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From Family House to Warehouse

By Graeme Golucki | October 1, 2014 << Back to Articles
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After spending years selling cleaning products for the same company he started with out of college, Philip Rosenau, was looking to make a big career change. So in 1957, he made the bold move of starting out on his own and forming his own janitorial supply distribution business—Philip Rosenau Co., Inc. in Philadelphia, PA. It was a rather modest start for a company that decades later would come to employ more than 80 employees and service clients in multiple states.

“In the beginning, dad was the ultimate one-man business,” says current Philip Rosenau Co. President John Rosenau. “He would go out and visit clients during the day. Then he was off to pick up supplies from a larger janitorial house, and by the afternoon, he was back on the road making same-day deliveries. My mother stayed home, serving as secretary and handling all the financial pieces and billing.”

After a few years, Philip did eventually hire a few additional sales people. Yet Philip Rosenau Co. remained the ultimate family business. “For many years, our family’s house doubled as the company’s office. So I started at birth basically,” laughs John, recalling his childhood. “By the time I was 10 years old, I was helping my parents by sorting and filing paperwork. By the time I was 16, I had moved on to helping out in the warehouse. When I got my driver’s license at 17, the company only had one delivery truck. We needed ways to reach our expanding customer base, so I hopped in my car and started making deliveries throughout the Philadelphia metro area.”

Positioning for Success
The 1970s saw Philip Rosenau Co. expanding. The company acquired several smaller local distributors, expanding its product offerings and client base. New employees joined, helping out in the warehouse and with customer service and billing tasks. John stayed with the family business upon graduating from college in 1975. Working full-time now, he returned to the warehouse duties he had when he was 16, and then went back to making deliveries. After a few years, he moved into customer service, then sales, going on the road visiting customers and cultivating new clients. Working almost every aspect of the business serves him well in his current position. “Not only did I grow up in the business, but I’ve done so many different things within the company, that I can really understand what our personnel go through whether it is a warehouse person or a driver or somebody here in the office,” he says

Phillip passed away unexpectedly in 1984, leaving John to run the family business. “It’s unfortunate that my father didn’t get to see how far our company has grown,” John reflects. “Over the last decade alone, we’ve acquired three companies. In my lifetime, we’ve grown from working out of our family home to operating out of our massive 65,000-square-foot facility in Warminster, PA.”

Tools of the Trade
A contributing factor to Philip Rosenau Co.’s success and longevity has been its relationship with ISSA. The company joined the association in 1963 and has been a regular at the annual trade shows ever since. “It is extremely important that we attend the annual [ISSA/INTERCLEAN®] trade show,” says John. “We’ve been going as long as I can remember, and it is a crucial event that enable us to get a lot of work done in a short amount of time. Everything is conveniently centralized. We get to see new products, work with vendors face-to-face, meet with decision-makers, and sit down with new and existing clients.”

But the trade shows aren’t the only benefits John sees in being an ISSA member. “The analytical tools ISSA provides are invaluable,” he says. “They provide a great guide on how we can improve during the year and provide better experience for customers. And the annual compensation survey helps us to see where we stand against other distributors in the industry.”

Yet John realizes that membership in ISSA is a two-way street. “I’ll never understand why so few ISSA members don’t take the time to fill out the association’s surveys and reports,” he says. “To us, and to other distributors, this information is crucial. Members need to participate; the information can only help them. It is your association; you should support it.”

Maintaining Training
To Philip Rosenau Co., education—both of employees and even more importantly, of the clients—has been vital in separating the company from its competition. “One of the things that really helps us out is we have a training manager, and have had one for more than 20 years,” says John. “It is very important to us. No matter what the product is we’re providing, if our customers are not using it the right way they can endanger themselves, which in turn, drives costs up for everyone involved.”

Customer training is in fact something the company takes very seriously. “We’re not bringing in someone from an outside company to do training,” says John. “We’ve only had three trainers during our company’s history. Our current training manager, Bill McGarvey, has been with us 15 years. Not only is he well-rounded in all aspects of the industry, but he also is ISSA Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS)-certified. He can really help a facility keep costs down while ensuring the appearance is as good as it can possibly be.”

By working with and training customers, Philip Rosenau Co. has been able to not just cultivate clients, but to build long-lasting relationships as well. “Other companies may see training as an extra cost of doing business, but it changes the way people look at us,” explains John. “As a company, we don’t just focus on the external upkeep of a building or facility; we try to get our clients to consider other aspects of cleaning, such as the health of the occupants and sustainability. We don’t sell products; we sell whole solutions.”

Happy Times
John has been active in the cleaning industry for more than four decades. He’s seen products change, trends come and go, and companies rise and fall. Through it all, Philip Rosenau Co. continues to expand. “I think the future is extremely bright for the independent jansan distribution company,” he states. “A well-educated distributor can provide customers with the whole solution to their cleaning needs, overcoming any issues and mitigating risks. Through training and consultative selling, we can ensure that not only are our clients happy, but the people that they report to are equally as pleased.” 


Graeme Golucki is ISSA's Web Content Manager and can be reached at graeme@issa.com; phone, 800-225-4772 (North America) and 847-982-0800. 

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