The pressures of being an up-and-coming protégé of the cleaning industry

The partnership between Australian supplier, Interclean Australasia, and Italian manufacturer, TTS, has provided the opportunity for two young women in the cleaning industry - Sophie Bassett and Carla Zorzo - to meet and share their experiences as the up-and-coming protégés under their fathers’ guidance
Carla Zorzo (left) and Sophie Bassett
Carla Zorzo (left) and Sophie Bassett

The partnership between Australian supplier, Interclean Australasia, and Italian manufacturer, TTS, has provided the opportunity for two young women in the cleaning industry – Sophie Bassett and Carla Zorzo –to meet and share their experiences as the up-and-coming protégés under their fathers’ guidance. INCLEAN’s editor, Kim Taranto, asks them about the expectations and pressures they encounter in their roles.

Carla Zorzo is assistant to the general manager of TTS, Renaulto Zorzo, who is also her father and has been working with the company for two and half years. The 30 year old is being groomed to one day take over the business and lead TTS into a future of innovative advancements. “I was working as a consultant in Milan after studying business planning and how to be a creative entrepreneur, but not like an engineer or business minded person,” Zorzo explained. “I wanted to work for people who have a mission or purpose of wellness.”

Even though Zorzo admits she was “quite happy” with her chosen career, her father needed help with the company and wanted to break into new markets with a new energy. Energy comes with youth and her advanced language speaking skills were also a big advantage so he asked her to join. “At that point I made the decision to invest myself into the business just as he had,” Zorzo reflected.

As the upcoming ‘prodigy’ of an international multi-million dollar manufacturer, Zorzo admitted she feels a bit of pressure at her future prospects and the expectation of her role. “It’s a big responsibility, especially when there’s all these people in the company and in the industry who want to know what I think and what I will say,” she shared.  “They look to me for strategy and solutions. It’s nice to know they look to me for leadership; however, I have big shoes to fill. Not only do I need to know everything about the company but I always need to think of something more – our success is built on innovation and I need to continue that,” she stated.

With Zorzo’s future in the cleaning industry laid out before her, she remarks how ironic it is that in Italy, while many of the managers are male, it’s the female cleaners themselves that do the critical work. “Men think about cleaning as a task, while women think about it as caring. It’s different; we don’t see an environment and think we have to clean it because it’s dirty; we see it as a reflection on the entire environment and want to make it pretty,” she remarked.

“We want to put everything in its right place and tidy up to create an overall feel for an environment – a woman’s approach is different. We don’t feel humiliated when we clean, but men tend to, which is why they don’t do it. We feel satisfied.”

Sophie Basset has met Zorzo various times during her travels to Verona, Italy, with her father Bill Bassett, owner of Interclean Australasia. Bassett is still studying but also fulfils the role of marketing manager and at the age of 19 has inspired a vast amount of change within the company.

“I see this position as an opportunity and stepping stone for my career,” she revealed. “The cleaning industry is a traditional and challenging industry so if I can succeed in this industry when it comes to design and strategy in marketing and communications, then I can take that anywhere. I think in this industry we need to improve the quality; for so long there’s been a certain standard and I feel it needs a different perspective so take it to that next and higher quality level.”

Bassett looks after the marketing for Interclean, managing the way it produces brochures, the way it communicates with customers, and in particular though web publishing. Since Bassett accepted the job offer a year and a half ago the direction of Interclean has shifted from a supplier that just sells products to one that attempts to establish itself as an industry leader and create a new direction in which other companies can walk.

“My job isn’t to create a catalogue that sells a products, my job is to sell an idea to an industry so that they can come on board and help create the products they need to improve their practices,” Bassett shared.

“I do believe there is a glass ceiling in this industry with it being male dominated, however, I also believe it’s not hard to break that glass ceiling if the want is enough,” she reflected. “I don’t know if there are that many women trying passionately to succeed at the highest level in this industry. It’s not glamorous and that’s probably why there are less women.”

Zorzo interjects with her opinion regarding the ‘glass ceiling’ in Italy, stating that women that start at the bottom of the ladder often aren’t given the opportunity to learn the skills that will see them climb to the top. “There are schools about business and management but the older generation doesn’t invest study towards their career,” she commented. “Younger people do but I don’t think they have a yearning to use their skills and newfound knowledge in the cleaning industry. Meanwhile, the facilities management sector has a much more even playing field with just as many women as men.”

With the managerial expectations of both women placed extremely high, the question of whether they had ever gotten their hands ‘dirty’ and experienced the tasks of a cleaner had to be asked. “I have visited hospitals with my father and did some training there so I was able to talk with the cleaners and teach them about our new mops,” responded Zorzo. “I found it easier to relate to the cleaners when they could see I knew how to hold a mop handle properly and I knew all the details about the product and could use it myself.”

Meanwhile Bassett has visited many healthcare sites with her father to understand how their products work so she can incorporate that information into the marketing she creates. “There’s no point trying to market a product or a purpose without fully understanding how it works, what it achieves and what solution it offers to the cleaners,” she noted. Zorzo sums it up in a simple sentence. “We need to know how to clean properly ourselves before we can tell someone else how to clean,” she stated.

Both women have a vision that through their work, whether they stay in the cleaning industry or move on, that they can help to raise the profile of such a critical industry. “If the employees are valued then they will value their own work,” said Zorzo. “Taking this approach, we both aren’t just manufacturing or selling products, we are helping to raise the quality of cleaners’ work and if you look at it from that perspective, it’s quite a fulfilling career.”

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