Is the world facing a pandemic of Swine Flu? The details are not yet known. A new strain of a potentially deadly swine flu first reported two weeks ago in Mexico, where it has now infected roughly 2000 worldwide, and has taken the lives of over 50 people in Mexico and one person in the U.S. The flu is spreading around the world. Although in the U.S. roughly 36,000 people die from the typical flu each year, the swine flu is worrisome to the level of raising the public health alerts because it is a new strain that has mutated, and there is no vaccine at this time. Government officials do not want widespread panic, but instead a higher level of alertness about preventing the spread of disease. Up to date details can be found on the CDC’s website (www.cdc.gov)
So, why am I writing about this? Because public health emergencies and alerts are likely to affect your business, your staff, and your clients. As I write this, more than 100 schools in the U.S. have been closed already, and these kinds of public policies may have rippling affects on your business. Preparing now could help you navigate the choppy waters that may be to come. Here are ten steps to get you prepared.
Review Your Safety Equipment – Do you have enough gloves, masks, hand sanitizer, etc.? If not buy it now because if a real health emergency does hit you will likely not be able to buy these things. Don’t believe me? A couple of years ago in Seattle we had a power outage that lasted about 4 days and all of the grocery stores were stripped clean of batteries, firewood, propane and other emergency supplies…it was amazing.
Review Your Cleaning Supplies and Equipment – Take a look at your cleaning supplies and see if you need to make any adjustments. How many things do you share from home to home? During a health emergency the more disposable the better. You will need to proactively explain to clients how you WILL NOT be transferring germs from client to client. Disposable mop heads, washable dust rags, sanitization processes, etc. are the kinds of things you should think about. Be sure that you have a disinfecting cleaning product in case clients request it, or you decide to offer it. The CDC website gives a good description of the difference between cleaning agents, sanitizers and disinfectants http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dhqp/ar_mrsa_Enviro_Manage.html#8 . You may also want to look at your equipment. Possibly a vacuum like Raycop UV-C Sterilization Vacuum (http://www.raycop.co.uk/) or others tout a bacteria killing feature that could really be a selling point to customers worried about disease prevention.
Prepare Your Commercial Clients – Contact your commercial clients and let them know how you are prepared to handle their needs. You may want to give them options for increasing their cleaning needs to decrease their risk of losing staff to illness, and maintain the healthiest work environment possible. Suggestions that you can make to your clients would be a supplemental disinfecting process where extra attention is paid to the high risk areas:
* Door knobs and handle area
* Sink faucets
* Toilet areas
* Kitchen surfaces
* Keyboards (recommend disposable keyboard covers)
* Highly used areas
Also, recommend the client stocks up on disposable hand wipes, hand sanitizer, disposable cups instead of dishes that collect in the kitchen and could pass germs. Your clients will be looking to you to recommend how they should handle their cleaning needs in a crisis.
Prepare Your Residential Clients – Don’t scare your clients into thinking that they are bringing germ ridden strangers into their home with your cleaning service. Instead discuss the superior equipment, techniques and supplies that you use regularly (or are offering right now) for their “healthy home”. Offer a disinfectant process that disinfects the high impact areas listed above in the commercial cleaning section. Discuss your illness policy requesting that when clients and staff are ill alternative plans need to be made. Be sure to only make honest claims that you can support.
Prepare Your Carpet Cleaning Clients – Check with your equipment vendor and your cleaning solvents for the bacteria killing effectiveness, and notify your customers. A health crisis could possibly be a business boost for your carpet cleaning business, because people are reminded that carpet cleaning can promote a healthier environment and is not just for beauty.
Prepare Your Green Cleaning Clients – If you are a green cleaning company a health epidemic could be a potential marketing mine field for your business. Clients and prospects may make assumptions about your company’s abilities to really remove the germs. And, on the other hand some of your die hard clients may not understand why you might make recommendations for disinfectants and disposable options. As the pioneer of green cleaning companies I would recommend that you educate your customers on your non-cross contamination processes, and offer several disinfecting options that they could accept or reject. I would also refer to the need for these measures as temporary measures needed for the public health emergency. I truly believe that a green home is a balanced home; however, outside factors sometimes require different measures. (Factoid: I started my Seattle based green cleaning business as the first in the country that I knew of in 1991. People thought we were nuts – and now its all the rage).
Update Your Marketing Materials – You may want to make a memo or article for your clients or prospects to be included in your welcome kit, mailed to your clients, downloaded from your website, etc. where your healthy cleaning practices are discussed. You may want to mention in the description the effectiveness of your methods against bacteria and disease like “Staph, MRSA, Swine Flu”, etc. but be cautious about putting those kinds of scare tactics in the title or headlines. Another marketing practice that you could implement is to create a little card with the extra “disinfecting process” that you are doing during this time period, and have the staff check off the items on the list and leave for the customer as an extra assurance that their health is being considered.
Meet with the Staff – Plan a meeting where you go over the plans for this and other health emergency alert times. (1) Do not come to work sick. Post the typical symptoms of the health alert and give everyone the responsibility to keep themselves home when ill. Of course, this is a great time to go over the call in procedure for illness. (2) Discuss the cleaning procedure changes, (3) Insist on all safety procedures being followed. (4) Reassure the staff with how you are protecting them by also prohibiting the cleaning of sick clients, providing masks and gloves, etc.
Stockpile Cash – If a pandemic does hit your area it is likely schools, work places, transportation, etc. will be closed for one to two weeks or even longer. Short staff, cancelling clients and public health policies may keep you from being able to perform work as usual during this time, so start stock piling some cash now so that a short term closure does not hurt you badly financially. In addition, if and when these changes occur instead of cancelling clients reschedule them so that you can resume with gang busters when you can.
False Alarm or Media Hype – If it turns out that the pandemic threat is a false alarm or media hype then all of these procedures are still very valuable since you will be prepared for any future threat. MRSA is a huge threat that is also as deadly and lurking out there. And, keep in mind that in the US we are exiting the flu season, and officials warn that this illness may slowly spread, and then re-emerge in the fall. Being prepared is never wasted energy.
OK, so get prepared, and stay on top of your local public health notices. Send me your questions and comments because I always love to hear them.
For more business articles and updates on the swine flu…