ICS Magazine

Building a Profitable Business: Distance Learning and the Cleaning Professional

December 11, 2001
Business consultants tell us that the single biggest expense on a cleaning company's ledger is labor. This makes sense when you consider that we are a labor-intensive service industry. With this in mind, it makes sense that better trained technicians are more efficient, thus spending less time on labor.

Training courses like IICRC certification classes pay for themselves in labor saving efficiency, reduced complaints and callbacks. However, with new technicians, a certification class might not be scheduled nearby for weeks or perhaps you want to give the technician a few weeks on the job before you decide to invest in formal certification training.

Few things are more frustrating than sending a technician to a certification class only to have them quit a week or two later; nor is it a good idea to send them into the field without at least the most basic training first.

The answer to this training dilemma is a new and growing area of the training segment of our industry: 'Distance Learning.' In short, distance learning is any form of training and education that can be accomplished without having to physically attend the classroom setting.

Traditional distance learning includes correspondence courses or audio or video taped classroom sessions. Today, distance learning techniques include live video or audio teleconferencing, computer-based (CD ROM) training, Internet/Web based training, even Web conferencing.

Several of these distance-learning options are readily available within the cleaning and restoration industry at reasonable cost.

Internet Training
The IICRC has several continuing education credits-approved (CEC) Internet training courses, accessible from any Internet-ready computer. For example, there are carpet cleaning and water restoration training programs offered by Clean Care Seminars www.CleanCareSeminars.com and a basic Oriental rug training program offered by A2Z Inc. www.a2zinc.net. These programs are self-paced, with periodic testing to insure learning is taking place.

Computer Based Training
Two CD-ROM computer based training programs for use with most office or home computer systems have been approved for IICRC continuing education credits as well. Students can access the self-paced lessons individually, with testing and review built into the program to monitor a student's progress. Two examples of these programs are Carpet Cleaning Workshop by Pemberton Learning Center, cleanlee@aol.com, and Carpet Cleaning Basics by T. Hill & Associates, www.tjhill.com.

These systems can be used repeatedly, so are ideal for companies with several technicians. They are also great refresher courses for veteran technicians that tend to forget the "finer points" of their certification training. Using a computer projector the lessons can even be adapted and presented as topics for regular staff training meetings keeping the whole staff technically current.

Video Taped Training
High quality video taped training, which can be used with any TV/VCR system, is available, showing basic skills, common methods, and even sales and marketing ideas. Examples include the Partners for Success video series available from Jon-Don www.jondon.com and a video series from Clean Care Seminars, www.CleanCareSeminars.com.

Distance-learning techniques are not approved for IICRC certification, as they cannot replace the live class and qualified instructor. However, forms of distance learning will become a common way for technicians to achieve certification, especially through the more advanced video or web conferencing systems that are beginning to take hold.

The smart businessperson knows the value of good training and will invest in several forms of repeatable in-house or distant learning systems to keep his/her staff technically capable in this fast changing industry.