ICS 50th: Steve Kaufman
Steve Kaufman is the president of Pro Line Supply.
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?
Pro Line opened in September 1976 as VAC-A-Way Carpet Cleaning and shortly thereafter began distribution to my fellow carpet cleaners, as there were very limited suppliers available. Even at that late date, steam cleaning still hadn’t been accepted by definition or as an accepted cleaning process by the established carpet cleaning firms. It was a struggle, but I believed, and my family was hungry.
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?
I have to name three people who had the biggest impact on me and our industry. They are:
1. Ed York: The founder of more industry standards and associations than any 10 other people you think of. I’ll name only the few I can think of. And I know there are plenty more…
c. Fiber Cleaning Schools of America
d. Disaster Cleanup
e. Steam Services
To this day, he still does not get the recognition he deserves.
2. Lloyd Weaver: The first person with the vision and equipment to prove on location drying was possible without ripping apart the structure. I believe Pro Line was the first distributor of this newly conceived drying technique. And here is another founding father who does not have the proper recognition.
3. Howard Orlansky: The man who made us all feel important, that we really were part of something bigger than we thought of ourselves. He made us bigger by exposing our crazy ideas across the country. And on a very personal level he kept pushing me to promote what I believed in. And at a CCI convention, now the CFI, he pulled me aside and encouraged me to continue the battle at a time I felt really beat up. A little man with a huge impact. What a coach!
What are some of your fondest memories of being involved in the industry in years past?
After 36 years in this business, it still amazes me how tight a group we are. Go to the trade shows or pick up an ICS magazine and you’ll see people you know or have seen or talked to at one time or another. It can take me a whole three days just to get from one side of the trade show to the other. It really feels great to be a part of a big family.
Moving forward, what do you see in store for the cleaning/restoration industry’s future?
Where this industry is going is a tough call. It’s not going away, that’s for sure. A clean environment is No. 4 in human demands after food, shelter and health. Currently the Internet is having its day, but I’m sure what we see today is what it will be in a few more years. Consumers, cleaners/restorers, distributors and manufacturers are struggling to stay ahead or at least keep up with the new technologies and social media. I feel some members of our industry may be investing too much of their resources and may burn several bridges before we figure out where it’s going. We are human and need personal contact to survive. So you can’t close the book yet. There are more chapters to write.