Last year I was sitting in a monthly BDM (Business development meeting) with the rest of our management team discussing replacing one of our Bane-Clene truck mounted carpet cleaning units’ when it struck me that we had been operating the same machine for over twenty years!
Wow! That made me feel my age but it also brought back fond memories of my very first visit to America and Indianapolis, home of the Bane family. Yes these machines and the whole Bane system are the brainchild of a real life family firm who live and breath carpet cleaning and put into practice on a daily basis their principles, which make them the acknowledged leader in the field of carpet and soft furnishing cleaning.
Originally their equipment was distributed in the UK by an American called Bob Kelly who used to flog up and down the country in a big Renault Master van doing demo’s for anyone interested in truck mounts. You have to remember back in the 80’s a truck mount was a really unusual piece of equipment when most operators were still using small portables and Bob found it really hard to make users realise the benefits the Bane system would bring them.
Whenever Bob was passing through the North of England I used to always give him a bed for the night and we would yarn about carpet cleaning and the industry in general over a few beers. In a typical example of ‘what goes around comes around’ when Bob eventually decided he couldn’t afford to continue his one man crusade to turn British carpet cleaners onto the merits of truck mounts, he gave me the opportunity of buying one of his demo models at a discount in return for the support we had given him.
It was all well and good getting the truck mount at a discounted price but at the time we couldn’t afford to buy the van for the gear to go in and there was resistance to investing ten grand in buying one just to have it dedicated solely to carpet cleaning. Just as it does now the market appeared to be dominated by “blow-and-suck” merchants who advertise that they clean a room for a fiver and your whole house for twenty-five quid so the idea of using a twenty thousand pounds set up to clean carpets appeared total madness.
It was then that I visited Bane-Clene’s Indianapolis facility for their annual convention. This was an awe inspiring visit as I saw at first hand the devotion and belief our fellow operators had in Bane-Clene as suppliers and as a force for good in the carpet cleaning industry. Messianic is the only word I could use to describe the atmosphere. Remember this is a bunch of self employed small business owners, the archetypal independent type of person and they were so committed to being the best at what they do that it was, to a Brit, almost embarrassing as was the almost a religious fervour.
Here I heard for the first time that Bane-Clene guaranteed their equipment for 5 years. So what you might think but you have to remember that at that time even when you bought a new car in the U.K. you were lucky to get a one year guarantee never mind 5 years. It was this simple fact – belief in how good their gear was, combined with everything I has seen and heard from the operators at the convention that persuaded me I had to really push the system and prove that it would work in the UK as well as it did in the States.
Returning home, I took the first step towards getting the equipment mobile. Initially using a twin wheeled trailer, aka ‘The Painted Wagon’ as it had a canvas cover, we used to take just the base unit out to do domestics. After months of towing ‘The Painted wagon’ around we realised that there was enough business to warrant a Merc van Our big break through came though when we purchased a small carpet cleaning company called Maple Leaf that had gone into liquidation. They already operated a couple of truck mounts but they were massive, noisy jet engined machines that ran on diesel and operated at far too high a temperature and pressure to clean carpets safely.
We moved them on as fast as we could then installed Bane equipment instead. The effect this had on the Operators who had transferred to us from Maple Leaf was immediate. They realised straight away the benefits of the new equipment far more readily than other Newlife personnel as they had more experience operating truck mounts and couldn’t believe the results being achieved by simply plugging in a three-pin plug. No screaming engines, no smelly dangerous derv, and no high pressure hoses which constantly split spitting out scalding water.
That was twenty years ago and yes we did order a new machine. Infact we went one better and visited Mr and Mrs Bane Snr. both at their Indianapolis offices and at their home. When we told them this story it delighted them so much they offered us distributorship rights for their range in the UK. We haven’t taken them up on their offer yet but who knows what the future holds.
The moral of the tale though is that by setting your stall out as a specialist then setting your standards and aspirations at the highest level possible you can grow a business which is recognised all around the world as the acknowledged leader in it’s field.