Are you justified in turning away business? | The Toilet Expert

When it’s the right thing to turn away business

Just a small blog here and really more on the general business side of things rather than the specifics of washrooms – although this was about a washroom service contract.

Today I declined the opportunity to secure some business.  Am I crazy?  I think not.   When I started my own business many years ago I would chase every piece of business I could, grateful for the opportunity and the hope that it would turn into something substantial.  Some did and some didn’t of course, actually a lot didn’t and it may just be all those little alarm bells from bad decisions over the years that made me say no thanks.

I am going to explain this one a little more and if you have any comments then I will be glad to hear them.

First Contact

The initial enquiry was to provide a sanitary bin service in a new office for a UK company setting up an office in Scotland.

It might seem strange that if they have offices across the UK they haven’t asked their incumbent to supply, but they might like to use local suppliers so a quote was issued in good faith.

The devil is in the detail

On acceptance of the quote a 5 page supplier approval document was sent to us which included such info as 3 years accounts, amount of staff, staff turnover, rates of pay of staff and sub-contractors as well as the usual public and employers insurance requests and RAMS (Risk Assessment and Method Statements) they even asked for environmental and equal opportunity policies.

Very few customers ask to see our insurance documents – mostly large corporates or public bodies.  Most companies appreciate that we as IWSA, SMDSA, British Safety Council members or associate members must be reasonably good at what we do, that and the list of corporate clients that scream ‘QUALITY SERVICE!’.  For large tenders and contracts we will of course provide audited accounts as part of a PQQ, no bother.  But to install and service a solitary sanitary bin with an annual value of less than £100.  It seemed a bit excessive and I made a decision that as a business we had more pressing matters than taking an hour or two to secure the contract. Let me add that the hour or two is probably the margin in that piece of business.  Furthermore as we do not tie our clients into long term contracts and the fact this potential client had no loyalty to her incumbent supplier could there be a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? Probably not.

Strange but true…

The strange thing was in all the documentation that was asked for the one thing that wasn’t requested was a copy of our waste carriers licence.  Occasionally we get asked for proof of our waste carriers’ licence which we provide to every customer as part of the Duty of Care note.

So I am going to pop this into hyperspace and see if you agree or disagree.  Please feel free to share, discuss or call me a fool.

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5 Questions you should ask before contacting a local washroom service company | The Toilet Expert

It doesn’t happen every day but I am regularly told when discussing washroom needs – “Waste of time, why should I pay someone to do something I don’t need?”

Which is a fair point, as I love to cut my own hair, change the brake pads on my car as well as process my own Kebab meat and bake my own bread – you get the point.

As a business owner I regularly have to use the following flow chart.  It applies as much to washroom services as it does to any product or service your business might need.

Let me look at some of these questions from a Washroom perspective.

Do I need It?

The real answer is dependent on how your local EHO interprets the legislation and guidance.  The guidelines that we tend to work with is whether, as a business, you generate more than 25Kg of ‘offensive’ waste over a 12 month period.   Some authorities use a % of waste: for example if the offensive waste that your business generates is more than 10% of your total generated waste, it must be separated from the general waste stream and disposed of by a registered carrier.  This is certainly the case with Care Homes, children’s nurseries, indoor play centres, family venues, motorway service stations, doctor’s surgeries, dental practices, some beauty therapy centres, etc.

However a greater risk for many small businesses,  especially cafes, restaurants and bars is sanitary waste being flushed down the toilet because of a lack of an appropriate means of disposal.   This can cause blockages and one call out from a plumber is a lot more expensive than a single sanitary bin installed onsite.  For example our sanitary bin service starts as low as £75 per year depending on location,  number of units, service frequency (13 visits included at this price)and type of bin that you are after (Click here to get a quote).  In comparison to a plumber or emergency drain clearage charge it’s a pretty low cost – £1.44 a week approx.

Can I afford it?

I suspect most businesses can.  However larger businesses can offset the cost if they think a little out of the box.

Every business needs to buy toilet paper and soap and either buy hand towels, launder linen towels or buy/rent a hand dryer.  By sourcing these products from your local washroom company there could be considerable time and money savings which invariably would cover the cost of a sanitary bin.  If you have urinals at your business, the installation of a water management system could save £100’s if not £1000’s of pounds which again could offset any washroom costs.

It’s another great reason to go to a local supplier who will not only rely heavily on referrals but also their reputation within the local business community.  A quote is free and if you are unsure, have a look at my washroom services company guide for an alternative opinion.

Do I enjoy doing it?

If we were discussing telesales, social media, delivering orders, cold calling, etc.  I am sure there are aspects of every business that some of us enjoy enthusiastically (I actually enjoy blogging more than servicing sanitary bins believe it or not).

I have yet to find any company that likes or has staff that like dealing with emptying the sanitary bins or cleaning the urinals for that matter.

So why not source out something you don’t enjoy doing to someone who is paid and trained to do it?

Can I do it myself?

If you are a small business then you may be able to do it yourself.  The issue with most businesses is that they invariably run out of something, soap, toilet paper, and then end up buying ‘emergency’ supplies from the local supermarket.  A pump action liquid soap is maybe 3 or 4 times more expensive than a wall mounted foaming soap unit and a foaming soap unit will last 10 times longer which means you will run out less often.

Have I got the time?

If your business is like mine the one thing you don’t have in abundance is time.  Time poor is a common complaint of most business owners.  But if you do have the time and don’t have the money – crack on.  If you have the time but maybe not the money at the moment, stick a note in your diary to review the situation in 3 months’ time.   Then get a couple of local businesses competing for your business. Trust me, the simplest of service options won’t cost the earth.

There you have it.  5 questions you should ask yourself probably for any service or product your business requires but especially for washrooms.

Remember sharing is caring so please like this article shareand mentiontoiletexpert.   Any comments most welcome and if you would like to get a quote for your washroom services just drop me a message

 

Anyone for Golf?

Golf Club

Check your washroom services contract

Spring has come at last.  Greenkeepers across the land will be rolling the greens, clearing the twigs out of the bunkers and spreading the fertilizer/weedkiller across the fairways.

Golf Clubs, like many seasonal business will be starting to see their visitor numbers rise, and so clubs across the land should be looking to replace the broken hand dryer, dripping tap or other piece of equipment which has not been quite as important over the winter when ‘just’ the members are using the club.

Why the interest in Golf Clubs?  Well, as a golfer, I see these issues at my club not just this year but last year too, and try as I might to save them a few pounds they really aren’t interested as there are always more important stuff to do during the winter and by spring it’s often too late to plan properly so quick fixes are sought.

For those of you in a golf club, bowling club or similar does this sound familiar?  What many golf clubs (and other sports and social clubs that have a committee) don’t realise is that they have probably been in a washroom supply contract for several years and, like utilities and banking , you really should shop around and make sure you are getting a good deal every now and then.  (visit www.IWSA.org.uk to find a local registered independent washroom supplier)

Bowling Club

Recently I saw a vending machine that was still dispensing products  for 20p.  The average item in a washroom vending machine costs 60-70p so that gives you some idea how long that piece of equipment has been on the wall.   In my estimation 25 years plus.

All the national washroom service companies will put their prices up at least once a year.  If you read the small print, which I am sure all my readers do, you will see that the wording is along the lines of ‘can increase the price at any time without notice’. The issue here is that these letters are sent into Clubs and associations who accept it as the committee may be completely different from the previous year and although they will get round to it is the start of the busy season and they will look into it in November.

So whether you are a Golf Club, Social Club or other type of members club, please don’t keep putting if off or burying your head in the bunker.   Get your contract out and you may get your whole washroom upgraded for less than you currently are paying for shoddy equipment.

Small can be beautiful.

8 Tips to make the smallest toilet professional

Dawson Lounge Dublin and small toilets

Recently I was in the smallest bar in Dublin.  Although the bar was tiny, the toilets were reasonably sized. But not every business has the luxury of large spaces for toilets and in many cases one toilet will be used by all staff and customers alike.

So what can be done to make a small toilet look ‘professional’?

  1. Make sure there is a sign on the door many small businesses just don’t bother!
  2. Get rid of any carpets or mats around the toilet. These are only (just) acceptable in a domestic environment but not in a professional one.
  3. Install a sanitary bin: these can be fitted in the smallest of toilets and will reduce embarrassment and prevent blockages.
  4. Try to get consistency in the dispensers having a matching soap, toilet roll and paper towel dispenser.
  5. Do not use linen (domestic) towels. Use paper and have a waste paper bin in the toilet or alternatively install a hand dryer.
  6. Use a cleaning product that has a light fragrance (not bleach or pine disinfectant) heavy fragrance gives the impression you are masking smells as opposed to a ‘clean’ smell.
  7. Clean the toilet, sink and surfaces EVERY day.
  8. Use an air freshener that reflects your business.  A  hotel or guest house may use a fresh linen for example.

It is safe to say that all businesses are reflected by their toilets from 5 star hotels to the smallest accountancy office.  The impression you give visitors is important and great toilets can make or break a decision on whether to recommend or indeed come back for another visit.

Self Cleaning Toilets will be here sooner than you think.

Self cleaning toilets – the future or just another daft idea?

Hydrophobic is a word associated with Rabies.   It describes the being that has the disease/infection’s symptoms – a fear of water.

It is also being used to describe a coating process that is currently being used in mobile phone technology but soon could be coming to a washroom near you with Self Cleaning Toilets.

There are several variants of the technology,  the main one being a two coat process – a base coat that ensures that the topcoat sticks to the surface.  Once the product is applied it will not allow anything with water in it to stick to the surface.

Think on that  – nothing would stick to the toilet or sink surface.  No more toothpaste marks, water marks or worse.

But is this too good to be true and what is the downside?  Well, first of all the systems I have looked at leave a dull matt finish which may not suit many businesses.   I am sure there will be a gloss version somewhere; I have just yet to find it.

The second question is, and this may sound silly, will toilet or washroom cleaners remove the coating if they have to be used?    Do you have to have a chemical free zone?   And  in the domestic situation, will the product survive shampoo, hair dye and other products that are the opposite of hydrophobic?

self-cleaning

It’s a thought and right now I would be keen to hear your views on this potential development.  Would you feel comfortable using a public toilet that hadn’t been cleaned in the traditional way?  With the removal of the need to clean the actual toilet, would the surrounding area cleanliness suffer?

Are you being deafened in the Washroom?

Comparison of decibel levels

Hand dryer manufacturers are as guilty over noise levels as car manufacturers are on diesel emissions.

Humans are born with only two fears, a fear of falling and loud noises.  Natural defenses built into our DNA from before we humans walked on two legs probably.

For those of you not familiar with how noise levels are recorded here goes.  If sound over a level of 70 decibels has just a small increase in the scale of +3 decibels (dB) this has double the noise impact. So 73dB is twice as noisy as 70dB.  76dB is twice as loud as 73 and so on.

With regard to hand dryers, some manufacturers put noise levels on their equipment like a badge of honour “only 95dB”.  Some manufacturers, like a good car salesman, have more refined tricks “30% quieter than our best-selling model” which sound amazing but that does not mean that the noise level has dropped from 95dB to 66dB more likely to have dropped from 95db to 94db.

This is not the only trick in the book. Noise levels should always be taken 1m from the source, but unless you have arms like an orangutan you will probably be closer than 50cm, even closer if you are under the age of 10?  So if noise concerns you download a noise meter app to your phone, and see what the results are.

Another reason that ‘claimed’ noise levels are actually much higher is that the noise is measured before hands are put into the air flow.  The faster the airflow the more impactful the noise level.  So newer models of both hands-in and hands-under dryers can force the air out at speeds of 400mph.  Manufacturers will try all sorts of tricks to get around this and a bit like diesel emissions in a car, whatever noise level you see you can be assured that the reality is very different.

The issue for me with noisy hand dryers, especially in very young children, is that they associate hand washing with something that scares them – noisy hand dryers.  Yes, I can hear the cries of “but children need to be exposed to germs and creating compulsive hand washers in the young could cause all sorts of issues in later life”.  I agree.  But that discussion has to be for another blog.

So with 18.6% of the population in the UK are under the age of 14, maybe it’s about time we considered this key demographic and, very surprisingly, there are only a couple of child friendly hand dryers out there in this $billion global market

Snow is falling…….

As Shakin’ Stevens says ‘…children playing, having fun’ but Shakin’ forgets to highlight the slip risks that invariably arrive with the snow, especially on tiled or hard flooring.

For those businesses that have carpeted entrance areas the risk of slips and falls is minimised but the risk of unsightly water damage or salt staining can leave a bad impression as well as unwanted deep cleaning or replacement costs in the spring.

So it is at this time of the year that entrance matting can come into its own.  All of our mats are rubber backed so that any snow melt or grit deposited onto the mat will not soak through to the flooring, the risk of slips and falls is drastically reduced and water damage to the floor/flooring is removed.

I would always recommend to any business if they can install an external scraper mat, not a domestic mat you may have at home the size of A4 piece of paper but a commercial one that will stand up to hundreds of feet being scraped on it daily. A plain scraper mat costs as little as £150 but these can be branded to match your business and a branded option can start from as little as £195. Not bad if you think it will last 18-24 months.

An external mat is just left outside and just needs a brush down every now and again.  Internally I would recommend that you employ an independent washroom services company to provide a two weekly lift and launder service. This essential service reduces damage and slip risk and a basic mat can cost as little as £2.20 a week.

Mats can be made to any design, even HD quality, so if you did want a picture of your dog it can now be done.  The cost to have a bespoke mat created is not as high as you may think but it will depend on the complexity of the design and the size of the mat.  But let’s face it a great entrance mat can enhance any building entrance even one that says something as simple as ‘Welcome’.

We have created all shapes and sizes of bespoke entrance matting over the years and once the design is agreed we can have them installed within 10 working days so even though the snow is falling – it’s not too late to get a great looking entranceway for the worst of the weather.

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The Holidays are coming – part 2

Christmas is nearly upon us and the toilet or washroom area can be a tricky place to deal with over the festive period – depending on what type of business you have.

In part 2 of this Christmas Blog I will look at the businesses that close down for two weeks or longer over the festive period and some of the things you need to do to ensure that your toilets are clean, fresh and still working when everyone returns to work.

  1. Check your service company schedules.  If you have a service due over Christmas contact your service company explain you will be closed and arrange an alternative date (preferably before you close).
  2. Urinals – if you don’t have water management systems installed – install them. Instead of wasting water down the drain they can be adjusted to flush down once a day. This prevents the u-bend drying out and the drain smells coming back from the sewer
  3. Ensure that the washrooms are cleaned prior to holidays starting and pay special attention to:
    • Toilet bowls. Clean inside and out and leave lid down to prevent evaporation.
    • Waste paper bins. Ensure they are empty: they make great nests for mice.
    • Any leaks are fixed. A small drip could be a torrent after two weeks.
  4. Heating. If you are planning to switch the heating off, drain down the pipes but this is a lot of work.  Much better to keep the heating on low to prevent any pipes freezing should here be a cold snap.
  5. Stocks.  Just make sure you have enough essentials to last the first week back.  Deliveries are notoriously unreliable the first week back after the holidays.

There you have it five easy steps to ensure you have hassle free washrooms before, during and after the Christmas break.

Merry Christmas!

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Making your Washroom Smell like a Rose (or whatever you want)

In my last blog I wrote about the various factors that cause malodours and the difficulties due to the location and materials within the washroom that can hinder the challenge to eradicate the bad smells.

You can imagine my relief when I opened my daily Toilet News to read:  WASHINGTON: Sick of smelly toilets, Microsoft founder Bill Gates has funded the development of an odour-blocking perfume.

Having read the story I think the Bill Gates Foundation could spend their money on something better, but hey, each to their own?

For those of us that don’t have a few billion lying around to eradicate smells, here are my thoughts on fragrances for toilets and some of the options that are out there for the commercial washroom space.   First and foremost, an air freshener, whatever the types work best with clean toilets.  So the less you clean the harder it becomes to hide the smells.

Air purifiers/ozone generators/odour eliminators

The manufacturers of these types of products will be aghast that I have lumped them together. The systems use one or multiple technologies to clean the air – in short destroying the organic particles in the air that cause the smell.  These can be great in high volume traffic areas, but they are expensive. They will reduce certain odours but leave a somewhat sterile smell.

Battery Operated Air Fresheners

The most common solution found in the commercial washroom space. There are far too many options to cover in this blog and I may do a product review page on all the brands I know at some point in the future but the advantage is that they are serviced regularly and a good service company will change the fragrance on every visit so that the toilets have a ‘new’, clean smell.  The fragrances will vary dependent on the service provider’s supplier, as will the quality of the fragrance but also it’s worth checking that the fragrance doesn’t clash with your cleaning products.  If you are using buckets of pine disinfectant to clean your toilets every day – best stick to pine.

Passive Air Fresheners

These are becoming more common, partially due to changes in the waste legislation.  Traditional dispensers have cans and batteries and both must now be accounted for as waste.  Passvie units use neither; they tend to have a bio technology which breaks down naturally over a period of time (A Gel or Oil) and releases fragrance as this process occurs.  It is key to site these dispensers where there is air flow i.e. next to a door or window so that the fragrance circulates but the difficulty is the consistency of fragrance.  These units will dry out quicker and be less effective dependent on the condition, temperature, air flow, etc.

Hybrid

New to the market is an Oxy-Gen fragrance dispenser.  This clever piece of equipment combines battery and passive. So it uses a battery to create a charge which displaces fragrance at regular intervals but relies on natural occurring airflow to circulate the fragrance.  It is a very clever system and the units are about 25% the size of a standard battery operated unit so very discreet.

Seasonal variants

Many independent washroom service companies will install a seasonal fragrance such as spiced apple and cinnamon, or winter berries or even tangerine – all smells associated with Christmas as part of your regular service call.

Whatever your fragrance needs I would recommend that speak to an IWSA member (Independent Washroom Services Association) to discuss what system works best for you, don’t be scared to ask for a 30 day free trial and make sure the fragrances work for you and your toilets!

5 Reasons why Unisex doesn’t Work

Willow Tree Primary School were featured heavily in the National press recently after a school refurbishment redesigned  all the toilets into unisex.  Just to clarify this means all toilets are available to use for both boys and girls.

It is understood that in small offices and some uber trendy locations that the unisex concept works really well and this may seem like a great idea to architects or designers. However, in my experience, many such toilets, after a period of time, get reallocated to either male of female use.

Here are the top 5 reasons why unisex toilets fail -please feel free to comment.

  1. Males.  Whether this be at a school or office, the male population tend to stand up when urinating.  Most males can’t hit a urinal from 30cm so hitting a toilet bowl from 60cm is almost impossible.  This is exacerbated if the toilet seat has not been put up.  Needless to say men do not clean up after themselves: this will be tolerated for a short period before there is a revolution and signs go on the doors.
  2. Embarrassment. Female staff or pupils will avoid using toilets where there is even a miniscule risk of creating an opportunity to be the butt (apologies for the pun) of someone else’s cruel joke or sarcastic comment – phew ‘did you light a match?’
  3. Cleaning. The people tasked with cleaning the toilets will soon complain that they have much more cleaning to do – twice as many toilet bowls requiring special attention as before.   There is a very strong environmental argument that says that keeping toilets separate sex reduces the amount of chemicals needed to maintain standards.
  4. Costs.  Not only increased cleaning products but increased labour to keep the toilets clean.  But another cost means that every toilet requires a sanitary disposal bin.  By making all the toilets unisex you double your sanitary waste disposal costs.
  5. Community.  Toilets are not all bad places.  There can be opportunities to chat or say hello whilst washing hands.  In these modern times men spend almost as much time in front of the mirror grooming themselves as women do.  These communal activities can be positive and should be encouraged.

So there are my top 5 reasons.  With regard to schools which is where we started, call me a cynic but these newer schools being built, especially those through PPI or with 20 year management contracts, it may well be in the management company’s interests to have unisex toilets with twice the cleaning and twice the costs?