The 1980s was a decade during which the beauty industry boomed. Makeup sales rose thanks to the trend toward dramatic eyes, heavy foundation and highly contoured cheeks, and hair colouring became an acceptable practice. Not surprisingly, what was in favour in one industry affected another, and carpet dyeing became just as popular as changing the hue on one’s head; at least, that was the case south of the border.
“It was a great way to refresh the look of what was already underfoot and it cost 20 per cent of new carpet,” explains Spectrum Building Services’ founder and CEO Fred Rosen, who lays claim to introducing the service to the Canadian marketplace.
The former stockbroker latched on to the concept while visiting the U.S. in 1990. Looking to take his career in another direction, Rosen was on a quest to find the next best service offering.
“Carpet dyeing was all the rage down there so I thought it would catch on here in Canada,” he says.
Shortly after returning home, Rosen set out to spread the word about his new-found venture – Spectrum Building Services. Armed with his winning business personality, can-do attitude and a trained carpet dyeing and cleaning technician, he literally went door-to-door to appeal to potential clients. Rosen’s efforts soon paid off and his fledgling company attracted much interest from the condominium and hotel sectors.
“I did some extensive carpet dyeing for the Royal York (now the Fairmont Royal York) to begin,” recalls Rosen, who has provided carpet cleaning services to the luxury downtown Toronto hotel for upwards of 25 years now. “The hotel had more than 1,000 bleach stains on its high-end wool carpet, likely caused by inadvertent or incorrect use of a cleaning product, which the Royal York just wasn’t going to replace.”
Despite successfully carving out a niche for himself, Rosen soon realized that the company’s key service offering wouldn’t sustain Spectrum in the long-term. So, like any astute entrepreneur, he reprioritized, relegating carpet dyeing to a specialty service so that he could focus more attention on the carpet cleaning side of the business.
“Carpet dyeing just wasn’t going to revolutionize the industry like I had originally thought,” says Rosen reflectively.
“But what it did do,” he continues, “was get me in the door to show clients our high level of service, both in terms of quality and reliability, which then led to subsequent carpet cleaning work.”
With time and experience, Spectrum expanded its offerings to become a full-service flooring maintenance and emergency restoration company. Its growing team of highly trained Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) approved specialists are equipped to tackle just about any property crisis – floods, fires, mould, hoarding, grow-ops and trauma – on top of providing professional carpet cleaning, and flooring installation, upkeep and repair.
“It was a natural progression,” says Rosen, noting 35 per cent of the business is now geared to emergency service work. “Our existing clients felt comfortable with me and others knew of the company’s reputation for getting things done right the first time.”
As a result, Spectrum’s existing client base has grown, too. While the majority of work still comes from the condo and hotel sectors (70 per cent), the company also provides services to multi-residential, industrial, office, retail and other commercial facilities, as well as institutions (hospitals, schools, student residences and seniors’ centres). Today, the building service contractor can be found in more than 800 buildings across the Greater Toronto Area and beyond.
With little sign of slowing down, Spectrum is expected to open two new offices in Ottawa and London, Ont., in the near future to accommodate growing consumer demand.
“Business is great – we’ve grown 20 per cent a year over the last 10 years – but we’re looking for more,” says Rosen.
That includes adding fan coil maintenance to its list of services since these HVAC components are a breeding ground for mould. Though Rosen hasn’t yet committed to this offering, he says it would complement the company’s existing mould remediation program, which “went from nothing eight years ago to well over $1 million in yearly revenue.”
THE GIVING TREE
Despite his success, Rosen has remained grounded and true to his convictions, one being to “treat others as you would want to be treated.” This pertains not just to clients but also staff, and accounts for why his original employee is still part of the Spectrum team.
Another long-held belief is that companies should give back to the environment to help ensure a sustainable existence for all.
Early on, Rosen committed to sourcing and using 100 per cent natural, biodegradable cleaning products, such as Benefect, Ecogent and Chemspec. Benefect is a disinfectant made purely from plant extracts that effectively kills 99.9 per cent of all germs. The antimicrobial action of Benefect’s essential thyme oils also prevents germs from building up a resistance to them. Ecogent is a line of non-toxic, general-purpose cleaning products made from renewable substances that clean to a scientific standard to promote public health. Chemspec is a green certified, detergent-free, minimal-residue carpet cleaner.
In 2003, the company partnered with Tree Canada, a leading national tree planting charity that’s taking concrete steps to fight climate change and preserve the country’s green spaces. Through its Grow Clean Air program, citizens and businesses can offset their carbon pollution. Participation has allowed Spectrum to obtain a net zero carbon footprint, making it the first and only certified carbon neutral cleaning company in Canada.
“Carbon pollution is a serious threat,” says Rosen. “To reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions, we use vehicles powered by a four-cylinder engine and have introduced an electric car to our fleet.”
Tree Canada determines the number of trees needed to be planted to reach carbon neutrality by calculating how many tonnes of carbon dioxide are emitted by a company’s activities. This involves accounting for all direct and indirect emissions, including paper usage, waste disposal and outsourced activities.
To date, the organization has planted more than 82 million trees thanks to the support of eco-conscious businesses like Spectrum.
SUCCESS FOR ALL
Looking back on the past 28 years, Rosen credits Spectrum’s success to his strong yet fair leadership style, strong work ethic and perseverance, and the company’s ability to provide exceptional customer service in a timely manner, foster long-term relationships and remain ahead of the curve.
“You have to be able to find innovative, technologically sound solutions to customers’ problems,” he says, noting Spectrum utilizes a unique dual-process carpet cleaning methodology that is designed to revitalize carpets by removing stains from deep within the pile, strengthening the carpet fibres and prolonging the life and durability of the product.
Rosen also acknowledges that while he was the brainchild behind Spectrum – the name chosen to reflect the wide range of services he planned to offer, but has since come to reflect the business’s diverse clientele and various backgrounds and skillsets of its employees – the company wouldn’t be where it is today without its dedicated staff.
“I invest in training and development because it not only ensures a high quality of work, but it makes employees feel valued and appreciated,” says Rosen, noting each staff member must partake in and pass a 60-day intensive in-house training program before going out in the field. “The goal is to foster a desire among employees to want to stay with the company a long time, which is necessary as they’re an invaluable part of the Spectrum team.”
Clare Tattersall is the editor of Facility Cleaning & Maintenance.
Photos by Robyn Russell.