Over the years, I’ve lost most of the interest I had in trade associations, specifically those concerned with the cleaning industry. During the first decade or so of my involvement with my industry, I found ways to take pride in some of these associations and organizations, and proudly claimed to be a member. To me, it was an indication of the effort I had put forth to learn as much as I could – to gain knowledge that would allow me to do the best I possibly could. It was an indication of the passion I held (and still do) for my trade and what I was doing.
Maybe it was the times. Or maybe my own naivete. A combination, perhaps? Whatever it was, I began to notice things that I didn’t care for, such as while obtaining some of my last certifications or renewing them. What I noticed is that relatively few people came to gain the knowledge – they came to be able to go home and tell prospective clients, “look at me! I’m certified so I can charge more.” They could plaster a certification mark on their marketing materials and business cards.
I’ve always thought that things like associations and certifications ought to ultimately benefit those who buy our services by providing us the knowledge and resources to provide a better service more efficiently and build a stronger business. And all of these things together would be to the client’s benefit.
So when I noticed, consistently over time, that certifications were increasingly becoming sheer marketing tools and associations seemed hollow – I quit pursuing them. I still pursued the knowledge and continually updated it but I no longer paid to take the tests or have my name placed on some roster. And I quit joining associations for the most part. I keep tabs on them, new and old. There is still a part of me that wants to believe there are some through which my participation would truly be of benefit to my clients.
But I haven’t found it yet.
I did recently join one, though, and let me tell you what happened. They have great marketing and are all over the internet. To read their material, you’d think it was a large, very professional organization that offered top-tier educational opportunities, especially in the field of green cleaning and sustainability. Of course, to gain access to the materials you have to buy the membership. So I did.
Immediately, there was a nice little link to my website in their membership directory. However, access to the educational areas was denied. Not a big deal since maybe there is a processing delay. After a few days, still no access. The same was true after a week. Emails went unanswered. Voicemails are the only thing you can reach by phone, but I doubt anyone ever checks them.
From everything I can tell, this is absolutely no more than a front for janitorial businesses to claim participation in and have a nice logo to place on their website and marketing materials. (They really do have some nice logos!)
Obviously, I’ve cancelled the membership even though I’ll never see a refund. But what bothers me most is this: how many building owners or office managers have been deceived by a service provider claiming education and certification through this association? How many thought they were getting a provider who was actually educated in (and cared about) professional cleaning, but really got Billy Bob’s second cousin who buys all the “professional” products and “equipment” down at the Dollar General? (Nothing against Dollar General – but they aren’t really geared for outfitting professional janitorial services.)
The deception in my industry just really pisses me off. It gives me a bad image because it gives my industry a bad image. And while I still don’t care much for certifications and associations, I still have a deep passion for my industry. And I still feel a desire to in some way protect those who would be misled by some of those in my industry.
So — if you’re searching for a cleaning service provider and they claim a connection/certification through any association or organization – check it out. Make sure it’s a valid association or qualified certifying body and also verify current membership. If you aren’t sure how to do it, let me know and I’ll check into it for you.