Paul Greenland, CBSE, Takes the Helm as New BSCAI President
By the time Paul Greenland, CBSE, could drive, he had worked harder than most teenagers his age—and probably some adults too. That’s because he was busy putting in time at Aetna Building Maintenance, the company his grandfather David started in 1936 and his father Julian (Jay) took over in the late 1960s.
“I think I started cleaning the warehouse and washing trucks for my father around the age of 12 or 13,” Greenland said. “As soon as I could drive, I was working in the warehouse after school, filling orders, delivering supplies to accounts and filling in for call-offs. During vacations and holidays, I worked on the floor crew and special-project crews. I feel like I was born into the industry.”
Greenland, who is the current president of the Columbus, Ohio-based company—now called Aetna Integrated Services—is the third-generation owner of the nearly 80-year-old business. And while some of his earliest memories are of him being on a job site with his father, after he graduated from Indiana University at Bloomington with a bachelor’s degree in business, he still wasn’t sure that working at Aetna was in his future plans.
“I really never thought I would go into the family business,” he explained. “As I was finishing college, I interviewed with several different companies but [found nothing] that seemed as fun as the contract cleaning industry. I couldn’t see myself doing anything else.
Where else could I use all of the skills that I had acquired? We work in such a diverse industry, with people of many different cultures and backgrounds. I really enjoyed that unique work experience.”
Once he did decide to join the business, Greenland said his father was thrilled. “He told me I would be working in Kansas City, Missouri. But we didn’t have operations in Kansas City, so I was confused. He had made arrangements for me to work for a year with some good friends in the industry. Spending that year at BG Maintenance with Ron Baker and Ron Goldsmith was more valuable than getting an MBA. Aetna was billing around $3 million a year, and BG was probably 10 times that size. They were cleaning accounts that we could only dream of at the time.”
Greenland paid his dues and continued to learn about every aspect of the business. He even served in a variety of roles at Aetna until he took over one of the company’s branches in 1988. He was eventually named president of Aetna in 2005.
As with most industries these days, a lot has changed since Greenland began his career as a building service contractor. “When I started, this was a local industry, for the most part,” said Greenland. “Now, in order to survive and thrive, you need to at least be a regional or super-regional provider. Having operations outside of your home base is challenging and requires a different set of capabilities. You must be able to provide a multitude of services now, not just cleaning.”
Not only is the day-to-day changing, but so is the overall business landscape for BSCs. “With the baby boomers reaching retirement age, I think consolidation will be strong in 2015,” Greenland said. “The economy is doing well, money is cheap and plentiful, and we are still an attractive industry for investment. However, with unemployment at levels we have not seen in over eight years, finding and keeping employees will be a large challenge for all employers.”
Employment isn’t the only challenge that BSCs are facing today. Greenland says that further government regulations will continue to put pressure on the industry itself. “Some [of these challenges] include OSHA/Global Harmonization, illegal subcontracting/worker misclassification, and the continuation of industry consolidation. We are now spending a tremendous amount of money on our Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) department. At Aetna, we have more than 10 full-time people dedicated to EHS, and we are actually providing these services to our customers. As far as the illegal subcontracting/worker misclassification goes, we as an industry need to put our money where our mouths are. We need to do a better job educating our customers/prospects as to the risks they take by using companies that treat their staff as subcontractors.”
And while some things have changed and new challenges constantly arise, some things, such as the business principles that provide the industry’s foundation, stay the same. “We should never stop listening and learning,” Greenland said. “Those in industry leadership have to be experts in so many different areas. I am always excited and amazed when I spend time with our staff and others in the industry. We need to keep in mind that what we do for a living is not a destination, but rather, a journey.”
Part of that journey includes Greenland’s participation in BSCAI. His father, a BSCAI past president, was active within the association, and he was able to see the success at Aetna because of it. And so he decided to take part in the organization as well.
“In 1992, when Ron Baker was president of BSCAI, he asked me to travel the country leading the supervision seminars with LeRoy Dock,” he said. “It was so rewarding and educational that from then on, I worked on a committee almost every year.”
Greenland says that being a member of BSCAI has helped his career in many ways. Not only have the educational opportunities been beneficial, but he has been able to build his personal network of the “best and the brightest” thanks to the peer interaction.
“Most of my friends are associates in the industry,” he said. “The people that I talk to almost every day and that I seek advice from are industry peers. Several years ago, we formed a peer group to mentor each other. Now, we share the most intimate details of our business and personal lives. We work so hard in this industry and have to know so much that it is difficult to find people outside who truly understand.”
That open sharing and networking also led to more business for Greenland: “Several years ago, I was sitting in a BSCAI seminar, and the speaker was trying to convince everyone in the room that we were ‘not always competitors.’ That sometime in the future, our competitor could be our collaborator, subcontractor or even customer. We all laughed! Well, he was right. Shortly after that, a competitor and I started a joint venture that eventually grew to $8 million in revenue. We have many subcontractors, and we subcontract work from people I have met through BSCAI. I have met potential associates, acquisition candidates and many great vendor partners because of BSCAI.” As for the future of the association, Greenland is sure that it is bright and will be fruitful for its members and the industry overall.
“As we enter into our 50th year, we are well-positioned for the future,” he said. “We are in the best financial shape that we have been in for quite some time. We have a strategic plan to grow membership, to add more value to our relationships with our current membership and vendor partners, and to create opportunities to work more closely with industry groups including ISSA, IFMA and BOMA. The growth and reach of our industry-leading individual certifications for managers and executives are also important to me. I’ve worked closely with our certification committee over the last three years to update our exams and study materials and to bring it all online, which will make it more convenient to access this information, which is critical for professionals in our industry.
“I am excited about the future of our industry, and I am looking forward to seeing what new and inventive services we are able to provide for our customers and what great opportunities for growth we will have for the hardworking people who are out in the field every day.”