WFBSC 2014 speakers inspire delegates to ‘think differently’

With one of the world’s greatest cities as its stage, the 20th Congress of the World Federation of Building Service Contractors (WFBSC) delivered what delegates described as the best, world class line up of keynote speakers and captivating content ever seen at a Congress. Held April 6 to 9, 2014 at the Marriott Marquis in […]
WFBSC industry panel and keynote speakers
WFBSC 2014 industry panel and keynote speakers

With one of the world’s greatest cities as its stage, the 20th Congress of the World Federation of Building Service Contractors (WFBSC) delivered what delegates described as the best, world class line up of keynote speakers and captivating content ever seen at a Congress. Held April 6 to 9, 2014 at the Marriott Marquis in New York City (United States), the Congress was hosted by president of Harvard Maintenance, and WFBSC board director, Stan Doobin and his wife and CEO of Harvard Services Group, Nathalie.

Hosts of the WRBSC 2014 Congress, Stan and Nathalie Doobin from Harvard Maintenance
Hosts of the WFBSC 2014 Congress, Stan and Nathalie Doobin from Harvard Maintenance

“Three years ago when I offered to host this event I did it for one primary reason – to give back to an industry that has given so much to me, to my family, and to our employees,” said Doobin in his opening reception. “I wanted to say thank you by hosting a memorable event. An event that would boost the industry – one that mixed the sights, sounds and excitement of New York City, with world recognised business leaders, and energising networking. My hope is that this program delivers all three.”

More than 800 delegates from 22 countries attended the Congress, in hope to learn, network and ‘think differently’ – a running theme throughout the speaker presentations regarding technology, sustainability and human resources. As WFBSC president LeRoy Dock, said, “While this is an industry event, the focus is really on you. What can you learn and take back to your business to be better executive, a better leader and have a better business?” he challenged.

WFBSC Congress 2014 was supported by a number of sponsors, notably diamond level sponsors Karcher and Sealed Air/Diversey Care that hosted the evening reception on the IntrepidSea, Air & SpaceMuseum.

Keynote speakers, Peter Diamandis (left) and Steve Forbes
Keynote speakers, Peter Diamandis (left) and Steve Forbes

Think differently… the future can be better  

The first three keynote speakers to grace the stage were dynamic in their views on the world of business, exponential technologies and how to address humanity’s grand challenges. Co-author of the New York Times best selling book ‘Abundance – The future is better than you think’ and chairman and CEO of the X PRIZE Foundation, Peter Diamandis shared his reflections on the future and how to make changes that will lead to a better one.

Steve Forbes, chairman, CEO and editor in chief at Forbes Media addressed the current economic situation and offered strategic advice in his presentation on ‘The Next Four Years: Navigating the economy for business growth and success’. Finally, renowned author Jim Collins presented insights from his most recent book ‘Great by Choice’, examining and detailing the principles for building a truly great enterprise in unpredictable times. His presentation had the audience captivated.

Markus Asch of Alfred Karcher GmbH &Co. K
Markus Asch of Alfred Karcher GmbH & Co. K

Technology in the future… changing the perception of cleaning

Deputy CEO and vice chairman of the management board for Alfred Karcher GmbH & Co. K. Markus Asch invited delegates into the world of sweepers, scrubbers, vacuums and pressure washers; sharing his views on the latest technological engineering of the sustainability movement, current industry trends and Karcher’s customer-centric strategy.

“What is clean?” asked Asch. “We lack standards and because of that we tend to commoditise cleaning and as a result, the sensitivity of our industry is quite high,” he continued. “However, while there are signs of saturation, it’s still a market that shows growth – and the biggest is in our emerging markets.”  Asch believes the market drivers are evident in three major areas – additional reaches, additional technology for sustainable solutions, and thirdly, additional services for building service contractors. Using these services, he said, offers the “capability to increase revenue and make them much more indispensable.”

Asch spoke about the current market trends, stressing their importance as, “they contradict each other and aren’t the easiest things in life or business but are something we have to face,” he reflected, referring specifically to the demand for quality and service to increase, but prices to decrease.

He focused on technology, intelligence and robotics; and the solutions it can provide; given that we as a society and an industry can adapt our behaviour to drive maximum efficiency. “Information and connectivity is the future. An intelligent building will have sensors to tell the cleaning machines what they have to do – to optimise pressures, to optimise chemical, to prevent misuse from lack of training – BSCs will know what is happening with that building at any given time,” shared Asch. “Technology will provide us with the necessary efficiency improvements to change our industry.”

Jeff Gravenhorst of ISS Facility Services
Jeff Gravenhorst of ISS Facility Services

This is a people business… converting data into intelligence

Jeff Gravenhorst, group CEO OF ISS Facility Services, delivered his big ideas on ‘The Future of the Facility Services Industry’ sending a clear message that the industry’s most important resource is its people. “From a global perspective, our industry is huge and it’s growing – outsourcing keeps growing and there’s opportunities available – there’s a huge demand and it’s changing dramatically, for big businesses, SMEs and new players as well,” shared Gravenhorst.

“But there are changes happening,” he continued. “Bundling of integrated services is becoming a bigger part of the market. This takes up 25 percent of ISS’ business. Customers want us to manage all their services and support their business; and more value is being placed on the reputation of a provider, not just cost.” While Gravenhorst admits a client will most likely still buy on price, larger clients are asking for higher quality services and credible reputation.

This leads to the ability to self-deliver and not relying on sub-contracting. “It’s about facilitating the customers’ purpose,” stated Garvenhorst. “It all comes down to one thing – if we don’t get the people on the shop floor, on the front line, involved and give them the respect they deserve, then it’s all for nothing. If we want all this new technology to be used, we have got to unleash the power of the human touch.”

Jerome Peribere of Sealed Air/Diversey Care
Jerome Peribere of Sealed Air/Diversey Care

Gravenhorst’s words had a powerful impact, as he concluded with his thoughts on the industry’s future. “Engagement drives satisfaction and loyalty,” he noted. “In the end it’s about leveraging the purpose – of you, me, our customers, employees and shareholders. Only this will drive us out of the commodity trap.”

The value of clean far outweighs the cost…

President and CEO of Sealed Air/Diversey Care, Jerome Peribere, reiterated the importance of the industry’s workers, but more so the ability to measure and prove the value that cleaning provides – which in turn will change people’s perceptions. “Some customers consider cleaning to be a minimum requirement and not connected to the performance of their business. But we need a more proactive view of cleaning and hygiene. We need to embrace the value of cleaning and be willing to take the discussion beyond cost,” stated Peribere. “For BSCs to realise the profitable growth that is within reach, it is critically important that your customers understand the value that cleaning provides.”

Peribere revealed that with increased focus on sustainability and public health protection progressive firms will, and are, adopting a more holistic approach to cleaning. “Those firms understand that cleaning impacts business functions,” he said. “They also understand that relatively small incremental investments in cleaning could result in disproportionally large gains for their bottom line.”

Covering topics such as healthcare acquired infections (HAIs), health insurance, employee absenteeism and the societal costs related to cleaning, Peribere concludes with a final statement that “the value of clean far outweighs the cost of clean. The BSC industry has a great story to tell. It is a story that’s themes are health, safety and enhanced productivity delivered in a way that embraces sustainability and the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit.”

Motivational speaker Sean Stephenson
Motivational speaker Sean Stephenson

Understanding the human condition

The 2014 Congress finished with an inspiring and empowering presentation from Sean Stephenson entitled ‘Get Off Your ‘But’’, which resulted in just that – everyone out of their seats giving him a standing ovation. Born with osteogenesis imperfecta, which stunts growth and causes bones to break under minimal pressure, Stephenson’s advice on overcoming self-doubt and insecurity – both in business and personal life – had the audience enthralled.

His words offered the perfect closure, motivating delegates to utilise all they had learnt over the past three days – to not just listen and absorb, but to take action and help create change in the industry. Reiterating Markus Asch’s concluding comments; “The future task is to change the perception of cleaning and no one is too small to start,” he implored. “Your future is created by what you do today, not tomorrow.”

This summary covers only part of the WFBSC 2014 program. More content will be delivered in future issues of INCLEAN and through website postings at

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