BY WAYNE CHARGUALAF
One might think a pandemic that requires extensive and repeated deep cleaning would be a boom for the cleaning industry. That’s not the case.
Guam Cleaning Masters, which has more than 70 employees and which has operated in Guam since 1995, has seen a drop in business due to the coronavirus.
“They want to cut down services due to lack of funding,” Alex Thomas, president and general manager of Guam Cleaning Masters, told the Journal.
Guam Cleaning Masters has a number of contracts with the government and private organizations, such as Guam Community College, Guam Visitors Bureau and the Guam Department of Revenue and Taxation, along with several contracts tied to the hospitality industry. With much of the island’s economy at a standstill, many established clients are trying to cut costs to stay afloat, Thomas said. Since many buildings will not be used for the next few weeks at least, one of those costs organizations are looking to cut is cleaning services.
“The restaurant, bar and hotel industry are shut down, so they’re seeing almost no income at all,” Thomas said. “With private residences, even though you’re a cleaning company, people are scared to let someone go into their home because they don’t know the integrity of the person. Even though we have state of the art cleaning equipment, the individual in front of you is a question mark.”
One contract that Guam Cleaning Masters has been able to hang onto for the time being is the A.B. Won Pat International Airport, Guam.
“I believe the airport came to realize that they are behind on things cleaning-wise because of the performance from previous contractors, and I think they’re seeing the progress and they’re very pleased,” Thomas said. “Since there is no movement in the airport, we’re able to do top-to-bottom cleaning and scrubbing, steam cleaning carpets, and sanitizing etc., to bring the airport back to the level where it was when it was initially constructed.”
Plan B Cleaning Services, another small locally owned company that first started operating in 2017, has seen a small uptick in business. However, owner Bernadette P. Espaldon chalks that up to the 20-person firm offering unique services — dry carpet cleaning and electrostatic cleaning, the latter being a relatively new technology that they’ve been heavily promoting in their marketing.
“Lately we’ve been getting maybe one or two clients a day,” Espaldon said. “We’re not fully booked, but we have enough. We’re a small, new company but we provide quality.”
Plan B has also relied more on commercial clients, since residential business has largely dried up.
“Our residential business is now basically just deep cleaning for people moving in or moving out and new construction,” she said.
Advance Management Inc., perhaps the largest company on Guam to provide cleaning and janitorial services, also has not seen an influx of business, but that’s not the point, James McFerran, director of business development at Advance Management, said.
“When we have typhoons, you’d have to expect that’s a pretty big boom to cleaning companies and this could potentially be seen as similar, but you don’t react that way to your family,” McFerran said. “How do you react when your family needs help? Well, that’s how we’re reacting. We’re not looking at this as a big profit center for us.”
Advance Management was founded in 1990 and is a full-service building maintenance, management and real estate services company with both private sector and federal government contracts across the island and in the United States mainland as far away as Arizona and Colorado.
Although Advance Management takes pride in its growth and reach over the years, McFerran said it is considering reducing stateside operations and federal contracts to focus on helping Guam during this unprecedented crisis.
“The amount of money we make — if any — during the recovery from this disease isn’t going to positively affect our bottom line that much,” McFerran said. “We’re not going to be looking to make a fortune on this disaster. Our goal here is to just try to get things back to normal as soon as possible so that we can operate as we’ve historically done. I don’t think there’s anybody that’s really trying to treat this as anything but an opportunity to contribute to the community and everybody in the janitorial and cleaning world is just determined to get things back to normal as soon as possible.” mbj