognized ways to professionally clean a carpet, allowing the carpet owner to find just the right way to clean their carpet in their environment. I believe our industry will always be a source of independent thought and innovative ideas. Online communities of cleaners and restorers have now developed based upon the progression of technology. Finally, marketing and management seminars and presentations are just as well attended as presentations on how to remove cat pee, allowing the industry to address some of its most important challenges.
Professional cleaners will continue to evolve toward being maintainers and cleaners of the “built environment” – a term made popular by Dr. Berry. They will be cleaning virtually every floor surface in homes and buildings. Will carpet make a comeback? Probably at some point, but by then, most companies will be safely diversified. The ability of a truckmount and high performance portable extractor to effectively recover the wastewater they produce will become an even more important benefit as cleaning indoor and outdoor environments becomes even more crucial.
I have often said that I don’t believe any method of deep restorative carpet cleaning will be developed that will replace truckmounts and portables until they come up with a better way to wash clothes and textiles than in a washing machine. But I do believe the industry will meet face-to-face and conquer the challenges that come its way. Here are just a few of these challenges I foresee:
- Well-meaning politicians and industry stakeholders trying to write rules and regulations for our industry without ever having cleaned a carpet on-location, or having restored a water-damaged environment.
- Reducing our environmental footprint, the use of dwindling water resources, and fuel consumption.
- Organizations whose goals don’t always align with each other trying to work together for common good.
- The latest group claiming their group, invention or franchise will “defragment” the industry.
- National and international trade associations who represent the industry to government and other outside stakeholders.
- Maintenance budgets still being the first thing slashed at the onset of the latest “recession.”
- Raising the bar on the understanding with the people that matter that clean, green and healthy environments are synonymous terms
- Owners of the “built” environment understanding that part of being green is being committed to recommended cleaning frequencies and extending their budget to meet that commitment.