A Publication of WTVP

With hopes of revolutionizing the regional cleaning industry, Robert Jones operates three companies focused on environmentally friendly cleaning supplies and procedures.

Robert Jones, the owner and operator of three environmentally friendly companies—The Cleaning Source, Performance Floor Coatings and Village Janitor Supply—started his career in sales and management in the retail/wholesale floor covering industry in the 1980s. “I have sold every type of covering that can be put on the floor!” he exclaimed.

In the ‘90s, Jones left the retail world behind and went to work for a chemical manufacturing company as a territory sales representative. “I recognized early on that most chemical manufacturers and distributors were—and still are—focused on selling the most chemicals that they can to their customers,” he said. When customers complained that their cleaning products just weren’t getting the job done, Jones saw that the cleaning staff was not properly trained, and therefore weren’t getting the desired results. This realization led Jones to develop training programs for cleaning staff and reduce the number of chemicals used to clean each building. “This goes hand-in-hand with the green cleaning movement,” he noted.

Clean and Green

After the company he worked for was sold and Jones’ division was absorbed by another, he went to work for a second distributor, who used a different manufacturer. After some time, Jones said he became frustrated with the industry’s mindset, which he describes as “sell as many cleaning chemicals to as many customers as you can.” At this point he decided to go into business for himself and do it his way—focus on environmentally friendly cleaning supplies and train his employees how to properly use them.

About this time, the government realized that many of the chemicals and finishes used on floors were hazardous to the people using them, as well as those who occupied the buildings in which they were used. “We started seeing tariffs put on oil-modified gym floor products and the solvents associated with that process,” said Jones. “The idea was to increase the cost of oil-modified to a level more in line with the merging water-based technology.” Jones mentioned he currently recoats about 30 gym floors each season, only one of which has not been converted to a water-based system.

At this same time Jones founded The Cleaning Source, a contract cleaning company whose vision is “to offer clients the highest return on their cleaning investment with cleaning programs that are focused on cleaning for the health of the building occupants and visitors, using the most environmentally friendly chemicals and procedures.” This vision has grown stronger with the growth of the “green” movement, and Jones has come to offer both cleaning services for those companies that want to outsource that aspect of their business, and training for employees of companies that choose to keep the cleaning in-house but need to know how to do so safely and correctly. The company’s 25 technicians “are thoroughly trained in proper restroom disinfection, general cleaning procedures and how to clean in the most efficient environmental manner,” Jones explained.

Three in One

In 2007, Jones purchased a contract cleaning and chemical distributorship company, which he merged with The Cleaning Source. Because of this acquisition, he was able to start Performance Floor Coatings and Village Janitor Supply. He now operates three different, yet intertwined, cleaning businesses.

The chemical distributorship, Village Janitor Supply, offers a variety of cleaning products and equipment focused on “green” cleaning. Jones stressed that his companies only sell products he believes in. He tests each new product in select buildings serviced by The Cleaning Source before introducing them to customers. “We don’t sell cleaning products because ‘the boss told me I had to sell this much of the stuff this week,’” he said.

Performance Floor Coatings is Jones’ specialty floor finishing company, offering the most technologically-advanced, environmentally friendly floor coatings applied by trained technicians. The company currently services six surrounding states in the region. “The green movement,” Jones noted, “has been deemed the most exciting and challenging trend in our industry. It is not new, but moving forward as the chemical manufacturing industry develops the technology to meet the green standard needs.” These standards don’t merely cover the chemicals, as Jones pointed out, but the equipment and techniques used to apply those chemicals as well.

One of the biggest challenges when it comes to floors is keeping them clean and glossy. Usually achieved through frequent burnishing—a restorative procedure that is performed periodically on traditional acrylic finishes to make floors shine—Jones is now implementing a different system which works better and is more environmentally friendly.

Instead of the standard acrylic floor finishes, which have a short life span and require frequent stripping and recoating, “Performance Floor Coatings offers an alternative, water-based aliphatic urethane finish that does not require stripping and never needs burnishing,” Jones explained. For that reason, it leaves a much smaller environmental footprint than harsh chemical alternatives.

Reducing Environmental Footprints

One of Jones’ biggest challenges is helping prospective customers understand that what seems to be the lowest price when it comes to commercial cleaning, maintaining and restoring floors isn’t always the best. “The biggest challenge,” he said, “is to get people to change their thought process from how cheaply we can get by in cleaning our buildings to how much we need to spend to provide healthy conditions for building occupants.”

To do so, Jones relies on Green Seal, an independent nonprofit organization that tests products to make sure they are environmentally friendly. “They are leading the way for us by providing product testing and education and increasing overall awareness,” he said. Jones’ teams are currently using a Green Seal-certified citrus/hydrogen peroxide-based product in the majority of the City of Peoria buildings they service. Because this one chemical can be used in many different dilutions, it’s the only one used in entire buildings, which significantly reduces their cleaning footprint.

While convincing clients that the green movement is not a fad can sometimes be frustrating, Jones loves his work. He claims the most rewarding aspect of his job is “developing and implementing custom cleaning programs and doing follow-up inspections on Performance Floor Coatings’ floors and seeing beautiful, glossy floors that have reduced environmental footprints.” A testament to the fact that he never stops trying to improve his services, Jones will introduce the next generation of ultra-durable urethanes within the next month or two. As the green cleaning movement marches on, he is at the forefront. IBI