ISSA Show North America 2018 In Review

Categories: ISSA

By Gretchen Roufs | December 14, 2018 << Back to Articles ISSA Show North America 2018 In Review

The 2018 ISSA Show North America began — and ended — with a lot of energy and inspiration. Starting with the ISSA Charities’ Party for a Purpose and wrapping up with a “fireside chat” with former U.S. President George W. Bush — and a  host of highlights in between (see below) — this year’s exhibition exuded the unique excitement associated with new: A city not visited in 20 years, unprecedented collaborations among manufacturers, best practices presented from nontraditional jansan industries, an array of first-time pavilions, and, of course, a chance to experience the most innovative products in the cleaning industry worldwide.

This year’s exhibition, which took place at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, October 29-November 1 and featured nearly 700 exhibitors, attracted 14,019 attendees from 61 countries, including a record 52 percent of registered attendees who had never attended a past ISSA show! 

Why the Industry Participates

Exhibitors expressed an array of reason why they chose to take part in this year’s show. Stacey Wagner, president of KB Commercial Products, believes that the show has evolved into a format in which exhibitors are very comfortable having open conversations with both distributors and end customers. “This is a major improvement,” she said. “I think we’re all coming together. The ISSA Show floor provides information and access to opportunities for the entire industry.”

SC Johnson Professional, which returned to the professional market in 2015, appreciates the chance to get the word out.  “Participating in this show has been a good way to explain the reintroduction of SC Johnson and who we are as a company,” said Isabelle Faivre, SC Johnson vice president marketing-North America, referring to the company’s return to the commercial marketplace with its acquisition of the Deb Group in 2015. “For us, business revolves around connections with our customers.”

Mary Tackett, owner of Added Touch Cleaning, and her sales administrator, Alyson Arrasmith, came with a full ISSA show agenda, including taking advantage of the professional education programs. “We are learning that we need to focus more on what customers want, and not worry about what the competition is doing,” said Tackett. “I’m also thinking about the importance of succession planning, and the educational offerings provide a good opportunity for Alyson to learn. I’ve had my business for 23 years, and many times I felt like I was alone. Attending this show means that I don’t have to reinvent the wheel, and I can learn from the experiences of others.”


One of the most notable trends this year was the collaborations that seemed to pop up all in all arenas of the show, starting with the Team ISSA Welcome Reception hosted by ARCSI, the residential division of ISSA; IEHA, the health care and hospitality arm of ISSA; and ISSA Canada. Attendees enjoyed the evening networking event held at the Fairmount Hotel, which included food, drinks, and dancing to Dan the DJ’s great mix of tunes.

Exhibitors, too, were branching out, reaching beyond their normal industry partners and reaping the rewards. Patrick Norris, marketing manager for Sanitaire, said, “Our goal is to be a thought leader in the industry. So, in addition to our trade show booth, we sponsored a seminar to address some of the ways our industry can target the health challenges that people face. Dr. John McKeon of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America talked about fighting allergens with science. Because of Dr. McKeon’s presentation, both existing and new customers were inspired to come and talk with us in our booth during the show.”

And exhibitors weren’t just collaborating with educators. Show attendees had a chance to shoot some hoops on the show floor, courtesy of BONA, a gym floor care company, and Diversey, a multi-line chemical and equipment company. Tiffany Baird, BONA brand manager said that the “Basketball Experience” they co-sponsored with Diversey was a great way to have an additional touchpoint on the show floor.

“It was very well-received; people enjoyed seeing something different,” she said. Beth Marks, custodial-housekeeping manager for campus recreation for the University of Nebraska Lincoln, agreed. “The basketball court on the show floor caught my attention,” she said. “Because of it, I learned about a new approach to gym floor maintenance, and I hope to change the way we do things based on what I saw at the show.”

One of the most remarkable collaborations was a restroom-management system introduced at the show by GOJO and Kimberly-Clark Professional (K-C Pro). The ONVATION system uses smart-sensing technology in both companies’ dispensers (K-C Pro’s Scott towels and tissue and GOJO’s Purell hand hygiene products) to monitor and analyze restroom conditions in real time. The system sends restroom traffic and product usage data via the cloud, which creates text messages relaying immediate service needs to cleaning staff. It also stores the data on a dashboard, which allows for analysis of trends related to product consumption, response time, waste, traffic, activity, and savings. “Our distributor partners are happy to see manufacturers working together to bring innovative products to them,” said Peter Leahy, senior customer marketing manager for K-C Pro. “This has been K-C Pro’s biggest show ever for booth traffic and excitement.”

Another great example of innovative product collaboration — and reaching beyond the traditional jansan industry to do it — is the partnership that debuted at the ISSA Show between Georgia Pacific Professional (GP-Pro) and Toto, a world leading plumbing manufacturer. The product: the KOLO Smart Monitoring system for restroom monitoring that provides reliable, customizable, and secure monitoring of away-from-home restroom fixtures. The system won the 2018 ISSA Innovation Category Award in Services & Technology.

“GP-Pro has invested two and one half years developing what we believe is the most dependable, insightful, and scalable smart restroom communication system available to help facility managers deliver a better restroom experience,” said Mike Slawson, GP-Pro vice president and general manager of restroom services and connected devices. “We are thrilled to introduce this industry-changing innovation, and we are equally excited to work with TOTO as this collaboration pairs two industry leaders known for reliability in a quest to create an unprecedented vision for the restroom of the future.” The GP-Pro team gave tours throughout the show to demo the new technology.

Attendees, too, such as Amy Hatt, regional director of operations for Crothall Healthcare Environmental Services, took a team-approach to the show. “We decided to hold our Mid-Atlantic region products committee meeting at the ISSA Show,” she said. “It’s been nice to have hands-on opportunities, rather than just listening to a presentation. We looked at products, technology, and management information systems.” Hatt said the members of their 20-person team all had product category assignments at the show, and they had a working session in which team members presented their findings to the rest of the team.

Trending Concerns

The ISSA Show is always a source to discover and confirm industry trends. Consolidation, as well as competition from online businesses such as Amazon, were frequently mentioned as a notable trend — that some view also as threat. Servicon, a maintenance service provider, is shifting its focus accordingly. “The big guys keep getting bigger, so we have decided to be more of a niche company and be experts in specific industries, like aerospace and health care,” Laurie Sewell, president and CEO of Servicon, said during the State of the Industry Panel. 

A shrinking pool of workers was another oft-repeated trend and concern. According to Anna Rockenschaub, director of services for Marriott Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa, “Fewer people to do the work require better methods and technology. I’m here to look for products, technology, and prototypes that are people-friendly, safer, and cover more area in a shorter period than what we’re currently using.”

A seminar speaker mentioned another growing concern: rideshare companies, such as Uber and Lyft, that are competing with cleaning companies for employees because rideshare workers can be their own bosses and define their own hours. He suggested that our industry needs to offer more options than “a 40-hour week with a bucket and mop,” and shift to more flexible schedule options to make cleaning jobs more attractive.

Lessons Learned

This year, some of the solutions offered were for situations that cross all industries, such as Sergeant James Songer of the Dallas Police Department, who presented a Run, Hide, Fight session. Songer focused on how to be prepared for an active shooter situation, and said that janitorial staff members should be trained in this topic because “they are the ones who know the buildings best.”

White Bear Coffee Co., in its second ISSA Show appearance, returned to “nurture the pipeline” of selling coffee to workplaces via jansan channels., “Our goal is to reach out to distributors who make regular visits to office sites,” the company’s Scott Aalbers said. “We suggest they can increase their sales by complementing their jansan product lines with coffee.”

Southwest Airlines, the largest airline in the United States, was in the educational lineup to share its philosophy that “employee engagement is the single most important element to brands.” Senior vice president and chief communications officer Linda Rutherford offered insights that can be adopted in our industry. Southwest has done research on the “power of intangibles,” she said, and that people remember what you do, not necessarily what you say. The company, she said, also embraces social media: “We chose to go ‘all in’ on social media, and help others tell our story.”

Giving is Good… Business

The new ISSA Charities made its debut at the show with a splash. The week started out with its reimagined charity fundraiser at TopGolf Dallas that sold out and received rave reviews. Also under the ISSA Charities umbrella, the ISSA Hygieia Network, which helps raise the status and professionalism of women in the cleaning industry, held its annual dinner and awards ceremony (see page 22), attracting a full room of supporters. And ISSA’s recently acquired Cleaning for a Reason, which helps cancer patients by offering free home cleaning services, was over-the-top grateful for the warm reception and sizeable donations it received. The ISSA Show closed out Wednesday evening with the first Backlot Bash, which also benefited the ISSA Charities. Despite being brought indoors due to inclement weather, the event more than lived up to its name! (For more on the ISSA Charities and how to participate, see the insert in this issue.)

Chatting With the President

The final morning of the show featured a Q&A in a “fireside chat” format between former U.S. President George W. Bush and ISSA Executive Director John Barrett. Bush, a Dallas resident, walked onstage to a spontaneous standing ovation, and greeted the crowd with, “There I was, retired and sitting around the house, and here I am getting applause.”

He talked about family; the transition from president to private citizen (“The whole thing ends instantly … and the next day you find yourself saying, ‘Okay, so who’s going to get the coffee?’”); his newly discovered talent as an artist (“I paint every day. I can’t learn enough and am more than willing to ask for help. …. I’m living proof that you don’t know what you can do until you try.”); and on immigration (“…Of all the people who should be encouraging immigration reporting, it’s you. You need these workers). He concluded with thoughts about the American people, “Americans of good heart come together to solve problems without the government telling them to do it. This distinguishes our country.”

The 2019 ISSA Show is November 18-21, in Las Vegas, NV. 

About the Author.

Gretchen Roufs, APR, is a cleaning industry veteran and has attended 30 ISSA shows. She owns a marketing and public relations business and is based in San Antonio, TX. She can be reached at [email protected].