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Leading An Army To Keep S’pore Clean

Leading an army to keep S’pore clean - Article Image 1
Armed and ready, Aziz (at the wheel of the blue electric scrubber) and Cleaning Express Service Attendants

SOME people say cleanliness is next to godliness. But it’s tough to keep clean; in fact it requires an entire science and an army, too. Just ask Abdul Aziz Yusof who manages 800 employees of Cleaning Express, the company that ensures your shopping malls, hospital compounds and condo facilities are clean and bug-free.

On his calling card, Aziz has MBICS printed after his name, followed by the usual more well-known academic abbreviations like BBA. So, what’s MBICS?

“It simply means I’m a member of the British Institute of Cleaning Science,” says Aziz, the chief operating officer of his father’s company. Aziz explains that the science of cleaning requires knowledge on the use of the right chemicals for different surfaces and finishes. “The chemicals can be hazardous if you’re not trained to use them correctly,” he notes.

“You also need to know how to operate cleaning machines and equipment. It’s not just sweep and mop.”

When he left secondary school, Aziz worked as a cleaner in Electrolux Services, part of the Swedish home appliance manufacturer. When Aziz enlisted in National Service in 1992, he decided to upgrade himself by attending evening classes at the Singapore Institute of Management. He graduated with a Certificate in English and Business Administration in 1993.
 
“I needed the know-how on communicating well in business and how to project myself, which the SIM course taught me,” he says.

He went on to enrol in SIM’s Certificate in Management in 1995 and then the Diploma in Management Studies (graduating in 2001). “I took the DMS programme because everyone I knew was talking about it. But juggling between work and attending classes was tough.”

Aziz says his father acquired an existing cleaning services firm, Cleaning Express, in mid-1997 and he joined his father in 1998 as sales manager. He felt the need for some serious management knowledge, hence his enrolment in the DMS programme. He went on to do a Bachelor of Business Administration at SIM-RMIT University, graduating in 2006. And in 2013, he participated in SIM’s prestigious programme, the Job of the Chief Executive (known by its handy acronym, JOCE), a five-day intensive programme for CEOs and other corporate honchos.

These studies helped him develop management skills, not just in supervising employees but also in understanding the other aspects of business, such as marketing the company’s products and services. “I realised the world is getting smaller, and I need to empower both myself and my employees on doing business in the global market,” he says, pointing out that a tertiary business education is absolutely crucial to gain such global perspective.
He notes that employees need to be empowered to develop their skills, knowledge and self-confidence, so that they are regarded by the public with the same appeal as, say, airline stewardesses. “I want our Service Attendants to be like SQ girls,” he says simply.

From mopping to electric scrubbers
The cleaning industry is competitive, Aziz reveals. There are about 900 cleaning companies in Singapore alone, handling a broad raft of jobs, from traditional hand-held mop and vacuum to operating mobile electric sweepers and scrubbers. “We have to re-design the job, so that it’s less manual and more automated. Our staff operate these expensive machinery, so they are no longer mere cleaners but Service Attendants. And they are much better paid now,” says Aziz.

His biggest customers are banks, embassies, mall operators and companies that manage condo apartments and healthcare facilities. Cleaning also includes pest-control, building façade cleaning and even interior landscaping.

With job complexity growing and competition heating up, Aziz needs all the management upgrade he can muster. An MBA from SIM’s Birmingham University programme would suit him just fine.

– Interviewed, posted online, June 6, 2014


Leading an army to keep S’pore clean - Article Image 2
Aziz with Customer Service Executive Samantha Lin, also an SIM-RMIT graduate, and the Ride-on Auto Scrubber