Sean Litvak is the Senior Director of Business Development for the Vonachen Group, a leading provider of janitorial and other services. But on June 7 at the BSCAI Operations Summit, he will be so much more. Litvak is taking part as a main panelist on a special educational session titled “Listen Up! It’s Time to Clean up the Operation ‘Junk Drawer.’”
“It’s going to be a panel discussion where questions are going to be submitted, both in advance and live while we livestream the session,” he said. “Those of us within the panel are going to be leaning into our operations experience in a very forward-facing way, talking about the pitfalls and challenges that historically plagued operations. At the same, we’ll discuss solutions to get over those situations and even some pre-emptive steps that can be taken to mitigate some classic challenges in the operations of the janitorial industry.”
Litvak is hopeful many BSCAI members will attend. He believes it will be an important learning experience that attendees will find valuable upon their return home to their respective businesses. “We all need to continuously learn,” he stated. “The audience for this session are BSCs, and this is your opportunity to be listening to individuals who have been there and done that. You will pick up some nuggets of experience. Wisdom is not necessarily something you go out and learn by failure. It can be. But you can also gain wisdom from other people’s experiences. So, I would encourage people to sign up for this session. If you can save one contract or add one contract, you’ve made your money almost immediately.”
Litvak will be speaking from experience, for sure. He began his career in 1991 at the KIMCO Corporation, first as a telemarketer and then eventually a Regional Manager based in Louisville. Additional promotions ensued. He eventually left to take a job as a Vice President of Operations and Sales for Aetna Building Maintenance, which was eventually acquired by ATALIAN Global Services in 2018. Before long, though, the Vonachen Group came calling.
He remarked, “I love sales. I love meeting people and having conversations. Over the years, almost every single person who I have created a solution for has become a friend. And I’m talking about a friend who I dine with, who I talk with. Learning about them and their business and how they do things has really made me a better business person, and I’ve learned more about various industries.”
He added, “The greatest challenge is always to be self-aware and understand yourself. I recently published a book called ‘Proverbs for Leadership.’ . . . The book is about my experiences and what I’ve learned in the janitorial industry since 1991. I’ve had to take the road of self-awareness and have come to really understand my own weaknesses, my strengths, and how I come across to people. I can be very direct. Being a Northerner who has been in Louisville since 1992, I have really had to learn how to read people and read the room to be able to communicate effectively and efficiently. That’s something I always look to improve upon, even today.”
And improvement is the main goal of many at the Operations Summit. Litvak especially likes the fun title of his session and hopes it will prove intriguing for those trying to decide what they want to do and see at this year’s event.
That begs the question. Just what does the term “Operations Junk Drawer” mean? Litvak was quick to reply: “Anyone who has been in the building service contractor or janitorial industry knows there are common issues that occur across every single janitorial company. That is the ‘Junk Drawer.’ The question is: ‘What is your organization doing to not have those issues wag you, and instead you be the dog wagging its tail?’ We’re going to be talking about the obvious things like turnover and training. How does one ensure that the scope of service is met and not participate in ‘scope creep?’ and ‘How does one keep your staff engaged?’ Sometimes when you look at the janitorial industry, employees are just there to pay off a bill or because they’re bored and want to make some extra money. How do you keep them engaged in what could be a very mundane job? More importantly, how can you take it from job to career?”
Litvak’s session will also help guard against organizations becoming mired down in a disorganized and bloated operations process, which can begin a domino effect and lead to inadequate service delivery and front-line challenges. He stated, “There need to be a very specific structure in place. If an organization is not CIMS-certified with the Cleaning Industry Management Standard, my question to them is ‘What are you waiting for?!’ If you do not participate in CIMS certification, you are basically saying that anyone in your organization can do whatever they want to do.”
He continued, “But if you do subscribe to CIMS as a philosophy and you do go through the expense and the organizational steps of becoming CIMS-certified, that means your back-of-house, your front-of-house, and everywhere in between is looking at the vision and mission of the organization and the strategies and tactics the same way. They may answer a question that is posed to them differently, but they will still all be pointing in the same direction.”
So, with all of the sage advice he will be giving out at his session, was there some counsel given to him earlier in his career that has stuck with him? With a slight smile, Litvak recalled, “I remember some bad things that happened in different times on the job. And I had an immediate supervisor who said to me, ‘Thankfully, we’re not brain surgeons! The sun is going to go down, the sun is going to come up, and nobody is going to die because of this mistake.’ People need to realize that, although cleaning is more important than it ever has been before, we are in an industry where we can’t let the stress of it, the immediacy of it, stress us out. Just take everything one step at a time and one day at a time. Another thing that I have learned throughout my career is to delegate, delegate, delegate . . . and then verify. Don’t try and do everything yourself.”