If there’s anything the past three years have told us, we can’t make any assumptions or compromises when it comes to cleaning. A lack of cleanliness in public, commercial, and industrial spaces is a matter of life and death in some circumstances. In healthcare, that’s always been the case. Professionalism, training, technology, and strong leadership is essential for consistency when it comes to industrial cleaning companies.
Culver City, Calif.-based Servicon is celebrating its 50th year in business, a major milestone for an organization in an industry that has seen many of its competitors either go out of business or sell to larger conglomerates. It specializes in complex environments, primarily hospital environmental services (EVS), life sciences, aerospace, and facility maintenance.
Servicon is a woman-owned and operated business run by CEO Laurie Sewell, who began her career in payroll before progressing through the ranks and was officially handed the reins of the organization by Servicon’s founder, Richard Mahdesian, in 2014. Under Sewell’s watch, the company is now in 11 states.
EVS is the term used to describe the type of cleaning Servicon does in healthcare. When COVID hit, it was able to leverage its skills and abilities and apply them to other industries.
“In healthcare, we call it ‘terminal cleaning,’” Sewell says. “This is disinfecting a room where someone had an infectious disease. We took those same steps and brought them into other industries and working environments to do COVID cleanings. It wasn’t until COVID that we started doing higher levels of disinfection everywhere.”
There aren’t many companies in Servicon’s space entering their prime in their 50th year, especially coming out of a pandemic. In March 2020, Servicon was caught in a perfect storm of everyone needing EVS-level cleaning expertise, personnel, supplies, and technology all at once, and it was prepared and ready to scale.
“We were fortunate because we already had the expertise we could share with our other verticals as we’d been doing it for years. For instance, aerospace has explicit metrics and measurements and the facilities are very high security. Refineries have the highest safety requirements anywhere. EVS obviously has disinfection and terminal cleanings as its highest priority.”
When the pandemic hit, Servicon was already ahead of the competition. It had its own supply division with an inventory of gloves, gowns, masks, and hazmat suits. “Our people were so trained-up that our crews could be onsite at a moment’s notice,” Sewell says.
“Amazingly, our in-house counsel did one of his final academic projects on infectious diseases, so we immediately formed a task force with him leading it. He was able to quickly read CDC and WHO guidelines and translate them into our processes and convert them to a training program. We had the advantage of understanding infection prevention and terminal cleaning and he was able to lead us through the pandemic.”
The feedback Servicon received from its Fortune 500 clients was that its information was more understandable than what they were getting from the government, so they were going with Sewell’s recommendations and processes.
“We completely dedicated our Communications Department to reach both our clients and employees with the most vital information in an easily digestible way,” she says. “We got really creative in leveraging social media as a way to have a direct two-way communication channel with our field employees, making sure everything was legible in both English and Spanish, leading bi-weekly Town Halls, and validating our information with experts in public health.”
As the CDC and EPA were adjusting guidelines for cleaning solutions, Servicon’s warehouse staff were adjusting dilution ratios to send out thousands of ready-to-use bottles with the right solution rates because they kept changing.
“I don’t know if prior to COVID, the need for frontline cleaning staff was fully appreciated or understood, outside of the healthcare environment, because the perception was always, ‘If it’s clean, it’s clean,’” says Sewell. “But there is so much you can’t see and that means it’s not healthy. Cleaning for visibility and cleaning for health are two different things and the most dangerous things are what you can’t see. And there are things way scarier than COVID out there — with 50% mortality rates, which spread in ways other than air. You have to be vigilant and remind staff and the public, always.”
The company embraced the tenets of ESG – environmental, social, and governance – early on and is continuing to lead and prioritize its commitment to all three. Its Culver City headquarters is LEED Platinum certified and all the buildings it owns are Energy Star certified.
“We’re capturing our impact on the environment not just with our buildings but with the products we use in our clients’ spaces so we can roll up into their numbers,” Sewell says. “We do a lot with waste management and separation to reduce solid waste for our clients and help them meet certain regulatory requirements. We were one of the first companies that adopted green cleaning.”
Servicon is a stakeholder in setting the GS-42 Green Seal cleaning standards as well as in ISSA’s CIMS (Cleaning Industry Management Standard).
“We’re not just adopters,” she adds. “We’re leading the initiatives to get these standards adopted by our industries.”
Servicon models the Social aspect of ESG through its ServiconCares initiative, founded two years ago to give back to communities where its people work and live. The company gave $1 million in financial assistance to its employees during the first year of the pandemic and then another half million in vaccination incentives after.
A recent community initiative occurred last month when Servicon partnered with Los Angeles Supervisor Hilda Solis’ office and L.A. County to install The Water Box at the Los Angeles Mission. The installation provides clean water for those living on Skid Row.
Servicon’s core value is, “Creating a better working future,” which is two-fold for clients and staff.
“We love using those words because it’s a better working future for the facilities we clean; we’re a B2B service company, so we’re cleaning where other people work,” she says. “We are ensuring they have a healthy working environment. We had an aerospace client tell us, ‘We would have had to shut down production if it wasn’t for you. You kept us open during COVID.’ And we provide this for our employees. Caring for our own workforce is and was our most important value, keeping them safe, treated fairly, and providing the supplies they need is all part of that. Plus, we want to provide them pathways to grow and build their careers.”
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