Interview With Bill Yeadon 12-12-07

Welcome to our Hot Seat Interview with Bill Yeadon. Take a few minutes to look over Bill's responses to your questions that were posted earlier, plus the bio that follows.

We'll welcome Bill in a few more minutes


Steve Toburen said:
Nice job Bill. You are a credit to the industry.


PS And as long as you keep burning up the miles for Jon-Don maybe i won't have to. So thank you.
Enjoy the sun you have a lot of work to do in 08.
Jim Pemberton said:
Thank you Bill. As with all other guests, we'd appreciate you taking a some time over the next few days to answer any questions that you didn't have an opportunity to answer.

Thanks also for supporting Mikeysboard from the beginning.
My pleasure Jim. Say hi to Lee and Merry Christmas.
Bob Foster said:
Bill - have you any real live testimonials for your new marketing program yet - is Mikey a test rat?
Nothing yet but he would be a good test as he knows the power of thank you cards, reminders etc but has trouble getting it done. Kind of like most of our industry.
harryhides said:
When did you first meet Steve Toburen and what do you really think of him?

Did you pick him to join the Jon Don team or was it forced on you?
Actually I was involved with a program prior to SFS that was a total failure. Steve was brought in and started SFS which hasn't been doing too badly over the years. I have even noticed one or two comments on the BBs saying how the program has helped a few people. So after several years I came back from exile and became a Jon Don employee. Steve was nice enough to let the prodigal son return and join the SFS team.
Brian Luddy said:
Bill, back in 1969 did you believe all the info coming out that Paul McCartney had died in a car crash in 1966?
I would like to say I was smarter than that but I was worried that maybe it was true. If you remember before George Harrison died the guy who broke the story was fired because everyone said it was untrue. A few months later George was dead of cancer.
ODIN said:
do you think don jon is trying to take over the carpet cleaning supply world.

who is going to win

the Greeks or the Mormons?

Only the part of the world that would like to experience great service with everything you could ever want from a store.

Who's Greek?
harryhides said:
Hi Bill,

The iicrc recently published a report about our industry.

As you read it, what items most surprised you?
I thought it was a very thorough report. Most points only reinforced beliefs I had. I was surprised that 49% of the respondents were men. That has to throw it off a bit yet the men expected to spend more money for cleaning.

60% of people have never hired a professional cleaner. Yet 49% of people clean their own carpet every 6 months. We spend too much time bitching about Stanley Steemer who actually helps us with their marketing dollars. We should be worried about those little soak and suck machines. That is one of our major targets for the My Easy Marketing program.

People still preferred independents over franchises slightly.

I was surprised that 52% bought carpet protectors.

56% of the matures use professional cleaners. So you know who you should be targeting your marketing dollars to.

Supposedly 45% of people pick the color for ease of maintenance. Since when is beige easy to maintain?

Overall we should use this study to determine to who and how we are going to market. Careful reading of the document could help establish a USP.
OK, I know no one is going to read this whole post except Justin (I think Lee made him read it) Thanks, Justin.
Here is the initial (much shorter original questions from Jim Pemberton) and I am grading myself 8 years later.

1. Green Seal GS-37

First off I believe that Green Cleaning is here and isn’t going away. The problem is that no one seems to really be able to define what “Green” is. Right now everyone is jockeying for position on who is “King of the Green” because whatever the organization they stand to profit handsomely for many years. Green Seal is currently in that position but I don’t think they will keep it due to the fact that what they are charging companies is so out of line that it will not be able to keep up. I believe that ultimately the government will step in with a program such as DFE or something similar. The government is the one that is forcing green down our throats through mandatory green in schools offices etc. In order for the average company to be able to bid in those situations the pricing of programs will have to be minimized.

The problem with green cleaning is it is like the country song “Everyone wants to go to heaven but no one wants to die.’ Everyone talks about having their house cleaned with no chemicals or products made from fruits and nuts but are unhappy when we cannot remove 2 years of their St. Bernard’s urine in the carpet. Green cleaning has to be a partnership between the end user and the cleaner. We can’t even get people to vacuum their carpet I don’t know how we will ever get them to understand we need their assistance if we want to maintain their home and buildings with green products. Green is a lot more than chemicals and equipment. I still think the same. Green has been bastardized, especially in residential. In commercial I think LEED has really taken over and is a really good way to differentiate your company from 95% of the competition.

2. IICRC’s longer teaching hours

I am sure this refers to the change of WRT from 2 days to 3 days. As I look at the reviews I get in my classes I am always amazed at how many people say they would like the class to be shorter, then the same amount of people want the class to be longer. In marketing we teach that you find out what people want and then – give it to them. At Jon Don for many years we have taught WRT in a 2 day format and also in a 3 day format. When we voted on the 2 versus 3 day format I voted definitely for the 2 day because I knew we already had a 3 day format. The vote was close but 3 day won.
The only benefit of 3 days is that people get an extra day to study. Other than that I prefer to have options and we don’t now. While some people may still prefer 2-day classes, the most popular class at Jon-Don is the 3-day WRT.

3. CRI Seal of Approval

Well no matter what I say on this subject I will get a lot of flak. When the program was instituted it was due to the fact that carpet sales were decreasing supposedly because of the difficulty of keeping carpet clean. To that I would like to quote the immortal John Belushi in Animal house but I won’t use the words in a written document.

Carpet sales are down for a couple of reasons:
1. People got damn tired of looking at 22 oz.beige cut pile StainMaster in their living rooms so they decided on the very trendy olefin Berbers because after all the retailer told them it was so tough you could pour bleach on it. Before you think I am blaming the mills entirely for these products, think again. They are like any other industry they make what people will buy. Just like GM makes crappy cars and great cars so do the mills with carpet selection. I am sure they would love to sell more 48 oz. Saxonies but that’s not where the market is at. There are many cleaners still cleaning crappy apartments and restaurants for the same reason. Everyone likes to pick the “low-hanging fruit”. Still believe this.

2. Of course people were surprised when all those beige carpets got soiled. There was a reason why avocado colored carpet was such a good seller in the 70’s. They never looked dirty. Still believe this.

3. So because after 5 years of 5 kids, 2 dogs and three cats the carpet looked bad they called the coupon guy for 5.95 a room and wondered why their carpet stayed wet for three days and turned more colors than a Grateful Dead light show. Still believe this.

4. So people decided that those old hardwood floors under the carpet were kind of cool. Of course many people couldn’t afford new hard wood so they bought these cool paper floors better known as laminate. Still believe this. I think LVT may yet diminish carpet sales more than hardwood.

Now I have said all that to get here. The SOA was started for good reasons but I believe the people that are being threatened by it are the wrong people. Just like when the preacher gives his fire and brimstone sermon he is giving it to the people who are in church. He ought to be targeting the people in bed with a hangover not the church goers. The SOA should be targeting the slimeballs who are ruining the industry with their pricing and business tactics. The sad part is that the people who need the message will never hear it because they would never read anything that would have that message.

I have worked with a variety of people at CRI since 1986. Ken McIntosh has been there for over 20 years and is a great man and I think he has tried to incorporate many of the cleaning industries concerns. But their mission is to promote carpet, after all they are the trade group for the carpet manufacturers. They are not designed to represent the cleaning industry. When I first started attending their meetings they were puzzled as to why a cleaning company was at their meetings. Over the past 20 years our status has improved but this program was thought of without the input of the average cleaner. Before the advent of the industry bulletin boards only about 10% of cleaners would have even heard of this. Today of course bad news or even perceived bad news spreads quickly.

Everyone is complaining that the IICRC has done nothing to stop the SOA and even worse was glad that the warranty states cleaning by a Certified Firm. Well of course they are happy. For the last 20 years the IICRC has been trying to get the mills to recommend the use of IICRC trained professionals. Now that it has come to pass people are complaining that being certified does not mean you are a better cleaner which is true. It just means that you have spent time going to classes and have tried to follow industry standards. I mean how do you know the skills of every individual cleaner in the country without some sort of program? We have lawyers and doctors who have all the right certifications but are terrible. Unfortunately some sort of licensing or certification is the way most industries work. Due to our strong sense of independence as entrepreneurs we will always fight anyone who tries to tell us how to run our business. That will always be the case.

I believe the mills and CRI are going to continue to try to get the program to work but I believe it is going to be a long uphill battle. If someone asks me if they should be involved with the program I tell them what they need to do and if it fits in their strategy for their company then great go with it. If you think it is a waste of time then just ignore it. That is the great thing about owning your own business you can choose.

As for the enforcement of warranty issues I think that is nearly impossible. The majority of carpet is not installed by CRI Installation Standards 104 or 105 which means that the warranty is voided before a cleaner ventures into their home. We spend way too much time worrying “what if?” I think Shakespeare summed it up in Much Ado About Nothing. Still believe this and I have the CRI prediction below.

Quality Control at the mills

For the amount of carpet manufactured I think the quality is good. The low end products will always see more problems. If you are saying what about all the crappy polyester or olefin that is not a matter of quality control. Certain fibers have characteristics that will show up in crushing or pooling or other issues that really are more about the fiber than quality control. When I went to Inspector classes many years ago the figure for carpet manufacturing defects only rated 2% which was the lowest of all categories. Poor specification is a much greater problem than carpet defects. Well, this is a tough one. I mention that crappy polyester is not quality control. It is a strategy and has worked well for Bob Shaw's new Mill Engineered Floors. In 3 years EF has become the third largest mill. But I believe between polyester and the mills hedging their bets on LVT and other hard surfaces, carpet will continue to disappear. But this may be a great opportunity for rug cleaners. In the next decade, carpet will make a comeback because of all its appealing characteristics. Hopefully, I am here in 10 years to see if I was right or wrong.

Are you now or ever have been in the employ of a carpet mill or mill association for purposes other than carpet inspections? If so which ones.

Yes I was a consultant for Shaw Industries teaching the CCMT class to their larger customers. I do not get paid for anything today but I do help them find cleaners in cities where they need someone. I still am very close with Shaw and used to be with Mohawk until I told the truth about polyester at a WFCA dinner with 100 retailers and some Mohawk reps.

Do you believe that the structure of governance (shareholders and voters)of the IICRC should be changed?

This is a tough one. The majority of the people that go to IICRC meetings are association members. They are volunteers and do not get paid anything or any expenses for their work unless they are the association rep and then their expenses are paid up to 650.00. That doesn’t go far if you fly there and spend 4 nights in a hotel. Normally the people who work the hardest are the ones that move up the chain. It is difficult to get representation from people that do not belong to an association. Unfortunately unless you have a successful company or you are paid by your company to be there you can’t afford to go to the meetings. Today a lot of the meetings are being held on the web such as and that helps immensely. I realize that many people don’t like the way it is run today but the only way to change it is from the inside. I can tell you that over the last few years I can see huge changes and a much more equitable distribution of power. Whether you believe it or not the bulletin boards are forcing some of the changes you see. Wow, this has gone terribly. In the last few months the management company that had almost completely destroyed IICRC was fired and taken over internally. There will be huge legal battles which may still destroy IICRC. Jeff Bishop has come to Vegas to try to resurrect the IICRC and while many people think poorly of Jeff, there isn't anyone more detail oriented that can have a chance of saving the organization. If ICRA can get enough steam behind them, they may challenge the IICRC for some-much-needed training changes for Millennials. I could never have predicted this much of a change.

What do you see as the biggest change in how marketing messages will be best sent and received in the next five years?

I think the control and power of advertising has switched from the advertiser to the consumer. The birth of the Internet, bulletin boards, blogs and other web 2.0 vehicles has changed the marketplace drastically. Advertisers have to be totally honest and truly have the best interests of their consumer at heart because if they step out of line they will be quickly exposed on the web. We have been talking about relationship marketing for years but it is critical today. We have to market to each customer as if they are the only customer. Marketing media and even the products themselves have to be designed for an individual or at least a tiny segment. I think the message needs to be individually communicated. With changes in the printing industry this can be done cheaply. But that only covers print media there are many other ways such as being involved in charities, social functions, referrals etc where we get to work on those individual relationships. Right now everyone is trying to figure out how to use social media such as Facebook to get messages out to a targeted group. The problem is that these people retreat to their groups so that they can’t be reached by advertising. I could go on about this subject for hours but this may not be the place. 2 books that best describes the current state of the market is Naked Conversations by Scoble and one that Jim Pemberton turned me onto Citizen Marketing by McConnell and Huba. I think I got some of this right but with the changing technology, it is hard to predict what will happen next month. But that hasn't stopped me before, so I think Social Media will continue to be a strong marketing tool. But I think you will need to hire a person or firm to handle all web, SEO, and SM. It changes too quickly for a part-timer to handle.

You meet with a lot of suppliers and manufacturers through each year.
What changes have you noted in the size of these companies and the quality of the equipment they produce?

I suspect that most of the original manufacturers were tinkerers, welders and mechanics - do you see a trend away from those roots and has this been a good thing for cleaners? I think I started to answer this but the second part is a question. The tinkerers, welders, and mechanics are definitely winning.

As suppliers and manufacturers grow and merge into fewer larger entities, do you see this as a good thing, a bad thing or a bit of both?

I started in this industry in the mid 70’s so I wasn’t at the beginning but I knew the people that were. Back then all the manufacturers were family businesses and that has changed due to retirements, deaths, mergers and everything that happens over a 4 decade period. I definitely miss the days when you called a company and talked to the founder. That is a rarity today due not only to them not being there but also due to voice mail, email etc. We are high tech yet low touch. I am fortunate that I work for a company where the owners aren’t just involved but are visible at every function you can imagine. The difference I see at Jon Don is that the business will go on just the same whether Nick and John are there or not because they have built the company on their passion which is to take care of the customer. The company runs just fine whether they are there or not. They choose to be there.
Today we have new companies springing up with less capital because of the Internet. They can get their message out to large targeted audiences cheaply and as long as they make a good product and will send samples they can become successful. Bill Bane built his company in the 70’s and 80’s by traveling to hundreds and hundreds of cities and presenting his message to small groups of people. He was successful not because of the equipment but because he built an amazing trust factor with people. He understood relationship marketing way before it was a concept.
As suppliers merge into larger entities the economic scale improves but I am not sure the relationship improves. I think the equipment and products are of a much higher quality due to the tools and CADS and everything that is available today. We still have great stories of people working up from a welder to a manufacturer such as Thom Fielding at Blueline. And he is trying the old Bane Clene routine of trying to get out to as many cities as possible to talk with cleaners. It’s just a lot more expensive today.

Bottom line is the equipment is better, the chemicals are better, the distribution is more efficient but the most important part to keep in mind is that people deal with people not companies. I definitely agree with this last line. As far as above I was definitely wrong about Blueline. I am glad Thom Fielding is still in our industry as few people are as passionate and I had the chance to become close friends with Thom.

What is the state of Instructing in our Industry -
Is it improving?
Is it attracting better "teachers" or better salesmen?
Is it creating better quality cleaners?
Are Instructors relying too much on technology to teach or not enough?
Over the years I've had to just shake my head at some of the test questions as being irrelevant, unclear or plain bizarre - what do you think of the quality of test questions?
What do you think about the 75% pass rate to become certified?
How many students did you catch falling asleep during one of your classes this year?

Yes I believe it is improving. As in any group we will always have A, B, C players. While many people think instructors are making tons of cash I would guess that only about 25% of instructors make enough money to live without another form of income. The best instructors are the ones that love teaching for the sake of teaching. The instructor that I believe best exemplifies this is Barry Costa. Barry can teach six days straight and he has just as much enthusiasm on the last day as he did the opening hour. Barry has always done the classes the way he wanted. He was one of the first instructors along with Pemberton’s and Jeff Bishop to teach in the 3 day format because he felt that was the best way for people to learn. Even though many would prefer to do it in 2 days when they leave they were glad that it was 3 days. As for salesmen I think IICRC has been cracking down heavily anytime someone complains about heavy handed salesmen. Once again the bulletin boards are the best defense against a weak instructor. The marketplace dictates whether an instructor teaches a lot of classes. A distributor will not rehire a bad instructor. I still agree and especially about Barry Costa. One of the problems is that at least 80% of the IICRC instructors are over 50. We need more Shawn Bisaillon's.

The question on is it creating better cleaners is tough. The idea of an IICRC class is to teach the basics, principles, chemistry etc. Spending 15 minutes on a wand is not going to teach you everything about how to clean. The class is designed to give you the theory of cleaning so when you get to a job and the carpet reacts in a strange way you should have the knowledge from the class which allows you to analyze the potential causes. Then make your judgment based on your thought process. In other words understanding pH and wicking will solve a lot of problems. Still agree but we need more hands-on. While this may a bad place to bring this up, I am interested to see how Rob Allen does with a week long class, with heavy hands-on for $3000. Sorry for the suck-up but you can get a lot of tool testing at the Mikey Fest part of The Experience.

Do I think we are enamored of technology for teaching? Yes! Power Point abuse is almost legendary and before that it was too much video and before that it was relying too much on your overhead projector or slides. IICRC has a mandatory Instructors Symposium every other year in which they bring in instructors to teach us how to teach. That has been very helpful. Very few of us were trained as teachers. Most of us are old carpet cleaners who wanted to try something different. I would have never believed that teaching was something I would ever want to do. Today if I had a choice to start my career over I would become a history teacher. I never realized I would ever want to do that because I had a horrible fear of speaking in front of people. Power Point is a tool just like a 175 scrubber is a tool. There are times when it is ideal and there are other times when it is a bad choice. It is not just our industry, business in general has abused PP. Jim Pemberton and Barry Costa both do hands on classes where they never turn on a laptop.

As for 75 for a passing grade remember that someone just barely passing a medical exam is still a doctor so I believe that testing is worthless. We have too many people who have reading difficulties or learning disabilities or English is not their first language. A good or bad grade has no bearing on the success of a tech. I prefer he has good people skills and a good heart. Remember Fred Smith, founder of FedEx only got a C- on his thesis in college on a business plan for FedEx.

Test questions, yes some are horrible but I have to accept some blame as my committee is responsible for the CCT exam. Written exams were outdated since for a long time and I should have stressed this much stronger in my original post.

Sleepers, any is too many but I realize some of them have to work all night and then come to class. Who of us has not fallen asleep in a class?

You've met a lot of cleaners - in what ways do the newer, younger cleaners attending your classes today differ from those of 10, or 20 yrs ago ?

I think that the only difference is that most young people grew up in the MTV era. Video games, Game Boys, Xboxes have diminished the attention span. In my age group we had teachers like Ben Stein the Health teacher on Wonder Years. We didn’t expect much.
Of course even the older generation is hard to teach because they are all on their Blackberries or online on their laptops. See my answer directly above.

Every generation will always tell the current generation how much easier they have it. Yeah we had to grow up with jute back carpet and nasty chemicals and truck mounts that didn’t heat the water and everything browned on us and Erusticator ate our fingers. Oh sorry that was me complaining.

Will the franchises take over this industry?
Are the days of the independent, numbered and explain why, whatever your answer.

No I don’t think franchises will ever take over. We have too many entrepreneurs out there. More people are starting businesses than ever before. If you want to sell hamburgers you want a McDonalds because scale of economy is there. In a service business it is still the tech in front of one customer at a time. With computers even the marketing edge is shrinking. So I believe 100% that independents will still be the dominant player. The recent survey from Harris Interactive still gives independents the edge. Franchises are not the problem DIY cleaners are the problem. Still agree as the only new franchise that has really caused competitive issues in the last decade is Zero Rez. The only selling point for franchises is they are easier to sell when retiring.

If you were a Vegas bookie, what odds would you put on the following....
I am not a gambler so I don’t always understand gambling so I will give it a simple way.
Mohawk Cleaning will succeed and prosper
Totally, totally wrong. Really missed big time on this one.
Mohawk will have initial small success but not equal to their size

SOA will fade away.
SOA will meet the same fate as the first SOA- indifference. If you consider how many people in our industry are SOA-approved, I was right. Of course if you want to clean for Shaw you need to be SOA.

Nylon will disappear from carpet manufacturing
”Nylon will shrink down to a smaller share but it will still be number 1. I know Dupont and everyone else has sold off their nylon capabilities but Sorona and the others are still just fancy polyester. If it happens it won’t for at least 20 years. So I was barely right on this only due to commercial holding up the nylon flag. Only an idiot would be poly in commercial. The fact that much of the residential nylon is solution-dyed. The soft experiment was a failure. As of right now Poly kills nylon in residential.

Fill in the blanks:
Regional Associations will disappear in _10___yrs. Only a few have survived. Hard to find young volunteers. Without them they die.
Electric TM's will be the norm in ____0_____yrs Sorry Odin.
CRI will no longer exist in ________20______yrs they will stay in some form Still have 12 years but they have definitely diminished. Still agree.
Carpet will make a come back in _____5___yrs Definitely wrong. LVT is the fastest growing flooring.

The person you learnt the most from? Still believe in my choices.
Bill Bane – building a company from scratch
Don Terry, Joe Domin 2 chemists who can make chemistry fun
Lee Pemberton, Nick Paolella- guys who love each day more than the previous one.
My parents who raised 15 kids plus a bunch of foster kids on a salesman’s salary.

Your favorite book?
I love reading but the most powerful book is Man’s Search for Meaning Viktor Frankl Still my choice but probably have tons more.

Your favorite musical group?
Beatles this won't change in this lifetime

Best album? Beatles, Rubber Soul Yep

Some people that you feel have done the most for this industry?

In addition to the people named above Still believe and if around in 10 years I will add more.
Bill Doan
John Downey
Ralph Bloss
Barry Costa
Steve Toburen
Mike West
Ed York
Dr. Aziz
I know this list is incomplete but these came to me quickly.

5 people whose posts you ALWAYS read? sad that only Jim remains regularly

Shawn Forsythe
Tony Wheelright
Jim Smith
Jim Pemberton
Lisa Wagner
Jim Pemberton

And one question that I don't think people realized about SFS.
harryhides said:

When did you first meet Steve Toburen and what do you really think of him?

Did you pick him to join the Jon Don team or was it forced on you?

Actually I was involved with a program prior to SFS that was a total failure. Steve was brought in and started SFS which hasn't been doing too badly over the years. I have even noticed one or two comments on the BBs saying how the program has helped a few people. So after several years I came back from exile and became a Jon Don employee. Steve was nice enough to let the prodigal son return and join the SFS team.
Still feel the same today especially with the best team Nick, Angela, Chuck and Steve.
I remember this hot seat but had just joined the board 2 months prior. Reading back and now having an understanding of the answers I certainly appreciate them a lot more than I did then. Thanks Justin for bringing it back up, I catch myself reading back at old posts from time to time.