What is our message, and who are we speaking to?

8th of August 2016 Article by Markus Asch
What is our message, and who are we speaking to?

Markus Asch, vice chairman of the management board at cleaning solutions manufacturer Kärcher and president of EUnited Cleaning, writes his latest blog for ECJ. He examines the great imbalance between the importance of the cleaning sector, and how it is appreciated by the world at large.

I am sure we would all wholeheartedly agree that cleaning is an integral part of our everyday lives, and in many ways is a basic necessity. Unfortunately it often takes a back seat. In a hotel we all comment on how nice and comfortable the room is, but cleaning tasks only get a mention if standards do not meet our expectations.

Anyone who enjoys city breaks will know that a city is only beautiful as long as the refuse collectors are not on strike. Clearly refuse collection only attracts attention when it is missing. And there are many more examples just like this.

This stark imbalance between importance and appreciation is, in our line of work, which is an integral part of everyday life, a serious dilemma. And this has negative consequences. Only recently I was told again by the owner of a medium-sized business service contractor company how difficult it is to find new recruits.

He told me that when the parents of a young apprentice heard what his career aspirations were, they told him: "You can learn whatever you want, but building service contractor - never." Luckily, this young man managed to assert himself.

This gives rise to the following question: why is it that people are apparently so repulsed by the idea of refuse, filth and dirt - something we deal with on a daily basis - instead of recognising that we care for and maintain the infrastructure and, in turn, value. Meaning we provide a service for sustainability, remove hazards, contribute to hygiene and health, ensure a high standard of cleanliness and, with modern technology, make everyday life easier which, in turn, saves time. Basically, we work hard to make the world a better place to live in.

But what can we do about the situation? Before we consider concrete measures, we must analyse our position as an industry: where do we come from - historically? Which technological and social developments affect our line of work - and in what form?

And marketing experts would ask: "What is our brand essence? What is our identity and what are the benefits and purpose of our work?" Questions to which there are no easy answers but need careful consideration to actually make a difference. And to be able to develop measures, we need to consider the messages we want to send and to whom. I would like to expand on these thoughts in further blog posts.

However I do realise that we must all work together and it will take time until things are perceived differently. As the saying goes: even the longest journey begins with a single step.

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