Eric Luke didn't start off in the building service contractor industry. His first taste of career success came in the 1980s as a CPA, senior accountant and small business consultant for Arthur Andersen in San Francisco. As that decade came to a close, he joined Varsity Facility Services in Denver as a District Manager. Luke has gone on to play an integral role in the development of the company's national accounts and facility maintenance and construction divisions for almost three decades now.
Today, Varsity Facility Services is a North American building services company with approximately 3,800 employees from Alaska to Florida and throughout Canada. The firm cleans, repairs, and builds commercial facilities. In 2010, Luke became the company’s fourth president and CEO.
Part of his success is thanks to the methodical way he approaches cleaning schedules. Luke knows his methods delivery quality results for his customers and for his business. BSCAI recently sat down with him to discuss how his cleaning schedule system plays into his company’s role as a juggernaut in the industry.
BSCAI: What are the keys to creating a balanced and productive cleaning schedule—one that is thorough and efficient, yet doesn't cut corners?
ERIC LUKE: Focus on safety and health of tenant or occupants first. Make sure those are addressed. Then ask, ‘How much time is it really going to take to do the schedule the customer or tenant desires?’ It might require a consultant watching the current cleaner or company and do a time schedule study. Find out what it really takes. Ask yourself, ‘Are they using the right and best equipment? Is the most critical areas of possible complaints or health risk adequately staffed?’ Restroom cleaning, for example, should account for around 20%to maybe 25%of the total nightly labor budget. This will cover most of the potential complaints.
BSCAI: Where do facilities and facility managers often go wrong when putting together such schedules?
EL: The most common mistake in creating a planned cleaning schedule or scope of work is not starting with two end customers in mind. Those two end customers are the owner of the facility who is footing the bill [and] setting the budget, and the end user or tenant using the space.
Before creating a schedule or scope of work, one must first know the budget the owner is willing to spend. Next, find out the priorities of the end user and build the schedule to meet the most important needs and desires of that end user, within the budget and what can be afforded. Unless both of the end customers are kept in mind, the schedule will ultimately fail and neither will be happy.
BSCAI: Why types of cleaning can and should be streamlined? Carpet extractions? Other?
EL: To save money, without sacrificing the health and safety of the tenant, streamline cosmetic or ‘shiny’ stuff. A good place to streamline is window cleaning and worrying about areas of shine. Floors, chrome—they need to be clean, but not polished or sparkling if budget is a concern.
BSCAI: Do you believe high-touch surface disinfection should be done on a daily basis in hospital settings?
EL: Yes I do! The number one health issue in patient recovery is infection and cross contamination that a patient is exposed to in the hospital. The bio load is a log number. Pathogens and bacteria can live for several hours. In the ER, the health care worker should assist in cleaning everything that a patient or health care worker uses in that area.
BSCAI: How can facility managers be better educated with regards to cleaning matters? What is the most effective way to get the message across to them?
EL: The International Facility Management Association (IFMA) is the best organization for facility manager to get a true, boots-on-the-ground experience as it relates to cleaning matters. I encourage facility manager customers to get involved in their local IFMA organizations.
BSCAI: Was there some advice given to you earlier in your career that has really stuck with you?
EL: A visionary leader once told me that in life as a manager, executive, leader, whatever—there will never be enough time. There is never enough recreation, there is never enough sleep and there is never enough money. Plan a balanced life, with balanced goals and ideals. Make sure, especially in our industry, to create as best as possible a business plan where all three critical entities in the cleaning or maintenance equation are satisfied. In other words, try to reward the three critical players in our business: the customers, the employees (hourly and supervisors) and the owners. It is wise to sacrifice some upfront or short-term profits, maybe even a little of the long term, to build devoted, loyal employees and managers that will—in the end—make this industry a great place to spend your life. A satisfying career is best when others are rewarded along the way.