Q&A with Scott Salmirs, President & CEO of ABM Industries

What is ABM Industries, and what do you do?

We provide facilities services for commercial properties – such as airports, office buildings, schools, manufacturing and distribution facilities, hospitals and stadiums. Our service offering ranges from janitorial to engineering, to parking to HVAC and electrical to lighting services.

COVID-19 represents an inflection point for facilities services. How and why will facilities services never be the same?

In the past, facilities services often went unnoticed, but it’s now at the forefront of national awareness and the gateway for America to ramp back up and reopen, and stay that way. Is it safe to go to the airport and get on an airplane? When will I be able to take my family back to our favorite museum or catch a baseball game? How soon is it safe to start going back to the office? 

COVID-19 has created a shift in mindset, as janitorial services have historically been viewed as just another operational expense. We are an essential workforce – this goes for fighting the spread of COVID-19, and for protection against other seasonal and endemic pathogens such as the flu. There is a heightened demand to demonstrate that employers and businesses are providing clean, healthy, safe, and sustainable spaces that the community can trust after re-entry. ABM has designed a comprehensive EnhancedClean program to give people the peace of mind that comes with visible, proven disinfection practices that prevent the spread of disease and keep people safe and is certified.

What are the best practices and enhanced cleaning procedures that are leading the facilities services industry?

With this increased demand, the facilities services industry has a critical opportunity to make a difference. Our new program embodies industry-leading best practices. We consulted leading experts in infectious disease and industrial hygiene to develop a three-step approach to cleaning and disinfection backed by experts. Step one is focused on occupants returning safely into the facility – providing the return-to-work planning and signage where appropriate to promote hygiene and social distancing practices. Step two involves scope enhancement recommendations for frequent disinfection focused on high-touch points like light switches and door handles. Finally, step three addresses broad disinfection of large areas with certified disinfection specialists using equipment such as electrostatic sprayers. Now more than ever, we’re guiding clients and the public in doing their part to prevent the spread of disease to help America feel confident as they ramp back up and stay open as safely as possible.

What do expert-informed standards for disinfection look like?

It’s important to incorporate guidance from health professionals and ensure the team members responsible for disinfecting every space are well-versed in the program and best practices for delivery. We established an Expert Advisory Council made up of leading experts in infectious disease and industrial hygiene to advise regularly, guiding the development of our overall program, disinfection processes, and training materials.  

How will commercial real estate, corporate real estate, and the use of office space change as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak?

A property’s cleaning protocols have become the top priority. Our view is that virus protection will be a lasting change, well past the COVID-19 pandemic. It will be important to curb the surface-based spread of not only this virus, but also other seasonal and endemic pathogens such as influenza for longer term virus protection. Since our clients and the public have a new-found awareness of cleaning and disinfection, we expect that commercial real estate and office spaces will need to invest in the long-term to meet the expectations of those they serve and offer the peace of mind that comes with safety that is seen.

The COVID-19 pandemic has put an enormous amount of pressure on businesses and leaders to deliver. What’s your personal reaction to this, and how has it impacted your role as CEO?

There’s no question that COVID-19 has presented new challenges to the business community. There isn’t one company that hasn’t been affected by this pandemic. Still, I’ve never been prouder of the work we do and the way our teams have mobilized to meet the heightened demand especially for janitorial services. Our people are on the front lines and will be the ones helping others feel safe about coming back to work. That is one reason why we are so focused on training and protection for our team members. They’re essential workers, and we’re committed to doing our part to help keep them safe. I want to say thank you to all our team members for their tireless work and commitment to the important role they play in facilities across the globe.

Scott Salmirs is President & CEO of ABM Industries.