Jim Harris, Sr. – Chairman & Founder Concepts4 & Janitronics Co-founder & Chairman of CIRI – Cleaning, Success & Science

Air Date: 4-5-2019|Episode 541

This week we look forward to our interview with Jim Harris, Sr., a consultant, trainer, corporate executive, and entrepreneur. Jim has had a productive and successful career in the cleaning industry for 45 years. Jim started Janitronics Facility Services in 1972 as a local cleaning service. The company has since evolved into a seven branch, comprehensive cleaning, maintenance and management service, but has a new approach: Thinking small; they specialize in creating, and sustaining a healthy indoor environment utilizing state of the art, effective ‘cleaning systems’ based on validated cleaning science research. Mr. Harris is also co-founder and chairman of the Cleaning Industry Research Institute (CIRI). CIRI is the clearinghouse for unbiased, peer-reviewed technical information and research about the science of cleaning or restoration of the indoor environment.



Jim Harris has done what others have only dreamed of while building a profitable company. His company was built first and foremost on the science of cleaning. The company uses state-of-the-art equipment and processes to clean for health. To increase productivity, Janitronics developed its’ SysteamCleaning (TM) concept, utilizing state of the art workflow based on systems thinking and high performance standards. In 2000 the leadership of the company completed a succession transition to Jim Harris, Jr. and is headquartered in Albany, N.Y. They are not just dumping wastebaskets and cleaning restrooms. They pride themselves on cleaning a work environment to maintain a high health standard; focused on properly removing bio-contaminants and airborne particles. Janitronics has been successful in transforming cleaning into a science.

Z-Man’s Blog:

Cleaning, Success & Science

Jim Harris, Sr., consultant, trainer, corporate executive and entrepreneur; a high school grad who by himself built a highly successful business. Janitronics will soon celebrate 50 year business anniversary. Janitronics doesn’t just empty wastebaskets and clean washrooms, the firm prides itself on cleaning work environments to a high health standard; focused n properly removing biocontaminates and airborne particles.

Nuggets mined from today’s episode.

While working for a Jan/San firm, Jim directly entered the cleaning industry when he was recruited by a headhunter to join a large cleaning company. After bringing many ideas to a boss who never implemented them, Jim left and started his own cleaning business.

Jim is creative and highly competitive. While competitors are “me-too”, Jim is an individualist.

Great marketer. Jim had golf balls imprinted with his company logo and he would place them in the rough of country clubs because he knew people would pick them up. This idea worked so well that when people met Jim for the first time they would think they had heard of the firm and had previously met Jim.

Successful advertisement: We take care of the small things.  For Jim, taking care of small things has led to big things.

Too many of Jim’s friends sold their businesses and then lost their identities. Jim loves work, competing and building concepts and businesses.

3 biggest influencers:  Jim credits attending a W. Edwards Deming seminar where he learned that his search for a better way to do things was in Deming speak Continuous Process Improvement.

Larry Shideler’s invention of the backpack vacuum which improved both ergonomics and efficiency of cleaning.

Jim credits: Dr. Michael Berry, PhD and his book Protecting the Built Environment: Cleaning for Health for making him think small (about microorganisms and small particles), clean precisely and clean for health.

There are two ways to perform facility maintenance: zone cleaning and team cleaning. In zone cleaning, oneworkers performs all of the required tasks. Team cleaning doesn’t mean working with others, it means doing only one task such as vacuuming or cleaning restrooms.

Jim was an early adopter of implementing systems and cleaning for health. While now the term “cleaning for health” has become a common business slogan, Jim and his company believe it, adopted it and practice it. His staff are given the reasoning for performing the required tasks. Systems and training results in improving the efficiencies of Janitronic’s 2,000 employees.

All 2,000 workers wear uniforms. Work simplification and redistribution: workers are trained given a job card which tells them what to do, where to do it and how much time is allotted to the task.

Better people and better execution are keys to his success. Discriminating employee selection, 1 out 13 applicants gets hired.

Parenteral drug manufacturing and semiconductor manufacturers outsource cleaning because cleaning isn’t their core competency and they can’t afford or risk a cleaning problem. Cleaning is Janitronics’ core competency, cleaning cleanrooms and pharmaceutical manufacturing areas is animportant specialty. These cleaning process are often ISO Certified. Operators are trained to be conscience of what is being done, self-police, complete the paperwork.

In Europe, cleaning is an honorable profession, cleaners are considered custodians of the building. In the US maids and janitors are looked down upon.

Good training isn’t always available. Opines that a great system reduces the need for training.

A believer in the use of ATP and particle counters for cleaning evaluation and monitoring.

Opines, that there is too much deal making and corruption in disaster restoration.

There is a breakdown of values, ethics, attitudes and respect in young people which Jim attributes by an absence of God in our society. Jim does volunteer work with his church where he encounters kids with tough lives and heartbreaking stories.

CIRI Story

CIRI (Cleaning Industry Research Institute) began when BNP media publisher Humphrey Tyler asked Jim about the cleaning industry research institute. Jim was astonished there wasn’t one. Humphrey asked Jim how involved he wanted to be and the rest is history.

CIRI is serious. “At CIRI, the science and the scientists are the essence of who we are.” Science is the common denominator. CIRI is an umbrella over everything from research to the mop.

CIRI loves everyone. CIRI has no competitors. CIRI wants to get manufacturers, researchers, trainers, cleaners around the same table. People curious about finding a better way. How to make our schools cleaner and safer. Kids shouldn’t get sick because the janitor had a bad day.

Ignorance of science is rampant. Training needs to knowledge based.  CIRI is determining what is true, who needs to know it, and how to best communicate the info. The information needs to permeate down through the different levels.

Jim has seen good science put on the shelf.

Every organization needs a communication device.Has been working with John Downey for 18 months. John given open field in which to run.

Industry magazine articles are advertiser driven. Industry periodicals have lax journalistic standards. When the author of an article learns that their article will be peer reviewed, they want the opportunity to make corrections prior to submission. The CIRI Quarterly Journal is peer reviewed because it’s the right thing to do.

CIRI is trying to bring pride in job to front line workers.

People need to experience CIRI events. Once they attend, they’ll return.

CIRI’s greatest accomplishment is the K-12 School Cleaning Study, https://www.issa.com/data/moxiestorage/restricted/users-area/cleanstandard_k-12_w_appendices.pdf

Need to find leaders who will give of themselves to help the industry.

John Downey:

Worked with Jim closely for 18 months and learned fascinating new things about him today. Trade associations serve their members. CIRI is focused on science and is responsible to the overall industry and the public.

Jim Harris Sr’ Final Thoughts:

Serious and curious people want to grow. CIRI is finding the way. Biocontaminates aren’t casual. Cleaning shouldn’t be casual. A pregnant woman in a dirty office building is a problem. Kids going to school in a dirty building is a problem.

Z-Man signing off

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