Leaders Forum: Mark Piwkowski, Quayclean

Industry leaders share their plans and predictions for the year ahead.

How was 2019 for Quayclean? What were the highlights? What were the challenges?

We enjoyed another strong year with over 20 per cent organic growth. We continued to expand in key market sectors including public venues, with the Adelaide Oval, Metricon Stadium and Sydney Showgrounds all joining the Quayclean family.

Quayclean was also able to attract many new contracts with several private schools across Australia and in government facilities, which is another new sector for the company.

Existing contracts that have come back to market have been retained reinforcing our strong focus on adding customer value. The biggest challenge facing the industry remains the continued lack of awareness and appreciation, across both government and private sectors, for the true cost of employing staff under the Modern Cleaning Services Award.

With outstanding service and a first-class team, we have grown into a specialist provider within public facilities and specialist services to private educators. We are an extremely humble and hungry organisation striving to learn and deliver excellence through our people and customers.

What will be the immediate focus for Quayclean in 2020?

We have a multi-faceted focus for 2020.

Outstanding service is as important today as it has ever been, and it remains an exciting challenge to ensure our organisations continues to thrive and grow.

Internally, we will continue with the development and training of staff/leaders within the company to build strong skills across our team which will optimise labour and leadership resources. We have seen pleasing results in the development of graduate trainees and leadership from the grassroots of the company to generate succession at all levels of our teams.

We will also continue to invest in technologies that support our staff and interface with our customers. Sustainable work practices and equipment that support delivering greater recycling results is a key pillar of our value proposition. There will be continued focus on safe work environments and alignment with the United Nations’ 17 sustainable development goals.

Finally, we will continue to build our brand deep within our key market sectors and build wide through new sectors where we feel our skills are relevant and can add value.

What challenges and opportunities do you see for Quayclean looking ahead to 2020?

Our greatest challenge and opportunity remain the effective employment, training and deployment of our staff across the facilities we manage.

We are, and will remain, a premium service brand renowned for unrivalled customer/patron experiences, and for our skill in the optimisation of resources presenting a holistic solution for cleaning, sustainability, hygiene, housekeeping and pest control.

What do you expect will be the big trends of 2020?

The cleaning industry is one that has various stats and trends. It has survived the GFC of 2008/2009, hit some lows and peaks, and is now experiencing a new spring of life that could see it rapidly expand in the next few years.

Like many others, the cleaning industry has its own challenges ranging from the daily focus on meeting customer requirements, developing and retaining staff, to competition among hundreds of companies.

We will see many more organisations aligning with the United Nations’ 17 sustainable development goals. These goals are the responsibility of all industry and the cleaning industry has an important role to play.

We will see an increase in the use robotics and technology for periodical activity that contribute to delivering higher levels of productivity. Environmental matters will be a priority.

The industry needs to be committed to real measurable green initiatives. We need to consider the carbon positive impacts of our actions, a focus towards chemical free cleaning, and the reduction water usage for cleaning and sanitisation.

We will also see a greater awareness by commercial, government and private organisations of the true cost of employing cleaning personnel, and their responsibility to ensure tenders focus on correct payment of staff and operations.

What key topics do you think the industry should be discussing in 2019?

There are a range of topics we can address. From a management and administration perspective, we should produce better hiring practices, increase staff training, develop an apprenticeship program for the industry, on-line works management systems and automated administrative services. Cleaning staff are well paid under the Award and the industry can do more to have a recognised programme for cleaning personnel.

We also need to look at developing more specialised cleaning services for customers and examine the impact of our work and how it can contribute to a carbon positive environment. Lastly, we are a public facing industry and we should consider how we can give back to communities where we work.

What is one issue you think the industry should urgently address in 2020?

Without doubt it is the underpayment of staff across the industry sector. Too much of the industry sector is driven by the strong desire of procurement managers to drive down price when the cleaning Award is very prescriptive on what must be paid. The Award is very generous, and the focus should be on optimising labour and maximising use of equipment that supports this desire.

Some years ago, Quayclean was identified as a party to a contracting organisation identified as underpaying staff. When the Fair Work Ombudsman commenced its review into this matter, it made me realise that if we were to succeed, our future path was to build our own team of cleaning personnel whose number today exceeds 1500 across the country.

We overhauled our operational and business model completing the whole 2018 Commonwealth Games (over 500 events in 12 days) with 100 per cent of staff fully employed under the Modern Award.  Today, all stadiums, racecourses and venues across Australia have a fully employed staffing model.

The industry also needs to focus on how to improve productivity through specialisation, and the marketplace needs to be educated on the cost of employing staff to create the right competitive environment. Too many cleaning companies cave into the hard hand tactics of procurement managers who, too often, do not seek value but rather just chase a cheaper price.

How do you see the cleaning landscape evolving into 2020?

With the Modern Award, Modern Slavery Act, Labour Hire Licencing requirements, ATO and Workers Compensation, there is a growing need for industry consolidation. I believe if we combine the efforts of the smaller companies to create a bigger, more efficient industry, we can create real value for customers and careers for staff.

Is there one key message you would like to share with the industry?

We should have no tolerance for complacency and non-compliance. We should bid for business using the Modern Award as the foundation for costs. The Award is very generous in its pay for staff – more generous than most other Awards.

We should not undervalue the work and services we provide and not allow ourselves to be cornered by a push for cheap pricing. We need to leverage this advantage to better train staff, create traineeships and apprenticeships which will assist the long-term development of our industry.

Read INCLEAN’s inaugural Industry Leaders Forum Report in the January/February issue of INCLEAN magazine 

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