Diary of the Live Interviews

Diary of the Live Interviews

I was one of three industry leaders invited to three videotaped interviews. My contacts within ISSA and my championing and directing of Varsity’s CIMS and CIMS-GB certification got their attention. I’ll spotlight CIMS in another post. In a nutshell, CIMS (Cleaning Industry Management Standard) is an ISSA standards certification program as a quality company and CIMS-GB (Cleaning Industry Management Standard – Green Building) is a certification for a sustainable company. Of the interviews, two were live and one taped. Videotaped interviews are compressed and concise.

Let me give you some of the questions and my expanded response to them.

Why did Varsity first elect to pursue certification?

  • I don’t think it was any one thing, but I’ll boil it down for you. Varsity is a Lean Sigma company. That, in short, means we look to eliminate waste, which is unneeded cost for our customers, and we seek to eliminate variation, which leads to poor quality. If your services vary in the execution of the customer’s specifications, that’s poor quality. The CIMS program presents a set of standards that are consistent with our desire to reduce variation in our services. I think that is the foremost reason.

But I can also think of three other motivations

  • Meeting standards raises the bar: First, we have had historically certain key customers who had high expectations. We recognized that they helped us raise the bar internally. So it was natural for us to buy into a set of standards. We like to meet standards, and we tend to excel when there is a clear cut standard.
  • Certification builds trust and credibility: Second, in years of marketing and selling facility services, we have learned that customers are skeptical about services. With a service there is no guarantee, no warranty, just a promise to do something in the future. You can’t kick the tires with a service and so buyers naturally distrust service. I just wrote an article discussing this phenomenon. So having a third party validate your quality structure builds credibility, and in part helps reduce that skepticism?
  • Weeds out less qualified companies: We had invested significantly in quality systems, technology and processes. Yet, in many opportunities we were being compared to companies that had not made that investment. So we liked the potential for that 3rd party certification to weed out less qualified companies who could not meet our standards and were bidding lower prices based on a much lower value.

What have been the primary benefits of the process and of certification?

  • Self-reflection: Look, I don’t know any athlete or a team that didn’t get better from self-reflection. The same is true about companies. Self-reflection and inspection is necessary for continuous improvement. The certification process helps us sit back and reflect on whether or not we are executing the quality processes we have in place. But even better than that is to have someone else give us constructive criticism. I think that is the main benefit.

How have your employees responded to certification?

  • I think there is a sense of pride that the company seeks certification, and knowing that Varsity certifies with honors only increases that pride. Part of our mission statement is to be the standard of excellence. You don’t get there by chance, it takes discipline and constant striving to meet or exceed high standards.

Perhaps more importantly, how have your customers responded to certification?

  • Those customers who actually participated in the process have responded positively. They like that their contractors strive to meet standards. They are willing to meet with the CIMS auditor, and they are curious on the outcome. I believe this, in part, validates their decision to hire Varsity for janitorial services.

Marc Collings

Senior VP of Sales and Marketing at Varsity Facility Services
Marc Collings is Varsity's Vice President of Marketing for Varsity Facility Services. Marc oversees the company's growth, branding, positioning, customer support and analytics. In this role, he has positioned the company as a customer solutions leader for lowering cost and improving quality. He also led the company-wide rebranding and strategically positioned the company as a sustainability leader, serving on a committee for the EPA, obtaining the Ashkin Group award for sustainable leadership, leading Varsity's CIMS Green Building certification with honors, and developing Varsity's S.H.A.P.E. sustainability strategy, which improves service results along five dimensions: Safety, Health, Asset Preservation, Productivity and the Environment.

In 2011, Marc's team won the large company category, "Best in the Industry" marketing materials from the Building Service Contractor Association International (BSCAI). Marc also directs Varsity's proposal writing, sales process and tools development, marketing campaigns, corporate website SEO performance and customer support center.

Marc has spent his career developing strategic capabilities that enhance value to customers and the company. A Lean Sigma Green belt himself, he developed the company's Lean Sigma offering, providing an innovative solution to customers' need to lower cost while raising quality. He led the development of JanOPS, an industry-leading janitorial operating system, which brings standardization and service consistency to large campus and geographically disperse national accounts.

Prior to this position, Marc was responsible for strategic management at Varsity. He has initiated or directed multiple strategic technology initiatives, ranging from a corporate website, a corporate intranet, a web/smartphone based quality control system, a learning management system, a corporate content manager and knowledge wiki, salesforce.com deployment and customization, and an Android app which facilitates the GROW sales process he has developed.

Marc is the author of several leadership and management training manuals, field guides, marketing collateral and case studies. He speaks Portuguese and Spanish and holds a bachelor degree in English/Technical Writing and a Masters of Business Administration in Finance from Idaho State University. Marc enjoys mountain biking, skiing, fishing and golf. He is happily married, and he and his wife Victoria enjoy raising and spending time with their four children.

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