Putting the Value Back in "Professional"

August 12, 2010
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You probably refer to yourself as a professional carpet cleaner. But have you ever thought about what that word really means? You probably refer to yourself as a professional carpet cleaner. But have you ever thought about what that word really means?



You probably refer to yourself as a professional carpet cleaner. But have you ever thought about what that word really means?

You probably refer to yourself as a professional carpet cleaner. But have you ever thought about what that word really means?

Webster’s Dictionary has a loose definition: 1. pursuing a profession. 2. pertaining to a profession 3. meeting the standards of a profession 4. professional person.

This falls way too short. I have a very high standard for professionalism, and I think it is used much too freely.

What are the standards of your profession? Who makes the rules?

Many of you are certified by the Institute of Inspection Cleaning & Restoration Certification. The IICRC sets standards for cleaning and restoration. As a certified firm, you also subscribe to a certain code of ethics. When you join an industry association or any type of club, there are rules of conduct.

That’s where we begin to get a clue what being a “professional” means. It speaks to standards and it speaks to ethics. Standards are set ways that things are done that are agreed on by industry experts. Ethics are codes of conduct or principles that guide behavior. So one could say that a professional is one that keeps the standards and ethics of one’s profession.

So what are the standards of our industry? What is the conduct code for a professional service technician? This is part of the problem in our industry. The only standards that exist are those prescribed by the IICRC, and it is voluntary to keep these standards!

Anyone can do just about anything to a carpet, and there are no laws to protect the consumer. Sure, there are warranties that can be voided and the client could take the cleaning firm to court and show that the cleaner did not follow the manufacturer’s guidelines, but there are no laws that say that you have to pre-vacuum the carpet. People who keep the standards simply care more about them than others. They believe in them. What standards do you keep? The IICRC standards? The standards that are required by the carpet manufacturer or fiber producer? Do you even know what they are? Or do you have your own opinions? You see, a professional cannot be a real professional if there is not a peer group that recognizes you as such. Just because you are in business to provide a service “professionally” does not mean you are a professional.

The second part of being a professional is where most miss the boat, with the idea of a code of conduct, or ethics. Again, there are no strong guidelines for this outside of association membership or certification, but I can tell you from 25 years of involvement in this industry what professionalism is and isn’t.

If you put the following principles into practice in your every day work, you will be viewed as a professional.

A professional does what is right even if it doesn’t produce the most short-term profit. Someone once said that character is what you do when no one is looking.

A professional treats everyone with respect. Your clients, the person next to you in traffic, your co-workers, your boss (and if you are the boss, treat your employees with respect!).

Professionals don’t blow their cool; they control their emotions. They learn that no matter what happens behind the scenes, when the curtain goes up, the show must go on. Just because something bad happened doesn’t mean you growl at a customer. Just because someone offended you does not mean that you get angry or give them the cold shoulder. Professionals separate personal feelings from the task at hand. Let me repeat that: they separate personal feelings from getting the job done.

The book “The Experience Economy” has the subtitle “work is theatre and every business is a stage.” Actors cannot reveal if they are hot, cold, tired, or sick when they are on stage. They are “in character.” When you are visible in the community, you should be “in character.” Not just at the client’s home or business. Not just over the telephone. But anytime you are visible in the community, especially if you are in a company vehicle! A professional is always a professional.

Now, here’s the tough part: You have to separate your personal feelings when it comes to other employees. Offending other employees, or being offended, breaks down the team. Everyone comes from different backgrounds. Some families yell and scream to get their point across, and then everything is okay. Another family background has a rule that they never cross one another; to do so is a sin.

Now, imagine what happens when these two types butt heads? Wow! Talk about hurt feelings and some major fireworks! Too many workplaces are filled with strife. Do your part by controlling your emotions.

Professionals are open. Professionals make a pact to be open and honest. Professionals agree that they will be honest when their emotions get in the way of progress. They agree to be brutally honest about what is working and what is not working. They go behind closed doors and openly discuss successes and failures. They openly discuss what they value and what they don’t. This is difficult for many people. You will find yourself in many situations where others do not follow these guidelines. If you do, you only have one choice: Be a professional anyway.

A professional is someone who keeps professional standards; identify and live by those standards. A professional is one that lives by a code of ethics; identify those ethics and live by them. A professional is one that controls his emotions and supports the mission behind the scenes when no one is looking.

A professional remains a professional even when no one else does.

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