The annual CFA conference is a day of speakers sharing their knowledge, expertise and experience with members. But it’s much more than that. It’s an opportunity for old friends and colleagues to come together and reconnect. An opportunity for members to network and to learn from others who share the same ups and downs in business.
Unfortunately, due to the current pandemic, this year’s CFA conference, like so many others, was unable to occur in its normal format. Instead, it was held virtually on October 25, 2020. Although not in person, it was a packed morning with a great line up of speakers who presented members with a wealth of information to help them get through COVID times.
Karen Maxwell (GreenEarth Cleaning) focused on growing your business in times of COVID. She said, “We are not wired for change. We are change-adverse. It’s our survival mechanism and COVID has put us in survival mode.” Karen discussed the importance of anticipating, embracing, and monitoring the changes happening around us.
Karen also reviewed the benefits of social media and email marketing and it’s importance to your business’ growth in times of COVID. She also emphasized how marketing is a way to build relationships with your customers, and gave helpful ideas for encouraging goal-setting at every level of your company.
Every business owner at one time or another has had to face that dreaded Difficult Customer. It goes with the territory of business ownership in the service industry. Kim Sekleski-Polley (Wrights Cleaners) spoke of her experience in dealing with these customers. Kim talked about the large number of textiles being produced today having manufacturer defects and often mislabelled, and how this is contributing to many of the mishaps by dry cleaners, whom she argues should not be financially responsible.
Kim is very passionate about this topic and has done her due diligence. She said operators should use incident reports, check for warranties and suggested taking photos of the item at drop-off if you suspect there may be a problem down the line. Kim also stressed the importance of having employees who are specially trained to deal with difficult situations. Kim said, “You aren’t going to please every single customer; don’t take it personally. The moment you do, pass it on to someone else.” For those who don’t have customer representatives, Kim is happy to help by offering her services to assist other cleaners who find themselves in difficult situations with customers.
With his two Starbucks ready to go, Dave Troemel (BeCreative 360) was up especially early to join the conference, as he’s located in Southern California. Dave focused on marketing and communication during COVID. “Communication to your customers is the number one thing you should be doing. Be sure to get their email address [and permission to use it],” he emphasized. Dave discussed current marketing trends and explained how email marketing is the easiest and most effective way of communicating to your customers. With email marketing currently up over 60%, it has become the preferred way of marketing for brands. Dave also provided members with several examples of effective marketing ideas and underscored the importance of focusing on nurturing and retaining your current customers when marketing dollars are limited.
Jon Meijer (DLI) was on hand to give a global update of the industry. He said, “This is a fragile industry. There are no more suits to be cleaned. Those days are gone. We need to start thinking of cleaning as a whole, not just dry cleaning.” Jon highlighted the fact that not everyone will be going back to the office after the pandemic, as companies have realized the savings inherent in having their employees work from home. This, in turn, has changed the cleaning needs of customers and has opened new opportunities for cleaners to expand on their service offerings. “We clean EVERYTHING!” should be your new motto. Jon too emphasized the benefits of using social media and email marketing to help market your business and said those who continue to educate themselves through their associations will be the stronger cleaners.
Managing your employees during the COVID crisis has become a complex issue. Christine Jonathan (MacDonald, Sager, Manis LLP) reviewed the current Canadian government relief programs, including Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB), Canada Recovery Caregiver Benefit (CRCB), Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS), new regulations for screening employees, and the Health and Safety Act. Christine also reiterated the importance of contract tracing should an employee be positive for COVID and the necessary reporting requirements. As always, Christine had lots of questions from members.
Even during a pandemic, there remain environmental responsibilities and liabilities to cleaners. Jacquelyn Stevens (Willms & Shier Environmental Lawyers) was back for her annual review of civil liability, compliance and regulatory liability.
She also reviewed the annual reporting requirements for PERC. Even during COVID, inspections continue to happen, and unfortunately, so too are prosecutions. As usual, Jacquelyn had plenty to report on, and great advice on managing your company’s environmental responsibilities, pandemic or not.
Jacquelyn’s presentation was a great segway to the last speaker, who furthered the discussion on liability. Ross Smith (Marsh Canada Insurance) joined and reiterated the importance of having the right insurance policy, especially for environmental liability. Ross told members of a specialized insurance policy he is currently working on that will be exclusive to CFA members. He also briefly discussed recent trends and the current hardening of the insurance industry.
In a normal year, the day would have ended with a relaxed gathering of cocktails, dinner, and awards. This year ended with just a click of the button on our home screens. So we look forward to the 2021 CFA conference where old friends can hopefully come together, face to face once again, over a drink or two.