- THE MAGAZINE
Mike Lynch, a 38-year veteran of the cleaning/restoration industry, is the president of Carolina Cleaning Network, Inc. (Gastonia, N.C.).
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?
One word immediately comes to mind when I think back over my career: change. Change isn’t necessary to survive in the business world, it is the only hope of survival you have. Individuals and companies must embrace change to stay current and active in our competitive industry. Change in knowledge of technical info, product development, processing procedures, equipment, methods used, marketing and many other aspects of running a small business. Ours also is an industry in which many succeed but a small percentage truly develop a business that will stand the test of time. The reason is simple: The difference is the level of commitment by the owners and employees. Many companies seek quality workmanship and work hard and long hours. But the company who truly reaches the top of most any industry has to hustle, at all times. At a convention in the 1970’s, I had a one-man company tell me that he loved the carpet cleaning business where he could work hard and made a decent living. He then said, however, (that he) realized that to really make it grow, he would have to hustle and he wasn’t sure he could do that!
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?
There are many but some more important than others. First I would say the change in our culture in the 1950’s and early 1960’s changed the interior decorating trends of homes from hard floors and rugs to wall-to-wall carpet. The development of synthetic fiber technology and its ability to wear and be cleaned was responsible for the wall-to-wall carpet industry. Textile technology and machinery improvements assisted in the growth of the carpet industry. Next would be the development of “steam,” or hot water extraction, in the 1960’s. If you ask 10 industry professionals who and where hot water extraction discovered and first used, you will get three or four answers. Not certain anyone truly knows, but it is known that the 1960’s produced this technology and two - possibly more - companies in the western United States probably claim that honor. The next milestone was the introduction of regional trade associations that allowed companies doing the same thing on a daily basis to get together several times per year and share. Sharing knowledge and techniques, chemistry and other topics helped create many strong companies. And finally, the growth and development of the IICRC started in 1972 as a for-profit company, changed ownership from individuals to regional associations and became non-profit in the late 1980’s. The collective attitude and professionalism of the IICRC as it grew and developed, in providing a standard of teaching and technical knowledge, and a source to deliver this education has been key in the overall improvements made to the industry for over thirty-eight years.
What are some of your fondest memories of being involved in the industry in years past?
I was on the MSPCA board of directors for about 10 years and the friendships and sharing I developed during those years are what life is all about. You totally grow and develop when you are in a position to help others. My early business success was a direct result of my involvement with the MSPCA. Later, as I realized I quite didn’t know as much as I thought I did and I began to get industry specific education, I was able to grow and build my business. In the mid 1980’s, I was sent by the MSPCA to the IICUC meetings to represent our board of director position. One thing led to another, and as a result, I served on the IICRC board 11 years, four years as treasurer and four years as president. The level of my personal involvement in industry events and functions increased dramatically almost overnight. The friendships I developed and still maintain to this day are too numerous to name. Our industry is full of individuals who are driven not only to succeed personally, but also to see others do so. That is the type of people I like being involved with.
Moving forward, what do you see in store for the cleaning/restoration industry’s future?
More change, more change and more change. Those willing to change, diversify, hustle and get educated will survive. Those who won’t embrace these attitudes will not survive. But as in the past, the companies who are willing to pay the price, the future is bright and full of opportunity. As a distributor of equipment and chemicals for a period of time in the 1980’s, I answered the most-asked question 200 times: “What really can you make (earn) as a carpet cleaner?” My response never changes - “How much do you want?” Diversity in service delivery will be key in the future. No longer can an individual survive today’s costs of running a small business solely on one or two services. Some may disagree with me, but I speak only from my perspective. At a cleaning convention in the Northwest U.S. in the early 1990’s, I asked a group of 10 or so new carpet cleaning business owners if they could ever see a day in which carpet cleaning only would not support their companies and their needs. After a few laughs and some limited discussion, I’m sure they thought Mike Lynch was a little off base. Well in hindsight, I don’t know where that question came from, but I have never forgotten that talk - especially since the early 2000’s. One does not need to look very far or deep to see rug production as the hottest trend of the last 40 years. Whatever the future holds, the one who educates himself or herself, gets involved and hustles will survive.