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Is There Value in Being a Certified Firm?

January 2, 2008
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I’m a carpet inspector. I received my IICRC Senior Carpet Inspector certification back in 1994 and have been performing inspections for mills, retailers and consumers ever since. In the past few years, I’ve started traveling for a major mill to “troubleshoot” cleaning-related inspections on large commercial installations.

I recently visited the Northeast to perform two separate inspections, one in an office building with about 4,000 square feet of level-loop olefin carpet that had been installed for about nine months. As with many inspections, I determined that the carpet was merely soiled and recommended to the building owner that it be cleaned on a regular basis by an IICRC-Certified Firm that employs Certified Cleaning Technicians (CCT or CMT). I offered to help him locate several Certified Firms in his area from which to choose by checking the IICRC referral network at www.certifiedcleaners.org.

The next morning, on my way to a second inspection, I stopped by a local post office to mail some important papers. As I pulled in to the parking lot I noticed a carpet cleaning van across the street at a church with an IICRC logo on it. I thought, “Wow, this is great! I’ll call this company and give them the lead on the inspection I had just performed.”

So I called the phone number on the van to speak with the owner – actually, I was hoping he was performing the cleaning so I could walk over and introduce myself. When the receptionist answered the phone I introduced myself as the president of the IICRC and asked to speak with the owner. When she replied, “The I…C…R…what?” I became a little concerned. But I asked if she would have the owner call me back. She said she would try to reach him. In the meantime, I figured that I should verify that the company was current with certifications. So I called IICRC headquarters.

Guess what? This company was not a current Certified Firm and had no active certified techs on staff, yet they were displaying the IICRC trademark on their van in violation of the law. It seems that, at one time, it was a Certified Firm and the owner was an IICRC-certified tech, but discontinued paying fees back in 2005. What a shame!

Is there value in being a Certified Firm?

A few minutes later, the owner called back. I relayed to him the reason for my call, explaining that, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to refer the business to him because he had let his fees lapse. Of course, he had several great excuses, blaming other employees of his company, etc., but none of them really mattered. I could not refer the business to him.

I continued to explain that he was using the IICRC trademark illegally, and that he would be receiving a “cease-and-desist letter” from the IICRC attorney (I took a photo of the van for verification and sent it to headquarters). I recommended that he send someone from his company to a carpet-cleaning course immediately. Once he had a tech on staff with a current certification, he then could reapply to become a Certified Firm. In the meantime, he needed to remove the trademarked logo from his van.

Now, before someone screams, “IICRC Gestapo!” let me ask you how you’d react if a competitor took your company name and trademarked logo, and put them on his or her van to appropriate your hard-earned credibility? And what about protection for all the other Certified Firms that are complying, not only with IICRC policy but with U.S. trademark laws?

OK. Back to the point of this story; several points, actually.

You never know who’s watching out for the IICRC CF program. Besides board members, instructors, consultants, staff and many others, our webmaster searches the Internet for companies violating IICRC logo use. And as a Certified Firm owner, you may also be a “Watch Dog” for companies using the trademark illegally, just as I did. Go to the IICRC Web site to locate the “IICRC Policy and Rules for the Use of IICRC Certification Marks” under “For Registrants” and “Download Forms.” Then, if you see a violation that begs to be reported, send it in with the appropriate documentation.

Certified Firm status pays. This fellow lost a great potential client – probably a commercial repeat client – because he let the fees lapse. The referral I would have given him would have easily paid his yearly fees, probably for many years to come. And this isn’t an isolated case; the IICRC refers many thousands of dollars in business annually through the Certified Firm program.

Maintaining your credentials is your responsibility. Don’t blame someone else, including the IICRC, for your negligence. Be sure that you notify IICRC headquarters of changes in mailing and e-mail addresses, phone numbers or other significant information. Certified Firm renewal notices are sent out each year in early November. Certified Technician renewals are sent out yearly on the anniversary of a technician’s first certification. If you haven’t received one or more of these notices in a while, headquarters may not have your current information. Give them a call or e-mail info@iicrc.org.

Finally, I’d also like to clear up a misunderstanding that many individuals have regarding the difference between a Certified Tech and a Certified Firm, and why IICRC can only refer business to a Certified Firm. IICRC-Certified Technicians are different from Certified Firms in many ways. Once an individual attends an IICRC-approved course, and successfully passes the related exam, he or she becomes an IICRC-Certified Technician in the course category. IICRC now offers 24 separate certification categories.

Then, the company that employs that IICRC-Certified Technician is eligible to become a Certified Firm. But remember, you won’t get business referrals as a Certified Firm unless you have at least one technician in the consumer-requested service category.

The difference between technician and firm status is that a company has a business license, insurance, complaint policies and pays business taxes, but an individual doesn’t. So even if you are an IICRC-certified owner/operator, still you must become a Certified Firm to receive referrals from the IICRC, because in so doing, you will have demonstrated proof of consumer protection essentials, i.e. proper licensing, liability insurance, complaint policies, on-going training.

If you have questions or want to inquire about becoming an IICRC Certified Firm, contact IICRC headquarters at (360) 693-5675 or download an application at www.iicrc.org to get the process started.

So one last time: Is there value in being a Certified Firm? Obviously, I think so!

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