Bane-Clene: 50 Years and Counting
It is not often that a company reaches 50 years in any industry, and I am honored to be writing about Bane-Clene and its founder, Bill Bane, Sr., a true pioneer of our trade.
Bane-Clene’s humble beginning was Feb. 4, 1962 when a 13-year-old Bill Bane Jr. cleaned the office of Dr. James P. Leeds. The $10 he earned that morning would help with his tuition at the expensive prep school he planned to attend in the fall.
According to Bill Sr., Bill Jr. did such a good job that colleagues of Dr. Leeds asked him to clean his offices regularly, and the little part-time job soon grew into a full-time business. In December 1964, Bill Bane, Sr. left his job at Brink’s Armored Car Service to join the company full-time. The business was incorporated in 1966. Youngest son Don became a full-time employee after graduation, and Elizabeth Bane left her job as an optometric assistant to be a full-time employee in 1971. The family has been together in this thriving business ever since.
According to Bill Sr., “Carpet and upholstery cleaning became a major part of our janitorial duties in the late ‘60s which lead to the development of the Bane-Clene system. Residential carpet and upholstery cleaning jobs we acquired through our commercial contacts were so successful we decided to market the method to other professionals in 1971. A chemical line was developed in 1974 and Don Terry came on board as our in-house chemist. Bane-Clene Institute was founded in 1978 to train professional cleaners.”
Among Bane Clene’s major accomplishments are the more than 400 Mini-Clinics held in England, Scotland and forty-seven states including Alaska and Hawaii. Bill says, “in more than twenty years, even with all the travel involved, only one meeting was cancelled and we were never late for a single one. The largest was in Philadelphia with 102 people and the smallest in Hays, Kansas, where three folks showed up in 1978. All three bought equipment though which made it our best meeting with a 100% sales factor”
In 1974 Bill organized the Steam Carpet Cleaners’ Association, the main purpose of which was to combat misleading and inaccurate information surrounding that method of cleaning. By 1977, the SCCA had brought together more than 1,000 individual firms, the only time such a coming together had occurred in the carpet cleaning industry.
Conventions for Bane equipment owners featured great orators like Dr. Norman Vincent Peale; Earl Nightingale; Dr. Herb True; Dick Semaan; Bill Gove; Dr. Ken McFarland; Bud Wilkinson; Carl Erskine; Jonathan Trivers and many other motivational and goal setting experts.
ICS Founder and former editor and publisher, Howard Olansky was invited numerous times to speak and even won the Bane-Clene “Jimmie” award.
“I first met “Humble Howie” in ‘74 as he was considering the move from installation to include cleaning.... Says Bill Sr. “I gave him our entire mailing list in ‘76 so he could reach more regular cleaners. In ‘77 we worked together to end the BBB threat to “Steam.” Howard was in Philly at our meeting and publicized the event so our attendance was good”
When I came on board with ICS (then Installation & Cleaning Specialist) in 1987, I quickly picked up on the close personal relationship that magazine founder Howard Olansky had with Bill. I recall many early mornings in our Encino, Calif. office with Howard on the phone jabbing at and sparring with Bill. It helped me to see the friendships and camaraderie and mutual respect, but moreover, I learned how pivotal Bill Bane’s role in the professional carpet cleaning industry was.
In 1971 Bane-Clene established a newsletter to communicate with its equipment customers. 1981 the name was changed to The Cleaning Digest which continued through 2008. Bill Bane and Bane-Clene continue to provide excellent information in their web-based and emailed Clene Times today.
Perhaps the most iconic symbol of Bane-Clene is “Jimmy,” the leprechaun that became the company logo in 1969.
When I decided I needed to write something acknowledging the achievements of Bill and Bane-Clene over these past five decades, I wanted to include some of what others in the industry had to say about the impact Bill has had on their lives, both personally and professionally. I didn’t have to look very hard.
“I spent almost 2 decades working for him and thought of him as the Great Communicator. Early on he spent his time writing the Bane-Clene Digest which had a mailing list of 30,000 readers. At the yearly conventions he brought in speakers such as Earl Nightingale and Normal Vincent Peale. In my opinion he was their equal and I learned everything I knew about public speaking from him. He has had a major impact on my life and career.
“As Bane-Clene celebrates 50 years, Mr. Bane (yes he is still Mr. Bane to me) is still communicating his message through his blog.” – Bill Yeadon
“I was so impressed with Mr. Bane that when I helped set up the night before for one of the first Bane-Clene conventions that I brought along my 10-year-old son. I wanted Don Jr. to meet Mr. Bane to show him what a successful business man was like. Don still remembers that meeting and went on to get his MBA and become a successful businessman himself, partly inspired by that meeting.
“When Mr. Bane asked me to join Bane-Clene full-time instead of just consulting, I barely hesitated to agree because Bane-Clene exemplified the ideals and independent spirit that I admired.” – Donald Terry, V.P. Technical Services
“When I hear the name Bill Bane, I cannot help but to think of the all time classic movie It’s a Wonderful Life starring James Stewart and Donna Reed. James Stewart plays George Bailey the all American boy. Great moral character, good hearted, a man that would give the shirt off his back for his fellow man., devoted family man in a family business. In the movie, George Bailey learns how many lives he has touched and helped. When you look at Bill Bane you see the American dream come true.
“A good hearted man of strong character, devoted to his family who built a family business following the golden rule. As I travel the country teaching classes I have come across hundreds upon hundreds of cleaners that Bill has touched. I am now running into second and third generations of cleaners who have successful businesses by following the Bane-Clene way.
“In the movie it’s a wonderful life, one of the last scenes shows a quote from a book that says, “No man is a failure who has friends.” Bill Bane, you have hundreds upon hundreds of friends. Thank you for all you have done” – Craig Jasper
For me, Bill has been a mentor and someone I have looked to for industry knowledge and wisdom. Bane-Clene and the Bane family have been much more than an advertiser. Bill Bane has walked a road less traveled and has not always been in lock step with others in the carpet cleaning trade and I appreciate the work he has done that has helped move our industry forward.
“Never in our wildest imagination, on that cold Sunday morning in 1962, could we have dreamed of the vast number of lives this little business venture would touch over the next fifty years,” Bill said. “ And it all began with that little ten dollar job. Is America great, or what?”